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A History of the Left/Right Liberal/Conservative Paradigm

“People who resist authority, who defend the rights of the individual, who try in a period of increasing totalitarianism and centralization to reclaim these rights — this is the true Left in the United States.” ~ Murray Bookchin

When asked about the socialist, the Maoist and Trotskyites, and the liberals of the Democratic Party, the people most Americans regarded as “the Left,” Bookchin replied, “Those people are going toward authoritarianism, toward totalitarianism. They are becoming the real Right in the United States .”[1]

Bookchin was referring here to a conception of Western political history in which, as Karl Hess had put it a few years earlier, on “the far right…we find monarchy, absolute dictatorships, and other forms of absolutely authoritarian rule,” while the Left “opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands.” Just as the farthest Right you can go is absolute dictatorship, Hess argued, so “the farthest left you can go, historically at any rate, is anarchism—the total opposition to any institutionalized power, a state of completely voluntary social organization.[2]

To understand this perspective on Western politics, we must look back to the time, more than 250 years ago, when the terms Left and Right, liberal and conservative, first came into general usage. In the beginning, Murray Rothbard tells us,

…there was the old order, the ancien régime, the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a despotic ruling class, using the church to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism; this was the right wing. Then, in 17th and 18th century Western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition movement arose… a popular revolutionary movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government, free markets, international peace and separation of church and state, in opposition to throne and altar, to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy and war. These people were the left…[3]

Don Lavoie, writing nearly two decades later, in the mid 1980s, came to much the same conclusion. He wrote of “numerous popular revolts against the society of empire, feudalism, mercantilism, and privilege on behalf of principles of natural law or justice, from which none, not even kings and popes, are exempt,” and continued:

Some of the earliest to formulate these vague principles into more specific shape were the Levellers of the English Civil War (1642-1647), the radical liberals during the French Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century, and the American revolutionaries. Here was the original Left, the radicalism that opposed government power not by putting forth a set of reforms for the state to implement but by insisting on a set of rules—or natural laws, as they called them—by which all human beings, including those in positions of power, are to be equally limited in order that they be equally free.[4]

These people—the ones doing all the formulating and insisting, the ones who made up “the original Left”—were known at the time as “liberals.” Their doctrine, an outgrowth of the 18th Century Enlightenment (English and Scottish as well as French), was called “liberalism.” “Liberalism,” Rothbard says, was “ the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was Conservative, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the old order.” It wasn’t long before “political ideologies were polarized, with Liberalism on the extreme ‘Left,’ and Conservatism on the extreme ‘Right’ of the ideological spectrum.”[5]

As professor Owen Connelly of the University of South Carolina notes, in his widely used textbook French Revolution/Napoleonic Era, “the Revolution proper (1789-1799) saw an incredible succession of governments—absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy (in various forms), representative republic, authoritarian republic, bourgeois republic…[6]

 And it was within one of those revolutionary governments, in the Legislative Assembly in the fall of 1791, that the terms Right and Left were first used in a political sense. As the Durants tell it, when the assembly convened, the “substantial minority dedicated to preserving the monarchy…occupied the right section of the hall, and thereby gave a name to conservatives everywhere.” The liberals “sat at the left on an elevated section called the Mountain; soon they were named Montagnards. In the center sat 355 delegates who refused to be labeled…[7]

Though the American and French revolutions had much in common, they also differed in important aspects. They differed, for example, with regard to the precise character of the liberalism that dominated each of the two struggles. The famous slogan of the French revolution— Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!—holds the key to this important difference. The idea of equality figured in the American Revolution as well, of course—didn’t Thomas Jefferson write in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal”? But to Jefferson and the other American liberals, “equality” meant equality of rights, equality before the law. In France, by contrast, to more than a few of the revolutionaries, it meant much, much more than that. In the eyes of these French liberals, it was, as Ludwig von Mises summarized their view more than a hundred years later,

Not enough to make men equal before the law. In order to make them really equal, one must allot them the same income. It is not enough to abolish privileges of birth and of rank. One must finish the job and do away with the greatest and most important privilege of all, namely, that which is accorded by private property. Only then will the liberal program be fully realized, and a consistent liberalism thus leads ultimately to socialism, to the abolition of private ownership of the means of production.[8]

