Working paper on the libertarian populism of the Mises Institute

Accelerating the Climate of Hate: Austrian School Economics, F.A. Hayek, and “The New Hate”

In 2012, I published a book called The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right,[1] in which I argued that while hate and hate groups have always been visible on the peripheries of American politics, the “paranoid style”[2] has thoroughly infiltrated its mainstream today. Echoes of the now-thoroughly disreputable ideas that once informed the canons of Know Nothingism, white supremacy, 1930s-era America Firstism, McCarthyism, and the whole range of left and right wing conspiracy theories—that Anglo-Saxon genes are being diluted by those of the lesser races; that Catholics take their marching orders from the pope; that Godless Masons or Communists have subverted the government; that the Talmud teaches Jews how to manipulate the economy; that cabals of wealthy bankers, Communists, and their lackeys in governments are responsible not just for rigged elections, false flag attacks, assassinations, depressions, and wars, but acts of God like earthquakes and hurricanes—can now be heard in the Nativist, Islamophobic, and isolationist rhetoric of national politicians, who don’t necessarily believe them but use them to gain whatever temporary advantage they can.

I didn’t know it while I was writing The New Hate, but the Harvard economist Edward Glaeser had already published a paper that formalized that basic thesis and modeled it mathematically.[3] When politicians foment hate against one out-group or another, he argued, they are in fact conducting a rational transaction with voters. Hate demagoguery is deployed in a political context to discredit rivals whose policies are perceived as beneficial to the hated group. The rise of Jim Crow in the American South in the late Nineteenth century, for one example, was orchestrated by conservative Democratic enemies of the Populists, whose redistributionist policies would have been a boon for poor blacks. Reminding poor whites that they hated and feared black people even more than they did the capitalist class helped the Democrats break the back of the movement. Another example is the rise of political anti-Semitism in late Nineteenth century Europe, which, Glaeser argues, was really an attack on constitutional Republicanism. By associating the democratic values of the Enlightenment with the fabled mendacity of the Jews, its purveyors hoped to strengthen the church and crown.

Of course for the tactic to be effective, voters must be predisposed to the premises of the hate narratives and politicians must be fluent in their tropes; they must resonate with voters’ existing prejudices and anxieties, and appear to have at least an element of factuality to them. The Populist Party did in fact reach out to poor blacks in its early days, and the fear of a black assault on white womanhood had been primal in the American south, since at least the days of Toussaint L’Ouverture (and was of course a classic case of projection—black female slaves had much more to fear from their white masters than those masters’ wives and daughters had to fear from their slaves).[4]

As for the political anti-Semitism that handed the mayoralty of Vienna to Karl Lueger in the late 1890s, and that inspired the forgery of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, if Jews weren’t the sole or even the chief drivers of Europe’s revolutionary movements, there was no question that they participated in them and benefited from them—and the perfidiousness of the Hebrew race had been enshrined in the Gospels, the liturgy, and the general culture of Christendom since its beginnings. If the grand conspiratorial scenarios of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were new (they had formerly been attributed to the Masons), the phenomenon of Jew-hatred was anything but.

It helps too, Glaeser notes, if the out group is segregated or very small: “People who interact frequently with minorities in peaceful settings will be less likely to accept false stories. Hatred is particularly likely when out-groups are politically relevant, but socially segregated.”[5]

All in all, Glaeser makes an intriguing case for the economics of politically-inspired hate-mongering—but what about the hate-mongering of economists, or more specifically, the economists who are associated with the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama?

Founded in 1982 by Llewelyn Rockwell “with the blessing and aid of Margit von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, and Ron Paul,” the Institute styles itself as the world’s leading advocate of “teaching and research in the Austrian school of economics….in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard.” It publishes numerous books and periodicals, maintains a research library, conducts seminars, arranges conferences, and subsidizes pertinent academic research. “Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC,” according to its website, “the Institute works with students and scholars from many countries, and reaches out to business leaders, professionals, and everyone else interested in our mission.” [6]

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s description of its principles and activities makes it sound a little less innocuous and considerably more tendentious. In the SPLC’s telling, it “promotes a type of Darwinian view of society in which elites are seen as natural and any intervention by the government on behalf of social justice is destructive. It is “nostalgic for the days,” the SPLC continued, quoting Hans-Hermann Hoppe[7], one of the Institute’s Distinguished Senior Fellows, when “’positions of natural authority [were] likely to be passed on within a few noble families,’” unlike today when “’affirmative action and forced integration’” are “’responsible for the almost complete destruction of private property rights, and the erosion of freedom of contract, association, and disassociation.’”[8]

While one might expect a thorough-going free marketer like Hoppe to take a dim view of any form of income redistribution or affirmative action, and to be unsentimental when it comes to the question of whether government is obliged to help the weaker and less-fortunate, the Mises Institute’s embrace of Paleo-conservatism[9] has led it into such seemingly un-Austrian by-ways as Civil War[10] and even Holocaust revisionism,[11] so-called scientific racism,[12] Christian Reconstructionism,[13] Homophobia,[14] anti-Feminism,[15] and anthropogenic climate change denial.[16] Paleoconservatives, as Sam Francis put it, reject “the whole concept of the ‘leviathan state’ that they see lurching out of the American Civil War and later the first two World Wars. Hence, their sympathies tend to be with the South against the state-building North and with the America First opponents of intervention in the 1930s.”[17] Rockwell and many of the Institute’s affiliated intellectuals have had documented associations with white nationalist leaders and groups, such as David Duke and the League of the South (of which Sam Francis was a founding member).

