- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009



By Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

Ludwig von Mises Institute, $29, 568 pages

Reviewed by William H. Peterson

So Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., founder-president-thinker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, opens his highly successful daily e-mail newsletter on literally the largest nonprofit Web site in the world. That opening features his own selected articles and speeches, reprinted now in “The Left, the Right & the State,” a book displaying a leading libertarian’s taking on of critics of libertarianism.

For example, he cites then-Vice President Dick Cheney saying, “one of the things that’s changed so much since September 11th is the extent to which people do trust the government and value it, and have higher expectations for what we can do.” Ha, says Mr. Rockwell, “The triumph of hope over experience!”

Or, notes the author, here is columnist George Will writing that Sept. 11 “forcefully reminded Americans that their nation-state … is the source of their security. Events since Sept. 11 have underscored the limits of libertarianism.”

Mr. Rockwell takes Duke University professor Francis Fukuyama to task for proclaiming the “fall of the libertarians.” Mr. Fukuyama says Sept. 11, “not the market or individuals,” reminds Americans “why government exists, and why it has to tax citizens and spend money to promote collective interests,” including fighting terrorists and screening passengers at airports.

Mr. Rockwell also quotes Albert Hunt of the Wall Street Journal as typical of this genre of commentary: “It’s time to declare a moratorium on government-bashing.” And note that all this is before the arrival of Obamanomics. President Obama’s name didn’t even make the Rockwell index, though he became a U.S. senator in 2004.

Well, just who is this Llewellyn Rockwell whom money expert and investment adviser Gary North declares to be the nation’s new top libertarian with the passing of Mr. Mises and Murray Rothbard? Mr. Rockwell has edited six books, including “The Irrepressible Rothbard.” In 2007, he published “Mises: The Last Knight of [Classical] Liberalism” by Jorg Guido Hulsmann, a 1,160-page definitive and riveting biography of Mr. Mises, 1881-1973.

Mr. Mises was the father of modern libertarianism, a towering economist in the 20th century, the man who, in 1920, predicted the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union and all other socialist states because of their critical lack of market-derived “economic calculation.” As collapse, or change, they rather suddenly did … from East Germany to Red China just before the 20th century ran out.

But waves of state interventionism (“soft socialism”) have long since engulfed economies over the globe, especially the U.S. economy.

Here is how libertarian 10th-termer Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, who would terminate the Federal Reserve, endorses the Rockwell work on its back cover: “We are threatened by statism from both left and right. Their plans all depend on inflationary finance. This is why Lew’s book is a clarion call for the only way out: Freedom and sound money, which he defends with equal passion.”

Item: Jailing Martha Stewart. Mr. Rockwell says her jailing was a national disgrace, that this great entrepreneur was guilty of nothing but being beloved, famous and rich; that when the U.S. Justice Department couldn’t nail her for insider trading, it cleverly switched her indictment to obstruction of justice - proof of which was lacking, Mr. Rockwell says. He comments:

“The real point of this case, I believe, was - to inspire fear and loathing across corporate America. This isn’t just my opinion. This was a point made by the New York Times, in the hope that her jailing would intimidate the whole of the American business class.”

Item: Wal-Mart warms up to the state? But why? Well, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, H. Lee Scott Jr., publicly called for raising the minimum wage, then $5.15 an hour. So note, Mr. Rockwell says, that Wal-Mart at the same time was paying $8.23 to $9.68 an hour as its national average … more than half again the minimum wage. The plot thickens… .

Says Mr. Rockwell: Mr. Scott found a dubious tactic to hurt its Main Street and other little-guy competitors over America. How so? By pushing up their labor costs via “legal” state intervention, thus diverting more cost-conscious customers to Wal-Mart.

The Rockwell cure to end such sly competition is pure libertarianism: Don’t raise the minimum wage. Abolish it for good: the public good … and in fact the employee’s good.

Item: The rub with state occupational licensing is that it not only covers hundreds of crafts from plumbers to game wardens, but it is something of a tut-tut industry in our 50 state capitals - a game of who gets what, with a solid license-fee rake-off for each state.

Interestingly, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. performs invaluable if analogous service in approving product capability for consumers. But it does so entirely in the private sector, quite a victory for freedom and free enterprise.

Item: Mr. Rockwell notes that not long ago, the Tennessee Dental Society of licensed dentists sued to stop “danger to patients” work by professional if unlicensed dental hygienists. One such hygienist protested that her price was lower and so her customers would get their teeth cleaned more often. But she was neither a licensed dentist nor his/her hygienist, and thus driven out of business.

Mr. Rockwell is most knowledgeable and articulate on a market society in which pro-state and pro-war activities are explored and deplored.

So he raises a central question in our troubled time: Just what is the state as it has evolved so interventionally since shortly after passage of the Bill of Rights? Interventions such as trade protectionism, central banks, inflationism, welfarism, war and much, much more. His answer is challenging and most Jeffersonian (Mr. Rockwell greatly admires Jefferson):

“It is the group within society that claims for itself the exclusive right to rule everyone under a special set of laws that permit it to do to others what everyone else is rightly prohibited from doing, namely aggressing against person and property.”


William H. Peterson is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation.

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