Rothbard’s Political Spectrum

This essay from Murray Rothbard provides some intellectual stimulation for those who are well-versed in libertarian political theory. It’s dense reading, but provides some insight into certain ideological traps into which I myself have fallen.

One is the oft-repeated mantra that libertarians are better friends with right-wingers than left-wingers. Rothbard highlights that libertarianism, then called liberalism, was the left-wing but a century ago. It goes to show that liberalism was never meant to be a chronological ideology, but one of principle. Conservatives try to maintain the status-quo, or return to the recent past. Progressives promote the ‘next big thing,’ whether it’s a new form of liberty or tyranny. Both of these camps are incompatible with a principled position, because liberty will not always be fashionable in the near future or recent past. Sometimes, a couple centuries will have elapsed since the last good libertarian revolution (wink, wink).

Principled ideologies require relentless devotion, and a sense of hope. That is Rothbard’s main point: our current self-concept, as freedom activists, is shaped by America’s recent history. Our current self-concept is that we hold an extreme right-wing ideology, that we are losing ground to the statists, that conservatives are our closest allies in the struggle, and that the masses are hopelessly gullible to populist wiles. The lesson is thus: pick up your chin, trust no statist over another, and resist their barbarity knowing full well that liberty has historically been the stronger — and more popular — position. Remember that for us the most civilized of men, the good news is everywhere!


2 thoughts on “Rothbard’s Political Spectrum

  1. I have written and commented before, about the issue of left-right alliances. I was personally involved with conservative-libertarian-liberal concurrences-of-sorts, starting in 1999 and 2000, with the opposition to globalism and internationalism [though for some different reasons, by each group], on issues such as the WTO, the United Nations, Bill Clinton’s illegal in Kosovo, and other aspects of the New World Order.

    This has been present more recently, with regard to the Iraq war, in addition to privacy and other contemporary topics. There are conservatives and liberals on both sides of those issues, something which I’ve blogged about several times before, during the past few years.

    I war reminded of this, just yesterday, especially after seeing this article, regarding the recent protests about the Montebello summit, regarding the North American Union.

    This was written prior to 9/11… even then there was an anti-war movement taking place, which had continued from the Clinton administration (during which and were founded).

    As Murray Polner said in that piece… Why not?

    If that’s what it’s going to take, to stop the madness… then we all need to work together.

  2. I agree that creating a ‘bigger tent’ will ultimately benefit liberty, peace, and good governance.

    I’m a little puzzled about your discussion of libertarians joining a chorus against globalization. The United Nations does, of course, promote a nationalist and anti-liberal world order. It prohibits secession and legitimizes the dominance of federal empires (US, Russia, China). However, melting borders and globalized trade are certainly a byproduct of a spreading belief in economic freedom. If governments would only allow people to move as freely as they are now allowing goods.

    Every state in this world should have a libertarian party or movement. If yours doesn’t, get working. It only takes one person to get the balll rolling. Just look at Ron Paul (

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