According to the Progressive Historian Vernon Louis Parrington, whose Main Currents in American Thought won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928, John Adams spoke for many American revolutionary leaders and activists when he criticized French revolutionists for preaching “equality of persons and property.”[9] For, as Connelly notes, the concepts of liberty and equality—when equality is taken to mean equality of income or equality of property—are “contradictory.” This kind of equality “had to be imposed by force by the central government,” and it wasn’t long before “the advocates of greater equality became the proponents of greater central power.”[10] Need it be added that “greater central power” is precisely the opposite of everything the liberals had long been fighting for and eagerly anticipating?

Mercantilism, according to political scientist David Osterfeld, is “a system in which the operation of the market is impeded by extensive government restrictions for the benefit of the ruling group.”[11] Another name for this kind of arrangement is state capitalism. Yet another is corporatism. Still another, if a fervent nationalism is added to the mixture, is fascism. How could people who thought of themselves as liberals, men and women of the Left, embrace such heresy?

According to Lavoie, the answer is to be found in an understanding of the role played in the liberal movement late in the 18th Century and early in the 19th Century by the ideal of equality. A good many liberals came to believe “that a planning bureau could rationally and democratically control the cultural and economic development of society for the benefit of all”; as a result, “the ambition of the Left came to be not just the complete equality of rights, as important as that was still thought to be, but the more grandiose ideal of equality of wealth.”[12]

The liberals who became ensnared by this vision of a totally egalitarian society adopted socialism as their new ideal. It is customary today to regard socialism as the polar opposite of the doctrine of individual liberty and free trade, but in fact, as Rothbard notes, that is not the case. It is “conservatism,” he writes, that

was always the polar opposite of classical liberalism. Socialism, in contrast, was not the polar opposite of either, but rather, in my view, a muddled and irrationally contradictory mixture of both liberalism and conservatism. For socialism was essentially a movement to come to terms with the industrial revolution, to try to achieve liberal ends by the use of collectivistic, conservative means.[13]

In a later essay, Rothbard expanded upon this insight. “Socialism,” he wrote,

like Liberalism and against Conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc. Or rather, to be more precise, there was from the beginning two different strands within Socialism: one was the Right-wing, authoritarian strand, which glorified statism, hierarchy, and collectivism and which was thus a projection of Conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization. The other was the Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism—but especially the smashing of the State apparatus to achieve the "withering away of the State" and the "end of the exploitation of man by man."[14]

The socialist apostasy, however partial, proved more popular in Europe than in America—at first. At first, American liberals hewed closely enough to the individualist values to shake off any temptation they might have felt to adopt the socialist line. Still, as the late Arthur Ekirch contends in his classic work, The Decline of American Liberalism

Since the time of the American Revolution, the major trend in our history has been in the direction of an ever-greater centralization and concentration of control—politically, economically, and socially. As a part of this drift toward “state capitalism” or “socialism,” the liberal values associated with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment—and especially that of individual freedom—have slowly lost their primary importance in American life and thought.[15]

As Ekirch notes, “the revolutionaries’ ideological leaders apparently were not prepared for the conservative and nationalistic consolidation that followed the war.”[16] As “the war itself had helped to breed a new aristocracy of talents and wealth eager to avail itself of the privileges lost by the departing loyalist upper class.” Little wonder, then, that “after the return of peace…the new generation of businessmen should strive to enlist the aid of the government in preserving and increasing their wartime gains.”[17]

Ekirch contends that the new Constitution was not an actual policy of paternalism, but merely “a skeleton for the further development of a strong paternalistic state.” Still, the very first political party to control the machinery of government in the United States under the new Constitution, the Federalist Party, was only too happy to do whatever it could to make such a paternalistic state a reality. Alexander Hamilton, whom Ekirch calls “easily the most significant” of the Federalist leaders and a firm believer “in the virtues of a strong rather than a weak government,” was “unhampered by intellectual loyalty to radical or Revolutionary principles,” and was bent on seeing “his program of economic nationalism” imposed on the nation.[18]

