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The Old Cause

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This guest post is by C.Jay Engel of The Reformed Libertarian. For guest post opportunities, please see the Contact page.

I have read a good deal of all that Murray Rothbard has written.  Not everything. He has thousands of articles and essays and commentaries that have been published, so few can claim that they have read every word.  But I have read the books, including the Libertarian Forum.  I constantly go back for a refresher to his economic material, to verify some obscure position on political theory, or to gain new insight from his historical perspectives, especially on the Fed.  When I want to spur some writing creativity, I will pick up his collection of articles The Irrepressible Rothbard and enjoy myself immensely.

But there is one book out them all that I have read three times, simply because it is ever-impactful for me. Every conservative, though they may not like “Mr. Libertarian” very much, ought to read his Betrayal of the American Right.  This book, along with Justin Raimondo’s Reclaiming the American Right, speak of an American Right — the Old Right — that is distinct from the post World War II New Right.  It is distinct, and it long ago died.

Today, the New Right, which might be called the Barry Goldwater right or perhaps National Review Conservatism, is juxtaposed to the actually leftist neo-conservatism of Irving Kristol and ole Norman Podhoretz.  Thus we are told that to be a True Conservative is to reject the moderate-centrist (neocon) Republicans and hoist up the flag of Reagan, who, of course, was Goldwater reincarnate.  False dichotomy: here we have the choice between the (50′s) New Right and the (70′s) neo-conservativism.

What about the Old Right?

What about the pre-Buckley Right that stood up to the foreign interventionism of Roosevelt and Truman?

Rothbard wrote the following of the Old Right:

If we know what the Old Right was against [namely, foreign interventionism], what were they for? In general terms, they were for a restoration of the liberty of the Old Republic, of a government strictly limited to the defense of the rights of private property. In the concrete, as in the case of any broad coalition, there were differences of opinion within this overall framework. But we can boil down those differences to this question: how much of existing government would you repeal? How far would you roll government back?

The minimum demand which almost all Old Rightists agreed on, which virtually defined the Old Right, was total abolition of the New Deal, the whole kit and kaboodle of the welfare state, the Wagner Act, the Social Security Act, going off gold in 1933, and all the rest. Beyond that, there were charming disagreements. Some would stop at repealing the New Deal. Others would press on, to abolition of Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, including the Federal Reserve System and especially that mighty instrument of tyranny, the income tax and the Internal Revenue Service.

Compare this to Bill Buckley, initiator of the New Right, who, during the height of Cold War central planning propaganda, opined that “we have to accept Big Government for the duration—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”  And, as Rothbard wrote, “Buckley concluded that we must all support ‘the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign policy,’ as well as ‘large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington—even with Truman at the reins of it all.’”  Buckley, who was far better before his National Review years, spawned a flavor of rightism that was of a different flavor than its individualistic, even radical, predecessor.  The Old Right was anti-communism, but the New Right was only against communism in foreign countries.  If the Old bravely opposed what Garet Garret termed “a revolution within the form,” that is, a socialistic trend in the United States government, the New ignored it completely.  (One thinks of Frank Chodorov, who, during the red-baiting years answered the question of how to get rid of communists who snuck into the American government.  Contrary to the New Rightists who wanted to seek out and replace the communists, Chodorov replied: “Easy. Just abolish the jobs.”  No government positions, no communists will fill them.)

What was the background of the Old Right?  Briefly, it must be noted that there are several meanings of the word conservative.  For instance, there is cultural conservatism in which traditional values and ethics are praised while the presence of the State and political theory is simply absent from the conversation.  Or, there is political conservatism which may teach that what presently stands in society should be protected, by the strong arm and will of the State.  Further, one might point to a distinction between historically developed laws (such as English common law) and the Kingdom which, in order to protect its power and prestige, ignores these laws.  Thus leading to a distinction between institutions and laws.

