Rothbard and Rockwell on Conservatives and the State

by Stephan Kinsella

Rothbard, in For A New Liberty:

The idea of a strictly limited constitutional State was a noble experiment that failed, even under the most favorable and propitious circumstances. If it failed then, why should a similar experiment fare any better now? No, it is the conservative laissez-fairist, the man who puts all the guns and all the decision-making power into the hands of the central government and then says, “Limit yourself”; it is he who is truly the impractical utopian.

Rockwell, from The Calamity of Bush’s Conservatism:

What does conservatism today stand for? It stands for war. It stands for power. It stands for spying, jailing without trial, torture, counterfeiting without limit, and lying from morning to night. There comes a time in the life of every believer in freedom when he must declare, without any hesitation, to have no attachment to the idea of conservatism.

Rockwell, from The Enemy Is Always the State:

Let me state this as plainly as possible. The enemy is the state. There are other enemies too, but none so fearsome, destructive, dangerous, or culturally and economically debilitating. No matter what other proximate enemy you can name – big business, unions, victim lobbies, foreign lobbies, medical cartels, religious groups, classes, city dwellers, farmers, left-wing professors, right-wing blue-collar workers, or even bankers and arms merchants – none are as horrible as the hydra known as the leviathan state. If you understand this point – and only this point – you can understand the core of libertarian strategy.

See also my post The Nature of the State and Why Libertarians Hate It.

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One response to “Rothbard and Rockwell on Conservatives and the State

  1. Just as a general point (while I ponder where to start with The Joy Of Puritanism, Illustrated Edition) one problem here is that the American experiment is overstated. The USA’s Constitution has a strong liberal/Lockean conceptual basis, but it’s not a libertarian constitution and that was never its intention. So, we cannot really say the experiment failed, because it wasn’t that kind of an experiment.

    The primary purpose of the US Constitution was a pragmatic compromise. The States felt they would be stronger unified, but feared losing their power as States, hence writing in various safegaurds against that into the Federal government. It is more a Federalist document than a liberal document. The States themselves had full oppressive powers over their citizens, and the history of America is not so much the struggle between Individual and State, as between two different levels of State- Washington and the States. For instance, the Constitution does not guarantee the citizens freedom of religion. It guarantees that that is a matter for the States, not for the Federal body. Likewise, freedom of the press. It is much the same as the current argument over whether an Englishman is better oppressed by Westminster, or by Brussels.

    So, I think it’s erroneous for Libertarians to adopt this confused American conceptualisation. It implies that America was a minarchist experiment that failed, and it never was. It was a federalist experiment that failed, and that is useful data, but a different thing entirely.