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Anti-State, Anti-War, Pro-Market

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Tags Legal SystemWar and Foreign PolicyEntrepreneurshipInterventionismOther Schools of Thought

06/24/2009William H. Peterson

So Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., founder, CEO, thinker, of the Ludwig von Mises Institute opens his highly succcessful daily email newsletter on literally the largest nonprofit website in the world. This opening also sets the theme for his own selected articles and speeches reprinted here, displaying a leading liberatarian taking on critics of libertarianism.

E.g., he cites then Vice Pesident Richard Cheney saying "one of the things that's changed so much since Sept. 11 is the extent to which people do trust the government big shift and value it, and have higher expectations for what we can do." Dream on, Mr. Vice President.

Or, adds Mr. Rockwell, the triumph of hope over experience!

Or, notes our author, here is conservative columnist George Will writing that 9/11

forcefully reminded Americans that their nation-state … is the source of their security …. Events since Sept. 11 have underscored the limits of libertarianism.

Or Rockwell takes Johns Hopkins University Professor Francis Fukuyama to task for proclaiming the "fall of the libertarians." Fukuyama says that 9/11, "not the market or individuals," has reminded Americans "why government exists, and why it has to tax citizens and spend money to promote collective interests," such as fighting terrorists and screening passengers at airports.

Rockwell also quotes Albert Hunt of the Wall Street Journal as typical of this order of commentary: "It's time to declare a moratorium on government-bashing." And note that all this is prior to the arrival of Obamanomics. Barack Obama's name didn't even make the Rockwell book index though he became a U.S. senator in 2004. No need. We've seen this movie before.

Well, just who is this man Rockwell, who with the passing of Lu Mises and Murray Rothbard, money expert-investment advisor Gary North declares to be now the Nation's new top libertarian? Rockwell has edited six books including The Irrepressible Rothbard. In 2007 he published Mises: The Last Knight of [Classical] Liberalism by Jorg Guido Hulsmann, a 1,160-page definitive and riveting bio of Mises, 1881–1973.

Mises was the father of modern libertarianism, a towering economist in the 20th century, the man who predicted in 1920 the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union and all other socialist states due to their critical lack of market-derived "economic calculation." As collapse they rather suddenly did — from East Germany to Red China just before the 20th century ran out.

But waves of state interventionism (welfarism/"soft socialism") have long since engulfed economies over the globe, hardly the least of which is the United States.

Here is how libertarian 10th-termer Texas GOP Congressman Ron Paul, who would terminate the Fed, endorses the Rockwell work on its back-cover:

We are threatened by statism from both left and right. Their plans all depend on inflationary finance. This is why Lew's book is a clarion call for the only way out: Freedom and sound money, which he defends with equal passion.

Item: Jailing Martha Stewart. Rockwell says that her jailing was a national disgrace, that this great entrepreneur was guilty of but being beloved, famous, and rich, that when the U.S. Justice Department couldn't nail her for insider trading, it cleverly switched her indictment to obstruction of justice — whose proof was lacking, says Rockwell. He comments:

The real point of this case, I believe, was … to inspire fear and loathing across corporate America. This isn't just my opinion. This was a point made by the New York Times, in the hope that her jailing would intimidate the whole of the American business class.

Item: Wal-Mart warms up to the State? But why? Well, the CEO of Wal-Mart, H. Lee Scott, Jr., publicly called for an increase in the minimum wage, then at $5.15 an hour. So note the fact, says Rockwell, that Wal-Mart at the same time was paying between $8.23 and $9.68 an hour as its national pay average — more than half again the minimum wage. The plot thickens….

Says Rockwell: Mr. Scott found a dubious tactic to hurt its Main Street and other little-guy competitiors over America. How so? By pushing up their labor costs via "legal" state intervention, thus diverting still more cost-conscious customers to Wal-Mart.

The Rockwell cure to end such sly competition is pure libertarianism: Don't raise the minimum wage. Abolish it for good: the public good and indeed the employee's good.

Item: The rub with state occupational licensing is that it not only covers hundreds of crafts from plumbers to game wardens but it is something of a tut-tut industry in our 50 state capitals — a game of who gets what, with a solid license-fee rake-off for each state.

Of interest, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. performs an invaluable if analogous service in approving product capability for consumers. But it does so entirely in the private sector, quite a victory for freedom and free enterprise.

Item: Our author notes, for example, that not long ago the Tennessee Dental Society of licensed dentists sued to stop "danger to patients": work by professional if unlicensed dental hygienists. One such hygienist protested that her price was lower and so her customers would get their teeth cleaned more often. But she was still not a licensed dentist nor is/her hygienist, and thus was driven out of business.

C'est la vie politique, Lady, and your customers too. You best check on occupational licensing and other dubious goings-on in your state-capital Nashville and, Dear Readers everywhere else, in your own state capital too. If — a big if — you have the time, patience, and ability to counter glib bureaucrats and politicians.

Such ability is where Rockwell shines — most knowledgeable and most articulate on a market society in which pro-state and pro-war activities are explored and deplored.

So Rockwell raises a central question for our troubled time: Just what is the State as it has evolved so interventionistically since shortly after passage of the Bill of Rights? Early-on interventions such as trade protectionism (hurtful to the South), central banks, war, welfarism, and much more. His answer is matchless, challenging, most Jeffersonian (Rockwell much admires Jefferson):

It is the group within society that claims for itself the exclusive right to rule everyone under a special set of laws that permit it to do to others what everyone else is rightly prohibited from doing, namely aggressing against person and property.



William H. Peterson

William H. Peterson (1921-2012) was the winner of the 2005 Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Liberty. He was an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and distinguished Lundy professor emeritus of business philosophy at Campbell University in North Carolina. A "Tribute to Mises's Student and Colleague William H. Peterson" panel was held at AERC 2018.

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