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Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr

The Truth About War and the State

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Not long ago I was thinking about the legacy of Murray N. Rothbard, the brilliant scholar and the creator of the libertarian movement, as well as a dear friend to both Ron and me. Would that movement have come into existence without Murray? I don’t think so. And whatever might have developed in its place would undoubtedly have been less pro-peace, and more willing to reach an accord with the warfare state, than Murray ever was.

“I am getting more and more convinced,” he wrote privately in 1956, “that the war-peace question is the key to the whole libertarian business.”

Murray refused to stop talking about war and peace even when, by the late 1960s, his antiwar views had alienated him completely from the mainstream right wing and had left him with a vastly smaller audience. It reminds me of how Ron himself, despite all the conservatives who pleaded with him to leave foreign policy out of his speeches in order to win more support and influence, refused to do so. The issue was too important – morally, economically, and in every other way – and these men were too principled.
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Bill Buckley Conservatism Is Dead...Meanwhile, Rothbard Soars

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Fifty years ago this year, Murray N. Rothbard offered his thoughts on National Review, the flagship magazine of American conservatism, which had commemorated its tenth anniversary in late 1965.

He went on to tell the full story in The Betrayal of the American Right, at once an intellectual history and a memoir.

Murray’s primary complaint: what had once been a movement skeptical of or opposed to overseas adventurism and empire-building had now, under the influence of editor Bill Buckley, come to be defined by those very things.

In Buckley’s infamous formulation, it would be necessary to erect a “totalitarian bureaucracy” within our shores in order to battle communism abroad. The implication was that once the communist menace subsided, this extraordinary effort, domestic and foreign, could likewise diminish.

Since government programs do not have a habit of diminishing but instead seek new justifications when the old ones no longer exist, few of us were surprised when the warfare state, and its right-wing apologists, hummed right along after its initial rationale vanished from history.
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Ron and Bernie

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Super Tuesday may have been the beginning of the end for the Bernie Sanders campaign, but the ideas that propelled it are likely to linger for quite some time. With some writers comparing Bernie to Ron Paul (not in terms of economics and philosophy, of course, but as insurgent candidates), now seemed like an opportune moment to examine the Sanders message and legacy, and compare it to Ron’s.

Like Ron, Bernie surprised all the pundits with his fundraising, polling, and electoral success. In fact, so successful has Sanders been that Hillary Clinton has been reduced to a pathetic and unconvincing “me, too” campaign – I can be just like Bernie, if that’s what you rubes want!

Bernie has gained a lot of traction from his complaints that Hillary is in the tank for Wall Street and the big banks. He’s likewise pointed to the six-figure honoraria Hillary has earned from speeches given to the big banks.

The best the now-hapless Bill Clinton could do in reply was to note that Bernie, too, had been paid to give speeches. Technically, Bill was right. Bernie had earned money from public speaking: a whopping $1800 over the course of a year. The year before that, Bernie had earned $1300 from public speaking. All of this money was donated to charity, as is the requirement for U.S. senators.
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Ron Paul, Champion of God’s Peace

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Ronald Reagan used to be called the Teflon president, on the grounds that no matter what gaffe or scandal engulfed him, it never stuck: he didn’t suffer in the polls. If Reagan was the Teflon president, the military is America’s Teflon institution. Even people who oppose whatever the current war happens to be can be counted on to “support the troops” and to live by the comforting delusion that whatever aberrations may be evident today, the system itself is basically sound.

To add insult to injury, whenever the US government gears up for yet another military intervention, it’s people who pretend to favor “limited government,” and who pride themselves on not falling for government propaganda, who can be counted on to stand up and salute.

I had the rare honor of serving as Ron Paul’s congressional chief of staff, and observed him in many proud moments in those days, and in his presidential campaigns. But Ron’s new book Swords into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity, a plainspoken and relentless case against war that ranks alongside Smedley Butler’s classic War Is a Racket, is possibly the proudest Ron Paul moment of all.

It’s been calculated that over the past 5,000 years there have been 14,000 wars fought, resulting in three and a half billion deaths. In the United States, between 1798 and 2015 there have been 369 uses of military force abroad. We have been conditioned to accept this as normal, or at the very least unavoidable. We are told to stifle any moral qualms we may have about mass killing on the question-begging grounds that, after all, “it’s war.”
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Get Out Peacefully: The Libertarian Principle of Secession

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For a century and a half, the idea of secession has been systematically demonized among the American public. The government’s schools spin fairy tales about the “indivisible Union” and the wise statesmen who fought to preserve it. Decentralization is portrayed as unsophisticated and backward, while nationalism and centralization are made to seem progressive and inevitable. When a smaller political unit wishes to withdraw from a larger one, its motives must be disreputable and base, while the motivations of the central power seeking to keep that unit in an arrangement it does not want are portrayed as selfless and patriotic, if they are considered at all.

As usual, disinformation campaigns are meant to make potentially liberating ideas appear toxic and dangerous, and conveying the message that anyone who seeks acceptance and popularity ought to steer clear of whatever it is — in this case, secession — the regime has condemned. But when we set the propaganda aside, we discover that support for secession means simply this: it is morally illegitimate to employ state violence against individuals who choose to group themselves differently from how the existing regime chooses to group them. They prefer to live under a different jurisdiction. Libertarians consider it unacceptable to aggress against them for this.

