Phony “Radicalism” from a Reactionary Confederate Revivalist

It seems to me that maybe I just might be at least one of the persons that Lew Rockwell has in mind in this coy essay. Evidently, because I: A) don’t want to see American soldiers butchered by jihadis; B) don’t consider Iraqi police and soldiers to be “quislings” and “traitors”; C) don’t favor the return to power of the thugs who’ve been ruling Ukraine since the breakup of the USSR; D) believe that, having made a stupid decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam, the U.S. government should not announce that all U.S. troops in Iraq will henceforth be on their own and that they should make their own way back to the U.S., struggling through the Iraqi population as it is massacred by Islamic radical jihadis, fascist Ba’athists of the former security apparatus, and warring factions in an at-least-three-way-civil-war, then it must follow that I am a “moderate.” And not only that, but one who depends wholly on the state’s favor,

The radical does not seek the state’s favor. The moderate depends wholly on it.


The moderates always seem to come down on the side of the prison wardens. Only when the radicals have broken through the wall, and the path is perfectly clear and safe, do they grab the chance and make a run for it. In retrospect, for example, even moderate libertarians grant that the American Revolution, repealing the Corn Laws, and overthrowing Soviet central planning were wonderful things. But they know in their hearts that they would have lacked the courage to do their part.

Poor, sad Lew Rockwell, surrounded by his anti-Semitic, segregationist, and racist friends, whistling Dixie and wishing for the Confederacy to Rise Again. If he’d look into the editions of Socialism(by Ludwig von Mises), The Fatal Conceit (by F.A. Hayek), The Economic Way of Thinking (by the late Paul Heyne), and a variety of books by Mises, Hayek, Friedman, and other classical liberal anti-communists (well, certainly the ones printed in Russian in the USSR), he’d find that the title pages thank one “Tom Palmer” for having arranged for their translation and publication. What a moderate that jerk must have been! And how courageous Lew Rockwell must have been! (True, when I talked to the fellow who arranged for all those publications, he didn’t recall any “Lew Rockwell” at the time in Moscow, Budapest, Prague, Tirana, Bucharest, Warsaw, Berlin, Sofia, Zagreb, Belgrade, Krakow….or well, anywhere like that. It must have been the “radical” thing to do to stay in Alabama. And not only that, but courageous, too!)

But seriously folks, the idea that screaming from the sidelines, retreating from intelligent debate and instead scuttling under a rock to cozy up to anti-Semites and racists, and denouncing attempts to formulate strategies to disengage the state’s talons from civil society is “harder” or “courageous” is, well, laughable. Those things are actually easy. You don’t have to do any hard thinking and you don’t have to reckon with any consequences. What’s hard is to grapple with real problems, to acknowledge both the bad and the good consequences of choices, and to reject fairy tales in favor of realism. To do that you have to realize that, unlike impotent caricatures such as Lew Rockwell and Justin Raimondo, you have to take responsibility for what you propose. And that’s never easy.

Note: For documentation of some of the harm that Lew Rockwell does to libertarian ideas, see a number of the items under “The Fever Swamp.” I thought I’d give the issue a rest for a while, since there are actually lots of good things going on in the world on which to comment and report…but Rockwell seems deliberately to present such an easy target and his latest column was such a clear challenge. (Expect later some more material I discovered about his connections to truly spooky holocaust deniers and racists — even scarier than those documented in the entries in The Fever Swamp.)

Note: I’ve posted again a very sad posting that Mr. Stephen Kinsella had put on a rather catty web site that has created to post attacks on me. In any case, after I linked to it, they took it down and oddly replaced it with a colorful bit of revisionist (i.e., completely made up) history by Justin Raimondo. So here’s Mr. Kinsella’s defense of Lew Rockwell’s truly nutty belief that the black mayor of San Francisco called Condoleeza Rice before 9/11 to warn her not to fly. (My original post was here.) And here Download file is Mr. Kinsella’s rather sad response. It is truly one of the saddest pleas for understanding I’ve ever read.

52 Responses to “Phony “Radicalism” from a Reactionary Confederate Revivalist”

  1. Tom G. Palmer

    Well, it’s very late, I’m still preparing my notes for my talks at Duke University tomorrow (actually, today!), so I’m going to close down this thread for now. Much has been said. If something more really has to be said here, email it to me and I’ll post it.

    In the meantime, for any brave (or something like that) souls who have read to this point, go and read Lew Rockwell’s remarks and ask whether it seems a reasonable portrayal of my life or my ideas. Or whether it is a good defense of someone who thinks that the best way to get the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq is to mock the death by friendly fire of Pat Tillman or to toast the killing of American soldiers. (For documentation, visit “The Fever Swamp” at and look, for example, at the posts for December 23.)

    I’m off to convince people of the virtues of freedom of trade and peace at Duke University.

    LATER ADDENDUM: About that “faculty list” of the Mises Institute. It’s now gotten a wee bit smaller, since some people who had been listed *without ever having been asked* have demanded that their names be taken off,and finally someone did. It seems that anyone who ever showed up at a meeting is listed; they don’t have the decency to ask if they want to be listed as “Faculty” of the Mises Institute. I wonder how many others on the list are not aware that their names are listed as “Faculty.”