Libya, Libertarianism, and the Legacy of Lanny Friedlander

Interesting article on the history of libertarianism/anarcho-capitalism and its evolution since its inception in the 1960s. By Justin Raimondo.

So we are back art Square One, so to speak. In arriving at this point in history, when both mainstream liberals and the usual neoconservative suspects are united in supporting yet another US overseas intervention, once again we have the far left and far right “fringes” in opposition. We have a worldwide financial crisis on top of the crisis of empire in the Middle East, similar to — albeit worse than — the economic ructions of Nixon’s day. We have, in short, come full circle to this Yogi Berra moment: “It’s deja-vu all over again!”

But for one difference. This time, the libertarian movement is a lot bigger, both in numbers and in resources. Even more important, it is infinitely more principled and hardcore than it was in the early days: the Rothbardian perspective evidenced in the Lehr-Rossetto piece was by no means the only or even the dominant tendency back then. It took a long and often fierce battle – an educational battle – before the essential third pillar of the libertarian “trinity” was finally cemented firmly in place. Today, in spite of a few backsliders and marginal renegades, the libertarian brand has been identified as intransigently anti-war on account of the efforts of Ron Paul and the movement he created. Or, rather, recreated – only bigger, and better, this time.

Rep. Paul is my favorite politician for the simple reason that he never fails to bring in the foreign policy angle: he takes every opportunity to bring up the ruination that militarism is visiting on our nation, the waste and fraud it enables, the damage it does to our constitutional system of limited government, the dark shadow it casts over the prospects for liberty in our time. This is hardly surprising, as Rothbard was one of Paul’s mentors right up until the great libertarian theorist’s death in 1995.

With this movement in place, and growing by the hour, libertarians are facing the current crisis – the twin crisis of fiscal insolvency and imperial decline – armed as never before. Yet we should not approach the battle with any thought that it will be any easier than it was when we were just a bunch of crazy (in a good way!) teenagers out to “smash the State.” Indeed, it will be a lot harder, because we are charged not just with building our own movement but with building a much broader resistance to incipient authoritarianism and perpetual war.

The stakes are a bit higher than they were in the 1960s. Draconian post-9/11 legislation, including but not limited to the misnamed “PATRIOT” Act, essentially repealed a good deal of the Bill of Rights, and the rest is just a mopping up operation. We are at war on two continents, and the prospect of yet another war or two is just over the horizon. In the meantime, the ticking time-bomb of our financial system can be heard above the gunfire.

The scope and severity of the crisis means that we have to build a much broader movement against the dominant trends of authoritarianism and militarism, one that extends far beyond the relatively narrow base of the libertarian movement. We here at Antiwar.com recognized this long ago: this, indeed, is the entire rationale for the existence of this web site.

This is what we need to remember when we agitate against, say, the US intervention in Libya, or any particular policy of our rulers in Washington: it isn’t just about Libya, or the specific details of why our intervention there can only end in disaster. It’s about the larger issue of America’s proper role in the world – and what that role portends for the future of the American republic. Writing about the specifics of this or that crisis, on an almost daily basis, it’s easy for me to get lost in the details: that’s why it’s important to remind ourselves, every once in a while, why we are making this fight.

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