Thursday, March 22, 2007

Libertarian Great Divide

Interesting recent piece by Justin Raimondo at on Brian Doherty's new book, "Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern Libertarian Movement." We got a couple of copies in at the Register office, but I haven't read it yet. Brian spent a day or so at the Register while he was researching the book, and from glancing at the index, Freedom Newspapers and R.C. Hoiles were treated fairly extensively. That pleases me.

To be sure, the modern incarnation of the libertarian movement really got going in '68 or '69, but R.C. was one of those who kept the flame alive in the 1940s and 1950s, writing his daily editorials and columns and printing pieces (sometimes whole chapters of books) by the likes of Albert J. Nock, Isabel Paterson, Frank Chodorov, Rose Wilder Lane and others. Harry Hoiles, R.C.'s son, hired Bob LeFevre at the Colorado Springs paper and then was helpful in getting Bob's Freedom School in Colorado going. People like Harry Browne, Frank Chodorov, Roy Childs and a host of others lectured there, and a flock of students got a pretty solid grounding in the idea that the more a society relies on voluntary interaction the more civilized it is likely to be. R.C. also helpd Baldy Harper found IHS and Leonard Read found FEE. I have long felt that R.C.'s contributions have been unknown and unsung, especially among younger libertarians, but it looks as if Brian came pretty close to giving him his due.

Justin thinks that if the book has an overarching theme it is "the tension between the radical origins of the movement and its tentative, and often reluctant attempts to achieve 'respectability.' This comes up early, when Doherty gets into the subject of war revisionism. Back in the beginnings of the libertarian movement, starting -- says Doherty -- with Albert Jay Nock, war revisionism was a central theme." But nowadays hardly anybody wants to resurrect the shady origins of World War II or suggest that the "good war" might have been a mistake also.

What we're doing now, however, with and the Internet, is daily revisionism, daily questioning of those who manuevered us into war. When I was younger I cut my teeth on Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Tansill, Justin Doenecke and other revisionists who explained how political leaders had lied us into past wars. Not all revisionism is up to the highest scholarly standards and some is over the top. But insofar as revisionsm consists of questioning "official" history and trying to tease out events the court historians don't include, then most good history has a whiff of revisionism and questioning the official version is almost always healthy.

I think familiarity with revisionists, some better than others, left me fully prepared to question the motives and the accuracy of current leaders from the first day they started beating the war drums. And we haven't been alone this time. Although Justin takes some swipes at Cato for going establishment in Washington, Cato's foreign policy people have been solidly against the Iraq war from the beginning, and I've valued their contributions as well as those of Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute people.

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