I have often observed that libertarian principles can corrupt the character even of good men. Whether that is the reason or simply personal vanity, but Hans Hoppe’s account (on VDARE) of the departure of Libertarians from the John Randolph Club, while it is filled with many intelligent and useful insights, is founded on an historical lie. The lie is that Hoppe, Rockwell, and the others left the Club over ideological differences having to do with the Buchanan campaign’s economic policies, which we supported because we refused to study economics. He also complains about how difficult I am to get along with, but anyone who has experienced Hans’ towering ego–”You should invite me to more meetings because I am a celebrity”–will know with how many grains of salt to take that observation
The Club was certainly divided on the economic nationalism that Buchanan had borrowed from Sam Francis. The split was not libertarian versus conservative since, on balance, Clyde Wilson and I (among many others) were never nationalists, much less economic nationalists. I supported Buchanan partly because I thought he was the best and most honest candidate to offer himself to the voters in many a year and partly because he was and remains a friend. I know personal loyalty does not mean much to libertarians, but that is one more sign of their insanity. I did not expect Buchanan to have the chance to test Sam’s theories and since I agreed with a good deal of what he was saying, I thought it more polite not to criticize views for which I had some moral sympathy but which I regarded as economically impractical, except insofar as it would be useful to attack global free trade as an instrument of internationalism aimed at hurting the American people. As Hoppe must know, our tax policies do not give American industry a fair shake.
Then what did cause the libertarian defection? The truth is that Hoppe, backed by Rockwell, precipitated the exodus. Hoppe, in a speech attacking economic nationalism in fairly extreme terms, referred to Sam Francis’s position as a form of national socialism. Later in the meeting, I took the opportunity in my speech to suggest that the man who had referred in a previous meeting to “Jews, Gypsies, and other human garbage” was in no position to compare anyone with the Nazis. I went on to say that the essence of the JRC was vigorous and open debate among friends who disagreed with each other. Name-calling that gave weapons to our enemies was a moral betrayal of the Club and its members.
Rockwell had vigorously campaigned for Pat in 1992, and so long as Murray was alive he had not regarded his economic views as an insuperable obstacle to libertarian support. But, somewhat to my surprise, he backed Hoppe all the way, and he led the libertarian walkout. have heard from some, who would deny it today, that Rockwell gave orders not to attend meetings or write for Chronicles. From what I have heard from disgruntled Misesians, they run their program in Auburn like–to quote a phrase–”a Stalinist indoctrination camp”–in which every one is required to cheer for the home team. At the fateful meeting, I talked with my friend Burt Blumert, a major supporter of the Mises Institute and a good man. He said, and I can remember it very well:
“Tom, when we started the Club, the two sides were fairly evenly matched. With Murray gone, we just don’t have the same power. All Lew has is Hans, and he has to stick with him.” I might add that Hoppe’s complaint against the cheap hotels in which we held our meetings was remedied as soon as the libertarians left. A number of their followers were impoverished dead-beats who complained about high prices. We have held meetings in quite nice hotels in Washington, Philadelphia, and Chicago, and the next meeting will be held in the very beautiful Mills House in Charleston.
I understood the difficult position Rockwell was in: In general, Libertarians cannot tolerate dissent, and he must have been taking flak from his supporters and donors even for hanging around with us. I remember when Ed Crane criticized Rockwell and Rothbard for associating with people who did not appreciate sexual diversity, and for a year they never referred to the head of Cato except as S.D. Eddy. I never quarreled with Burt of Justin Raimondo or David Gordon. I would have remained on good terms with Rockwell, if I had not received a series of reports of his hypocrisy and slander. One small example will do. When I remarked to him that Joe Sobran was now calling himself a libertarian, Rockwell asked me–entirely in jest–whether he was a tax cheat or a child molester, explaining that people became libertarians to find a justification for their moral failings. Imagine my surprise when Rockwell began telling me that I had authored this rather brilliant insight.
I would rather not have had to write this column. I will go to my grave with a sense of gratitude for having known Murray Rothbard and with respect for the achievements of several libertarians I have known, such as Justin Raimondo, David Gordon, and Hans Hermann Hoppe, but when Hoppe’s dishonest and self-serving account was published on a website directed by someone we regarded as our friend, I thought it necessary to speak out.