12 June 2010
Why Rothbard was “anti-war”

I was having a chat with Brian Micklethwait the other night about anti-war libertarianism - no, still haven’t come up with a better term for it - and particularly the role of Murray Rothbard.  Brian reckons - and I hope I am not misrepresenting him here - that much of Rothbard’s motivation was down to his study of Lenin.

You see, Rothbard wanted to instigate a revolution - a libertarian one but a revolution all the same.  So, he looked around for successful revolutionaries.  And the most successful of all was Lenin.  Rothbard noted that in the biggest war in history to date, and despite the fact that his country was a whole-hearted participant, Lenin refused to take sides.  So Rothbard - according to Brian and the faulty logic is plain to see here - drew the conclusion that when it comes to war the libertarian revolutionary should always back the opposition to his “own” side.

Rothbard was a New York Jew.  And Brian got used to the idea that in any given dispute Rothbard would inevitably support the side that least resembled New York Jews.

Of course, none of this means that Rothbard’s published views on war are wrong - just highly suspect.

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  1. I don’t think it’s quite that Rothbard thought all libertarian revolutionaries should be anti their own tribe, merely that this is what he always seemed to do.  And it is my surmise that he did this in order to make quite sure that he himself didn’t support his own tribe.  Thus imitating Lenin himself.

    But I think that when it came to explicating the logic of and the principles of libertarianism, Rothbard was superb.  As time passes I find myself admiring this aspect of his life and work more and more, and caring about his (I think) foreign policy weirdnesses less and less.  Indeed, I have just signed up to do a course in Austrian Economics, where the central text will be Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State.  I expect to end up even more impressed by Rothbard than I am now.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 14 June 2010 at 02:18am

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