This latter distinction is vital, and rarely considered.  For instance, in his Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, the outstanding Tom Woods points out that the American secessionists in 1776 were “conservative.”  But how could they be conservative if there existed Tories who were loyal to the throne in Britain?  Were not the Tories conservative in wanting to maintain the political status quo?  And Murray Rothbard, emphasizing their revolutionary political philosophy in his massive tome of early American history, calls them radicals.  So what were they? Radicals or conservatives?  The answer is both, and the solution is to employ the distinction between institution and common tradition. Whereas the British King sought to betray the property rights, via taxation and other means, of the colonists, the colonists objected that the King was breaching what had long been English law.  The colonists, in this sense were conservative, especially when one considers the socialistic revolutionaries of France.  But in another sense they were radicals, for they wanted complete and final separation from the throne.  They did not seek to preserve the present arrangement.  In short, the radical conservatives of the colonies thought that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [securing rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

Now, to be clear, the context of the times in the United States during the 18th and 19th century caused the limited government folks, the radical decentralists, to refrain from referring to themselves as “conservatives.”  For to be a conservative in their mind was to support the imperialistic British King, that bastion of tyranny.  In their minds they were liberals –classical liberals, who sought to be free from the chains of improper government.  The reader is undoubtedly aware of the fact that liberal was not always a euphemism for a socialist.  It once meant something similar to its etymological root: to be liberated.  That is, to be liberated from the oppressive State, not Marx’s exploitive capitalist.

But socialist theory is a historical reality and soon liberalism was taken over and abused, much like what happens to every word that is adopted by political movements.  The Progressives during the early 20th century referred to themselves as liberals.  All who opposed the Progressive revolution and sought to defend American individualism and capitalistic radicalism were smeared as “conservative.”  Rothbard informs:

Before that, knowledgeable libertarians had hated the word [conservative], and with good reason; for weren’t the conservatives the ancient enemy, the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Tory and reactionary suppressors of individual liberty, the ancient champions of the Old Order of Throne-and-Altar against which the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberals had fought so valiantly? And so the older classical-liberals and individualists resisted the term bitterly: Ludwig von Mises, a classical liberal, scorned the term; …and when Frank Chodorov was called a “conservative” in the pages of National Review, he wrote an outraged letter declaring, “As for me, I will punch anyone who calls me a conservative in the nose. I am a radical.”

Before the Progressive revolution, before the word “liberal” was ruthlessly murdered, it was actually the liberal who

bitterly opposed the emergence of Big Government in twentieth-century America, a government allied with Big Business in a network of special privilege, a government dictating the personal drinking habits of the citizenry and repressing civil liberties, a government that had enlisted as a junior partner to British imperialism to push around nations across the globe. The individualists were opposed to this burgeoning of State monopoly, opposed to imperialism and militarism and foreign wars, opposed to the Western-imposed Versailles Treaty and League of Nations….

But as Franklin Roosevelt came to power, the Progressives and their supporters, applying “liberal” to themselves so as to attract the masses and posture themselves in an attractive light, dismissed the libertarians, the committed and dedicated capitalistic classical liberals, as conservatives and members of the right.  The Progressive vision of a State-initiated New World became the “liberal” view and those who opposed it were smeared as reactionaries.  Suddenly the radicals were placed in the odd category of conservative.  Thus, it is important to know that this Old Right collection of anti-New Dealers and Non-interventionists were forced into the label as the conservative and liberal categories experienced a Grand Swap.  Whereas in Europe conservative meant that one defended the Ancien Regime and liberal meant that he was a challenger to it, as were the American colonists, in 20th century America the labels were backwards.

The Old Right had a cause that has been long forgotten in this country: radical decentralization of politics and no foreign entanglements.  The Old Right opposed a growing Washington in a consistent and philosophical way that is fundamentally unique compared to the nationalistic New Right.  The Old Right was principled and dogmatic.  The New Right was compromising and “pragmatic” (always a dangerous component of the power hungry politician).  If the New Right emphasizes the importance of preserving the strength of the national government, especially against more local dissenters, it is the Old Right that praises dissension and nullification and constant challenges to the Central State.  If the New Right desires nationalized power under the guise of unity and collective security, it is the Old Right that rejects nationalized power as a protection racket, a simple and deceitful excuse for political control.

