Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
For untold millions of Americans, libertarianism might seem like something of a passing trend -- a fad, essentially.
The band of through-and-through adherents to libertarian philosophy might be, relative to the overall population of our country, negligible, but mind this age old saying: "Big things come in small packages."
Both the guiding lights of America's libertarian movement and run-of-the-mill activists enjoy a megaphone-powered voice. While neither the mainstream left or right are behind them anywhere close to 100 percent, libertarians have found that many lefties support a liberty-minded approach to civil rights and, more broadly, constitutional protections. No small number of righties, meanwhile, endorse free market economics and stripping away bureaucracy.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that, especially with the rise of the Internet, libertarian ideas have found their way into settings which would have been inhospitable only a decade ago. Nonetheless, getting a majority of leftists, rightists, and centrists to endorse comprehensive libertarian philosophy remains an order so tall that it can best be described as unlikely.
Still, the emissaries and adherents of libertarianism press forward. One cannot help but admire their deep sense of purpose, political courage, and strident conviction.
Lew Rockwell personifies these attributes better than anyone I can imagine. He is among America's most famous and influential libertarian voices. He publishes an eponymous website which is ground zero for the libertarian chattering class; there one can find perspectives from all the shades of libertarianism, delivered without mainstream media filtration. Rockwell founded the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, which has grown into our world's foremost organ for Austrian School economic theory. Rockwell chairs the organization to this day.
As if all of this were not enough, he has authored four books, edited six, and worked closely with Ron Paul -- both as a congressional staffer and man of letters.
Rockwell spoke with me about a good many topics relating to libertarianism in American society. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: Prominent economists and politicians often say that free trade will benefit America in the long run. Many Americans disagree strongly. What is your take on this situation?
Lew Rockwell: Trade takes place in the free market only when everybody involved in an exchange expects to benefit. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any exchange. This basic principle of economics doesn’t stop at the border. So long as governments aren’t involved and trade is voluntary, trade is always desirable. Free trade benefits America in the long run, by making cheaper goods available to consumers, but its benefits aren’t confined to the long run.
Cotto: Social justice warfare has become a widespread phenomenon across developed Western societies. In the United States especially, its propagators have steel-like intensity. Across the board, what -- more than anything else -- caused the rise of social justice warrior subculture?
Rockwell: Since the Progressive Era and the New Deal, a new conception of government has replaced the American tradition of limited, Constitutional government. In the traditional view, rights meant that you were left free to make your own way, but now, the government is supposed to guarantee that people get benefits and privileges. The public education system has been taken over by the doctrine that people should be guaranteed entitlements.
With this background, it’s easy to understand how some groups, such as racial minorities, radical feminists, homosexuals and the transgendered, want to get what they think they have coming to them. Everybody must cater to them and provide them with benefits, and if they don’t get them, they will riot. Given what people are taught in government schools and the government propaganda that floods the media, what else would you expect them to do?