All of this is very “non-PC” to be sure. But how Austrian—or more to the point, how Hayekian—is it?

Hayek didn’t style himself a conservative, of course, never mind a Paleoconservative, but a liberal in the original sense of the word (“the conservative inclines to defend a particular established hierarchy and wishes authority to protect the status of those whom he values,” he wrote in The Constitution of Liberty, while “the liberal feels that no respect for established values can justify the resort to privilege or monopoly or any other coercive power of the state in order to shelter such people against the forces of economic change”).[18] Still, Hayek’s practical and partisan sympathies were clearly inclined towards those on the right side of the spectrum, and those feelings were heartily reciprocated. Both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater cited Hayek as one of their leading influences, as did Margaret Thatcher, Generalissimo Pinochet, and even the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul (Rockwell was his chief of staff from 1978 to 1982 and almost certainly ghostwrote some of the racist pamphlets that proved such an embarrassment to him[19]) has praised Hayek, as has his son Senator Rand Paul, and the current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

But what about the white nationalism? Hayek’s unguarded animadversions towards “Levantine” and “Near Eastern populations,” which he called “fundamentally dishonest,” and the “Bengali moneylender sons” he taught at the London School of Economics, whom he described as “a detestable type” (while denying that he had any “racial prejudices in general”), have been widely discussed by his supporters and detractors alike.[20] But surely there is a world of difference between the casual slurs of a then-elderly intellectual who grew up in Karl Lueger’s Vienna and the programmatic racism of a Paleoconservative such as Sam Francis. Hayek was a lapsed Catholic, but he was a distant relation of the Wittgenstein family and had close Jewish friends, including Mises and Karl Popper. “It is difficult to overestimate how much I owe to the fact that, almost from the beginning of my university career, I became connected with a group of contemporaries who belonged to the best type of the Jewish intelligentsia of Vienna and who proved to be far ahead of me in literary education and general precociousness,” Hayek remarked elsewhere.[21]  Murray Rothbard, of course, was Jewish as well.

But if one is looking to disaffiliate Hayek’s brand of Austrian theory from that of the Mises Institute, one need look no further than the Institute’s own writings. Here’s Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in a pointedly-titled essay, “Why it’s the Mises Institute.” For all that he argued for a minimal state, Hoppe wrote, Hayek was in essence a “moderate social democrat”:

According to Hayek, government is ‘necessary’… not merely for ‘law enforcement’ and ‘defense against external enemies’ but….’ought to use its power of raising funds by taxation to provide a number of services which for various reasons cannot be provided, or cannot be provided adequately, by the market’…. Among these goods and services are ‘protection against violence, epidemics, or such natural forces as floods and avalanches, but also many of the amenities which make life in modern cities tolerable, most roads … the provision of standards of measure, and of many kinds of information ranging from land registers, maps and statistics to the certification of the quality of some goods or services offered in the market’….Additional government functions include ‘the assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone’; government should ‘distribute its expenditure over time in such a manner that it will step in when private investment flags’; it should finance schools and research as well as enforce ‘building regulations, pure food laws, the certification of certain professions, the restrictions on the sale of certain dangerous goods (such as arms, explosives, poisons and drugs), as well as some safety and health regulations for the processes of production; and the provision of such public institutions as theaters, sports grounds, etc.’; and it should make use of the power of ‘eminent domain’ to enhance the ‘public good.’

Those damning quotes are pulled from Hayek’s books Road to Serfdom, Constitution of Liberty, and Law, Legislation and Liberty. For Mises and Rothbard, on the other hand, Hoppe continues, government’s “only function is to defend life and property by beating antisocial elements into submission.” They and not Hayek are his intellectual masters, he concludes, precisely to the extent that they were “laissez-faire radical[s]” and “extremist[s].”[22]

If Hayek had warned about the slippery slope to serfdom that begins with central economic planning (though not with taxes and the social welfare that they pay for, nor with military conscription, infrastructure-building, public education, or environmental regulations), Rothbard’s and the Mises Institute’s enemy is the state in and of itself.

As the original “anarchocapitalist” (Rothbard coined the term), the state is, as he formally defined it, “that organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but….by the use of compulsion; that is by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet.”[23] “Limited government,” “checks and balances,” and “constitutional republicanism” are so many oxymorons in the Mises Institute’s brand of Austrian theory. The state, as Lew Rockwell put it, “is a parasitic institution that lives off the wealth of its subjects, concealing its anti-social, predatory nature beneath a public-interest veneer.”[24] In this light, it makes sense that those Alabama-based Austrian theorists would focus as much of their animus on Lincoln as they do; they are not just nostalgic for the Confederacy, they are soldiers in its cause.[25] Though Mises himself didn’t write about the Civil War, he had written lines that could have come from the pen of John C. Calhoun, for example that “the right of self-determination…thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time … their wishes are to be respected and complied with.”[26]

But it would be a mistake to venture too deep into the weeds of theory and especially of subjective feelings when the topic is “the New Hate,” which I defined (and Glaeser modeled) as a tactical tool. Whether or not Mises and Rothbard were self-hating Jews, or Rockwell and his colleagues at the Mises Institute hate blacks can never be answered except by themselves. What matters is the uses that they put their “hate narratives” to—or perhaps even more to the point, the kinds of allies that they are willing to work with.