Hamilton—need it be said?—was the first great conservative in American politics. His party, the Federalist Party, was the first conservative party, the first Right-wing party in American political history. As Ekirch reminds us, “the Federalists…pursued a constantly illiberal course during their twelve years of power.”[19]

They were not without opposition, of course. As Ekirch notes, even before the twelve-year period began, “conservatives were everywhere taking fright over the possibility of a resurgence of the old Revolutionary spirit of radicalism among the lower classes. Debtor farmers, property-less mechanics, and discontented ex-soldiers…were beginning to unite in their opposition to strong government and higher taxes.”[20]

If the Federalists were the first American conservatives, the Jeffersonians were the first American liberals. The twelve years of Federalist rule—the Washington and Adams administrations—were followed by forty years of rule by Jefferson’s party, the Democratic-Republicans, later the Democrats. By the time the Democrats finally fell from power in the election of 1840, their opposition had long since withered away and died. They were replaced by the Whigs, a new conservative party that began life as a faction within the Democratic-Republicans. By 1856, the Whigs had ceased to exist, following the Federalists into oblivion. They were replaced by the Republicans, who fielded their first candidate for the presidency in 1856 and won their first presidential election with their second candidate, Lincoln, in 1860. As the Whigs were merely the Federalists dressed up in more modern clothing, so the Republicans were merely Whigs with an anti-slavery veneer.

As University of South Carolina historian Clyde Wilson puts it,

Apparently millions continue to harbor the strange delusion that the Republican Party is the party of free enterprise. In fact, the party is and always has been the party of state capitalism. That, along with the powers and perks it provides its leaders, is the whole reason for its creation and continued existence. By state capitalism I mean a regime of highly concentrated private ownership, subsidized and protected by government. The Republican Party has never opposed any government interference in the free market or any government expenditure except those that might favor labor unions or threaten Big Business.

As Wilson tells it, “The very name of the Republican party is a lie. The name was chosen when the party formed in the 1850s to suggest a likeness to the Jeffersonian Republicans of earlier history.” The first problem was that “the Northern Republicans were totally committed to a mercantilist agenda, every plank of which Jeffersonians had defined themselves by being against.” What the new Northern Republicans were offering was really nothing more than a repeat of “the Whig program—raising the tariff up, re-establishing the national bank, and distributing lavishly from the treasury to companies that promised to build infrastructure.”[21]

Rothbard agrees with Wilson’s contention that the GOP was never a liberal party. “The classical liberal party throughout the nineteenth century was not the Republican, but the Democratic party,” he wrote in 1980, “which fought for minimal government, free trade, and no special privileges for business.”[22]

After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the Republican Party held the White house for almost the entirety of the next half century and consistently pursued its Hamiltonian economic policies throughout that period.

Enter William McKinley of Canton Ohio. According to William Appleman Williams, McKinley believed that the United States must “abandon laissez faire, accept the corporation political economy, organize it rationally and effectively, and expand it by tightening up control of the Western Hemisphere and winning economic dominance of Asia. It was in order to implement this profoundly illiberal vision that McKinley and a handful of his closest advisors decided in 1898 to go to war against Spain. It was the selfsame handful of Republicans that decided a short time later to harshly put down the rebellion that arose in the Philippines aster US victory-in the war—a rebellion led by local nationalists who had dared to imagine that the end of Spanish colonial control meant true independence for their islands.

By the turn of the 20th century, liberals were no longer in control of the Democratic Party. And to the extent that certain liberals did still wield significant influence within the party, they tended to be “liberals of a more conservative persuasion,” which is to say, liberals who believed liberal goals could be attained through conservative means. We have already seen how this error fueled the socialist movement, especially in Europe, beginning in the early 19th century. Now, in America, a hundred years later, it fueled a new “reform” movement called Progressivism. And just as socialism wound up with both a Left and a Right wing, so did Progressivism.

