Rockwell interviewed by Moyers
, the leading intellectual influence of the paleo-libertarian right, was interviewed last night by Bill Moyers on PBS, and if any doubts had remained about the character of Rockwell and movement he leads, they were settled by this program. Asked his principles of when war is justified, Rockwell gave as his example of an unjustifiable war the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which he said was carried out for no other reason than to strike out at somebody, anybody. Asked if he thought Saddam Hussein was evil, Rockwell said, of course he’s evil, he’s a politician. Asked if he feared nuclear weapons in the hands of Hussein, Rockwell pertly replied that he also feared nuclear weapons in the hands of George W. Bush. Asked what he would advise President Bush to do about Iraq, Rockwell answered: “Read a book.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 08, 2003 10:11 AM | Send
Any conservative who watches either PBS or Moyers, not to mention BOTH AT ONCE, deserves the gratitude of those of us who can’t bring ourselves to do so. And of course I concur with Mr. Auster’s judgment about the movement that Rockwell represents.
The Principles of LRC:
“Everyone claims to believe in liberty, so what’s so controversial? The liberty LRC believes in is both unleashed and constrained by the right to private property as a core principle, and hence it embraces capitalism. It is guarded by a decentralized system of law enforcement, and hence favors subsidiarity and self-determination. It is historically rooted in American tradition dating back to the colonial tradition through the wonderful American revolution, which LRC believes represented a just overthrow of the state.
And that raises a point. Who writing about politics today might have joined the founding fathers in their conspiracy to overthrow imperial rule?”
From “The General Line” by Lew Rockwell
The best way to know what Lew Rockwell thinks is to read his writtings, not by listening to, or reading, a few easily transposed quips via left-out context.
Columnists & Commentators
Mr. Cella, congratulations on an excellent Blog site. I’ve just read several articles and blog entries and skimmed several more, and I like it — have added it to my favorites. Having just discovered it, I can’t be certain something lurking somewhere therein won’t make me do a slow burn. But if anything will, articles like the following first-rate one on immigration make me willing to overlook that:
By the way: I’m starting to get annoyed somehow at expat Brits having to be considered “immigrants” or “foreigners” the same way, say, Somali Bantus do. That is one hundred percent crap and I’m going to start thinking of ways to create a separate category — perhaps “Not yet citizens strictly-speaking but fully-Anglomorphic members of the Mother Country or Anglosphere” — something like that. Aside from being a legitimate distinction such a category would, I’m sure, get the Left’s teeth nicely gnashing, always wonderful to see (and to hear, if they gnash them forcefully enough).
I would not agree with everything Rockwell said.
On Unadorned’s point about the oddity of calling immigrants from England “immigrants,” I’m reminded of a movie star who is considered the classic homespun American figure—Gary Cooper. His mother and father were immigrants from England, and he was born just a couple of years after they came here and was raised in the West. For people from England, the translation to America is extremely rapid and obviously cannot be compared with that of people from non-European countries, who by and large remain culturally and ethnically different, even if they assimilate somewhat.
Thank you for your kind words, Unadorned. I hope my site does not disappoint, although what good is any blog if it does set even sympathetic readers on a slow burn now and then?
Readers may appreciate being warned that since I started my blog I have retreated from outright bellicosity on Iraq to a much more ambivalent position.
On the issue of the cultural unity of the Anglosphere, the following post is a good primer. While I dont agree with everything it says (be warned it has a somewhat anti-traditional bias in favour of classical liberalism), it still has a number of very valuable and true things to say about seeing the Anglosphere as a distinct civilisation in it’s own right. I especially agree with it’s call for Britain to give up it’s desire for integration with Europe, and for America to cease it’s fanatsies of open boarders and trade with Hispanic countries. And I’m certainly intrigued about the idea of a military and trade alliance of Anglosphere nations as a counter to the Franco-German empire we call the EU.
“It is historically rooted in American tradition dating back to the colonial tradition through the wonderful American revolution, which LRC believes represented a just overthrow of the state.”
The American War of Independence was an overthrow of what had become in effect a foriegn power, not an overthrow of the state in the sense of ANY state. This anarchist revisionist history is just one of the reasons I don’t bother with Rockwell. An anarchist is just another kind of liberal, and a paleolibertarian is a just liberal pretending not to be.
Frieda wrote: “Any conservative who watches either PBS or Moyers, not to mention BOTH AT ONCE, deserves the gratitude of those of us who canít bring ourselves to do so. And of course I concur with Mr. Austerís judgment about the movement that Rockwell represents.”
