sick 'em, George!

George Reisman is certainly not the most soft and cuddly of the Austrians. And he’s not a Rothbardian, by any means. He’s as much Randian as Misesian, and I tend to prefer the latter to the former. But it can be a real treat to have someone who doesn’t minse words when it counts:

When it comes to economic understanding, the mentality of The New York Times and of the left in general is one of soft, mushy ignorance encased in an impenetrable shell of super-hardened self-righteous ignorance.”

sick ‘em, George!

George Reisman is certainly not the most soft and cuddly of the Austrians. And he’s not a Rothbardian, by any means. He’s as much Randian as Misesian, and I tend to prefer the latter to the former. But it can be a real treat to have someone who doesn’t minse words when it counts:

When it comes to economic understanding, the mentality of The New York Times and of the left in general is one of soft, mushy ignorance encased in an impenetrable shell of super-hardened self-righteous ignorance.”

Mr. Libertarian, Another runner in the night

The latest from Scott Lahti:

I recall reading, many years ago, an essay from the 1920s by H.L. Mencken spoofing the collegiate-sports mania which even then reigned sovereign across the national campus (recalling stock footage of Jazz-Age swains at the stadium in their fur coats, the better to carry their hip-flasks, and Yale pennants and megaphones, hoping for a glimpse of Rudy Vallee…). Mencken’s title? “The Striated Muscle Fetish”: leave it to a man who titled an essay on Shaw “The Ulster Polonius”, or who could not mention DC’s all-black (“Aframerican”) Howard University without appending the tag “The Ethiop Sorbonne”…

So there I was, Googling to see if HLM’s essay so-titled found honor in being mentioned among the, oh, eight billion or so pages spider-woven in Goog-goog-a-joob fashion…how many results for “striated muscle fetish”?

One.

And from whom?

Why, the late Murray N. Rothbard, that exquisitely-cackling blend of romantic and grump known for such Mencken-saluting essays as “The Joyous Libertarian”*, and who, in his spare time as economist-cum-libertarian-revolutionary-manqué (manqué see, manqué do, apparently), played Lenin to Ludwig von Mises’s Marx.** Those who recall, with an obligatory wince, their daze in gym class – not to mention Rothbard himself in the flesh – will share my delight at how Rothbard – and he only – manages in the space of one essay to relate Bentham of all people, to the Columbian-athletic travails he sweated through – barely – in groaning apostolic succession therein to none other than that Undoubting Thomist, Mortimer Adler…vintage not-to-miss Rothbard, in other words.

DSL

*For The New Individualist Review, that pioneering 1960s monthly generated on a shoestring by U. of Chicago grad-student apostles of then-resident Uncle Fred [Hayek], Uncle Miltie [Friedman], and Uncle Dick [trad-con Richard Weaver].

**For that Rothbard, see in the same linked PDF issue below, e.g., his gleeful response to having had his Libertarian Forum “banned” by…Andrea Rich of Laissez-Laire Books, an agent of – wait for it – the dreaded “Crane Machine”, after the Richelieu of Libertarian Nation, for whom Things Truly Do Go Better With Koch (pronounced “Coke”)…apparently in that dawn E.R. (Early Reagan) the far-right Hunt brothers (remember them? Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive…) had their hands full trying to corner the silver market, so rather than bankroll the old-right thinktankariat, they left the field to other Oilymen the Magnificent

The Libertarian Forum, November-December 1982 [PDF]

Postscript
When I asked Mr Lahti’s permission to post his note here, he replied
Yes – and with the blanche-iest of cartes (or the Blanchietts of Cates…er, the Phoebe-est of Cates…or, um, the FEE-biest of Blanchettes!!!)

DSL

Post-postscript
And then
One more cotton-pickin’ Rothbardin’ thing, Ben-Papa-San – as taken from a recent email to friends (my same laissez-faire permissions granted “pre-emptively”):

