Left, Right, and the Prospects for Liberty
Originally appearing in Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought (Spring 1965, pp. 4-22), this article is occasioned by the startlingly uncritical attitude American conservatives have shown toward the consolidation of state power that has been unleashed since the atrocities of September 11. Read by Jeff Riggenbach. [1:15:23]
For many who have read this book-length essay, it marked a turning point in a new understanding.
The mainstream will forever attempt to pigeonhole belief systems based on the left-right dichotomy. The right supposedly favors economic freedom plus militarism, while the left favors socialism plus peace. Rothbard says that this breakdown is not only incoherent, it has no support in the history of ideas.
In fact, Rothbard goes further to say that traditionally, the right has been the party of the establishment, of stasis, of the status quo, while the left in history has been the party of progress, freedom, and peace. These roles have periodically reversed based on the times and the country in question. But in these reversals, the intellectual coherence of these paradigms has gotten lost and confused.
Rothbard's broad look is a mind-opening experience. It has the effect of liberating you from the prevailing paradigm.
Rothbard's main task, however, is to provide a completely new and ideologically consistent lens with which to view history and current events.
"For the libertarian, the main task of the present epoch is to cast off his needless and debilitating pessimism, to set his sights on long-run victory and to set about the road to its attainment," he writes. "To do this, he must, perhaps first of all, drastically realign his mistaken view of the ideological spectrum; he must discover who his friends and natural allies are, and above all perhaps, who his enemies are. Armed with this knowledge, let him proceed in the spirit of radical long-run optimism that one of the great figures in the history of libertarian thought, Randolph Bourne, correctly identified as the spirit of youth."