Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays, by Murray Rothbard
So now it’s time to start looking at the “other essays.” This one is entitled Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty. Rothbard covers much ground in this essay. I intend to focus on two aspects: the first is Rothbard’s view regarding the foundation necessary for liberty; the second is the connection of libertarianism and communism.
Fair warning: I hold some disagreement with Rothbard on the first; however, at the end of this piece, I will bring in a guest libertarian far more qualified than I am to make this point.
On the second, his analysis confirms a conclusion I reached some time ago (and is also supportive of the reasons behind my disagreement with the first): libertarianism and communism hold common roots that many libertarians might not care to admit. I suggest that it is imperative for libertarians to understand this relationship in order to understand the hazards to avoid.
Perhaps I should add “or the lack thereof.” Bear with me.
The Conservative has long been marked, whether he knows it or not, by long-run pessimism: by the belief that the long-run trend, and therefore time itself, is against him.
This belief drives the Conservative to liberty-crushing political action, both at home (left-wing statism) and abroad (the fight against communism).
Pessimism, however, both short-run and long-run, is precisely what the prognosis of conservatism deserves, for conservatism is a dying remnant of the ancien régime of the pre-industrial era, and, as such, it has no future.
To get the right timeframe and context:
The Ancien Régime (French for "old regime") was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages (circa 15th century) until 1792, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution.
Returning to Rothbard:
In its contemporary American form, the recent Conservative revival embodied the death throes of an ineluctably moribund, fundamentalist, rural, small-town, white Anglo-Saxon America.
I know you are thinking: “Wait a minute. How is Rothbard writing about the election of 2016? Is high-speed internet provided in the after-life?”
I am just pulling your leg; Rothbard wrote this essay in 1965. I can’t comment on the situation regarding “Conservative” at the time Rothbard wrote those words; however, could these words come from any mainstream, East Coast, establishment, liberal newspaper regarding the flyover country that elected Trump?
What, however, of the prospects for liberty?
And here is where I begin to part ways with Rothbard on this topic. Because if there is to be any type of move toward liberty in contemporary America, it will come from people who live precisely in this flyover country; most certainly it will not come from places like New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Seattle – the places where they write those kinds of words.
The absolute monarchs were the Old Order writ large and made even more despotic than before. Capitalism, indeed, flourished earliest and most actively precisely in those areas where the central State was weak or nonexistent: the Italian cities, the Hanseatic League, the confederation of seventeenth-century Holland.
I have two thoughts on this: first, Rothbard rightly rails against the old order that existed in the west before the eighteenth century; he sees the triumph of the liberal revolution at this time as the turning point – on this point, I don’t fully agree.