Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Defense of Lew Rockwell (Part 2)

In my first post, I responded to two major criticisms of Lew Rockwell that have surfaced in the libertarian movement, in part due to his alleged "racism" and his extreme radicalism.

And in my second post on Lew Rockwell, I intend to address several other criticisms regarding his libertarianism and his strategy. I intend to defend Lew again against certain attacks that have surfaced against his work in some libertarian circles, particularly in left-libertarian (or "cosmopolitan libertarian") circles.

1. Lew Rockwell's strategy is too hostile to libertarians that are not in perfect agreement with either Rothbard or Rockwell—in short, Lew Rockwell doesn't welcome disagreements very well. Many libertarians who disagree with Rockwell or Rothbard on certain issues often argue that Rockwell doesn't welcome them very well and harbors personal resentment against such libertarians. They see Rockwell as a bitter and cranky man that can't agree to disagree. So they often dismiss him and his work because they see him as not worth spending time with.

However, I think this is somewhat far-fetched. It is true that Lew Rockwell disagrees with several libertarians on many issues. For example, he is a culturally conservative Catholic himself while some of the folks at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (LvMI) (Roderick Long, for example) hold to different cultural and social values. However, he has respected them and welcomed them into his institute. Also, he disagrees with Ron Paul with regards to the State (Lew Rockwell is an anarcho-capitalist while Ron Paul is a minarchist-constitutionalist), but Lew has been known to be very good friends with Ron Paul and has often praised Ron's work. 

And even when he diverges from what some libertarian would believe, he doesn't deny that they are libertarians. Far from it, he acknowledges that they are libertarians. However, Rockwell is clear that his strategy would be different from those other libertarians who hold different cultural and social values from him. He himself says in a 2006 interview:
I've noticed a general tendency here. When the right is in control, the left looks better to libertarians. When the left is in control, the right looks better. We are all generally drawn to the merits of the people who are not in power! So it is hardly surprising to see a rise of "left libertarians" in a time when the chief threat to liberty comes from the right, that is, from the red-state fascists who celebrate militarism and see no downside to every form of human-rights violation. Right now, it seems as if most of the intelligent non-libertarians are on the left. I would only caution that the left is beset with as many problems as the right. They want freedom without markets, peace without free trade, civil liberties without property rights. This can't work.
So while he does welcome some disagreements well, he doesn't welcome compromise on essential libertarian principles. And while it can get counterproductive at times (mostly because left-libertarians can huff and puff at that), I think that is a respectable position to hold.

2. Lew Rockwell promotes dangerous conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and all that crazy stuff. Another major criticism of Rockwell is with regards to his alleged promotion of conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism/anti-Israel stuff, racism, and most politically incorrect ideologies that many of his detractors despise. They argue that since the general public dislikes such stuff, Lew Rockwell's work is then a hindrance to the liberty movement, not a boon. However, I don't think that such things are harmful to the liberty movement. Yes, such stuff can be counterproductive, but I don't believe it is half as bad as the detractors make it out to be. I believe the conspiracy theories don't go to the extremes of Infowars.com (though Lew himself admires Alex Jones), and most of the "anti-Semitic" stuff is mainly rational, logical thought that refuses to look at the Israel issue with emotionally-charged eyes. As a dispensational premillennialist who believes that God still has a plan for the Jewish people, I don't exactly support much of what the neocon and Israel lobby spouts—they often support war-mongering in the name of national security, economic sanctions on "rogue" nations, and the use of statism/force in furthering their goals. I also believe that it could be argued that the Palestinian people can have a better claim to the land on propertarian/property-rights grounds and that the Zionists' actions in 1948 can be called aggression and initiation of force against civilians. And at the end of the day, I would like to close with this statement of Rockwell's himself:
Lew strives to present a diverse daily selection of interesting articles from our writers and other sites, but he does not necessarily endorse every view expressed. He does, however, believe that each piece will repay your reading.
That means that Rockwell doesn't endorse everything he publishes on the site. So keep that in mind whenever you see some "wacky" article on LRC. And sometimes the "wacky" stuff may not be so bad after all—maybe the reaction to it might not be due to the wackiness of the content per se; it may be because of the over-sensitivity of the reactor. And even the revisionist history from LRC and Mises.org (two of my favorite sites) is very eye-opening and thoughtful. It invites deeper thought and smashes long-established myths that have been taught to us about history, regarding hot topics like Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, WWI, the national-security state apparatus, WWII, the Vietnam War, and even certain aspects of the Founding. Such revisionism and history is necessary to understand the motivations of the "power elite."

Murray Rothbard argued long ago in an article on revisionism:
Revisionism is an historical discipline made necessary by the fact that all States are governed by a ruling class that is a minority of the population, and which subsists as a parasitic and exploitative burden upon the rest of society. Since its rule is exploitative and parasitic, the State must purchase the alliance of a group of "Court Intellectuals," whose task is to bamboozle the public into accepting and celebrating the rule of its particular State. The Court Intellectuals have their work cut out for them. In exchange for their continuing work of apologetics and bamboozlement, the Court Intellectuals win their place as junior partners in the power, prestige, and loot extracted by the State apparatus from the deluded public. 
The noble task of Revisionism is to de-bamboozle: to penetrate the fog of lies and deception of the State and its Court Intellectuals, and to present to the public the true history of the motivation, the nature, and the consequences of State activity. By working past the fog of State deception to penetrate to the truth, to the reality behind the false appearances, the Revisionist works to delegitimate, to desanctify, the State in the eyes of the previously deceived public. By doing so, the Revisionist, even if he is not a libertarian personally, performs a vitally important libertarian service.
Thus, revisionism is actually far more noble than its detractors, libertarian or otherwise, would like to believe. And Lew Rockwell's resources—Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, and the other stuff—do that brilliantly. They shine light and promote liberty, and they do a fine job at that.