The Right-wing, authoritarian strand was best exemplified by Theodore Roosevelt. As Ekirch writes,

Roosevelt as president exemplified to a superlative degree the nationalistic side of progressivism. An enthusiastic believer in a strong centralized government, under firm executive leadership, Roosevelt was a patrician reformer who frankly preferred the principles of Hamilton to those of Jefferson. Concern over the welfare of the common man and an interest in clean government fitted in with his upper-class belief in the social responsibilities of the educated and wealthy citizen. At the same time he had only the greatest scorn for the kind of middle-class individualism and liberalism that emphasized minding one’s own business both at home and abroad.[23]

The other strand within Progressivism was the Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified by the many Progressives working within the traditionally liberal Democratic Party. The most important of these was the idealistic history professor and university president who became the first Democratic to win the White House in twenty years—Woodrow Wilson. At the beginning of his intellectual odyssey, Wilson exhibited what Ekirch calls, “a good deal  of nostalgic sympathy for a Jeffersonian type of liberal society,” as well as, “a deep admiration for the point of view of classic, nineteenth century English political and economic liberalism.”[24]

However, by the time Wilson won the presidency, his old commitment to liberal ideals had undergone something of a transformation. For though Ekirch says of Wilson that it was only “in the later stages of his career, as he turned his attention from the academic world to the chance of success in politics, that he began to embrace the nationalistic and progressive currents of his time,”[25] John Dos Passos tells us in his historical work, Mr. Wilson’s War (1962) that the first published article by the newly minted Princeton undergraduate was, “an appreciation of Bismarck.”[26] “What of the intellectuals of the Progressive period,” Rothbard wrote in 1965, “damned by the present-day Right as ‘socialistic’? Socialistic in a sense they were, but what kind of ‘socialism’? [It was] the conservative State Socialism of Bismarck’s Germany, the prototype for so much of modern European—and America —political forms.”[27]

From the beginning, Wilson had admired liberal ideals, but he had also been drawn to conservative methods of attempting to realize those ideals. And his two terms as president can only be characterized as an orgy of conservative policymaking. His policies, Ekirch writes, “seemed to vacillate between those proposed by conservative business interests and the demands of the more nationalistic progressives.” With respect to domestic policy, Wilson, the “liberal,” was scarcely distinguishable from Theodore Roosevelt, the GOP conservative. In foreign affairs, the story was a bit different. As Arthur S. Link put it in his 1954 study, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917, “the years from 1913 to 1921 witnessed intervention by the State Department and the navy on a scale that had never before been contemplated, even by such alleged imperialists as Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.[28]

And then, of course, the Wilson administration led America into World War I. “Five months after his reelection on the slogan He kept us out of war,” John Dos Passos wrote in 1932, “ Wilson pushed the Armed Ship Bill through congress and declared that a state of war existed between the United States and the Central Powers.”[29] Robert Higgs puts the same idea even more plainly. “More than anything the Progressives had achieved,” he writes, “was undercut American liberties and fed the growth of Big Government.’[30]

Since the time of Lincoln, the Republican Party had always stood for strong central government, top-heavy bureaucracy, and hefty handouts to big business. The fact that the voters evicted a Republican in 1932 and elected a Democrat surely meant that American public opinion was leaning in a more liberal direction.

But of course Franklin Roosevelt dashed all such liberal hopes within the first hundred days of his administration. In effect, once elected, he tossed the Democratic platform of 1932 into the trash can and proceeded to show the electorate that he could play the conservative game better than any Republican. First he took Hoover’s Hamiltonian policies and enormously expanded them; then, astonishingly, he had the effrontery to describe himself and his stolen program as “liberal.”

John T. Flynn, journalist and commentator and a noted liberal spokesman since the 1920s, wrote in 1940 that “I see the standard of liberalism that I have followed all my life flying over a group of causes which, as a liberal along with all liberals, I have abhorred all my life.”

Flynn was correct. The term liberal had in fact been hijacked. The “two party system” in the United States now consisted of two conservative parties and no liberal party. The irony of all this was that the New Deal, the program of the fraudulent “liberals” of the Roosevelt administration, was, at heart, a profoundly conservative program. The New Deal was, as John Flynn insisted while it was happening, “a form of conservatism dress up as liberalism.”[31] The “liberals” who pushed it were actually conservatives. The traditionally liberal Democratic Party was now controlled by conservatives who falsely called themselves “liberals.” True liberals could find no proper home in either of these parties. Not surprisingly, a number of liberals chose what appeared to be their only option—working for liberal goals and ideals within one or the other of the two big conservative parties. But their efforts were doomed to failure. As George Wallace famously observed in 1968, there isn’t “a dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties.[32] Neither of them is genuinely open to liberal ideas.

