Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Rand Paul, Murray Rothbard and Strategy for Advancing a Toward a Libertarian World

During my Twitter exchange with Justin Raimondo, with regard to Rand Paul, he tweeted out this:

The link is to Murray Rothbard's final chapter in his book, The Ethics of Liberty. I want to take this Rothbard chapter as a starting point to examine Rand and his role in the libertarian movement. Although, I believe Rand's positions distort the libertarian cause, let us, for the moment, take the generous position that Rand is simply taking a gradualist approach. What does Rothbard say about this in the chapter Justin cites? Let's take a look:
Gradualism in theory, in fact, totally undercuts the overriding goal of liberty itself; its import, therefore, is not simply strategic but an opposition to the end itself and hence impermissible as any part of a strategy toward liberty. The reason is that once immediate abolitionism is abandoned, then the goal is conceded to take second or third place to other, anti-libertarian considerations, for these considerations are now placed higher than liberty.
Rothbard goes on to discuss transitional strategy (my highlight)
Must the libertarian necessarily confine himself to advocating immediate abolition? Are transitional demands, steps toward liberty in practice, therefore illegitimate? Surely not, since realistically there would then be no hope of achieving the final goal. It is therefore incumbent upon the libertarian, eager to achieve his goal as rapidly as possible, to push the polity ever further in the direction of that goal. Clearly, such a course is difficult, for the danger always exists of losing sight of, or even undercutting, the ultimate goal of liberty. But such a course, given the state of the world in the past, present, and foreseeable future, is vital if the victory of liberty is ever to be achieved. The transitional demands, then, must be framed while (a) always holding up the ultimate goal of liberty as the desired end of the transitional process; and (b) never taking steps, or using means, which explicitly or implicitly contradict that goal.
If nothing else, Rand is a series of explicit and implicit contradictions with regard to liberty. He has:

-Stated that he respects warmonger John McCain, specifically for his world travel and for his time as a government trained killer.

-Attended a White House event launching "Promise Zones," which are nothing but an expansion of the state and said he had no objections with regard to the "Promise Zones."

-He is in favor of prosecuting Edward Snowden.

-He said he has no objection to extending unemployment payments, as long as they are within the current budget.

Thus, I would argue that in no way does Rand follow the strategic transitional guidelines that Rothbard outlined. Indeed, because Rand is often labeled as libertarian-leaning by mainstream media, I believe the problem with Rand is even greater than just another Senator taking bad positions. Because of Rand, many may take away the view that libertarians support Obama's Promise Zones, that they don't have a problem with McCain looking for trouble in his world travels, that there is nothing wrong with unemployment payments and that Snowden should be prosecuted.

Thus, for the libertarian wanting to get the true libertarian message out, it makes more sense to to point out the many ways that Rand holds non-libertarian positions, rather than attempt to square Rand's distortions as libertarian by stretching the interpretation of what Rand says.


  1. Rothbard campaign for Buchanan. Your point is invalid.

    1. Buchanan was a lot more consistent and honest than Rand. At least everyone knows where Buchanan stands and what he will fight for. Buchanan never pretended to be a libertarian. And he is solid on a lot of issues like civil rights, immigration, foreign policy, taxes, feminism, and guns.

    2. Pat Buchanan opposes foreign intervention and has written a great deal to teach people how wrong it is. He neither calls himself a libertarian, nor does anyone pretend he is one.

      Rothbard's belief was that a foreign policy of peace was the most important issue.

      Rand not only manages to screw up the most important part, but has voted for sanctions. Most of the time, his voting record is better than his rhetoric, but there are some serious red flags with no plausible "gradualist" explanation.

      He's a politician. Why make excuses for them?

    3. Great points Doug. Pat Buchanan is extremely libertarian on immigration. And don't be too quick to forget the other principled freedom lovers Rothbard supported like LBJ, Ross Perot, George Bush, Strom Thurmond and "The Duke." .

    4. Mark.... Rothbard supported LBJ, Ross Perot, George Bush, etc.???? I am flabergasted! Can you provide some links or citations? (this is NOT sarcasm... I am in shock.)

    5. Or, from Ferris Bueler.... anyone?... anyone?...

    6. Mark... JW, is that you?

    7. Buchanan is no libertarian ( I know some on the left try to put him in the libertarian camp due to his association with Lew Rockwell), he's a paleocon but just because he's against mindless wars and is pro-guns lets not make him out to some lover of liberty. He's a central planner when it comes to immigration, trade and believes the state should enforce culture among other things. I don't know why some libertarians give this cold war relic any press but each to their own.



  2. Regarding gradualism, when you have criminal aggressions being committed by the State against individuals, through legislation and its illicit enforcement, then those crimes must be ended immediately. No gradualism there. When the people's lives, their opportunities, their means of making a living and feeding themselves and their family are restricted by the chains of the State, remove ALL the chains immediately, not gradually.

    Immediate freedom from the prison of the State is the moral way to go about it.

    1. We must call for immediate liberation knowing that the result will likely be gradual.

    2. What Scott said.
      Only the State will profit if one compromises with it.

  3. N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers

    The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.


  4. Whether Rothbard made a mistake with Buchanan is immaterial. Ideas should be supported, not people. The question is: was his argument right? You either think so or you don't. (and It appears that Raimondo does.)

    If you think it is, then you CAN NOT pretend that it applies to Rand Paul because Rand Paul is not a "gradualist libertarian". He is not even a libertarian. He merely wants to slowdown the pace of statism. He is simply a conservative, in that he wants to bring the state back to a previous status quo; a status quo which in itself is STILL statist; Rand Paul is not even a constitutionalist, and even the constitution is not libertarian (post office etc).

    Robert Wenzel is right in everything he stated above. Therefor Raimondo cannot "use" Rothbard as an excuse.

    Simple fact is this: you support Rand Paul in some naive notion that he will "improve" things (on the basis of political promises...HAH; remember Obama the peace and transparency candidate?), then your signature will also be on the policies that will: counter freedom, cause damage to life liberty and property, and destroy the credibility of libertarians.
    There is a MUCH larger chance that your signature will end up being written in blood, than it won't be. The first politician that *increased* liberty substantially as compared to predecessors is yet to be born.

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONS33ukkTtE

    Straight from Rothbard's mouth on strategy.