14 Dec 2008

A Stern But Sobering Lecture from Lew Rockwell

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Lew Rockwell, president of the Mises Institute, has an amazing article at his website today, imploring libertarian intellectuals to stick to their principles even now when things are scary. A taste:

If you write and follow politics enough, you eventually realize that most evil in this world is brought about by those seeking a lesser of two evils. And those who assist in this very much resent it when you point out that they are promoting evil.

To bail [the Big Three] out with tax dollars is an amazing insult to American consumers. What Americans have chosen not to buy, the government is now effectively forcing them to buy. You want a Toyota and paid for it with your money but your government is now saying that you should have bought a Pontiac, so it is tapping into your bank account to make it happen – and then not even giving you a car for your money!

But let’s return to the problem of those who have caved in. I’m getting messages from people who believe in free markets saying that we have to do this bailout anyway, otherwise we will face worse consequences. The unions will strike back. There will be massive protectionism to prop up the industry. Free market people will get a bad name for not supporting the little guy. Our industrial base will further erode. Unemployment will soar and then the masses will riot and we’ll get Bolshevism. And so on.

I grant that all the predicted results of failing to pass it would be bad. They might even be worse than a bailout, who is to say? But these are speculations about the future. What we face right now is a terrible evil of a bailout, and great good comes from its failure to pass. What’s more, if free market people can’t bring themselves to oppose that, what good are they anyway?

If a dystopian nightmare of the totalitarian state finally arrives in the United States, it will be a result of a compromise, and there will be people around until the very end who will insist that we should be grateful because it could be much worse.

This kind of strategizing also works as a cover for selling your soul. The temptation to do this is very great indeed. The state loves nothing more than a seeming libertarian who weighs in from time to time with a pro-state position. This allows the state and its minions to justify their oppression even from the standpoint of libertarian intellectuals. When you sell out, this is the role you are playing (and this is the role that some D.C. organizations have been appointed to play).

There is only one sure way that you can know that you are on the right side of history, and that is by saying what is true and defending what is right, without exception. It is not left to intellectuals to play political games. Intellectuals are supposed to tell the truth, regardless of the moment. That means, in these days, completely opposing all increases in state power under the cover of “countercyclical policy.”

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