” P.S. Speaking of Murray Rothbard, I dug up his charming 1979 tribute [PDF] to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (“‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous”), the music of George Gershwin, the culture of Old New York and the need for restorative satire: a virtual manifesto for my nascent amateur’s cultural classicism when, in 1981, I saw the movie, found lasting enchantment in the music, and a few months later in Manhattan while on spring break, talked all four of Rothbard’s limbs off after a Laissez-Faire Supper Club dinner with him as keynote speaker. Rereading the piece, I can’t help thinking once more that had he been able to auto-generate a twin in the full-time cultural sphere, he might have become one of our most admired cultural essayists somewhere in the composite vicinity of Chesterton, Mencken, Nock, Dwight Macdonald, Joseph Wood Krutch, and others. But I suppose that’s just pointless counterfactual pining along the lines of “if my aunt had wheels, she’d be a bus,” or the sort of myopic plea for another Lincoln or another Roosevelt to “save” us from the present afflictions of our body politic – blind and deaf to the fact to that you don’t get a pristine Lincoln or Roosevelt delivered unto you like manna cut-and-pasted from above – you also get the Civil and/or World Wars that are the standard factory issue welded to them bodily, organically: “I’d like the Lincoln Special, please – hold the cannon fire.” “Sorry, Ma’am – the LS only comes with th’ grapeshot.” “Then I’d like the Clinton instead – and yes, supersize it, and with extra napkins, please…”

sacrament

[This comment deserves to be its own post.]

Anthony Gregory said…
Here are some thoughts on possible reasons that even someone who questions or dismisses the myths surrounding the Civil War might not similarly be skeptical of the conventional attitudes toward World War II.

The most obvious difference to me is that World War II happened more recently. There are still people alive today who fought in it. Most Americans probably know someone who fought in it. There is a stronger psychological urge to defend it.

Furthermore, the stakes involved in debates over that war are so high. It was in many ways the biggest human event in World History, and certainly the most destructive. About fifty million people died, 2/3 of whom were civilians. The US government killed millions of people, including children, in that war. In fact, in targeted them. People don’t want to believe this could have been for nothing. The Civil War seems more distant.

In both cases, the war was supposedly one of liberation and one against an evil regime. But a strong minority of Americans don’t want to think of the South as deserving what came to it. Heck, most pro-war Americans are probably sympathetic to the cultural associations of the “bad side” in the Civil War.

Blacks were supposedly liberated by the necessary and just Civil War, whereas Jews were supposedly liberated by the necessary and just Second World War. Now, in both cases, it can be touchy to question this account at all. But there’s been more time since the Civil War, and these days it’s probably more likely you’ll be accused of being anti-Jewish for questioning WWII than being anti-black or pro-slavery for questioning the Civil War. In the case of Walter Williams, and other black Americans skeptical of Lincoln, they are probably less likely to feel pressure not to question the Liberator of the Blacks, than they would feel not to question the Liberator of the Jews. (And perhaps a Jewish commentator would be given more slack in questioning World War II than he would the Civil War, at least comparatively).

And even Lincoln apologists would probably concede that the Confederacy’s soldiers weren’t all fighting for an evil cause — some were obviously fighting, whether we think it was wise or correct or not, in percieved defense of their homeland. The Nazis don’t get even that much benefit of a doubt. And since most people have a collectivist, nationalist streak, if the Nazis were pure evil, the innocent Germans firebombed in WWII probably deserved it to some degree, whereas the relatively less evil Confederates rendered their Southern compatriots less collectively guilty. Furthermore, since both sides in the Civil War were American, the nationalists who are indeed on the winning side of victor’s history do not feel as compelled to silence all attempts to humanize the enemy or to question aspects of the Union’s conduct of the war. The war was one to reaffirm the principles that we’re all Americans, after all.

Overall, there is just something more sacred about World War II than the Civil War. Hitler is seen as an embodiment of evil against which no one, even perhaps WWII-era US-ally Stalin, compares. This is the way it’s taught in schools. No one, on the other hand, sees Jefferson Davis in quite this light. Perhaps part of the reason is all the sympathizers of the American South since the Civil War and their impact on the way history is interpreted.

I think that people are really devoted to defending WWII because it was so horrific and people just don’t want to believe it was as much an anti-Japanese race war, as far as American sentiment was concerned, or a war for US imperialism and New Deal fascism, as far as American politicians were concerned, as it was any other kind of war. I really think that in another generation or two, we’ll see a shift towards more openness to different points of view on World War II.

inflammatory

After 9/11, anti-war libertarians started to really hate the Nolan chart and the accompanying “Word’s Smallest Political Quiz” because it had a “personal” axis and an “economic” axis but absolutely nothing on foreign policy, so all these hawks scored as pure libertarians without ever learning that war is the health of the state.

Walter Block suggests the Nolan Chart needs 3 axes:

  1. personal intervention
  2. economic intervention
  3. foreign intervention

In the 3D model, a “pure” libertarian would reject all 3 forms of intervention.

But even limiting himself to 2 axes, Rothbard better captured the issue:

  1. the welfare state
  2. the warfare state

And he emphasized that they were 2 sides of the same coin, a point utterly lost on left- and right-wingers.What brought these thoughts to mind this morning was an article that Anthony Gregory forwarded to me:

“Will the West defend itself?” by Walter E. Williams:

Any attempt to annihilate our Middle East enemies would create all sorts of handwringing about the innocent lives lost, so-called collateral damage.

