Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Murray Rothbard’s unwavering commitment to peace

My political history is very similar to that of Murray Rothbard’s, albeit from a different generation, and largely for the same reasons. Early on, Chomsky and Rothbard were my two leading influences on international relations, although I’ve since moved on to many other influences. I generally found Rothbard to be the most consistently radical of the two as Chomsky sometimes compromises with “human rights imperialism.”

By Andrew D. Allison, Students for Liberty

n an unpublished letter from 1959 to Kenneth S. Templeton, the now-famous libertarian economist, philosopher, and historian, Murray Rothbard wrote, “I am getting more and more convinced that the war-peace question is the key to the whole libertarian business.”

And key this question remained for Rothbard. Although he worked with a number of different coalitions across the political spectrum throughout his career, Rothbard never wavered in his answer, which was always ‘peace.’

Rothbard and the American Old Right

In 1946, Rothbard joined the American Old Right. According to him, “The Old Right arose during the 1930s as a reaction against the Great Leap Forward (or Backward) into collectivism that characterized the New Deal,” and “was staunchly opposed to Big Government and the New Deal at home and abroad: that is, to both facets of the welfare-warfare state. It combated U.S. intervention in foreign affairs and foreign wars as fervently as it opposed intervention at home.”

Rothbard was influenced by individualist writers such as H.L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, and Frank Chodorov. Politically, he supported Robert A. Taft, who opposed intervention, the draft, and the New Deal. Taft was considered part of the “extreme right” of the Republican Party.

During his ten-year stint with the Old Right, Rothbard called on conservatives to embrace an anti-interventionist or isolationist foreign policy. In his 1954 article, “The Real Aggressor”, Rothbard, using the pseudonym Aubrey Herbert, lamented shifting conservative attitudes toward American intervention with regards to the Korean War:

While conservatives once preferred peace and ‘isolationism,’ in our day they appeal in vague terms for liberation of foreign nations and hint that ‘We’ve been at war with Communism for years, so let’s get it over with.’”

While other Old Right conservatives would “denounce the Korean Truce and call for programs to carry war ever upward and onward,” Rothbard supported immediate peace:

“The best preventive of war is to refrain from warring — period. If we had agreed to a cease-fire when the Commies suggested it, or had pulled out of Korea altogether (even better), we would have saved thousands of American and Korean lives.”

Rothbard’s coalition with the political left


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