Feb 26, 2008

Lew Rockwell on how the anti-communist movement undermined the limited government plank of the Republican Party

Murray Rothbard used to tell the story of speaking to conservative and Republican audiences in the late 1950s and early 1960s. There would be large groups gathered for various talks on economics and politics. He would give a lecture on the problem of price controls, or protectionism, or high taxes. People really liked what he had to say. They would clap, and learn from his lecture.

Then he would sit down. At some point in the course of the conference, the appointed anti-communist speaker would rise to the podium. He would decry the evil of Russia and its atheistic system of government. He would call for beefing up nuclear weapons and hint darkly of the necessity of war. He would end with an apocalyptic statement about the need for everyone to completely dedicate themselves to eradicating the communists by any means necessary. No talk of limiting or cutting government; quite the opposite.

So how would these people, who clapped for Murray, respond to the warmonger? Insanely, wildly, uncontrollably. They would stand and scream and yell and cheer, getting up on their chairs and putting their hands together high in the air. The applause would go on for five minutes and more, and the speaker would be later mauled for autographs. His books would sell wildly.

Meanwhile, poor Murray would stand there in alarm. How could these same people cheer both a call for liberty and a call for empire, and, most notably, give their hearts over to the maniacal nationalist while being merely polite to a call for the same liberty that had led this party to oppose FDR's domestic and foreign-policy? It was experiences like these that led him to write the most important dissection of the Republican party ever to appear: The Betrayal of the American Right. It is here that Murray engages in a deep, soul-searching look at his own role in red-baiting in the 1950s. He had hoped to use the anti-communist movement to educate people about the need for freedom.

"It is clear that libertarians and Old Rightists, including myself, had made a great mistake in endorsing domestic red-baiting, a red-baiting that proved to be the major entering wedge for the complete transformation of the original right wing," writes Murray. Instead of supporting freedom, the anti-communist movement ended up acculturating Republicans to the imperial mindset. The moral priority of crushing a foreign government trumped every other issue.

At the same time, the libertarianism of the GOP's domestic agenda was supplanted by a belief that "big government and domestic statism were perfectly acceptable, provided that they were steeped in some sort of Burkean tradition and enjoyed a Christian framework." Fiery individualism and radicalism were replaced by a longing for a static, controlling elite of the European sort. Liberty was washed away.

~ Lew Rockwell, "Triumph of the Red-State Fascists," LewRockwell.com, February 26, 2008

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