The Art of the Rothbard Hack Job: A Response to an Angsty Teen’s Critique

By Ted Sonnier

Someday some budding, angsty, teenager may want to lash out in desperation against the brilliantly growing anarchist presence in libertarian circles. No longer, our exasperated teen might cry, can the libertarian community brush their “anarchist problem” under the rug around respectable company in their fancy DC buildings with their responsible “policy workshops”. We simply cannot have the anarchists muddying up our fair reputation around the right people with the right ideas who can pull the right strings.

“What to do?” he might ask. Wait right there! I’ve got the solution for you!

Write a fumbling, barely coherent hit piece on the anarchist’s revered Murray N. Rothbard with nary an honest fact within! That will show them!

Today, I will show exactly how YOU can write just such a screed. The force of this diatribe will topple down the entire edifice of anarchist thought. I’ve put together a little crib sheet that should help. Let’s begin!

Step one: The Title! What should head our screed? How can we pique the interest of our loathsome anarchist foes? Why, get it all out. Hit ‘em hard right at the start! Let ‘er rip! It must immediately enjoin the anarchists–and indeed the decent libertarians too–to acknowledge the pressing truth of the matter.



Heh. Got ‘em.

Step two: Hook the reader in the first paragraph! What good is a screed if everyone loses interest in the first few sentences? The best way to do this is to misrepresent Rothbard’s role in the minds of his admirers. Instead of a highly intelligent, extremely prolific man many look up to for his brilliance and clarity, paint a picture that students of Rothbard are actually hooded and robed acolytes, lickspittles hanging on his every distasteful word. Man, that will make them angry! They’re sure to rethink their lives now!

Then make sure to state in passing that Rothbard’s massive scholarly output, a corpus which is difficult to parse through in a lifetime, much less research and write, is paltry and unremarkable compared to that of more “achieved” individuals. Then be sure to state in no uncertain terms how little Rothbard really means in the grand scheme.

Ha! By now those childish anarchists should be seething and on their back foot! Now we get to the real work…

Step 3: List definite, incontrovertible REASONS! Yes. Here you must without doubt display how little you know about Rothbard, about Rothbard’s career, and how little you understand about what he wrote, his motivations, the epistemological foundations of his system, or much of what he published. This is all essential. See to it that you go on and on about Rothbard never getting anything done and how his life was a total waste. And make sure to distill all of his work into: he just wrote “radicalized ramblings saying the world should adopt anarchy.” Display how much you know about economics by pointing out his laughable, lamentable failure to use real numbers. How can the anarchists ignore this oversight?

Okay, good. Now drive this all home with a comparison to an actual accomplished person. It is probably good to list this actual accomplished person’s accomplishments and accolades. Double down on this person’s libertarian bona fides with a tour de farce of definitely unlibertarian actions, fail to list the unlibertarian consequences of those actions, and under no circumstances should you mention the directly unlibertarian policies enacted–if he helped institute tax withholding, for instance. If you can, slip in a sentence that implies that MMT and Keynesianism are at core totally different, and how the actually-accomplished person “dismissed” Keynesian ideas. Devastating.

If Ron Paul is your megasuperhero, definitely mention how he was just as totally, horribly, shamefully unaccomplished, since Ron Paul never passed a single piece of legislation in twenty-three years in Congress, and because all Ron Paul ever did was “radicalize teenagers to buy into [his ramblings] and worship him as a cult leader.” Actually don’t mention that. I don’t see how that would be relevant.

It is usually a good idea to list the crazy, unfounded political unions with racists and isolationists, and try to misrepresent the reasoning for doing so, if possible. At some point imply Rothbard’s envy of actually accomplished, more respectable individuals. Definitely criticize Rothbard’s strategies to bring about libertarian ideals, because, face it, they were dumb. Far better, obviously, to work with Milton Friedman and David Koch; their strategy resulted in what exists today. Accomplishments!

Definitely, DEFINITELY, maybe towards the end, to really twist the knife, infer that Rothbard was a massive racist. This is best done by submitting wild conjectures with crazy-person-thumbtack-and-string-style detective work, connecting a shaky exposition of his childhood with Strom Thurmond, Rothbard’s excommunication from Ayn Rand’s inner circle, Pat Buchanan, and Lew Rockwell. Airtight.

Highlight your unimpeachable libertarianism by supporting the Civil Rights Act and trade bills; the anarchists will see clearly that Rothbard’s failure to support either is truly heinous. It is imperative at this juncture to misrepresent Rothbard’s view of the Confederacy, maybe even tie this back to Rothbard’s dirty racism. It is not necessary to follow this up with an argument. Everyone knows merely not hating the Confederacy is sufficient to be on the wrong side of history.

Make sure to blame Rothbard for the Libertarian Party’s total ineptitude. It is so obviously his fault that the Libertarian Party, in addition to having to fight an uphill battle against the entrenched major parties, consistently nominates unlibertarian losers who invariably flop, failing even to spread the philosophy with any measure of competence.

When you are about to finish your reasons, it is best, for maximum anarchist ownage, to mention again the cult of Rothbard, complete with cultgarb, and unwaveringly state again that Rothbard never once mattered. Definitely fail to make note of the irony contained in the implication that you, the author, must totally matter, especially as a libertarian patent chaser.

Final step: Wrap it up! You’re almost done! Now you just gotta summarize your position. State again here how you’re totally libertarian, knowing lots of libertarian stuff. And point out–as it should be clear now!–that Rothbard was quite clearly NOT a libertarian. He was an ANARCHIST for Christ’s sake! And worse still? He was a dirty, racist, isolationist anarchist, to boot, who “never achieved anything besides the formation of a visible cult following…” Pwnage.

Great! You’re all done! Those anarchists won’t know what him ‘em. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back! You deserve it. Soon there won’t be any anarchists to muck up those lovely DC socials everyone likes. Now hit ‘post’ and wait for your withholding tax refund while thinking of new patents that will facilitate those trade deals. Maybe prop your feet up on The Constitution of Liberty and pop in your VHS copy of Free to Choose.

You’re going to have so many friends.

Oh, look! Someone has already taken my advice!

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