How about watching PBS, the America-hating liberal Moyers, and an America-hating paleolibertarian all at once? :-)
By the way, both during and after the interview with Rockwell, Moyers congratulated himself on the fact that he likes to interview people he disagree with, because he learns more from them than from people he agrees with. Yeah, right. He had on Rockwell because Rockwell is a total opponent of America and the war on Iraq, like Moyers and every guest I’ve seen on the show. If Rockwell were a libertarian who supported the war, does anyone think Moyers would have had him on? In fact, after Rockwell, Moyers’s next guest was Chris Hedges of the NY Times, an extreme liberal consumed with the sense that America is a pathological country for wanting to use force against its enemies.
“The American War of Independence was an overthrow of what had become in effect a foriegn power, not an overthrow of the state in the sense of ANY state. This anarchist revisionist history is just one of the reasons I donít bother with Rockwell. An anarchist is just another kind of liberal, and a paleolibertarian is a just liberal pretending not to be.”
Good catch, Shawn.
Unlike Mr. Auster, whose views on immigration I fully endorse,and like Lew Rockwell, whose opinions on foreign entanglements Mr. Auster deplores, I am far more concerned with the destruction of liberty and constitutional government in the U.S. than I am with the failure to impose American democracy elsewhere. Indeed I am far more concerned with the servile acceptance of government-inflicted quotas for work and college admission by the American robot population than I am with the unpleasant personality of Saddam Hussein. The problem with “movement conservatives,” whom Auster has come to resemble,is their playing down of serious domestic issues in order to pursue the Weekly standard’s foreign policy. The pursuit of this imperialist policy requires a continuing celebration of our government and society, no matter how repulsive both are becoming. Mr. Auster should try teaching in a college to discover what empty vessels the children of our yuppy generation are turning out to be. Such a condition upsets me more than the Iraqi “Hitler of the week.” Paul Gottfried
Lew Rockwell calls himself a libertarian, while at the same time venerating the Confederacy, which, contrary to the lies in all those history books written by treason-loving Democrats, was run in an extremely socialist manner — with price controls, production directives, government-owned industries, internal passports, rationing, and a political system much more centralized than was the Union government at the time.
For the truth, see http://www.republicanbasics.com/ to read about “Back to Basics for the Republican Party”.
Paul Gottfried’s post continues the refusal to deal with harsh reality that has rendered the anti-war paleos irrelevant to this debate. As with Mr. Gottfried, there are lots of other vitally important national issues that I’m deeply concerned about and that I wish we weren’t being distracted from by the war. But those other issues are not the issue here. The issue here is that we face a specific danger from the nexus of Muslim terrorism and weapons of mass destruction that it would be literally suicidal for us to ignore. Mr. Gottfried, Rockwell, et al. would have us ignore it. Because they don’t like many of the likely consequences of waging this war (which I also don’t like), they refuse to face the far worse likely consequences of not waging this war.
To say, “There are other problems I care more about, therefore let’s do nothing about this problem,” is not an argument but an avoidance of argument. So inflamed are the anti-war rightists by their fears and resentments that they seem unable or unwilling to grasp this simple point.
Furthermore, not only does Mr. Gottfried refuse to deal with the issue, but he ludicrously misstates the issue. He writes: “Unlike Mr. Auster … I am far more concerned with the destruction of liberty and constitutional government in the U.S. than I am with the failure to impose American democracy elsewhere. Indeed I am far more concerned with the servile acceptance of government-inflicted quotas for work and college admission by the American robot population than I am with the unpleasant personality of Saddam Hussein.” So, according to Mr. Gottfried, the reasons I support Bush on the war are that I want to impose American-style democracy on Iraq and that I don’t like Hussein’s “unpleasant personality.” How does Mr. Gottfried expect his criticism of me to be taken seriously, when he so absurdly misrepresents and trivializes my views and those of other war supporters?
The answer, once again, is that Mr. Gottfried, like so many on the anti-war right, DOESN’T CARE. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that for many people on the anti-war right, the expression of their fears and resentments has become an emotionally fulfilling activity unto itself. Thus, far from being “closed out of the debate” by those evil neocons, as the anti-war paleos often complain, the anti-war paleos have marginalized themselves, and that seems to be the way they want it.