When Rockwell and his partners founded the Mises Institute in 1982, they were not acting as disinterested academics; they had a very clear agenda, which was, as Rothbard put it a decade later, “to break the clock of social democracy,” not to mention “the Great Society,” “the New Deal,” and “Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom and perpetual war”; to restore “the liberty of the old republic, of a government strictly limited to the defense of the rights of private property”; and to “repeal the 20th century.” How far would Rothbard roll back the government? “Extremists such as myself….would not stop until we repealed the Federal Judiciary Act of 1789, and maybe even think the unthinkable and restore the good old Articles of Confederation.”[27]

How was this to be done? In the 1960s, Rothbard had made common cause with the New Left and Black militants, since they all sought to tear down the system. As he puckishly put it in an article in Ramparts in 1968, in the 1950s, “I was an extreme right-wing Republican, a young and lone ‘Neanderthal’ (as the liberals used to call us) who believed, as one friend pungently put it, that ‘Senator Taft had sold out to the socialists.’ Today, I am most likely to be called an extreme leftist, since I favor immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, denounce U.S. imperialism, advocate Black Power and have just joined the new Peace and Freedom Party. And yet my basic political views have not changed by a single iota in these two decades!”[28]

By the early 1990s, when the New Left had long since lost its revolutionary impetus, Rothbard had reached out to the panoply of right-wing populists who believe that “we live in a statist country and a statist world dominated by a ruling elite, consisting of a coalition of Big Government, Big Business, and various influential special interest groups….[and that] we are ruled by an up-dated, twentieth-century coalition of Throne and Altar, except that this Throne is various big business groups, and the Altar is secular, statist intellectuals.”

Rothbard laid it all out in a long essay. Libertarians had been missing the boat when it came to tactics, he wrote. Their problem was that they’d followed what he called “the Hayek model” for disseminating correct ideas, which seeks to convert “intellectual elites to liberty, beginning with top philosophers and then slowly trickling on down through the decades to converting journalists and other media opinion-molders.” A related model is the Koch brothers-funded Cato Institute, which similarly seeks to convert leaders in the “corridors of power.” But intellectual and political elites, and indeed the Cato Institute itself, have been co-opted, Rothbard declared; they are part of the problem. Better by far to go over their heads and “rouse the masses of people against the elites that are looting them, and confusing them, and oppressing them, both socially and economically.”

It was time to begin a strategy of “Outreach to the Rednecks.”[29] And the rising leader of the Rednecks at the time was the ostensibly “ex” KKK leader and neo-Nazi David Duke,[30] whose agenda, Rothbard wrote, could be adopted by Paleoconservatives and Paleolibertarians lock, stock, and barrel—“lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system, attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for equal rights for all Americans, including whites: what’s wrong with any of that?” [31]

Rothbard sprinkled in a generous dose of old-fashioned authoritarianism as well: “Take back the streets: crush criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not ‘white collar criminals’ or ‘inside traders’ but violent street criminals—robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must be unleashed and allowed to administer instant punishment.” The police should also be tasked, he said, to “clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares?” Also on the agenda was the elimination of the Fed, and the principle of “America First….Stop globaloney, and let’s solve our problems at home.” [32]

In 1994, Rothbard penned a broadly sarcastic broadside in the spirit of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” in which he decried the confluence of neo-con and Liberal interventionism in foreign policy, which had so broadly redefined the “national interest” as to justify foreign meddling wherever “some government [is] not a ‘democracy’ as defined by our liberal/neocon elites….[or someone] is committing Hate Thought.” Domestically, however, he saw reasons for hope in the green shoots of right-wing populism:

There is both an anti-war and paleo-grass roots ferment in this country that is heartwarming. There are all sorts of manifestations: Conservative Citizens Councils, county militia movements, sheriffs who refuse to enforce the Brady Bill, rightist radio talk show hosts, lack of enthusiasm for American troops getting killed in Somalia or Haiti, a Buchananite movement, and increasingly good sense on this question from syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Meantime, the least we at RRR can do is accelerate the Climate of Hate in America, and hope for the best. [33]

A Climate of Hate indeed. Rothbard was writing ironically, but his words read like a catalog of the Clinton-era right-wing extremism that literally exploded in Oklahoma City in April of 1995. Rothbard didn’t live to see that happen; he died in January, 1995.

Writing this essay in the spring of 2016, as Donald Trump’s insurgent campaign for the presidential nomination bids fair to destroy the Republican Party, Rothbard’s formula for political success seems astoundingly prescient. Guns, nullificationist sheriffs, and fire-breathing right wing talk radio hosts are at the forefront of Trump’s winning coalition, as is the spirit of America First. Trump is crushing the old neo-con elites that Rothbard so heartily despised.

