February 11, 2008

John Derbyshire wishes “Dr. Paul had gone deeper into” what he calls “the National Question,” and remarks:

“It is true that he is a latecomer to the issue, having passed through orthodox libertarianism, in which there are no National Questions because nations themselves have been abolished as too deplorably constrictive of human liberty. Still, he might have said more and picked up some of the untold numbers of American patriots who are tired of seeing the National Question blithely ignored, or sneered at as being of concern only to ‘racists,’ ‘nativists,’ and other limbs of Satan.”

What a great phrase—limbs of Satan”! I shall certainly steal it at the first opportunity.

However, I have to say that Derbyshire’s understanding of “orthodox libertarianism” is wrong, albeit perfectly understandable: after all, the most visible evidence that libertarians are for open borders, and oppose all nations because they oppose all states, is the ideology of the Beltway libertarians, the Reason-Cato crowd. They are certainly the best-funded, and the best-known—excepting, that is, for Ron Paul.

Yet Paul comes from a different school of libertarian thought than our Beltway libertines; he’s what we call a Rothbardian, i.e. the really orthodox libertarians, who do indeed differentiate between the nation and the state. Long before Rep. Paul was running ads against birthright citizenship, Murray N. Rothbard and his followers over at the Ludwig von Mises Institute were making the case for immigration restrictions on libertarian grounds, i.e. from the perspective of those who believe everything ought to be privatized.

Of course, one man’s orthodoxy is another man’s heresy, but in this case it seems clear, at least to me, that Rothbard, measured against the course taken by his epigones, is the true defender of libertarian orthodoxy. I believe the Reason-Cato crowd oppose the very concept of orthodoxy, as a matter of high principle, and wouldn’t want that title to begin with. We Rothbardians, on the other hand, gladly claim it.


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