The Choice

I’m immune to “America is great already” and “city on the hill” rhetoric (though Michelle Obama’s “I wake up in a house built by slaves” brought a tear to my eye). But I do love it when a speech maker holds up the founders’ great phrases as aspirations–or as promissory notes that it’s time, goddammit, to take to the bank and cash.

Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall noted that Obama less attacked Trump than made “him seem small and petty in comparison to the picture of America he’s painting.” Obama also (as Bloomberg and Biden did) zeroed in on the most appalling phrase in Trump’s speech last week, “I alone”–and the crowd’s pitiful chant of “yes you will” in response.

Obama’s speech was inspiring as hell, but I doubt it was very persuasive to those chanters. People that look up to people like Trump generally look down on people like Obama, never mind HRC. But here we are. Never mind that Trump is a bulllshit artist: he is galvanizing and mobilizing the most blatantly anti-American movement I’ve ever seen. As bumptious and ignorant as he may be, he puts all the American demagogues and race-baiters that came before him in the shade.

Someone in Philadelphia should tell that story about Benjamin Franklin and George Washington’s rising sun armchair. Here it is from Madison’s Journals: “Whilst the last members were signing [the Constitution], Doctor Franklin, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting, sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising, and not a setting sun.”

Listening to Trump at the RNC last week it seemed to me that our national sun was sinking. For all that those Exceptionalist flourishes rubbed me the wrong way, for a few minutes last night I could almost believe that it was rising.

Trump is Out of His Mind

It’s the weirdest thing. When I was writing The New Hate, I got so caught up in the swamps of Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Michelle Malkin, and Michael Savage, that I felt like it started to stick to me like the smells of a pig farm must stick to its workers when they come home. Friends and relatives rolled their eyes affectionately when I explained the connections that professional haters drew between the billionaires that they believed were drinking human blood at their Illluminati conclaves and the bloodsucking Jews who they believed were building the Davidic superstate. Strangers edged away from me or tried to change the subject; activists told me that I was wasting my time on a fringe of a fringe of a fringe.

The real issue for me wasn’t that crazy people believed crazy stuff–it was that smart, entrepreneurial writers and radio hosts, and worse still, mainstream politicians, borrowed those batshit crazy, destructive tropes. That was terrible. But you know what? It’s gotten worse. And I’m not even talking about the rise of Donald Trump, though it’s unfathomably horrible that such a shallow, bad, ignorant, mean-spirited person has such a good chance of becoming president. It’s that people are so inured to crazy now that they don’t even notice it anymore. Never mind that Trump spends his first day as the nominee plotting revenge on Cruz and Kasich; have you seen the viral ad he released that quantifies how much applause his speech got? I don’t want to sound able-ist, but he’s beyond certifiable.

Yet even so, there are millions, yes millions, of people out there who will defend his financial ties to Russian oligarchs and his open admiration for the biggest oligarch of all–many of them the same people who insist that Obama is a treasonous alien traitor or even the anti-Christ. There are millions of people who think nothing of the fact that Trump’s campaign director worked for a Russian puppet.

I never look at Glenn Beck or Michelle Malkin anymore–it’s all on the front page of The New York Times.

The Jewish Glass Ceiling

Setting aside Scandinavia, which is ahead of us on everything, and of course Israel, which turns the paradigm upside down, the US is probably the least anti-Semitic country in the world. Washington’s magnificent letter to the Newport congregation ( “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights”) precedes Jewish emancipation in France by one year and in Great Britain by more than half a century (though as with so many of the founders’ stirring phrases about equal rights, Washington’s words were aspirational: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and North Carolina restricted Jewish rights until long after the Constitution was ratified and New Hampshire held out until 1876). For every Tom Watson, Henry Ford, and Charles Lindbergh, there’s been a Louis Brandeis, a Bernard Baruch, or a Felix Frankfurter; for all the Hymietown and Jew York City slurs we’ve had to endure from the right and left, Leo Frank and Yankel Rosenbaum are exceptions that prove a rule. Though not immune to anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred has never been this country’s official policy. Women as a political class (Protestant women as much as Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic women) have had much more to overcome institutionally. And yet for all that, neither party has run a Jew for president. Why is that? Institutional racism flourishes, and yet we managed to elect an African American. Cultural misogyny runs just as deep and we are on the cusp of electing a woman. I suspect a real answer would be both counter-intuitive and incredibly enlightening about a whole host of things.

