Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Yaron Brook: When Rothbard Died, Libertarianism Should Have Died With Him

By, Chris Rossini
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Leonard Peikoff, the leading advocate of Ayn (there are no innocents in war) Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, recorded a podcast with Yaron Brook, the president and executive director of The Ayn Rand Institute.

The topic? Libertarianism.

Both Peikoff and Brook express their opposition to the whole concept.

But the following statement from Brook really jumped out at me (my emphasis):
"Even though it [libertarianism] might have initially been adopted innocently by certain people who were advocates of free markets, it was very quickly, in the 1960's and 70's co-opted by the anarchists and by the complete philosophic subjectivists. And they dominated the movements throughout that period of time.

Even though I believe that today the libertarian movement is fragmented, it's disintegrating. It is tragic that many people are still using the term, and not letting the term kind of pass with the passing of the guy who really led this movement - Murray Rothbard. When he passed, the whole concept should have passed with him."
Ok...I'll agree that the libertarian movement is fragmented.

But so what?

I see no reason reason that it should be any other way. We don't all have to be cogs in a wheel parroting the same lines. The fact that there is diversity within the libertarian movement says to me that there's liberty within the movement. There can, and should be disagreements, that should be debated.

The great danger I see is when the rejection of The Non-Aggression Axiom creeps in like a weed. When warmongers go on TV, like Peikoff here, and make Bill O'Reilly look like a peacenik.

And this is the gang that is rolling its van into Cato! What a shame...

Furthermore, for Brook to say that libertarianism is "disintegrating" is preposterous! Has Brook never heard of Ron Paul, who has spread these very ideas, creating possibly millions of Rothbardians?

And the train hasn't stopped now that Ron is leaving politics either. Check out this crowd from Oct. 18th, when Ron spoke at Utah Valley University:

Are you getting the sense, by looking at the above picture, that libertarianism is "disintegrating"? Show me another former Presidential candidate that can draw these types of crowds.

Ron is also a big international hero, loved around the globe. Couple that with the fantastic growth of The Mises Institute, and the international Mises Institutes that are cropping up all over the world.

Libertarianism, of the Rothbardian tradition, is thriving!

Viva Murray Rothbard!


  1. I second this sentiment.

  2. It's funny, because I don't recall the people of Galt's Gulch urging for war against the People's State of Mexico. They seemed to want to do their own thing in peace.

  3. Stunning.

    After all of these years.

    Murray was truly the personification of the notion that you are not free without the freedom to say "no."

    He said "no" to Rand.

    He said "no" to the Kochs.

    Not to get all biblical here, but Murray refused the offer of the world by these devils for love and principle.

    They knew they couldn't get him and they STILL hate him for it.

    By your deeds...

    Bravo, Murray!

    1. Murray Rothbard refused to sell out for 30 pieces of silver so naturally the bastards have a problem with that.

    2. By your deeds indeed! What a standard he set for all of us. These tools can suck it!

  4. The movement is indeed fragmented--but not in a bad way, just along a spectrum of understanding--between people new to libertarianism, those confused by left-libertarianism, those not confused and on their way to minarchism, the minarchists, and those who realize minarchy is not logically and morally consistent: the ancaps.

  5. The reason why he says what he says is because Libertarian-ism doesn't require that someone know WHY liberty is the only way.

    As a result if Libertarians were to get into power they would make the same mistakes that got us here. (Ron Paul has said similar things just not pissing off libertarians in the process and Gary Johnson is an excellent example of what Rand was referring to.)

    It is the perception of Peikoff and Rand herself that Rothbard created libertarian-ism somehow when he got pissed off with Rand and wrote his play. They don't understand that Rothbard parted ways because he saw the silliness of accepting government as the monopoly on the use of retaliatory force when it is specifically force that the government uses to abuse the people and control them.

    The issue between Rand and Rothbard is all about the rightful place of government. There is really no other substantive issue.

    The issue between Rand and Libertarian-ism is that most of them don't have a fucking clue as to why the believe what they believe or believe that some book handed down over generations and altered to suit the church at the time somehow says that they should be free and not have government, when others take it to mean that they should have free will as long as you agree with me. (Tom Woods just said as much the same thing about the Federal Reserve)

    1. I almost fully agree with you, except for one tiny, but Gigantic point: the State, is not government. The state, as Geo. Wash'n put it, "...is not eloquence, is not reason; it is force. Like fire, it is a fearful servant, and a terrible master." The institution of the State, is, on analysis, antithetical to its declared purpose of government, because lords, archons, rulers, statesmen - however you call them - the agents of the state make rules for others to follow, but not themselves.

