ologies, we are expected to believe that the actions of politiciansrnand parties are undertaken for the good of the countr)’ ratherrndian the vulgar self-interest of the participants. No ordinary personrnbelieves this (especially these days), but this civic conceit isrnstill ritually invoked by the three major interest groups supportedrnb’ the state: big business, big labor, and big media. Of these,rnthe third is most vital in keeping the present order together, forrnit is the job of the intellectuals to confer legitimacy on thosernwho rule, introducing what the Marxists used to call “false consciousness”rnamong the producing classes. Their role is to lullrnthe producers to sleep—how else could the tax-eating classesrnfeast without interruption? —and convince them that theyrnnever had it so good. I include in this group not just the keptrnpundits and journalists but also an academic wing: the courtrnhistorians, the economic planners, the various and sundr)’ theoreticiansrnand hagiographers of power whose every utterance justifiesrnthe acdons of the state and glorifies the ruling elite at itsrnhelm.rnIn Toward a Theory of Libertarian Social Change, an unpublishedrnbook dealing with the strategy and tactics of the movementrnfor a free society, the late Murray N. Rothbard defined therntv’o great opposing classes by citing John C. Calhoun’s “happyrndistinction between ‘net taxpayers’ and the ‘net tax-consumers’rnwho consdtute the State and its privileged and subsidized allies.”rnFrom a libertarian perspective, these are the bad guys—rnthe leaders of the “ta.x-eating coalition” —while the good guysrnare their taxpaying victims. “In different tiiues and places,”rnRothbard writes, “who constitutes the ruling elite will vary fromrngroup to group: ranging from Chinese emperors to Rockefellerrnand Morgan to Communist parties. Who the ruling class mayrnbe at any given time depends on an empirical analysis of thernconcrete conditions of the real world.” This libertarian classrnanalysis, which originated with the 18th-century P’rench theoristsrnof laissez-faire and was developed by Rothbard, is a prismrnthat enables us to distinguish our friends —the great MiddlernAmerican producing classes—from the enemies of liberty. Unfortunatelv,rnthe good guys have never been good at this game, asrnRothbard points out:rnContemporary libertarians and classical liberals havernbeen battling the ruling class under a severe self-imposedrnhandicap: a stubborn refusal to identify the specific membersrnof tiie ruling class — in contemporarv’ America arncoalihon led by certain big-business groups allied to technocrahcrnintellectuals and union leaders.rnContemporary conservatives are open to the same charge.rnThey spent the decades of the Cold War denying the existencernof a ruling class in Washington and concentrating on the allegedrnthreat from the competing gang in the Kremlin. Facedrnwith the bloated arrogance and increasing lawlessness of theirrnown ruling elite —made more apparent and ominous since thernfall of the Berlin Wall—the American right is just beginning torndistinguish friend and foe. The problem, at least in part, is preciselyrnthe contempt that the mandarins and intellectual gatekeepersrn—the David Corns of this world and their right-leaningrnequivalents—have for “conspiracy theories.” Too many on thernright live in fear of this disdain. But perhaps an even biggerrnproblem, avers Rothbard, is “that many libertarians believe thatrnstatism lias grown purely as the result of intellectual error, or imbibingrnerroneous ideas about what set of governmental policiesrnwill further the general welfare.” What we are facing, however,rnis not just “a fy-ranny in the service of abstract ideas,” but “a massivernsystem of economic exploitation of the productive many byrnthe parasitic ruling few.” Such people are not about to be “educated”rnand convinced to give up their thieving, rapacious, andrn(all too often) murderous ways. Rothbard argues that “statism isrnin the rational self-interest of the exploiters.” Cartels, governmentrnemployees, unions, subsidized oligarchs—all these staterndependents have a material and emotional stake in legitimizingrnand expanding state power.rnT “‘he bold revisionism that sornsuited Rothbard’s temperamentrnwas backed by solid research, buttressedrnby his encyclopedic knowledge of diversernfields, and anchored in references to anrnastonishing range of works.rnOf course, such a worldview is bound to be dismissed asrn”merely an exercise in ‘the conspiracy theory of history,’ ‘paranoia,’rn’economic determinism,’ and even ‘Marxism,'” writesrnRothbard — in spite of the similar methodology employed byrnAdam Smith, Ricardo, James Mill, Cobden, and Bright. Onlyrnmodern opponents of big government have fallen into the traprnof refusing, out of some peculiar squeamishness, to identifyrntheir oppressors. No wonder they are losing. Indeed, opinesrnRothbard, the only way to win is to name names, to expose continuallyrnthe beneficiaries and supporters of the system as beingrnone and the same. This is neither paranoia nor Marxism butrn”simply common sense.” Rothbard cites the example of a quotarnon steel imports, arguing that “only a moron would deny thatrnthe domestic steel industry . . . was the major lobbyist pushingrnfor its passage.” If so, he asked, “why not extend this sensiblernanalysis still further to more complex measures?” Foreign aid,rnthe Federal Reserve, U.S. entry into two world wars — in all cases,rnwe must ask, cui bono? Wlio beirefits?rn”Follow the money”—in the Clinton era, this old adage tookrnon new meaning. Conspiracy theories—involving everythingrnfrom the mysterious deaths that haunted the Clinton WhiternHouse to the alleged purchase of U.S. government secrets byrnChinese communists—flourished during the eight insufferablernyears of the most corrupt administration since the 1800’s, andrnwith good reason. Not since the Medicis and the Borgias had sornmuch intrigue swirled around a ruling house and roiled its attendantrninstitutions and satellites. Once decidedly “out,” conspiracyrntheories were back in —and not only on the right.rnWlien the Clintonistas blamed most (if not all) of their troublesrnon what the First Lady characterized as a “vast right-wing conspiracy,”rna taboo was broken. Wliat was new about the Clintonsrnwas not that they schemed, manipulated, and—yes—conspiredrnto fill their coffers and sate their lust for power, but that they didrnit so carelessly and brazenly, as if they thought they could “spin”rntheir way out of anything. How appropriate that this whole erarnMARCH 2001/21rnrnrn