The Libertarian Forum, edited by Murray N. Rothbard; May 1, 1970
When we last left Rothbard’s bi-weekly dialogue through this periodical, he concluded that the New Left was dead, having abandoned any connection to true libertarian objectives such as its anti-war stand. I remind you of this because the story continues with this edition.
Rothbard identifies several instances of the New Left attacking, occupying, or destroying private property, for example:
Recently, hooliganesses of the Women’s Liberation Movement seized the offices of Grove Press, and issued numerous “demands.”
Grove Press called in the police to carry those female invaders out, and proceeded to charge them with criminal trespass.
This seems to me a reasonable response to the trespass; yet, I know that there is a libertarian objection – one which Rothbard addresses (emphasis added):
But, it might be asked, isn’t it a terrible thing to call in the state police for self-defense? Certainly not. While no libertarian enjoys calling on the State for defense, the fact remains that the State had arrogated to itself a compulsory monopoly of the function of police protection.
Let me get this straight: if the State has a “compulsory monopoly” on what would otherwise be a perfectly libertarian-consistent function, Rothbard does not believe that anyone who suggests it is acceptable for a libertarian to utilize the State to carry out that function somehow loses his NAP membership card.
For example, say your house is on fire; it seems it is OK to call the county fire department (thank God). Or, say you want to get to the department store; it is not a capital offense to drive on public roads (too bad, now I have to go to work next week). How about if you want to buy a candy bar? Sure, go ahead and spend those Federal Reserve Notes (there goes the paleo diet).
So…I have this problem…me and a bunch of my neighbors decide we like the make-up of our neighborhood. In fact, everyone in the county feels about the same. We don’t want Commies moving in – not anywhere near us, not anywhere that they can get a foothold in our neighborhood, in our city hall – even in our state capital.
For goodness’ sakes, they are Commies!
Now, if all property was private, it is perfectly consistent with the non-aggression principle for us to agree to such a thing and enforce it. But I don’t even need to say “if all property was private.” Any polity can decide such a thing: no Commies allowed within the geographic area that incorporates all of our homes and businesses and schools (and the roads and parks that we have paid for through taxes).
But…but…but…we have no means to enforce this voluntarily, through private means. You know why that is; actually, let me allow Rothbard to remind you why:
“…the fact remains that the State had arrogated to itself a compulsory monopoly of the function of
police border protection.”
So, I ask…if it is OK to utilize the State for the purpose of protecting private property when the State has taken a monopoly in the function of protecting private property, why is it not OK to utilize the State for the purpose of protecting the private property of me and a few thousand of my neighbors when the State has taken a monopoly in the function of protecting the private property of me and a few thousand of my neighbors?
I’m just asking.
There is more. Remember those “hooliganesses of the Women’s Liberation Movement” mentioned by Rothbard earlier?
And it is not only the current means employed by the Left that I am attacking; it is also their newfound ends as well. Of what relevance to libertarianism, for example, are the demands of the Women’s Liberationists? In what way is it “libertarian” to foist their perverted values upon the general culture and upon society?
One can think of many “perverted values” foisted on society during and since the inception of the Women’s Liberation Movement. These “perverted values” seem to be foisted at an ever-increasing rate. Many so-called libertarians delight in these “perverted values” being foisted on society.
Rothbard asks: in what way is this “libertarian”? Rothbard leaves the rhetorical question unanswered, but Rothbard is clearly leading a horse to water. He is quite clear – it is in no way “libertarian.”
Now I suppose that Rothbard could mean that libertarianism is indifferent to such matters. Technically, this rings true to my ears. But take his tone. He is not writing in a manner of indifference. He is placing some value in the “culture”; he identifies these New Left values as “perverted” toward this culture.
If one could ask Rothbard today, do you think that he would suggest that these “perverted values” would be helpful or harmful toward achieving and maintaining a libertarian order? Or would he be indifferent?
I will leave these rhetorical questions unanswered…but the water is right in front of you. Care to take a drink?