Mr. Zak writes: “Lew Rockwell calls himself a libertarian, while at the same time venerating the Confederacy, which, contrary to the lies in all those history books written by treason-loving Democrats, was run in an extremely socialist manner …”
I think the answer to the contradiction that Mr. Zak has noticed is that Rockwell’s underlying motive is not belief in libertarianism but opposition to the United States of America. Whatever helps tear down the United States he will embrace. In some instances, radical libertarianism—a rejection of any national government including its function of national defense—helps tear down the United States; in other instances, support for the Confederacy helps tear down the United States.
Viewed in this light, there is no contradiction in Rockwell’s positions.
Michael Zak, you have GOTTA be kidding.
“Rationing”????? “Socialist”????? MY GOD, man! The Confederacy was savagely attacked the instant of its birth and spent its entire four-year existence fighting for its life in what was modern history’s first Total War (in which it gave a damned good account of itself, by the way), waged against it by war criminals in the employ of the foremost industrial power in the world after England and Germany having a white population (20 million) quadruple that of the non-industrial, agrarian Confederacy (five million, the rest of the South’s nine million being Negro slaves). You have no idea how it would have been constituted if left in peace and there is every reason to believe it would have been a hell of lot better-constituted than the United States has turned out to be. As for that utter abomination wholly imported and copied from Africa, from Islam, and from colonial Spanish-America (and leftover from the time of British North-American rule), Negro chattel-slavery, an institution utterly alien to the fundamentals of the Anglo-Celtic Southern mind and soul and as difficult-to-eradicate in their day as the oppressive income-tax-IRS holocaust is in ours, it was a dying institution already when the Yankee invaders occupying Fort Sumpter were justly attacked by patriots of a country which was at that moment legally free and independent of the United States. Slavery wasn’t going anywhere but down to extinction and oblivion anyway, within the twenty years following the opening of that unnecessary war.
You CANNOT have posted that comment of yours in seriousness, Mr. Zak.
I just saw Mr. Auster’s comment on Mr. Zak’s post and for the most part I agree with it. Mr. Auster said, support for the Confederacy helps tear down the United States IN SOME INSTANCES. I mention for the record I cannot understand radical Libertarianism though I’ve given precisely that question a lot of thought over the years, and I have never supported it in its full-blown version but I do support many individual Libertarian ideas. I have never in my life considered myself a Libertarian but I also have never considered myself a Conservative (though forced to use that word by today’s conventions). I consider myself a true Progressive in that I support normalness and oppose degenerateness, the latter (degenerateness in all its forms) being what the left supports, the former (normalness) what it opposes with all its damned heart and all its damned soul. I agree that, carried to its ultimate conclusion, in a way radical Libertarianism is also anti-country. I am pro-country and I don’t think anyone could dispute that the last thing in the known universe the Confederates were was radical Libertarians. In precisely that sense, then, Mr. Auster is correct — were Mr. Rockwell somehow transported back in time to the Confederacy which he claims to sympathise with, the ultimate implications of his ideas would be incompatible with it and undermine it, and he would in effect be its enemy.
“The problem with ‘movement conservatives,’ whom Auster has come to resemble, is their playing down of serious domestic issues in order to pursue the Weekly Standardís foreign policy. The pursuit of this imperialist policy requires a continuing celebration of our government and society, no matter how repulsive both are becoming.” — Paul Gottfried.
There are several problems in my opinion with this statement. Firstly, Mr Gottfried attempts to separate foreign policy and domestic policy. This is, in my opinion, a false dichotomy. A nation’s willingness to stand up to foreign aggressors and threats to its national security and interests is closely related to its strength as a culture and to the values of that culture. As much of Europe now shows, a nation that has given up the war against liberalism domestically loses the strength and willingness to fight enemies elsewhere. It is not necessary to downplay domestic issues in order to maintain a strong and assertive foreign policy, and in fact in the long run it is impossible. The failure to deal forthrightly and strongly with the adversary culture’s rebellion during the 60’s was one of the primary reasons we failed against the Communists in Vietnam.
Secondly, Mr. Gottfried uses a tactic increasingly common in paleoconservative/libertarian circles, that of the outright lie. The current administration is not following the foreign policy of the Weekly Standard by any stretch. The Weekly Standard’s policies are far more ambitious than the fairly limited goals the government has set itself. If it were up to the Standard we would most likely already be planning for war against Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Syria and China. Nor is Mr. Auster, or anyone I have read on VFR, promoting the Standard’s policies. Mr. Gottfried is raising a straw man and attacking that rather than what is actually being said. Also, Mr. Gottfried simply repeats “Weekly Standard” as though no more need be said. He does not bother to tell us WHY the Standard’s prescriptions are wrong, he does not bother to debate the substance of what commentators at the Standard would like to see as policy.