As Tom Woods says in his introduction to Rothbard’s Betrayal:

Old Right members of Congress like Howard Buffett argued, to the cheers of Rothbard, that the cause of freedom in the world was to be advanced by the force of American example rather than by the force of arms, and that American interventionism would play into the hands of Soviet propaganda that portrayed the U.S. as a self-interested imperialist rather than a disinterested advocate for mankind.

What we laughingly call the “conservative movement” today has little incentive to remind people of the skeptics of interven- tionism to be found among conservative Republicans in the Truman years. In these pages Rothbard makes a compelling case that the Right’s embrace of global interventionism was not inevitable, but was instead the result of contingent factors: the deaths of key representatives of the Old Right at particularly inauspicious moments, the organizational skill of the opposition, and internal difficulties within Old Right institutions.

Under the beware-those-guys-over-there-ism philosophy of modern conservatism, we have forgotten that the most dangerous government is the one that presently sits over us.  Despite the utopian claim that the government protects our freedom, the opposite is the case.  Don’t fear the Soviet Union as did Buckley.  And don’t fear Iran as do the mainstream conservatives.

If you are conservative, embrace the Old Right.  Embrace the defenders of the Old Republic.  Remember the Old Cause: fear domestic tyranny first and don’t trade liberty for security.

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Where is the Religious Right Wrong?

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mills_where-the-religious-right-is-wrongWhen I first heard of Matthew Mills’s Where the Religious Right is Wrong, the title alone was enough to make me sympathetic to the author’s case. Popularized in the 1970s, the Religious Right has become more or less synonymous with American evangelical Christianity, conservatism, and the Republican Party, with arguably disastrous results.

Matthew Mills states his purpose early in the first chapter: “I’m going to attempt to show what God, through His Word, specifically thinks about a lot of what’s going on in modern American politics. If you disagree with my position on an issue from a Biblical standpoint, I challenge you to come up with firm, Scripture-based reasons for doing so.”

I found this approach refreshing, as so many Christians today want to begin with what they think and then try to fit the Bible into their predetermined paradigm. Read More→

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This guest post is by Rev. Donald Ehrke. He is a Libertarian, a former GOP campaign manager, and ordained minister living in Alexandria, Virginia. Many thanks to Donald for his excellent work! For guest post opportunities, please use the LCC Contact Page.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4: 7).

Love is the essential element of a sanctified Christian existence. Scripture repeatedly exhorts believers to practice a generalized love for mankind as evidence of the faith that the Holy Spirit has created inside of them. It may well be impossible to imagine Christian life absent the affection for one’s fellow man.

Nevertheless, that which is good can – according to our sinful inclinations – be transformed into evil. Love itself does not escape the predatory nature of sinfulness; love can be twisted into sickness. The discussion of love’s occasional conversion from good to evil could be limited to theological dissertations were it not for its cultural and even political consequences.

Christian counselors frequently encounter maladaptive love. In the name of keeping God’s command to love, individuals have frequently learned to love at all cost. People love others despite the horrible treatment they receive in return. Desperate husbands, wives, parents, and children anxiously attempt to cure the ills of those they adore. Their smothering affection creates enabling behaviors, disappointment, destruction, and ultimately unhappiness. In the current lexicon, their love has become “codependent.”

Read More→

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Echoing George Wallace, it has been said many times that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between liberals and conservatives. This is even usually true when the focus is on the most liberal liberals and the most conservative conservatives. The similarity may not be apparent on the surface, but once you compare both groups to libertarians it becomes perfectly clear.

