As part of the recent attacks on Ron Paul, some have raised the point that attempts were made to reach out to various right wing groups. Murray Rothbard was probably influential with these attempted alliances, although I'm not sure how seriously he took them himself. In addition to being a genius, making major contributions in economics, history, political philosophy and legal theory, he had a bug for third party politics.
At times, approaches to right wing groups were made, but Rothbard also once endorsed Norman Mailer for Mayor of New York City and at another time called for William Kunstler to be freed from jail.
Bottom line: Rothbard was all over the map, in Diogenes fashion. But instead of looking for an honest man, Rothbard was looking for a political party of some sort, where he could introduce a libertarian point and quench his thirst for third party activism.
Here's Rothbard's hilarious take on his infiltration of the Maoist wing of a Leninist-Trotskyite party:
The peak of my political activity on the New Left came during the 1968 campaign. In the spring of 1968, my old enthusiasm for third party politics was rekindled, albeit in a different direction. The Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) which had become (and still is) established in California, decided to go national, and opened up shop in New York. I found that the preliminary platform and the only requirement for membership contained only two planks: the first was immediate U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, and the second was some plank so vague about being nice to everyone that almost anyone, left, right, center could have endorsed it. Great: here was a coalition party dedicated only to immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and requiring no commitment whatever to statism! As a result, our entire libertarian group in New York poured happily into the new party.But after all those flirtations, Rothbard very early on (pre-1992) spotted a man who could deliver the libertarian message across the board:
The PFP was structured around clubs, most of them regional – such as the powerful West Side (of Manhattan) club, the hippie Greenwich Village Club, etc. One was occupational – a Faculty Club. Since there were very few actual faculty members in this very youthful party, the PFP generously widened the definition of "faculty" to include graduate students. Lo and behold! On that basis, of approximately 24 members in the Faculty Club, almost exactly one-half were our people: libertarians, including myself, Leonard Liggio, Joe Peden, Walter Block and his wife, Sherryl, and Larry Moss. The legislative arm of the PFP was to be the Delegate Assembly, consisting of delegates from the various clubs. The Faculty Club was entitled to two delegates, and so we naturally divvied it up: one going to the socialists, and one to us, who turned out to be me.
At the first meeting of the Delegate Assembly, then, here I was, only in the Party for about a week, but suddenly vaulted to top rank in the power elite. Then, early in the meeting, some people got up and advocated abolishing the Delegate Assembly as somehow "undemocratic." Jeez! I was just about to get a taste of juicy political power, when some SOBs were trying to take it away from me! As I listened further, I realized that something even more sinister and of broader concern was taking place. Apparently, the New York party was being run by a self-perpetuating oligarchical executive committee, who, in the name of "democracy," were trying to eliminate all intermediate social institutions, and to operate upon the party mass unimpeded, all in the name of "democracy." To me it smacked of rotten Jacobinism, and I got up and delivered an impassioned speech to that effect. After the session ended, a few people came up to me and said that some like-minded thinkers, who constituted the West Side Club, were having a gathering to discuss these matters. So began our nefarious alliance with the Progressive Labor faction within Peace and Freedom.
It later turned out that the PFP and its executive committee were being run, both in California and in New York, by the Leninist-Trotskyite Draperites, International Socialists run by Berkeley librarian Hal Draper. The Draperites were the original Schachtmanites, Trotskyites who had rebelled against Trotsky as Third Camp opponents of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The New York party was being run by the Draperites, including as their allies a motley collection of assorted socialists, pacifists, counter-cultural druggies, and Left Libertarians.
The opposition within PFP was indeed being run by the Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PL), who the Draperites feared were plotting a takeover. Actually, it soon became clear that PL had no such intention, but were only keeping their hand in, and were using the West Side Club to recruit candidate-members into PL. Both PL and the Draperites were keeping the structure loose while waiting for an expected flood of Gene McCarthy followers after Humphrey’s expected Democratic nomination victory – a flood that, of course, never materialized. Hence the loose ideological requirement, and the fact that the platform was up for grabs. The alliance between PL and us libertarians was highly useful to both sides, in addition to cooperating in fending off Draperite dictatorship in the name of democracy. What PL got out of it was a cover for their recruiting, since no one could of course call us vehement antisocialists tools of Progressive Labor. Whatwe got out of it was PL’s firm support for an ideological platform – adopted by our joint caucus – that was probably the most libertarian of any party since the days of Cleveland Democracy. The PL people were pleasantly "straight" and nondruggie, although quite robotic, resembling left-wing Randians.
The great exception was the delightful Jake Rosen, the absolute head of PL’s fraction in the PFP. Rosen, bright, joyous, witty, and decidedly nonrobotic, knew the score. One of my fondest memories of life in the PFP was of Jake Rosen trying to justify our laissez-faire platform to his Maoist dunderheads. "Hey, Jake, what does this mean: absolute freedom of trade and opposition to all government restrictions?" "Er, that’s the ‘antimonopoly coalition’." "Oh, yeah." Jake, with more sincerity, joined us in opposing guaranteed annual income plans; he considered them bourgeois and "reactionary." About the only thing Jake balked at was our proposal that our caucus come out for immediate abolition of rent control. "Hey, fellas, look, I’d love to do it, but we have commitments to tenant groups." Graciously, we let him off the hook.
Rothbard would have been very proud of the success that Ron Paul is having right now and its terrible that those who should know better are trying to paint Rothbard as someone that he was not. Rothbard always fought for freedom, and probably did more in that way for people around the globe than almost anyone else. But it did not stop there. On a personal level, and Rothbard told me this directly, he supported third world children through the monthly donation programs such as Save the Children.
Rothbard never wrote of this publicly (though the records might still be around), it was the private Rothbard and much different from the way Ron Paul-haters are trying to spin things.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank and most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.