The libertarian principle of secession is not exactly embraced with enthusiasm by the people and institutions I call “regime libertarians.” Although these people tend to be located in and around the Beltway, regime libertarianism transcends geographical location, which is why I coined this special term to describe it.
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Our Enemies, the Presidents

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Two summers ago Judge Andrew Napolitano joined the faculty of Mises University, the Mises Institute’s summer program for students. He was interested in teaching a nine-session special seminar to a select group of attendees. Students didn’t know what the format would be, but they were all thrilled at the opportunity. As it turns out, they were treated to a high-level seminar with a professor who spoke with authority, pulled out obscure legal references without notes, and traversed the room interacting with students. It was an experience they would not soon forget.

And this is the Judge Napolitano who comes through in Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Assault on Civil Liberties: the law professor in command of his material, presenting his case, anticipating objections, and leaving his audience spellbound.

Had the Judge given us nothing but a blow-by-blow overview of the enormities of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, we would have been in his debt. But Suicide Pact does much more than just this. For one thing, the Judge looks beyond the presidents to the whole federal apparatus, which – “checks and balances” civics lessons to the contrary notwithstanding – is so often complicit in presidential misdeeds. For another, he cuts through the delusions of left and right alike. While he places special emphasis on the outrages of the past two presidential administrations, he will admit of no golden-age mythology. Presidential crimes and overreach are not strange aberrations, explains the Judge. They extend back into American history for more than two hundred years.

Not ten years after the ratification of the Constitution, for example, the Alien and Sedition Acts curtailed civil liberties to a degree that shocks us even today. Critics of the president and Congress could find themselves fined or imprisoned. Ordinary Americans were punished for offhand remarks, as were newspaper writers and even a US congressman from Vermont.
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Is This The Libertarian Moment?

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Earlier this month the New York Times wondered aloud if the “libertarian moment” had arrived. A good question, to be sure.

To answer it, though, Times reporter Robert Draper sought out not quite the top libertarian thinkers in the world, but instead those people most easily reached within a ten-minute walk from the Capitol or the Empire State Building.

Draper begins with an ex-MTV personality and proceeds from there. None of the people whose work and writing have shaped the libertarian movement, and who have converted so many people to our point of view, make an appearance. Ask the hordes of young kids who are devouring libertarian classics how many of them were introduced to libertarianism, or even slightly influenced, by the figures on whom the Times chooses to rely. You already know the answer.

The movement’s major thinkers have rather more intellectual heft behind them, which I suspect is why the Times would prefer to keep them from you. Far better for libertarianism to seem like an ill-focused, adolescent rebellion against authority per se, instead of a serious, intellectually exciting school of thought that challenges every last platitude about the State we were taught in its ubiquitous schools.
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The State’s Worst Atrocity

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“The lamps are going out all over Europe,” Sir Edward Grey famously said on the eve of World War I. “We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” 

It was 100 years ago this week that Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, setting in motion the unspeakable calamity that contemporaries dubbed the Great War. Well in excess of 10 million people perished, and by some estimates, many more. 

Numbers, even staggering ones like this, can scarcely convey the depth and breadth of the destruction. The war was an ongoing slaughter of devastating proportions. Tens of thousands perished in campaigns that moved the front just a matter of yards. It was World War I that gave us the term “basket case,” by which was meant a quadruple amputee. Other now-familiar tools of warfare came into common use: the machine gun, the tank, even poison gas. Rarely has the State’s machinery of senseless destruction been on more macabre display. 

The scholarly pendulum has swung back in the direction of German atrocities having indeed been committed in Belgium, though perhaps not quite as gruesome as the tales of babies being passed from bayonet to bayonet that were disseminated to Americans early in the war. In turn, a vastly larger number of Germans, with estimates as high as 750,000, died as a result of the British hunger blockade that violated longstanding norms of international conduct, even during wartime.
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Winning the New York Times Prize!

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The New York Times, whistling past the financial graveyard, paused over the weekend to smear the Mises Institute, Ron Paul, our other scholars, hardcore libertarianism, and me. Why? Because our ideas and our youth movement are gaining real traction. It is in effect a compliment. They have never faced opposition like ours before, and Ron Paul’s tremendous resonance with young people has only made things worse from the Times’s point of view.

The Times wants opponents who play the game, who accept the presuppositions of the regime, and who are willing to confine themselves to the narrow range of debate to which the Times would prefer to confine the American people.

The purpose of articles like the one over the weekend, it should be unnecessary to point out, is not to shed light. It is to demonize and destroy a school of thought that the regime considers threatening.
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American Fascism

We know about the transformation of the American police, with their paramilitary equipment, their SWAT team raids, and incentive to terrorize people over drug offenses rather than pursue crimes against person and property. We know about the National Security Agency, which can access every American’s e-mails, phone calls, or text messages. And yet too many average Americans have greeted all this with indifference.

This indifference, I suggest, derives from the widespread public acceptance of the myth of the state that Americans are taught from the moment they step into a government classroom. The myth is this: the state is a public-service institution established to provide you with security, both personal and economic. And after years of indoctrination into this myth, it is little wonder that so many Americans are prepared to give the state the benefit of the doubt, and to look upon dissidents as incorrigible troublemakers. The police and the military, the most celebrated public faces of the state, are to be questioned least of all.
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