As Karl Hess explains it:

The modern (or “neo”) liberal position has come to be known as a left-wing position. Actually, it lies alongside the conservative tradition, down toward the middle of the line, but decidedly, I think, to the right of its center. [Neo] liberals believe in concentrated power—in the hands of liberals, the supposedly educated and genteel elite. They believe in concentrating that power as heavily and effectively as possible. They believe in great size of enterprise, whether corporate or political, and have a great and profound distain for the homely and the local. They think nationally but they also think globally and now even intergalactically. Actually, because they believe in far more authoritarian rule than a lot of conservatives, it probably would be best to say that modern liberals lie next to but actually to the right of many conservatives.[33]

The fact is that the coming of the New Deal ended a long era in American political history—an era that had endured for more than a hundred years, an era in which every national election was a contest between a liberal party and a conservative party, both substantial in size and influence. After the coming of the New Deal, both major parties were conservative parties. For the New Deal variety of “liberalism” was not liberalism at all, but conservatism.

“It is by focusing on the history of the nineteenth century,” Murray Rothbard wrote, “that we learn of the true origins of the various ‘isms’ of our day, as well as the illogical and mythical nature of the attempted ‘conservative-liberal’ fusion.”

How, Rothbard wondered, could a classical liberal consider himself a man or woman of the Right, when “everywhere on the Right the ‘open society’ is condemned, and a coerced morality affirmed? God is supposed to be put back in government. Free speech is treated with suspicion and distrust, and the military are hailed as the greatest patriots, and conscription strongly upheld. Western imperialism is trumpeted as the proper way to deal with backward people…”[34]

It is striking how well the words of conservative leader William F. Buckley Jr. still serve to capture the essence of the American Right-wing in our own time:

Where reconciliation of an individual’s and the government’s interests cannot be achieved, the interests of the government shall be given exclusive consideration.[35]

“Spreading democracy” is the rallying cry of both the Washington Consensus and the Bush/Obama Doctrine. The “Washington Consensus” is the claim that global neoliberalism and core finance capital’s economic control of the periphery and the entire world by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only realistic alternative to misery and disaster. The “Bush/Obama Doctrine” is the bald neoconservative justification of U.S. global military domination and preemptive war—as part of a renewed attempt to make the world safe for democracy. “Spreading democracy,” is nothing but window dressing for the global dictatorship of the U.S. and core corporate governing elites.

September 11, 2001 offered the Bush Administration an opportunity to pursue an even more ambitious program of control. The Bush/Obama Doctrine of preemptive wars and regime change reflects a new level of imperial ambition by the most ideologically-driven fraction of the governing elite. September 11, 2001, was the defining moment for a president with little knowledge of the world but with faith in a messianic fundamentalism, a faith which fit neatly with the neoconservative foreign policy agenda that had been struggling for ideological hegemony for a decade or more. The neo-liberalism of the Clinton White House and the first Bush administration, however aggressive they were, remained aware of the downside of policies which alienated the rest of the world. In contrast, the second Bush’s agenda is neoconservative—it celebrates a unique American moral right to remake the world. It is, as the president has said, a crusade against evil, spreading truth, justice, and the American way whether the rest of the world likes it or not. Despite the weakness of the economy at home, the Bush/Obama agenda has changed the subject from meeting human needs to the fear of terrorists. It is a distraction, as well, from the consequences of neoliberal policies at home, diverting attention away from the sea of corporate scandals and the class-biased impact of tax cuts and slashed social spending. The last two administrations have put America on a permanent war footing. It is a plan which scares voters into not asking questions and into acquiescing to a war and domestic policies that are not in their interests.

