Winning the New York Times Prize!

by | Jan 27, 2014


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.

The article, for instance, notes that Ron spoke on the topic “Do We Live in a Police State?” earlier this month at a Mises Institute event, and that another speaker (me) spoke on “American Fascism.” The lecture titles are evidently supposed to be self-refuting, although you can listen to Ron’s remarks and read mine and decide for yourself. It’s little wonder that the Times would want to ridicule the idea that American society could resemble a police state, given that paper’s cover-ups of the regime’s surveillance of American citizens.

The rest of the article is an attempt to distort the philosophy of libertarianism and to demonize Ron and other prominent exponents of that philosophy.

The whole exercise reminds me of the time, not long ago, in which a state-endorsed hate group took a swipe at Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), known in his day as Mr. Libertarian. The writer summarized Murray’s career in a single sentence about — of all things — lesbians during the Progressive Era.

Now consider: Rothbard’s 1,000-page treatise Man, Economy, and State was an extraordinary contribution to the field of economics; his two-volume history of economic thought has been praised by scholars across the board; his study of the Panic of 1819, published by Columbia University Press, received rave reviews in the scholarly journals and is still considered definitive; his Ethics of Liberty is a philosophical defense of self-ownership and the nonaggression principle, and so on.

“And so on” hardly does Rothbard justice: we haven’t mentioned his textbook on money and banking, his classic What Has Government Done to Our Money?, his four-volume history of colonial America, the scholarly journals he edited, the voluminous correspondence he kept up with the major thinkers of his day, and — well, and so on.

And a critic tried to reduce this man — this man! — to one unfavorable sentence.

It used to be easy to do this: how, apart from driving to the library, was someone to discover Rothbard for himself? But today, discovering Rothbard is just a click away. And once you discover him — his scholarship, his knowledge, the encouragement he gave to students, and his refusal to compromise his principles even when doing so would have meant career advancement — you understand why the state wants to minimize or demonize him. No wonder the most popular piece of libertarian apparel is our Rothbard “Enemy of the State” T-shirt.

Economics professors have even been known to urge their students not to read Rothbard. But what do you think the brighter students do when they’re told not to read someone? And once you read Rothbard, you never look at the world the same way again.

The Times article, which continues in the tradition of portraying Murray preposterously, tries the same tactic with libertarian historian Tom Woods. According to the Times, Tom’s book Who Killed the Constitution?, co-authored with Kevin Gutzman, “denounced the Supreme Court decision desegregating schools, Brown v. Board of Education, as ‘a dizzying display of judicial imperialism.’”

With even Publishers Weekly endorsing Who Killed the Constitution, there’s obviously something fishy here — would the staid and scrupulously establishment PW endorse a segregationist book?

In fact, Woods and Gutzman argue that the same result could have been achieved with the enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment — and that that is precisely how, in practice, the schools wound up being desegregated anyway. As historian Michael Klarman shows in his book From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, the Court may have uttered a lot of pretty words, but desegregation occurred only after the Fifteenth Amendment was enforced. And had this constitutional approach been followed in the first place, the authors contend, American society would have been spared the precedent established in Brown whereby the justices decide on their preferred outcome in advance, and then tendentiously search for legal justifications for that outcome, no matter how implausible.

A handful of libertarians whose views are more congenial to the Times take opportunities like these to wag their fingers at the Mises Institute. Why, if we’d only play nice, and scrupulously observe every PC platitude as they do, reasonable people like The New York Times reporters would leave us alone. We just need to show The New York Times that a libertarian approach will do a better job of reaching our shared goals, etc.

Anyone deluded enough to believe such a thing understands nothing about the nature of the state and its media apologists.

Whose interests do you suppose the Times is more dedicated to advancing: those of the libertarian movement, or those of the state? The question answers itself. And so we might turn the accusation around: if you’re such a threat to the state, why does its media ignore or actually flatter you, perhaps even holding you up as a model for other libertarians to live by? If the Times wants you to represent the libertarian movement, do you think this is because it suddenly has the interests of libertarianism at heart?

Behind the state media’s attacks are always the issues of war and peace. Conservatives have deluded themselves into thinking that the so-called “liberal media” opposes the regime’s wars and wants to “abandon our troops.” To the contrary, you won’t find bigger and more consistent cheerleaders for the US government’s aggression than the official media. When they encounter a root-and-branch opponent of the warfare state, whether it’s Ron Paul or the Mises Institute, they pounce.

And when we oppose war, we don’t oppose it on the grounds that a particular conflict isn’t in “America’s interests.” That is regimespeak. We oppose the wars because they are based on lies, morally outrageous, and carried out through expropriation of the American public. You think the Times might not want a message like that gaining resonance?

The Mises Institute, moreover, does not issue policy reports to persuade the state that its interests will be more effectively met through libertarian solutions. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been flushed down the toilet in this way, and if you want to know how much it’s accomplished, take a look around you.

The Mises Institute’s scholarship, on the other hand, is aimed at understanding and overthrowing the entire paradigm of domination and exploitation that the state represents. No, we don’t play nice. We tell the unvarnished truth. It is this, and not anything else, that explains why the state’s media considers us an implacable foe.

Anyone is free to examine what we do: our annual scholarly conference, our student and topical conferences, the free books we’ve made available to the world, the vast library of audio and video files on both technical economics and popular topics, our Dailies, our regular Mises View commentary, and much more.

If you’re looking for efficiency experts for the state, who seek to devise better and more effective ways for state goals to be accomplished and the people to be expropriated, the Mises Institute will disappoint. If it’s “tax reform” you’re interested in — which is always a shell game in which the outward form of taxation may change a bit, but the amount of taxes collected stays the same or even rises – we’re not your cup of tea.

On the other hand, we have much to recommend us. We don’t back down and apologize when we’re smeared by the state’s media. We relish it as an indication that we’re doing our job. We tell the truth about the state: its wars, its expropriations, its militarized police, its propaganda. We don’t peddle the elementary-school propaganda that the state is a public-service institution seeking the public good. We believe that the great products of civilization — indeed civilization itself — are the result of spontaneous human cooperation. The parasitic class that holds the levers of power in the state apparatus may try to condition the public to believe that central planning and threats of violence — the hallmarks of the state — deserve credit for human progress, but our scholarship proves the opposite.

Ron Paul has been our Distinguished Counselor since we opened our doors in 1982, and he recently joined our board. The Times and the state hate us for the same reasons they hate Ron: we’re truth-tellers, we oppose Keynesianism and the Federal Reserve lock, stock, and barrel; and we support the cause of peace against the state’s wars. This is all too much for the state’s house organ, which has rarely heard war propaganda too preposterous to print, or a Keynesian apologetic too much of a stretch to repeat.

We are attacked because we are doing our job. The Times’s smear is a medal on our chest.

Reprinted with permission from LRC.