Thirdly, Mr. Gottfried uses another tactic increasingly common amongst paleos, that of downplaying very real threats to the United States, or pretending they don’t exist. This willful blindness to the threats posed by terrorists and the states, such as Iraq, who support them and share their hatred of America, is reaching absurd levels. Many paleos now remind me of the three monkeys; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Maybe if we close our eyes and ears and don’t talk about them the terrorists and their state sponsors will go away. Mr. Gottfried claims that affirmative action concerns him more than Saddam Hussein. I don’t like affirmative action any more than any other conservative, but if Mr. Gottfried thinks that it is more dangerous than a dirty nuke or chemical and biological weapons being released upon Americans than he is living on another planet.
Finally, Mr. Gottfried displays the obscene anti-Americanism that has become a feature of the paleo movement: “The pursuit of this imperialist policy requires a continuing celebration of our government and society, no matter how repulsive both are becoming.” This kind of rhetoric is in my view no better than the anti-American filth spewed forth by ilk such as bin Laden or the French. No conservative likes the liberal attack upon our culture, faith and nation. But there are still many things about our great country that are worth celebrating. The ability of a person to talk clearly about the problems and wrongs in our society should not preclude him from also loving what is still good about it. The use of terms like “repulsive” to describe our government and society are unbalanced and one-sided in the extreme. Merely because America does not follow paleolibertarian anarchist policies, policies which are alien to America and have nothing at all to do with the vision of the Founding Fathers, does not make our country “repulsive”. If Mr. Gottfried and his ilk think so they should find somewhere else to live.
Some paleos think any argument can won simply by throwing words like “imperialism” around. They do not bother to offer any substantial proof that our governments policies are imperialist in the first place. They do not bother to debate the issue of whether imperialism itself is always, in every circumstance, wrong. They do not bother to deal with the very real threats to our country from Islamic fundamentalism and Arab states. Mr. Gottfried’s post confirms for me Lawrence’s observation of the intellectual deterioration of the paleo movement. I would add to that its descent into willful blindness to real foreign threats and its growing Euro-Left style anti-Americanism.
Here is what ought to be the final word on Rockwell and his fellow paleo-libertarians, sent by a correspondent:
“The libertarians are Marxists of the right, every bit as dogmatic and reality-divorced as their counterparts on the left. Instead of capitalism, their excuse for evil in the world is the state. Instead of a classless society, their utopia is a stateless society.”
“The libertarians are Marxists of the right, every bit as dogmatic and reality-divorced as their counterparts on the left.”
This generalization seems to correspond to my own personal experience, as well as the writings of nearly every libertarian outside of LR.com.
“Instead of capitalism, their excuse for evil in the world is the state.”
If your correspondent is referring to paleolibertarians (he just mentions “libertarians”), this is a straw man.
I thought “libertarian” was itself a fairly recent ideological coinage. Could someone explain how a “paleolibertarian” differs from a “libertarian” or “classical liberal” (“paleoliberal”?)?
I may have some of the details of this wrong, but here is my rough understanding of it. First there was the term “paleoconservative,” which came into use in the mid-1980s and described the intellectuals and writers in the circle of Chronicles magazine. “Paleoconservatism,” with its concern for the historical particularities and concrete qualities of our culture, was obviously coined as a reaction against “neoconservatism,” which defined our culture in purely universalistic terms. Now, in another corner of the field were the libertarians, of whom the “right” libertarians were more appreciative of the historical particularities of our culture than the “left” libertarians. These right libertarians formed a concordat with the paleoconservatives around 1990, represented by Rockwell and Rothbard on one side and Fleming and his circle on the other, and the John Randolph society became its expression. Around this time the right libertarians began to be called paleolibertarians, indicating their commonality with the paleoconservatives in having some attachment to the particularities of our historic culture, unlike the left libertarians and the modern conservatives or neoconservatives, who believe mainly in universal abstractions.
However, as Shawn cogently pointed out in a recent comment, it seems that ever since the paleoconservatives joined with the paleolibertarians, the paleoconservatives have taken on more and more of the antinomian extremism and sheer hatred of the state (turning into a virtual hatred of the United States itself) that characterizes the paleolibertarians, until it’s hard to see much difference between the two groups.