The answers that libertarians give to questions debated by liberals and conservatives are unexpected and not what either of those groups wants to hear. I list below 11 topics with 50 questions that might be debated by liberals and conservatives followed by the libertarian answer.

Foreign Aid

1. Should the United States give less foreign aid to Egypt because of its violent crackdowns on protestors?

Libertarian answer: No country should receive foreign aid for any reason.

2. Should the United States give more foreign aid to Israel because it is our ally in the Middle East?

Libertarian answer: No country should receive foreign aid for any reason.

3. Should a country’s foreign aid be tied to its human rights record?

Libertarian answer: No country should receive foreign aid for any reason.

Disaster Relief

4. How much disaster relief should the United States government provide to the Philippines?

Libertarian answer: It is not the purpose of government to provide disaster relief to foreigners.

5. How much disaster relief should the United States government have provided to Americans after the tornadoes in Illinois last year?

Libertarian answer: It is not the purpose of government to provide disaster relief to Americans.

6. How much of a role should the U.S. military play in disaster relief?

Libertarian answer: It is not the purpose of the military to provide disaster relief.


7. Should the U.S. Department of Education provide educational vouchers so low-income children can go to the school of their choice?

Libertarian answer: There should be no U.S. Department of Education in the first place.

8. Should students at public schools be required to wear uniforms?

Libertarian answer: There should be no public schools in the first place.

9. Should the federal government cap the student loan interest rate?

Libertarian answer: The federal government should not be in the student loan business.

10. Should students be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

Libertarian answer: There should be no Pledge of Allegiance for students to recite.

11. How much should children who qualify for the National School Lunch Program have to pay for their lunch?

Libertarian answer: There should be no children who qualify since it is not the business of government to provide anyone lunch.

12. Should Head Start be expanded?

Libertarian answer: There should be no Head Start to expand.


13. Should the Earned Income Tax Credit be indexed to inflation?

Libertarian answer: All refundable tax credits should be eliminated.

14. Should welfare benefits be included in determining taxable income?

Libertarian answer: There shouldn’t be any welfare benefits in the first place.

15. Should the income tax be changed to a flat tax?

Libertarian answer: The income tax should be abolished.

16. Should the income tax code be made fairer?

Libertarian answer: The income tax code should be eliminated.

17. Should the number of tax brackets be increased or decreased?

Libertarian answer: There should be no tax brackets in the first place.

18. How much more should the “rich” pay in income taxes than the “poor”?

Libertarian answer: Neither the “rich” nor the “poor” should pay any income tax.

19. Which tax loopholes should be closed?

Libertarian answer: None of them; they should be made larger so Americans can keep more of their money.

20. Which tax deductions should be extended and for how long?

Libertarian answers: All of them should be made permanent so Americans can keep more of their money.

Health Care

21. How much prescription drug coverage should be included with Medicare?

Libertarian answer: Medicare should not exist in the first place.

22. Should the FDA approve more drugs or at least approve drugs quicker?

Libertarian answer: The FDA should not exist in the first place.

23. If Obamacare is repealed, how should the government reform health care?

Libertarian answer: The federal government should have nothing at all to do with health care in the first place.

24. How much funding should the government devote to finding a cure for cancer?

Libertarian answer: It is not the purpose of government to fund medical research of any kind.

Social Security

25. How much of a COLA should Social Security recipients receive next year?

Libertarian answer: Social Security should not exist in the first place.

26. How quickly should the Social Security retirement age be raised?

Libertarian answer: Social Security should not exist in the first place.

27. By what percentage should the Social Security payroll tax cap be increased for 2014?

Libertarian answer: Social Security should not exist in the first place.

Government Agencies

28. Should NASA go back to the moon or go to Mars instead?

Libertarian answer: NASA should not exist in the first place.

29. Should NPR give equal time to conservatives?

Libertarian answer: NPR should not exist in the first place.

30. Should the NEA be prevented from funding pornographic art?

Libertarian answer: The NEA should not exist in the first place.

