Murray N. Rothbard’s “Foreign Policy for the Post-Cold War World” (May 1990) covers much territory in a fine fashion. However, his assessment of the Soviet situation does not rest on solid ground.
John T. Flynn prophesied the coming of fascism in the United States without realizing that fascism is merely communism in uniform with white gauntlets. Samuel Goldwyn has good advice for prophets: “Never prophesy—particularly the future.”
The Soviet situation has yet to play itself out. So also Jeane Kirkpatrick’s thesis regarding totalitarianism and authoritarianism. The totalitarians—Hitler, Mussolini, Allende, Ceausescu, and other small fry—were old soldiers who did not fade away, so they had to be blown away. The odds are that a hurricane will come to the Soviet Union. As Clausewitz said over a century ago, “Such a country [Russia] can only be subdued by its own weaknesses, and by the effects of internal dissension. In order to strike these vulnerable points in its political existence, the country must be shaken to its very center.” Lenin echoed this in his works, crediting Clausewitz, his mentor.
Pan-Slavism and Russophilism still have deep roots in Soviet areas and will be a major concern. We seem not to understand that while the United States is composed of many tribes of the earth, none are clinging to a bit of American real estate called a homeland, motherland, or fatherland. The rest of the world is saddled with tribal loyalties, with the many tribes, large and small, securely attached to their bit of ground. The many European wars arose from emotional tribal/land outbreaks.
Lord Brougham, a Scottish jurist, said, “Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave.” We have yet to see just how educated the people of the Soviet Union are; if the performance of the economy is any measure, it appears the people still have a way to go.
—Richard L. Barkley
Palo Alto, CA
Mr. Rothbard Replies:
I appreciate Mr. Barkley’s thoughtful comments. However, it strikes me that John T. Flynn’s warning of a coming American fascism was all too prophetic. What else but a “virtuous and polite . . . bureaucratic state . . . the great national banker and investor . . . a powerfully centralized government . . . masquerading under the guise of the champion of democracy” have we been living under?
I have always maintained that the collapse of communism was inevitable; what is never predictable is the timing: in Eastern Europe it took 44 years, in the Soviet Union, 72.
It is certainly true that post-communist Europe will be no Garden of Eden; instead, Europe and near-Asia are reverting to ethnic nationalisms, which indeed have been responsible for modern European wars. But this is the point: that there is no need for the United States to become embroiled in them, especially now that international communism is, to say the least, no longer a monolith. Furthermore, not only has the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe collapsed, but crumbling also is the old Russian Czarist empire. From the Baltics to the Ukraine to Kazakhstan, the conquered periphery of the old Muscovite empire is beginning to demand autonomy and even national independence. In that context, Pan-Slavism and Russophilism are about the last things in the world that the United States has to worry about.
As for education, I see no correlation with freedom or resistance to tyranny: certainly the population of Germany during the 1930’s was one of the most highly educated in the world. Nor, alas, has education saved Germany, Great Britain, or even the United States from highly destructive economic policies. I am reminded of a charming and effective paper once delivered to a scholarly conference on education by the distinguished philosopher John O. Nelson. Nelson pointed out that the major argument for compulsory education and the public school in the 19th century was that the spread of education was bound to lower the crime rate. He then presented a simple chart showing the behavior of education and crime rates per capita in the United States ever since: both figures, of course, have increased astronomically at much the same rate. While this correlation hardly proves that more education increases crime, it surely casts grave doubt on the opposite thesis.
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