Aside from his legacy as one of the giants of the Austrian school and modern anarcho-capitalism, Murray Rothbard was for a time a political activist, one of the founding members of the Libertarian Party, which got its start in the basement of David Nolan’s home some 40 years ago. Rothbard’s radicalism kept the LP honest for a time, but eventually it began to behave like most other third parties, softening its principles to make its platform more appealing. Eventually Rothbard, following a split with “low tax liberals” such as Ed Crane (founder of the Cato Institute) and David Koch (a Cato benefactor), left the LP, and took with him most of its radical heart.
No doubt Rothbard would be doing barrel rolls in his grave to see what’s become of the LP lately. The most recent candidates for the party’s Presidential nomination, Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root, both former Republicans, have been hard at work promoting not so much personal liberty but the kinder, gentler sides of former and current members of the U. S.’s stable of tinpot dictators.
First, there’s Barr, now a lawyer based in Atlanta, representing Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former “president for life” of Haiti who now stands accused of ransacking his country’s treasury. Barr attempted to defend his client by favorably comparing his reign to an earthquake:
Speaking to CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield, Barr did his best to defend his client’s tainted legacy, noting that, while Duvalier “is very well aware of the personal risk that he faced coming back to Haiti,” that “paled in comparison to the needs of his people.” Barr was tight-lipped about the details of Duvalier’s return and what he wanted to accomplish, other than to say that he wanted to “see funds made available to help the relief effort which, by any reasonable estimate here, has not progressed well.”
Then Whitfield hit Barr with a tough question on his integrity: after all the American government had done to clean up Duvalier’s mess, as a former Congressman, did he see any conflict of interest? Barr seemed to take offense, arguing that the American government had not helped much and, that, in fact, “the country is in worse shape now than it was at the time Mr. Duvalier was president.”
Well, at least Barr isn’t representing the LP in his capacity as Baby Doc’s defender. I wish the same could be said of Root’s mash note for Egypt’s embattled president Hosni Mubarak, which was not only written by a sitting LP committee chair but was published on the party Web site:
I just got off the phone with a longtime friend- a successful Egyptian business leader. He believes that several hundred thousand people in the streets do not represent the 80 million citizens of Egypt. They represent anarchists, communists, and Islamic extremists- all with an agenda and axe to grind. He says if you polled the people of Egypt today, the majority would support Mubarak. He says that the backbone of Egypt- the business owners, small business community, and middle class still support Mubarak and the military. They are horrified by the mobs in the street and are shocked at Obama’s tepid response to the riots and the one-sided portrayal of the situation by the U.S. media.
Because, you know, video footage of protesters being beaten and shot by Mubarak’s hired thugs can’t possibly mean that…Mubarak has sent hired thugs out to beat and shoot protesters. And besides, they’re anarchists, the filthy little upstarts. Totally asking for it!
It is shameful that the party of Nolan and Rothbard has become the party of apologists for dictators, but I can take comfort in knowing that as the Libertarian Party’s radical core has dwindled to nothing, so too has its relevancy to libertarianism in general.