Thursday, April 28, 2005

Reclaiming our radicalism

Christians search scripture routinely for wisdom on moral and ethical issues. We freedom-lovers should likewise spend more time searching the writings of our heroic predecessors for insight on challenges that now plague us.

While the so-called Libertarian Party descends further into cowardice and “big tent” Neolibertarians raise their hawkish heads, Lew Rockwell’s unearthed and reprinted a timely and indispensable essay by Murray Rothbard titled “Do You Hate the State?” First published three decades ago, Rothbard’s piece identifies the “crucial dividing line” that split libertarianism in 1977 and still does so today. That division, Murray wrote, isn’t anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, or war vs. peace. The “nub of the issue,” as he called it, is radical vs. conservative. And there’s no question which side of that line Murray fell on.

The conservative libertarian, Murray explained, is convinced intellectually that among the entire spectrum of political alternatives, free markets and smaller government are superior. But he lacks “any passionate hatred of the State” or “any sense that the State is a plundering and bestial enemy.”

On the other hand, the radical libertarian, whether anarchist or limited-government classical liberal, “hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers.” He is radical “in the sense of being in total, root-and-branch opposition to the existing political system and to the State itself. Radical in the sense of having integrated intellectual opposition to the State with a gut hatred of its pervasive and organized system of crime and injustice. Radical in the sense of a deep commitment to the spirit of liberty and anti-statism that integrates reason and emotion, heart and soul.”

Added Murray:

“...the radical libertarian ... refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State. The radical — whether he be anarchist or laissez-faire — cannot think in such terms as, e.g.: Well, the first year, we’ll cut the income tax by 2%, abolish the ICC, and cut the minimum wage; the second year we’ll abolish the minimum wage, cut the income tax by another 2%, and reduce welfare payments by 3%, etc. The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it’s to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or — for minarchists — dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.”
So here’s where I see the line drawn in today’s libertarian movement:

Conservatives — the Libertarian Party, the recent Neolibertarian splinter (it hasn’t yet distinguished itself as a movement), Reason and Liberty magazines, Laissez-Faire Books (to a large degree), and “libertarian” Bush sympathizers like talk radio’s Neal Boortz and CNBC’s Dennis Miller.

RadicalsThe Mises Institute,, "Rob" and, the coalition, the Movement of the Libertarian Left, and a growing number of writers and bloggers like B.K. Marcus, Claire Wolfe, Wendy McElroy, Tom Knapp, Karen De Coster, Anthony Gregory, and Roderick T. Long.

As Murray said, “Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no.”


At 9:24 PM, Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...

On the one hand, thank you for placing me in such august (if that term, coming as it does from a reference to Caesar, is appropriate) company.

On the other hand, dammit ... I've been outed! ;-)

I haven't read the Rothbard piece in question, but from your description of it I suspect I'm in agreement with it. Matter of fact, now I'm going to have to read it to make sure the Old Man didn't beat me to a biblical analogy I've been planning to use (Luke 5:36-39).

Tom Knapp

At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Wally. Thanks for posting this. I edited my post on Rothbard's essay to also mention your post.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it not possible to "hate the state" and, at the same time, advocate a gradual, non-violent process of reducing state power?

I am a libertarian politically, but an anarchist philosophically. I despise the state and its attacks on my god-given right to freedom, as much as any "radical" libertarian you can imagine, but at the same time, I realize that there is no shortcut to the ultimate goal of a voluntary society. It will be achieved through a million tiny steps rather than one giant leap.

Do I not exist in your eyes?

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, as Rothbard said in the article:

"There is not a single abolitionist who would not grab a feasible method, or a gradual gain, if it came his way. The difference is that the abolitionist always holds high the banner of his ultimate goal, never hides his basic principles, and wishes to get to his goal as fast as humanly possible. Hence, while the abolitionist will accept a gradual step in the right direction if that is all that he can achieve, he always accepts it grudgingly, as merely a first step toward a goal which he always keeps blazingly clear. The abolitionist is a "button pusher" who would blister his thumb pushing a button that would abolish the State immediately, if such a button existed. But the abolitionist also knows that alas, such a button does not exist, and that he will take a bit of the loaf if necessary – while always preferring the whole loaf if he can achieve it."

BTW, thanks for my inclusion as a radical libertarian writer, Wally!

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Fawkes said...

I am continually confounded by corresponders who use some variant of the following: "I consider myself libertarian, but..."
They are "libertarian, but they understand the need for gov't to regulate certain 'antisocial' behaviors."
They are "libertarian, but don't understand how supporting the invasion makes them just another big gov't apologist..."
They are "libertarian, but we have to do SOMETHING about this (insert latest perceived new 'threat' to polite society here)..."
It's a thankless task trying to convince people of their own ingrained statism.
No buts, no glory, if I may.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Geoffrey Allan Plauche said...

What about IHS? The Institute for Humane Studies? I'd suspect they'd fall into the conservative category, but perhaps they don't even qualify as libertarian? Classical liberal maybe?

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

G-d bless you, Mr. Conger. The Boortzies and the Reason readers are warping the LP. I ranted about this on "" By the reaction, you'd think I had eaten a puppy fetus on line.

Who hates the state? I do.

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact is, Libertarian is the only LEGAL political philosophy:

Until we accept the fact that the law has been usurped by criminals and deal with it using more effective methods (as our freedom loving ancestors were forced to conclude) than endless debate which will not work due to historical revisionism, faulty education and manipulated populations equating survival of the State with personal survival, we are doomed as a civilization.

The facts are in and have been in for a very long time. They are useless until translated to action. Our "masters" will not give up their perks willingly.

The good news is that paying the personal cost of these predations is waking more and more people up. The big question is: Will critical mass be achieved before it is too late?

At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate the state enough to do something about it. I don't mean fuming about the state, pretending to fight the state, making a good show of it, etc. I mean doing something that has a reasonable chance of having an effect.

Purism, Suddenism, Anarchism etc. do not mix with the American political system. If you want to have people listen to you while taking such radical stands, you had better learn how to be a James Bond villian and acquire a nuclear weapon, death ray or some such to back up your demands.

Extreme libertarianism is too unpopular to win at the polls, and it is too unpopular to gather a revolutionary army. Terrorism is your only viable option.

I prefer electoral politics to violence and intimidation. And I prefer winning to losing. This is why I have rejected the Rothbard strategy and launched

I hate the state enough to do something about it. No more Bozoidal Bolshevism for me.

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commented on that Rothbard reprint as well, and got a bit of interesting discussion in return. I've wearied of leashitarians, and am pleased to see many individuals around who aren't afraid to be radically for freedom.

Don't know how I've missed your blog, but I'm glad I found it!

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous sex shop said...

The chap is completely right, and there's no skepticism.

At 4:11 AM, Anonymous muebles madrid said...

The dude is completely just, and there is no suspicion.

At 6:21 AM, Anonymous posicionamiento web said...

This can't work as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I believe.

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Inversiones en petroleo said...

I think that this post is the best that i have read.


Post a Comment

<< Home