Back in 2000, Trump had declined to seek the presidential nomination from the Reform Party because David Duke was active in it (“the Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani,” he’d said, adding, “this is not company I wish to keep”[34]). A decade and a half later, Duke has reemerged to become a factor in Trump’s current campaign. “Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke told his white supremacist followers on his radio show on February 23, 2016. “I’m not saying I endorse everything about Trump, in fact I haven’t formally endorsed him. But I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”[35]

When he was a guest on the Infowars radio show on February 7, 2016, Lew Rockwell was asked what Murray Rothbard would have thought of the Trump campaign. “He would love the whole Trump movement,” he said. “Not because he would agree with him on everything but because the bad guys hate him.”[36]

If Hayek is the father of neo-liberalism, temperamentally he was never the bomb-thrower that Rothbard and the Mises Institute was and is, nor was he remotely an anarchist. When right-wing politicians invoke Hayek, they often do so to underline a pair of axioms that Hayek never laid down, which is that the welfare state and socialism are one and the same and that either leads inexorably to tyranny.

Where there is a slippery slope, however, may be with praxeology, which Rothbard defined as “the distinctive methodology of the Austrian school.” [37] In a nutshell, praxeology is the belief that when humans act, they do so purposefully, to achieve a goal. This implies both a radical individualism (people act for their own individual reasons) and a radical empiricism—the goals that motivate economic behavior can only be known directly and intuitively, and therefore the theories that are derived from them cannot be falsified, as scientific observations can. This means that economics cannot be reduced to mathematical principles, and that economic planning is unreliable by definition. Ultimately only the market can organize economic life.

In Alan Ebenstein’s intellectual biography of Hayek, he quotes from an interview he conducted with Milton Friedman in 1975. Praxeology, Friedman said, “has very negative influences. It makes it very hard to build up a cumulative discipline of any kind. If you’re always going back to your internal, self-evident truths, how do people stand on one another’s shoulders?”

It also tends to make people intolerant. If you and I are both praxeologists, and we disagree about whether some proposition or statement is correct, how do we resolve that disagreement? We can yell, we can argue, we can try to find a logical flaw in one another’s thing, but in the end we have no way to resolve it except by fighting, by saying you’re wrong and I’m right. [38]

People who are convinced that they are completely right and that their ideological enemies are completely wrong can feel justified in doing terrible things, as history has shown time and again. As Hayek himself wrote in The Road to Serfdom more than half a century ago, “from the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.”[39]

Given the rising tide of hatred in our own time, it is a warning that we would do well to heed.

[1] Arthur Goldwag, The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right, Pantheon, 2012

[2] Cf. Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Harpers Magazine, November, 1964. Though Hofstadter fancied that he was writing a eulogy for the American far right in the wake of the Goldwater debacle, his essay is just as salient today as it was half a century ago.

[3] Edward L. Glaeser, ”The Political Economy of Hatred,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, February, 2005.

[4] See, for example, David Brion Davis, “Slavery, Sex, and Dehumanization,” collected in Gwyn Campbell and Elizabeth Elbourne’s Sex, Power, and Slavery (Ohio University Press, 2014).

[5] Glaeser op cit

[6] Mises Institute website (https://mises.org/about-mises/what-is-the-mises-Institute)

[7] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Natural Elites, Intellectuals, the State,” July 21, 2006, Mises Institute website (https://mises.org/library/natural-elites-intellectuals-and-state).

[8] Chip Berlet, “Into the Mainstream,” SPLC Intelligence Report, August 14, 2003 (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2003/mainstream).

[9] Sam Francis defined Paleoconservatism as a rejection of big government and “the increasing secularism, hedonism, and carnal and material self-indulgence of the dominant culture.” The Paleoconservative, he wrote, “do not consider America to be an ‘idea,’ a ‘proposition,’ or a ‘creed.’ It is instead a concrete and particular culture, rooted in a particular historical experience, a set of particular institutions as well as particular beliefs and values, and a particular ethnic-racial identity.” (Sam Francis, “The Paleo Persuasion,” The American Conservative, December 16, 2002, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-paleo-persuasion/). The last three words I quoted are perhaps the most salient.

[10] See for example Thomas DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Crown, 2003). DiLorenzo is a Senior Fellow of the Mises Institute and his work is prominently featured on their website.

[11] A Mises Institute Associated Scholar and a 2004 Rothbard Medal Recipient, Gary North (who is married to the Christian Reconstructionist leader Rousas Rushdoony’s daughter Sharon) has “mocked the Holocaust as ‘the Establishment’s favorite horror story’ and questioned ‘the supposed execution of 6 million Jews by Hitler.’ North also painted other rabidly anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers in a positive, ‘contrarian-cool’ light, praising the works of David Hoggan, author of ‘The Myth of the Six Million,’ French neo-fascist Paul Rassinier, and American historian Harry Elmer Barnes, considered the godfather of American Holocaust denial literature,” according to Mark Ames. “As Reason’s Editor Defends its Racist History, Here’s a Copy of its Holocaust Denial ‘Special Issue,” Pando.com, July 24, 2014 (https://pando.com/2014/07/24/as-reasons-editor-defends-its-racist-history-heres-a-copy-of-its-holocaust-denial-special-issue/).