      That's their essence of evil - claiming power that isn't theirs to take, the power to be God.

      They're not interested in regulations that make things more regular (thus the name); they want "regulations" that make things less regular, that inconvenience the peaceful, and reward those that give obeisance to the State.

      The issue between Rand and Rothbard, is a recognition of the difference between government (found functioning quite happily in churches, social groups, [music] bands, and the occasional political arena), and State.

  6. What they fail to grasp is that you only need everyone on the same page if you want to rally them behind your cause and do your bidding for you. Libertarians are against such nonsense.

  7. Neither Peikoff nor Brooks would admit it, because the Objectivist movement is so fragmented, that they don't believe another fraction (David Kelley, et. al,) even exists, & would certainly never speak with them. Peikoff, has been a joke among many for years.

  8. Can you quote any objectivist stating, "I reject the non-aggression principle" or "I am for the initiation of force"? If you disagree on a concrete application of what qualifies as self-defense or offense, that is one thing. But giving Peikoff a label of "warmongering" is about as constructive as someone labeling you a "suicidal pacifist." It is suitable for a bad political debate not an honest philosophical discussion.

    Did you hear the other 95% of the discussion?

    Their first point was that fundamentals matter. It matters *how you arrived at the non-aggression principle*. Why is it correct? Many different philosophies include that principle for different reasons. It matters *if you think morality--and all knowledge--is discovered from reality + reason or not*. If you do, then you are an objectivist--any concrete disagreements on anarchy or Iran notwithstanding. If you are for the non-aggression principle "just because," or for utilitarian reasons, or for religious reasons, for "all government is always bad," or for unknown reasons, then you are not an objectivist--any concrete agreements on capitalism and property rights notwithstanding.

    They agree with many of the concrete positions held by libertarians. They distinguish between a "big umbrella" organization advocating for specific concretes and an organization based on a specific philosophy of anarchy and/or subjectivism. It matters what *reason* and *motive* you have for advocating a specific concrete.

    I would think you'd agree. Would you partner with an organization that agrees on "free markets, property rights, individual rights, no initiation of force, self-defense, non-nation building, civil liberties, the constitution," if they said, "...and we are for these because it leads practically to the most egalitarianism and greatest equality of outcomes compared to tyranny"? Or if they said, "we want all these policies because God wants us to"? That was their 2nd main point--goals matter.

    In short, the path you took to arrive "non-aggression" matters. Demonizing one path because it conflicts with a specific concrete is not constructive. The most common conflict is see is the following. I think many self-identified libertarians are anarchists, and when they find disagreement with objectivists on a concrete such as "government is necessary," they often conclude that objectivism is therefore without merit. Ditto for folks who care mainly about the concrete "non-aggression axiom" regardless of how you get there. I think most people who sympathize with objectivism, libertarianism, capitalism, etc are, like me, tired of hurling epithets and demonizing (from *all* sides).

    1. Quote from Nick: "In short, the path you took to arrive "non-aggression" matters."

      Why? Why isn't it enough to simply state that I do not support the initiation of robbery, kidnapping or murder, or those who do, no matter what their reasons?

    2. From Brook: "Libertarianism rejects the need for a systematic, philosophic defense of freedom."

      I suppose he has never read Rothbard or Hoppe.

      Andrew Lewis: "The fact that China poses a military danger to America is what makes our surveillance missions necessary. It is China’s status as a potential aggressor that created the perilous situation in the first place."

      We can aggress against China because they are a "potential aggressor" against us. That is an explicit denial of the non-aggression principle.

      Objectivism is not merely the idea that rationality can lead to ethical formulation. It is the denial of rationality in any disagreement with Rand. As Rothbard's short play based on his experience with her demonstrates: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIk5C2qsRH8

      Objectivism goes beyond declaring that reason should guide decisions and beliefs. It declares that this necessary means certain conclusions - and if you disagree with those conclusions, however rational your arguments, you are not an Objectivist.

    3. If one believes in the non-aggression principle, then how can there be substantive differences between Obectivists and others in applying it? Why would discovering the NAP in a different way matter?

      I read Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick early on, and didn't even read any Rothbard till much later, after I had already become an ancap.

  9. By your enemies shall you know the true worth of a man.

    Or, as said by L. Neil Smith, Be careful choosing your enemies. You may end up better known by who they were, then for who your friends were.

    BTW, typo: The plural of "Institute" is "Institutes", not "Institute's".

  10. > "When he passed, the whole concept should have passed with him."

    I've always thought the same about Rand and the followers of her "philosophy".