31. How much of a fine should the FCC levy on television networks for broadcasting profane speech or actions?

Libertarian answer: The FCC should not exist in the first place.

32. Should AMTRAK increase its fares in an attempt to be profitable?

Libertarian answer: AMTRAK should not exist in the first place.

33. Should the TSA use less invasive procedures?

Libertarian answer: The TSA should not exist in the first place.

34. What criteria should the SBA use in granting loans?

Libertarian answer: The SBA should not exist in the first place.

The Military

35. Should the U.S. intervene militarily in Syria if it can prove that chemical weapons were used?

Libertarian answer: The U.S. military should not intervene in any foreign country for any reason.

36. Which overseas U.S. bases should be consolidated or closed?

Libertarian answer: The United States should not have any overseas bases.

37. By what percentage should the defense budget be increased or decreased?

Libertarian answer: It should be cut to the bone.

38. How many U.S. troops should stay in Iraq and Afghanistan as advisers and peacekeepers?

Libertarian answer: The U.S. military should never have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.


39. What should the minimum wage be?

Libertarian answer: There should be no minimum wage in the first place.

40. For how long should unemployment benefits be extended?

Libertarian answer: There should be no unemployment benefits to be extended.

41. Should food stamp benefits be adjusted every year depending on the state of the economy?

Libertarian answer: There should be no food stamp benefits to be adjusted.

42. By what percentage should a businessman be able to raise prices in the aftermath of a disaster and not be guilty of price gouging?

Libertarian answer: There should be no such thing as price gouging laws.

43. What is the maximum interest rate that should be allowed on a credit card or a payday loan?

Libertarian answer: There should be no government regulation of interest rates to being with.

The Drug War

44. Should marijuana use be legal under certain circumstances?

Libertarian answer: There should be no restrictions on marijuana use for any reason.

45. Should users of crack cocaine do more prison time than users of powder cocaine?

Libertarian answer: There should be no difference between the two; both should be perfectly legal.

46. Should drug traffickers be eligible for parole?

Libertarian answer: No, they should be pardoned and immediately released as long as they have not also committed any real crimes.


47. Should public libraries be allowed to make available risqué books?

Libertarian answer: There should be no public libraries to begin with.

48. Should funding for Planned Parenthood be cut since the organization performs abortions?

Libertarian answer: There should not be any government funding of any private organization in the first place.

49. What should the CAFE standards for cars be for the 2014 model year?

Libertarian answers: There should be no CAFE standards to being with.

50. Should sexual orientation and gender identity be added to anti-discrimination laws?

Libertarian answer: There should be no anti-discrimination laws in the first place.

Conservative and liberal debates over public policy are utterly meaningless. Not only do they not have the right answers; they don’t even ask the right questions.

Originally published on

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God’s Own Party?

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GOP_book_danielwilliamsReview of Daniel K. Williams, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right (Oxford University Press, 2012), ix + 372 pgs.

According to the majority of conservative Christians, the GOP is God’s Own Party. Voting for Republicans on election day—any Republican no matter what he believes—is an article of faith in the creed of many Christians. Voting for Democrats is a great sin. Voting for a third party is wasting your vote. Voting for Libertarians is unthinkable. Voting for no one is un-American. “Vote Republican (even if you have to hold your nose to do it)” is the great conservative Christian refrain every election season.

“Republicans, in general,” says Texas governor and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, “believe in low taxes, low regulation, less spending, free-market health care, constitutionalist judges, protecting innocent life, enforcing our laws and borders, peace through strength, empowering the states, and generally advocating principles closer to limited government than not.”

Just the opposite is true, of course. The Republican Party is the party of lies, hypocrisy, crony capitalism, regulation, the drug war, war, torture, empire, foreign aid, the welfare/warfare state, and police statism, as I have documented in many articles over the years. The GOP, as my friend Tom DiLorenzo describes it, is nothing but a Gang of Plunderers. Read More→

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