[12] See, for example, Murray Rothbard’s glowing review of Charles Murray and Richard J. Hernstein’s The Bell Curve in the December, 1994 Rothbard-Rockwell-Report. Until its publication, Rothbard wrote, it was literally “shameful and taboo for anyone to talk publicly or write about…home truths which everyone, and I mean everyone, knew in their hearts and in private: that is, almost self-evident truths about race, intelligence, and heritability” (http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch75.html).

[13] See, for example, this posting at the Christian Reconstructionist website Chalcedon. “Rushdoony felt personally indebted to those who had kept the Austrian tradition alive. When the festschrift to Rushdoony, A Comprehensive Faith, appeared in 1996, Rushdoony sent Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell a copy, signed ‘with respect and appreciation’…..Christian economist Gary North, onetime editor of the Journal of Christian Reconstruction, cut his teeth on Austrian economics. When Rushdoony brought North to the free-market Volker Fund as a summer intern in 1963, North used the time to read the major works of Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek (who later won the Nobel Prize in economics), Murray Rothbard, and Wilhelm Roepke….Certainly North’s writings on economics reveal the Austrian influence. In many respects Biblical economics can be characterized as closer to Austrian economics than to any other secular school of thought.” Timothy D. Terrell, “An Ally For Change,” (undated), Chalcedon.edu, (http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/an-ally-for-change/).

[14] Cf. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Democracy, Monarchy, and the Natural Order (Transaction, 2001), p 218: “There can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They—the advocates of alternative, non-family-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism—will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.” Hoppe, as noted above, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Mises Institute.

[15] “And so, at the hard inner core of the Women’s Liberation Movement lies a bitter, extremely neurotic if not psychotic, man-hating lesbianism. The quintessence of the New Feminism is revealed.” Murray Rothbard, “Against Women’s Lib.” Originally published in The Individualist in 1970; archived at LewRockwell.com (https://www.lewrockwell.com/1970/01/murray-n-rothbard/against-womens-lib/).

[16] David M.W. Evans, “I Was on the Global Warming Gravy Train,” Mises Institute website, May 28, 2007 (https://mises.org/library/i-was-global-warming-gravy-train).

[17] Sam Francis, op cit

[18] F.A. Hayek, Constitution of Liberty (University of Chicago Press, 1960), p 524.

[19] Julian Sanchez and David Weigel, “Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?” Reason.com, January 16, 2008 (http://reason.com/archives/2008/01/16/who-wrote-ron-pauls-newsletter)

[20] The comments come up in his Nobel Prize Interviews, which were recorded in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Nobel Prize-Winning Economist: Friedrich A. von Hayek. Interviewed by Earlene Graver, Axel Leijonhufvud, Leo Rosten, Jack High, James Buchanan, Robert Bork, Thomas Hazlett, Armen A. Alchian, Robert Chitester, Regents of the University of California, 1983. A full transcript can be found at https://archive.org/stream/nobelprizewinnin00haye/nobelprizewinnin00haye_djvu.txt. For a defense of Hayek, see the Social Democracy for the 21st Century blog (“Hayek the Ethnic Bigot and the Perils of the Ad Hominem Fallacy,” January 14, 2012, http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2012/01/hayek-ethnic-bigot-and-perils-of-ad.html); for a condemnation, see Melvin W. Reder, “The Anti-semitism of Some Eminent Economists,” History of Political Economy, Winter, 2000).

[21] F.A. Hayek, ed. Stephen Kresge and Leif Wenar, Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue  (Routledge, 1994), p 49

[22] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Why It’s the Mises Institute,” LewRockwell.com, October 13, 2011 (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2011/10/hans-hermann-hoppe/why-its-the-mises-institute/))

[23]Murray Rothbard, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and other Essays, Second Edition, the quote is from “The Anatomy of the State.” (Mises Institute, 2000).

[24] Llewelyn Rockwell, “Why I am an Anarchocapitalist,” Mises Daily, December 4, 2013 (https://mises.org/library/why-i-am-anarcho-capitalist).

[25] “It is interesting to compare Lincoln and his treachery in causing the Southern ‘enemy’ to fire the first shot at Fort Sumter, resulting in the Civil War, with Roosevelt’s similar manipulation causing the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II,” wrote Mises Institute Adjunct Scholar John V. Denson in his book Lincoln and Roosevelt: American Caesars (excerpted at the Mises Institute website at https://mises.org/library/lincoln-and-roosevelt-american-caesars).

[26] Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition (Foundation for Economic Education, 1985), p. 109.

[27] Murray Rothbard, “A Strategy for the Right,” Rothbard Rockwell Report, 1992 (archived at LewRockwell.com, https://www.lewrockwell.com/2016/01/murray-n-rothbard/strategy-right/).

[28] Murray Rothbard, “Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal,” Ramparts, June 15, 1968. Archived at Mises Daily (https://mises.org/library/confessions-right-wing-liberal).

[29] Murray Rothbard, “Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, January, 1992 (http://www.unz.org/Pub/RothbardRockwellReport-1992jan-00005)

[30] Duke no longer makes any effort to deny his white supremacist and neo-Nazi leanings, as even a cursory glance at his website reveals (http://davidduke.com/).