Remembering Muhammad Ali


Not being a sportsperson and coming from a family of non-sportspeople, growing up I mainly knew Cassius Clay as the black celebrity who boasted in extemporized rhymes (why isn’t he considered the father of hip-hop? or is he?) and later changed his name to Muhammad Ali. I was 9 when he was stripped of his title and stopped appearing on talk shows, and no one explained to me what it all meant–or if they did, I didn’t understand it.

I have no memories of his return to the ring or of the Frazier fights, but I can remember seeing his picture in magazines, resplendent and muscular in shorts and gloves, flashbulbs exploding in the background, his still-handsome but thicker face gleaming with sweat. Then in 1977, when I was 19, I found myself in a bar while the first Spinks/Ali fight was being broadcast. I looked up at the TV and saw him being pounded. There was blood running down his face and a look of defeat in his eyes and the brutality of it just overwhelmed me. And then the shock of his Parkinson’s disease in the early ’80s. They showed reruns of Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life on late night TV around that time. I saw one in which Joe Louis was a contestant, and he had that same slow, slurred speech.

Whenever I saw essays on boxing by big-name writers after that–Joyce Carol Oates, Mailer, AJ Liebling, Gay Talese–I would think of that image of Ali on the ropes and shudder. I was 23 when Scorcese’s RAGING BULL came out, and for me, he and DeNiro  captured the essence of the sport–a depraved gladiator spectacle of class exploitation and misdirected sexual aggression and insecurity. And now another 36 years have gone by and Muhammad Ali has died. Not knowing anything about boxing, I now realize, means not knowing a lot about people in general, and about this country in the last century in particular.

For example, when a Donald Trump talks about punching protestors, or forcing China to assassinate Kim Jong Un, or bragging about how he’s strapped (“I always carry a weapon on me. If I’d been at the Bataclan or one of those bars, I would have opened fire. Perhaps I would have died, but at least I would have taken a shot. The worst thing is the powerlessness to respond to those who want to kill you”), you see how capitalism both fetishizes and outsources violence. I can just imagine him at the smoker in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, getting off on the spectacle of two black kids beating the shit out of each other. As people mourn Ali’s beauty, grace, and moral courage, I hope they also remember the ugly people who profited off them and used them to promote their own very different personal brands.

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 (

[7] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Natural Elites, Intellectuals, the State,” July 21, 2006, Mises Institute website (

[8] Chip Berlet, “Into the Mainstream,” SPLC Intelligence Report, August 14, 2003 (

[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, 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,”, July 24, 2014 (

[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” (

[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),, (

[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 (

[16] David M.W. Evans, “I Was on the Global Warming Gravy Train,” Mises Institute website, May 28, 2007 (

[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?”, January 16, 2008 (

[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 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,; 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,”, October 13, 2011 (

[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 (

[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

[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,

[28] Murray Rothbard, “Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal,” Ramparts, June 15, 1968. Archived at Mises Daily (

[29] Murray Rothbard, “Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, January, 1992 (

[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 (

[31] Rothbard, op cit

[32] Rothbard, op cit

[33] Murray Rothbard, “Invade the World,” Rothbard-Rockwell Report, September, 1994 (

[34] Adam Nagourney, “Reform Bid Said to Be a No-Go for Trump,” New York Times, February 14, 2000 (

[35] Andrew Kaczynski, “David Duke Urges his Supporters to Volunteer and Vote for Trump,” Buzzfeed, February 25, 2016 (

[36] Infowars, February 7, 2016 (

[37] Murray Rothbard, “Praxeology: The Methodology of Austrian Economics,” excerpted from The Foundations of Austrian Economics (1976) and archived at Mises Daily (

[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


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.