Murray Rothbard’s Influence on the Alt-Right

In The Baffler, liberal John Ganz discusses the life and thought of pioneer paleolibertarian Murray Rothbard, whom Ganz sees as a “philosophical harbinger of Trump and the alt-right” (“The Forgotten Man”).

Here’s a nice Rothbard quote from the piece:

And so the proper strategy for the right wing must be what we can call “right-wing populism”: exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses, but the often-shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well. And in this era where the intellectual and media elites are all establishment liberal-conservatives, all in a deep sense one variety or another of social democrat, all bitterly hostile to a genuine Right, we need a dynamic, charismatic leader who has the ability to short-circuit the media elites, and to reach and rouse the masses directly. We need a leadership that can reach the masses and cut through the crippling and distorting hermeneutical fog spread by the media elites.

Ganz then intones:

Rothbard’s name is not widely known. It’s not likely to be found in bibliography of a contemporary economist’s paper, but you will find it scrawled on the seamy underbelly of the web, in the message boards of the alt-right, where fewer voices are more in the air than Rothbard’s. One can look at the recent profiles of neo-fascists to find the name Rothbard, and that of his favorite pupil and protégé, Hans Hermann-Hoppe, again and again. In The New Yorker’s piece on Mike Enoch, the founder of the “Daily Shoah” podcast, Enoch notes that his path to the alt-right began with reading Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and Ludwig von Mises. When asked how he began to move “so far right,” Tony Hovater, the Indiana Nazi from the infamous New York Times profile, “name-drops Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe.” Chris Cantwell, the crying Nazi of Vice News notoriety, says he was a “big fan of Murray Rothbard” and then went on to “read Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed.” Trump backer Peter Thiel’s essay, “The Education of a Libertarian,” shows the clear influence of Rothbard’s apostle Hoppe, who invited Thiel to a conference that also hosted American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor and VDARE’s Peter Brimelow. For a time before his death, Rothbard had the ear of Pat Buchanan. Paul Gottfried, the erstwhile ally of Richard Spencer, who is sometimes credited with coining the term “alternative right,” was a friend and admirer of Rothbard, and he also delivered the Murray N. Rothbard Memorial lectures at the Mises Institute.

A Rothbard quote on Jews:

Influential Jews and Jewish organizations helped agitate for war, and helped also to put economic pressure upon opponents of the war. This very fact of course served to embitter many isolationists against the Jews, and again create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy; this resentment was intensified by the hysterical treatment accorded to any isolationist who dared so much as mention these activities by Jews.

Of Rothbard’s careful and deep analyses of intellectual vanguardism, which included his admiration (ala Steve Bannon) of Vladimir Lenin’s tactics:

In early 1977, he distributed a highly confidential 178-page memo, meant only for the inner circle of Cato, called Toward A Strategy for Libertarian Social Change. Within is a deeper elaboration and analysis of Leninist strategy and tactics, again calling for professionalized, hard-core libertarian cadres and “purity of principle, combined with entrepreneurial flexibility of tactics.” Following the course of Bolshevik revolution, he believed the best course of action was to follow the “centrist” path. That is, they were to stay radical, but also stay practical: don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal by getting mired in reformist coalitions, but don’t isolate the “party” of dedicated anti-statists by making hopeless quixotic stands either. To the example of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Rothbard now adds Hitler and the Nazis, who had the tactical advantage, he wrote, of a “clear two-group, ‘good-guy vs. bad guy’ dichotomy.” He also discusses with interest the Italian Futurists’ corrosive contempt for the mores of old society as an avant-garde paving the way for the triumph of the fascist movement. He felt libertarians could benefit from the lesson of the fascists’ use of emotionally stirring propaganda and spectacles, as well as their enlistment of youth in the cause. He believed that supreme willpower was the quality most needed in a political leader. But he cautions, the movement has to be straight in its appearance, “radical in content, conservative in form”; not too much shocking of the bourgeoisie, and no shaggy hair cuts: libertarian cadres must appear “respectable.”

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