[31] Rothbard, op cit

[32] Rothbard, op cit

[33] Murray Rothbard, “Invade the World,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, September, 1994 (http://www.unz.org/Pub/RothbardRockwellReport-1994sep-00001)

[34] Adam Nagourney, “Reform Bid Said to Be a No-Go for Trump,” New York Times, February 14, 2000 (http://partners.nytimes.com/library/politics/camp/021400wh-ref-trump.html)

[35] Andrew Kaczynski, “David Duke Urges his Supporters to Volunteer and Vote for Trump,” Buzzfeed, February 25, 2016 (http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/david-duke-urges-his-supporters-to-volunteer-and-vote-for-tr#.vdr8nwOem).

[36] Infowars, February 7, 2016 (http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/david-duke-urges-his-supporters-to-volunteer-and-vote-for-tr#.vdr8nwOem)

[37] Murray Rothbard, “Praxeology: The Methodology of Austrian Economics,” excerpted from The Foundations of Austrian Economics (1976) and archived at Mises Daily (https://mises.org/library/praxeology-methodology-austrian-economics)

[38] Alan Ebenstein, Friedrich Hayek: A Biography (St. Martins, 2001), p 273

[39] F.A. Hayek, edited by Bruce Caldwell, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents—The Defining Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2007), p 99.

What’s Really Going on with Trump and Sanders

I don’t know if psychologists have written about this, but even in the days of 24-hour Cable News and the Internet, democracies “choose” their leaders in ways that are as bound up in weird Golden Bough depth psychology as they were in the days when kings went into battle themselves, swinging swords that a lesser man couldn’t lift off the ground.

I was thinking about this the other day, when Nate Cohn was explaining why the pollsters hadn’t read Michigan right. His explanations have been technical up to this point in the race (bad sample, late movers), but this time he threw up his hands (“no great explanation”).  Mine is that this election is no longer about politics per se but archetypes–we really are a society/culture in crisis, and the way to understand us isn’t through polling but depth psychology. Both of the outlier candidates are offering Redemption and Restoration–Donald Trump as a king would, through his big penis and his puissance as a deal-maker. Follow me, he says, and some of my greatness will rub off on you. His mode, for lack of a better word, is the Shakespearean–his divine destiny is ours too.

If Trump is royalty, Bernie Sanders is a Prophet–the white-haired outsider who speaks truth to power, saying what everyone knows but no one dares to acknowledge: that our leaders have sold our birthrights and that our country has lost its way–and that the way back is not through him but through the foundational values that they betrayed. His mode is the Biblical.

The message that the pundits should be taking away? That we are in deep, deep trouble as a polity–and we know it. That’s what it means when there are such signs and wonders, and both of these men are wondrously semiotic.

Trump’s Really Going to Win

Winning_winning_winning_Donald_Trump-c7082b79d11fc0d52e1902f7009e3650

Remember the bestselling book RICH DAD, POOR DAD? Trump is the cool, rich surrogate Dad, the guy who takes you to a whorehouse on your 16th birthday and teaches you how to hold your liquor. Jeb! Bush is your uncool biological Dad, who urges you to put some of your lawn mowing money in a savings bank.

Or we could do high school. Trump is the king of the jocks–rich, good looking, smart, and a crappy student because he doesn’t need good grades, the world is his oyster and he knows it. Bernie Sanders is the history teacher who tells you that Lincoln didn’t really free the slaves–for a certain set of cerebral idealists, his toughmindedness and his moral consistency are life-changingly inspiring. And Hillary is the school principal–an authority figure whose job requires her to tolerate the occasional Bernie Sanders, but who ultimately answers to the Poor Dads who pay her salary.

Rubio is the despised president of the student council, the kid that mothers wish their daughters would want to date. Or we can do pop culture. In that case he’s Fabian or the Monkees–the corporately-created love-idol who only looks like Elvis or the Beatles, but deep down is so uncool that even Poor Dad is embarrassed by him.

I predict that cool Rich Dad walks away with everything, just like he says he will. Come November, there’s going to be so much winning that you’ll want to throw up.

All this talk of highschool reminds me that I was 16 the summer that Nixon resigned. The war in Vietnam was still going, and a president had been driven out of office. Withal, the clamor of self-congratulation was deafening. “My fellow Americans,” the one-time football star, flying saucer-investigating Michigan congressman, and unelected Vice President Gerald Ford said at his inauguration as our unelected President, “our long national nightmare is over.”

Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

Forty-two years later, we’re  back in nightmare territory again. Come to think of it, that’s a good thing to pray for, as our country lurches towards Fascism.

Mercy, I mean.

New Hampshire Speaks

So last night I fixed myself a strong drink and settled in for a long spell of nail-biting election-returns watching, but it was pretty much over before I’d swallowed even half of it. Hillary lost big. Trump won big. Kasich–the most dignified and least awful-seeming right-winger of the Republican hopefuls this cycle–edged out Bush and Rubio and Cruz, throwing the GOP quest for a more-conservative but less-alienating alternative to Trump into disarray.