Since September 11, American imperialism has embraced the ambitious neoconservative stance of regime change and preemptive wars to promote “truth, justice, and the American way” around the world. The current administration holds to a neoconservative philosophy at odds with both the traditional realism of the first president Bush and the liberal institutionalism of Clinton.

It is important to understand that the themes which became central to the Bush/Obama approach after September 11 were well worked out a decade earlier, including the use of preemptive military force. They were authored by the men who now are implementing them. As David Armstrong writes, “the Plan,” the name given to this more than a decade-long effort to change U.S. foreign policy, “is a warmed-over version of the strategy Cheney and his co-authors rolled out in 1992 as the answer to the end of the Cold War. Then the goal was global dominance, and it met with bad reviews. Now it is the answer to terrorism. The emphasis is on preemption, and the reviews are generally enthusiastic.” The Plan, as newly presented under the name of the Bush Doctrine, later to become the Obama Doctrine, has as its essential elements the idea that the whole world is the battlefield and the United States will go anywhere, alone if necessary, and act preemptively to bring about regime change and “no nation is exempt,” as the president puts it, to the “non-negotiable demands” of what he calls liberty, law, and justice.[36]

When these neoconservative views were proposed as the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy by the Richard Perle–Paul Wolfowitz crew under Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, in 1992 military planning documents, they were considered controversial, indeed reckless and dangerous, by most conservatives. Where once the rhetoric of U.S. policy appealed to combating a presumed Soviet plan to rule the world, now the quest for global domination is the announced goal of the neoconservative strategy. It sought to prevent the emergence of any rival, any possible challenger, to U.S. hegemony. In this strategy, a unilateralist America should maintain overwhelming military superiority and dominate friends and enemies alike. It may be argued that this was always the American goal, and merely that it can be openly stated as public doctrine in the wake of the collapse of the only other superpower in 1989. But in 1992, this bold vision was considered too extremist. Of course, most of the world still thinks it is and that it must be rejected. What the neoconservatives needed, as they wrote before September 11, was a Pearl Harbor. This is what they made of September 11, and they have, with some success, at least within the United States changed the bounds of the acceptable.

“Most of the neoconservatives in the United States advocate globalization and the neoliberal economic model.” ~ Hamid Golpira

What’s wrong with this statement?

At first glance, nothing is wrong with the statement because it is basically true. At second glance, everything is wrong with it.

Liberal and conservative used to be opposites. Now we have neoliberal neoconservatives. If the neocons are also neoliberals, how do we avoid confusion when using the words liberal and conservative?

It is natural for language to evolve, but when antonyms become synonyms, there is a problem.

The situation is similar to the Newspeak and doublethink of George Orwell’s book 1984. Newspeak was a language meant to control people by decreasing their power of reasoning through oversimplification of the language and doublethink. Orwell wrote: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The neoliberal neocons themselves use a form of Newspeak. The most glaring example of this is when neoliberal neocon officials in the United States tell citizens that they must take away some of their freedom in order to protect their freedom. Shades of Orwell’s “freedom is slavery”. When government officials and economists say the economy of a Third World country is booming, despite the fact that they know the masses live in abject poverty, and the media repeat the lie, that is doublethink through Newspeak. Of course, the economy of the country in question is only booming for the globalist and local upper classes, and perhaps also for the middle classes, but somehow almost nobody questions the lie.

The word “neocon” itself is Newspeak since its use in place of the longer form eliminates all the connotations of the words neoconservative and conservative. The term “neoliberal” is a consciously paradoxical way to describe those who identify themselves as Democrats or Progressives, but whose agenda includes views that are more traditionally associated with conservatives or Republicans.

Neo-Liberal - Someone who believes in state-socialism and state-capitalism, as long as it is the "liberal" type (i.e. he gets credit for it), the right of the state over the individual, the need for the state to intervene and control all aspects of a person's life. He thinks your life and property belong to the state, and a person's only purpose is to serve the state.

Neo-Conservative - Someone who believes in state-capitalism and state-socialism, as long as it is the "conservative" type (i.e. he gets credit for it), the right of the state over the individual, the need for the state to intervene and control all aspects of a person's life. He thinks your life and property belong to the state, and a person's only purpose is to serve the state.

