As the Tea Partiers swarm town-hall meetings, and talk of nullification, the Tenth Amendment, and even secession is in the air, I can’t help thinking, Rothbard was right!
That’s Murray Newton Rothbard (1926-95), the libertarian economist and theorist whose uncompromising intelligence instructed an entire generation of the freedom movement’s leading lights. Rothbard’s career spanned the gap between the demise of the Old Right and the rise of the Buckleyite “New Right,” which forswore the older movement’s “isolationism” and embraced a crusading interventionism and all that goes with it. As Buckley put it in an article for Commonweal back in the 50’s,
We have to accept Big Government for the duration [of the Cold War]—for neither an offensive nor defensive war can be waged given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.
This view represented a break with the Old Right’s populist perspective, which saw the New Deal and FDR’s “brain trust” as the incarnation of the “revolutionaries in spectacles,” as Garet Garrett called them. The Old Right saw the New Deal as a revolution from above, one in which the elites in business, media, and the academy sought to supplant the old America. Their activism was informed...