First things first. Hillary didn’t just lose–somebody beat her. A Jewish atheist Socialist Democrat beat her. From Brooklyn yet, the borough that my parents grew up in, that I have lived more than half of my life in, and where both of my two children were born and came of age. This is huge and I hear almost no kvelling. When the sanctimonious Joe Lieberman got the nod for VP 16 years ago, the kvelling was literally deafening and nobody outside of Connecticut had ever cast a vote for the guy.

I was still working in book publishing back then; a couple of weeks later, I found myself sitting across a desk from the New York Times best-selling author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, who told me with a perfectly straight face that Lieberman’s nomination was perhaps the most consequential moment for the Jews in America’s history. My wife (who wasn’t born a Jew) went to hear Julius Lester give a talk about his conversion at a Brooklyn synagogue around that time, and a little old lady in the audience asked Lester if he was as excited about Joe Lieberman as she was. And now Sanders, whose politics and religiosity probably reflects more Jews’ politics and religiosity than Lieberman’s or Telushkin’s or for that matter Lester’s, is the biggest dark horse since, I don’t know, Donald Trump–and you can hear a pin drop in the Jewish media echo chamber. Pretty soon, all kinds of professional Jews are going to be lining up against Sanders as a clear-and-present danger to Israel.  Is that ironic or what? We finally get a Jew and the Jews hate him. It’s like the old joke about the two synagogues on the desert island, one that you belong to and one that you would never go to. Except that the non-synagogue-goers are winning the day.

Watching Bernie’s and Trump’s victory speeches last night, it occurred to me that for the first time in my memory, the two parties are giving us an unambiguous set of alternatives–two completely opposite temperaments, ideologies, ethoses, and understandings of the purpose of government and the role of the US in the world. The fact that neither party likes them or knows what to do with them is just the icing on the cake.

This is an unbelievably consequential moment we are living through. If this was happening in another country, our pundits would say that this kind of sea change is only to be expected after it lost two wars, suffered an economic near-death experience, and delivered virtually all of its economic growth to the top 5 percent. But since it’s happening here, the elites and the pundits are caught equally off guard.

Political systems, we’re used to thinking, evolve incrementally and predictably and it certainly looks that way in retrospect, when you edit out all of the red herrings and dead ends. Nobody remembers the anti-Masons or the Silverites or the rural Populists or the reborn KKK except as weird eccentricities and excrescences. But had things gone just a little differently, they would have seemed inevitable too.

For what it’s worth, I thought Hillary’s speech was pretty good last night. But politicians almost always sound more gracious and thoughtful when they are conceding than when they are selling themselves. And something tells me that she’ll be making a lot more concession speeches in the months to come.

As for Rubio, I thought he was a bad bet all along as the GOP’s white knight. He’s always been a crappy speaker and a creepy personality, even if he did talk in paragraphs. Good speech makers connect. Their audiences feel like the flow is going from them to the speaker rather than vice versa, because he or she puts their inchoate feelings and aspirations into words. That’s what Bill Clinton did back in 1992 and Obama did in 2008 and what Bernie Sanders (and Trump, alas) are doing today. Hispanics see Rubio as a sellout and xenophobes see him as a Fifth Columnist. He’s like a Jewish convert politicking for Pope–nobody trusts him or likes him. Trump is genuinely popular and he’s more moderate in his politics than any of them, even Kasich. He’s vile and dangerous and evil and may well lead us into something very much like Fascism, but he’s not really a conservative, just like The National Review says.

The people don’t want what they used to think they wanted. The Republicans would reject Reagan if he came back from the grave and huge numbers of Democrats would probably reject JFK as a neo-Liberal cold warrior too.

Our politics have gotten out of sync with our economics. Late stage capitalism disinherits a lot of people, but it doesn’t disenfranchise all of them. It’s a big problem for late stage capitalism. And for old-line Democrats and Republicans too.

 

Trump’s Ugly Twitter Melt-down

Writing in Vox on January 30, and with much more prescience than me, David Roberts explained “Why I Still Believe Donald Trump Will Never Be President.” Trump’s whole MO turns on dominance, he wrote. What sort of face will he show to the voters when he’s not in a position of total control?

Presidential campaigns are long and intense, with many ups and downs along the way. Once he is no longer a phenomenon, a spectacle, but an honest-to-god candidate in a one-on-one race, Trump will not be able to avoid answering questions about policy or substance. He will not be able to belittle and marginalize everyone who challenges him or skip every debate that doesn’t agree to his terms.

He will not be able to dictate the terms of the contest, as he has so far.

Sooner or later he’ll have to navigate situations where he’s on the defensive, where he’s being asked to defend himself or apologize or treat an opponent with respect. What then? What will arrogant bluster look like in that context?….It’s pathological. And the thing about pathologies is that they cannot be taken on and off like masks. They are pre-conscious; they order incoming experience.

Or what, he might have asked, would happen if he loses a caucus that he really, really thought he was going to win–and that nearly every pollster, media outlet, fellow traveler and determined adversary had assured him he would? Trump’s embarrassing Twitter meltdown this morning makes him look even more deflated than he did on Monday night.

Capture

Maybe it really is true, that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Maybe the whole Trump phenomenon will turn out to have been a fever dream. We’ll soon find out.