"I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over." ~ Bill Clinton, in a Time magazine interview, 2004

Leviathan is a two headed monster, one head being Democratic (neo-liberal), and the other being Republican (neo-conservative). While one can change which party controls the state, whether a neo-liberal or neo-conservative leads it, one cannot change the policies of the state. Voting is an exercise in futility; there is no "lesser evil," only a different brand of evil (neo-liberal or neo-conservative). The complete failure of democracy and voting has brought us to this sad state of affairs. Alexander Fraser Tytler had this to say about democracy in 1776 when America was just starting out:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.

In the twenty-first century, any real discussion of democracy needs to be extended beyond the undemocratic nature of the global economic institutions to a larger discussion of democracy, one that goes beyond whether votes are counted fairly, opposition candidates allowed to participate on an equal basis, and the voices of ordinary people heard by their elected leaders. Democracy needs finally to be discussed in relation to class rule in capitalist societies. It is increasingly clear that much of the talk about democracy is really about the imposition of the will of a most dangerous set of policy makers who have usurped power in the United States.

Today, liberal and conservative are meaningless expressions. The neo-liberals and neo-conservatives who dominate both the Democratic and Republican parties endorse the exact same policies. The solution to ending this madness is for people to realize that the state is an obsolete, unnecessary evil. We do not need better people, or a different party, a liberal or conservative, at the head of Leviathan; we need the rampaging beast defeated before it destroys us all.



[1] Jeff Riggenbach, “Reason Interview: Murray Bookchin.” Reason October 1979, p.36.
[2] Karl Hess, Dear America (New York: William Morrow, 1975), pp.10-11, 12.
[3] Murray Rothbard, “Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal.” Ramparts, VI, 4, June 15, 1968.
[4] Don Lavoie, National Economic Planning: What is Left? (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1985), p.215.
[5] Murray Rothbard, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty (San Francisco: Cato Institute, 1979), p. 7.
[6] Owen Connelly, French Revolution/Napoleonic Era (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1979), p.2.
[7] Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Age of Napoleon (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975), p.34.
[8] Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition (San Francisco: Cobden Press, 1985), p. 29.
[9] Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought: An Interpretation of American Literature from the Beginnings to 1920 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1930), p. 324.
[10] Connelly, op.cit., p.3.
[11] David Osterfeld, “Marxism, Capitalism, and Mercantilism.” (1991) Review of Austrian Economics, pp.107-116.
[12] Lavoie, op.cit., p.218.
[13] Murray Rothbard, “The Transformation of the American Right.” 1964.
[14] Rothbard, Left and Right, op.cit., p. 11.
[15] Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., The Decline of American Liberalism (New York: Longmans, 1955), pp. ix, 33, 116.
[16] Ibid., p. 36.
[17] Ibid., pp. 39-41.
[18] Ibid., pp. 43-46.
[19] Ibid., pp. 46-47, 53.
[20] Ibid., p. 41.
[21] Clyde Wilson, “The Republican Charade: Lincoln and His Party” 7 September 2005.
[22] Murray Rothbard, Requiem for the Old Right.” Inquiry 27 October 1980: 24-27
[23] Ekirch, op.cit., p. 172.
[24] Ekirch, op.cit., p. 197.
[25] Ekirch, op.cit., p. 32.
[26] John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson’s War: From the Assassination of McKinley to the Defeat of the League of Nations (Garden City , NY:Doubleday, 1962), p.31
[27] Rothbard, Left and Right, op.cit., p. 21.
[28] Quoted in Ekirch, op.cit., p. 199.
[29] John Dos Passos, U.S.A. (New York: Library of America, 1996), pp. 565.
[30] Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 123.
[31] Quoted in John E. Moser, Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism ( New York: NYU Press, 2005), p. 113.
[32] See Richard Pearson, “Former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace Dies.” Washington Post 14 September 1998.
[33] Karl Hess, Dear America (New York: William Morrow, 1975), p. 13.
[34] Rothbard, “The Transformation of the American Right,” op.cit.
[35] Quoted in Rothbard, “The Transformation of the American Right,” op.cit.
[36] Harper’s Magazine,October 2002