Such an argument would have fallen on deaf ears during World War II when we firebombed cities in Germany and Japan. The loss of lives through saturation bombing far exceeded those lost through the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Ahh, those were the days! Remember when it was heroic to incinerate civilians? Let’s not go too far back in time, though. A century earlier, western nation-states were establishing rules of war that would make everything the US military has done since then a serious war crime.

Anthony Gregory points out: “Williams is more seen explicitly as a libertarian, rather than as a conservative free marketer like Sowell.” How depressing. I’m sorry I ever implied that Walter Williams is a libertarian. I was taking Tom DiLorenzo’s word for it.

As one comrade recently asked, “Why are so many of the prominent iconoclastic un-PC anti-left free-marketer African Americans such warmongers? Sowell, Williams, Elder, Steele …”

Good question. Here’s one I find much more puzzling. The 3 biggest lies of Establishment History, American Chapter are

  1. Lincoln was a good man;
  2. FDR’s New Deal was a good policy;
  3. WWII was a good war.

(I invite any of you to disagree with my quick list of the big 3.)

Williams has rejected the first two on that list. Why would #3 be harder than #1?

libertarian purity

I knew I wouldn’t get a perfect score on Bryan Caplin‘s Libertarian Purity Test, but I was pleasantly surprised by Caplan’s last-minute qualification:

Your score is…

152

131-159 points: You are nearly a perfect libertarian, with a tiny number of blind spots. Think about them, then take the test over again. On the other hand, if you scored this high, you probably have a good libertarian objection to my suggested libertarian answer. :-)

[emphasis added]

If you want to take his test, I suggest you do so now, before reading a “good libertarian objection” or three …

… I’ll just wait for you here …

OK, here they are:

  1. Would school vouchers be an improvement over government schools?

No. School vouchers are a way to expand government’s regulatory power. Private schools and homeschools are regulated now. Vouchers would make them even more so. Would the vouchers improve government schools? I definitely suspect they would. Would they improve education overall? I definitely suspect that they would have the opposite effect. Are they at least a legitimate half-measure in a libertarian direction? Definitely not. A half-measure moves you forward, even if only minutely. Vouchers are a move backward.

For more on the history of state-regulation and control of schooling, see Murray Rothbard‘s Education: Free & Compulsory.

  1. Would housing vouchers be an improvement over government housing?

No. Same reason.

  1. Should all of the Federal Reserve’s discretionary powers be eliminated and the monetary base frozen?

Yes to the first half of the question, but No to the second half.

(T ^ F = F, for those familiar with boolean logical notation.)

Saying that the monetary base should be frozen may sound like a good idea, since Fed manipulation of the monetary base is so clearly evil, but having the Fed freeze the monetary base is like saying the US military should go to the other side of the world and take out evil dictators. No need to give the state a mandate in either case. Should the Fed stop expanding the monetary base? Yes. Should the government have the power to police the size of the monetary base in order to keep it frozen? Definitely not.

Note, however:

  1. Should the Fed be abolished and replaced with free banking and privately-issued money?

A big Yes.

podcast manifesto: the final chapter

On May 12th, 14 weeks ago today, we announced the “For a New Liberty Podcast” — an audiobook version of Rothbard’s manifesto, as read by the great Jeff Riggenbach. We’ve done a chapter a week all summer, and as of today, you can download the entire audiobook, gratis, from the Mises Institute.

Audio is a powerful tool for ideological outreach. And free audio makes the outreach that much easier. Download the 16 files (introduction plus 15 chapters), burn them to disc (MP3CD) and give them out to your friends and relatives, your co-workers, your favorite fence-sitters.

Again: This is the book that made me a Rothbardian. I read the first half online, sitting at my desk until sunrise. I bought the book to read the second half in the woods of West Virginia.

(And how smart of the Institute to make the ebook available for free! Book sales increase from making books like these freely available.)

FaNL made me a Rothbardian, but my interest in Austrian economics came earlier, from an audiobook: Economics in One Lesson (also read by Riggenbach). My original copy cost over fifty bucks. The Mises Institute now sells an MP3 version for half as much. Yes, that’s still more than twice as much as the print version, but while I’ve gotten a couple of friends to read a print copy of For a New Liberty, I was able to get twice as many to listen to Economics in One Lesson.

Now we have both books available in both formats.

This is the libertarian audio revolution. Spread the word.

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