 

Why Donald Trump Will Win the Republican Nomination (and very likely the presidency)

I’m not a prophet, but I wanted to get my thinking on the record before the first votes come in tomorrow. I’m not even a pundit–hardly anyone reads this page, it’s mostly just a way for me to keep track of my thoughts as they evolve and change with circumstances.

Anything could happen tomorrow to change the race. If Santorum wins Iowa again, for example, that would knock Trump out of the headlines for a while. If Hillary wins New Hampshire next week, that would do the same to Bernie Sanders. And anything can happen between next week and next November–ten months are a relative eternity. Just ask John McCain, who pretty much lost everything on one day (September 24, 2008), when he suspended his campaign so he could return to the Senate to fix the US economy (or maybe it was September 15, when he said “the fundamentals of our economy are strong”).  The point is, he made it clear that he had been blindsided by a catastrophe that he didn’t and couldn’t understand.

Some people say that McCain lost it at the Republican convention, when he nominated Sarah Palin as his running mate, but in retrospect, it seems more to me like he was laying the groundwork for Donald Trump’s ascendancy. Sarah Palin showed the world that a right wing candidate for public office could pretty much say and do whatever they felt like (and their families could too), so long as they pandered to the resentments of the right identity group.

So yeah, I do think that Trump is going to finish the job that Sarah Palin was too greedy and too much of a quitter to finish herself.

The funny thing is that it’s still all about the economic meltdown of 2008, though no one in the establishment seems to recognize that because the stock market’s recovery was so strong. Despite its occasional ups and downs (like the one that’s going on right now), their portfolios are as sound as John McCain said the US economy as a whole was back then. No, to understand Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ appeals on a gut level, you have to punch a clock–or more to the point, not punch a clock, and not have many prospects of doing so any time soon.

If it feels like the center isn’t holding, it’s because it’s not. If it feels like the ground is crumbling beneath our feet, it’s because it is. We are living through what a Marxist would call a contradiction.

Any economic system that delivers almost all of its rewards to a small minority will be fundamentally incompatible with a political system that vests its power in the hands of the majority.

For neo-liberal Republicans, the Laffer Curve was supposed to be the magic formula that would resolve the contradiction; for neo-Liberal Democrats, the rising tide of global capitalism was supposed to lift all boats. Unfortunately for the neo-Liberals of both parties, neither solution did what it was supposed to. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it took the destruction of the welfare state and much of our infrastructure to make this clear. This is why the establishments of both parties are having such a hard time selling themselves–and this is why we are as vulnerable to Fascism as we’ve been since the 1930s. If the cognitive dissonance wasn’t so painful, maybe they would understand the quandary they’re in.

But as students of cognitive dissonance know, what’s more likely is that the GOP establishment will convince itself and a big enough chunk of middle America that Trump is just the shot in the arm that this nation needs. That’s how most people resolve cognitive dissonance–by angry denial and wishful thinking.

I Guess We’re Screwed Afterall

Trump

One thing I’ve always maintained is that as subjective as each of us is by definition, people who are committed to ideologies are even more-so. They literally see the world as they believe it to be. If you’re John Calhoun and it’s the 1840s, for example, you see slavery as a benign institution, or as one that is so natural and intrinsic to human economies that it falls outside the realm of moral judgment altogether, except insofar as it reflects on property rights. When a true believer’s view is not the default view (let’s say you’re a neo-Seccessionist in 2016), when it requires a strenuous conscious effort reinforced by propaganda, peer pressure, and other kinds of formal and informal suasion to hold onto it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, cognitive dissonance kicks in. Being the person you are, with the views and values that you hold, is psychically painful. Not surprisingly, you are likely to be intemperate in your rhetoric and even your actions; you also become susceptible to some kinds of cognitive Kool Aids.

I’m used to seeing this on the right–it was a major premise of The New Hate–but I have to admit that it’s more than a bit discomfiting to see so much of it on my side, for example in this brilliant piece by Corey Robin. Yes, Bernie is a far better candidate than Hillary, but that doesn’t mean–as Robin seems to or needs to think it does–that he’s a strong candidate. What it means is that Clinton is as weak a candidate as Jeb Bush is, and for many of the same reasons.

No, I’m not analogizing Bernie’s politics to Trump’s or Cruz’s–they’re my politics too and I support him. I’m just pointing out that the “viability” issue involves a ton of wishful thinking on both sides, and that if Hillary’s pragmatic appeal is a mirage, so is the notion that Bernie’s Democratic Socialism gives him some kind of an advantage (extremism may be a winning formula for Republicans, but that’s because the country has moved so far to the right. Not one member of the not-so-silent populist “majority” that is trending towards Trump or Cruz will cast a vote for Sanders).

Not that I think Sanders is any kind of an extremist. And not that I think the Tea Partiers are any kind of a majority. But I do believe we’re doomed.

It’s been a slow motion train-wreck, going all the way back to 2008, when the Democratic powers began to hallucinate that HRC hadn’t lost to Barack Obama but become the next Democratic president-in-waiting.

We have fallen into a Sartrean cul de sac, all of us, and the stakes are so high. Right now it seems to me that whether we nominate Sanders or Clinton, Trump or Cruz will be our next president. It’s just unthinkable and I wish I could stop thinking it. If someone offered me a glass of Kool Aid, I might be tempted to drink it.