  11. Rand Institute: eternally butt-hurt.

  12. Read Rothbard?

    Seriously, read his stuff ... don't read what others write about him. At first, Rothbard can be intimidating and comes across as being extreme or a little "out there." However, he is absolutely compelling and extremely interesting.

    And, in the end, Rothbard has been spot on.

    Mike Cordon, Esq.
    Danville, CA

  13. I was in that crowd at UVU. You should have seen it. The poor girl who tried to give Dr. Paul's introduction was nearly shouted off the stage. She became frustrated very quickly and said something like, "If you'll all be quiet and let me finish then you can hear Ron Paul." Guess she didn't know that he's a man who needs no introduction. I estimated about 3,000 in attendance, all shouting "Ron Paul" and "End the Fed" on cue. What a party. And right in the heart of Romneyville, Utah. This is not a great sign for libertarianism's death. I hate to be the one to tell those Randians. wink.

    1. One minor quibble: Mitt Romney being Mormon is no more relevant to his politics than Harry Reid being Mormon (which he is, BTW).

      Just sayin'....

  14. So sad that Rand's great books, The Fountainhead and Atlas have to be associated with these kooks. She let it happen, hell, made it happen. Too bad. Rand convinced me of libertarianism before I knew the word.
    Btw Nick, I think Warmonger is a kind label for people as bellicose as Brook and Peikoff. The clip linked has Peikoff saying he is not at all concerned with the death of civilians killed by the US military...he also contends that "Iraq" agressed against "Us"...warmongering collectivist claptrap. Thats all that really seems to get the ARI folks warm anymore, arguing for imperialism. Talk about a dying movement...

  15. Quote from Nick: "In short, the path you took to arrive at "non-aggression" matters."

    Reply from Geoih: "Why? Why isn't it enough to simply state that I do not support the initiation of robbery, kidnapping or murder, or those who do, no matter what their reasons?"

    Because if you believe in non-aggression, let's say, because you think that God commanded it, then when you find out that God didn't command it or that there is no God, your basis for believing it will collapse. It matters that you've justified your belief -- truly justified it -- not simply that you happen to believe it "no matter what the reason."

  16. I hope libertarianism keeps following in Rothbard's footsteps--all the way into the grave.

  17. I agree with some sentiments in this piece. However, it starts off with a lie:

    "Leonard Peikoff, the leading advocate of Ayn (there are no innocents in war) Rand's philosophy of Objectivism..."

    AR didn't say "there are no innocents in war." Here's what she said, at the Ford Hall Forum in 1972:

    Q: What do you think about the killing of innocent people in war?

    AR: This is a major reason people should be concerned about the nature of their government. THE MAJORITY IN ANY COUNTRY AT WAR IS OFTEN INNOCENT [caps mine]. But if by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overthrow their bad government and establish a better one, then they must pay the price for the sins of their government, as we are all paying for the sins of ours. And if people put up with dictatorship—as some do in Soviet Russia, and some did in Nazi Germany—they deserve what their government deserves. Our only concern should be who started the war. Once that's established, there's no need to consider the "rights" of that country, because it has initiated the use of force and therefore stepped outside the principle of rights.

    Another comment on this line:

    "Has Brook never heard of Ron Paul, who has spread these very ideas, creating possibly millions of Rothbardians?"

    I'm skeptical that Ron Paul has created millions of Rothbardians. I suppose it's possible, but he isn't an anarchist. I think he has sparked more interest in Austrian economics in general than adherents to Rothbard.

    1. You either ignored the evidence in Ron Paul's work or missed the cues when he said he was a Rothbardian and preferred Spooner over Rand. He's an Anarchist.

  18. It seems that author isn't aware that Rothbard was an Anarchist himself. He was the one that started the expansion of Libertarianism to it's logical conclusion of Anarcho-Capitalism.

    Those Libertarians that do not understand this or still think that Ron Paul was treated fairly by the statist are the ones that are falling behind, and Ron Paul whom is an avid Rothbardian as well as many others as seen by that photo are willing and working to push forward.

    Without any doubt after reading his books and meeting him in person to speak with him, Ron Paul is a Rothbardian.

  19. why Anarcho-Capitalism is crap:


  20. It's 2014 now, and now there are "bleeding heart" libertarians, and the non-aggression principle is slipping away from its lack of foundation (see Matt Zwolinski's attacks on it, and Jason Kuznicki's half-hearted defense of it), and then there's the rising prevalence of utilitarianism and John Rawls.

    There is less and less liberty in libertarianism, and once again those who seek to fight for freedom are without a name again.

    It's taking longer than he thought, but Brook was right.