Rothbard on Weld

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Rothbard on Weld


William Weld, a former Governor of Massachusetts, has recently announced his intention to run for Vice-President on the Libertarian Party ticket, in concert with Gary Johnson.  Weld has been since the 1990s greatly in favor at the Cato Institute, but Murray Rothbard viewed him with disdain. He often referred to Weld in the pages of The Rothbard Rockwell Report, and his remarks had a constant focus. To Rothbard, Weld exemplified a disturbing trend among professed libertarians. 

For Rothbard, the issue at stake was fundamental. Individuals have rights, not groups.  Writing in November 1994, he deplored “an infection of [movement] libertarians’ views by their deep-seated egalitarianism. Scratch an egalitarian, and you will inevitably find a statist. How does the libertarians’ burgeoning and pervasive egalitarianism square with their supposed belief in individualism. . .The resolution of this problem is much the same as other, more common versions of Political Correctness. {Movement] libertarians are firmly committed to the notion that, while each individual might not be ‘equal’ to every other, that every conceivable group, ethnic contingent, race, gender, or, in some cases, species are in fact and must be made ‘equal, ’ that each one has ‘rights’ that must not be subject to curtailment by any form of ‘discrimination.’ And so, flying in the face of their former supposed devotion to the absolute rights of private property, the libertarian movement has embraced almost every phony and left-wing ‘right’ that has been manufactured in recent decades.”

It was from this perspective that he found Weld unsatisfactory. Weld favored anti-discrimination laws; but what was libertarian about that? Further, setting this issue aside, in in what sense could this “darling of the Republican Left,” as Rothbard called Weld in March 1993, be considered a libertarian? In the next month, Rothbard praised the “heroic parents of Queens in New York City, who successfully battled against leftist social engineer school Chancellor Joseph Fernandez’s attempt to cram multi-cultural pro-gaydom down the throats of public school kids, a battle that succeeded in ousting Fernandez, much to the horror of the New York Times. William Weld, of course, was opposed to such support of the parents.”

Even if Weld supported multiculturalism, could one argue that he at least wished to cut the size of government and was in that sense libertarian? Rothbard did not think so. “Bill Weld first came to our favorable attention when, after beating the neocon John Silber for governor of Massachusetts in 1990, he actually cut the state budget, amounting to about $15 billion, by $1.6 billion. He was then facing a [Michael] Dukakis-inherited state deficit of over $630 million. But soon other aspects of Weldism came to the fore, countering these libertarian leanings: his all-out foreign interventionism, proclaiming he would never bring a single soldier back from overseas; his radical environmentalism; and his ardent support for gay privilege. But while ‘socially tolerant,’ in left-libertarian jargon, he at least seemed to be honestly ‘fiscally conservative ‘ No more. As Bill Weld increasingly becomes the darling of the Republican Left, his fiscal leftism, too, has now come out of the closet. Weld’s newly proposed budget for next year is a whopping $900 million increase over the current fiscal year, bringing the total up to $15.2 billion. Weld’s proposed big spending budget includes a $9 million increase on environmentalism (bringing the total up to $149 million), and no less than a $175 million hike in ‘human services,’  including day care welfare, AIDS funding, and Medicare. . .So much for Bill Weld and the alleged ‘libertarianism’ he is trying to push on Jack Kemp.”

Rothbard reiterated in December 1993 his criticism of the mistaken turn taken by “Official” Libertarianism. The error in question led to support for Weld. “Since libertarians are individualists who believe that each individual is a person of different merits who should go as far as his merit can carry him, libertarians are not supposed to be egalitarian, and indeed none of the libertarian masters, including Ayn Rand who was the guru for the bulk of current libertarians, was in any sense egalitarian. And yet there it is: egalitarianism has become the unspoken but very real driving force in the current Official movement. Once group egalitarianism becomes the norm, other groups than blacks will clamor for the privileges of ‘victim status.’ Sure enough, that jostling for victim privilege is now the major hallmark of American politics. The Official libertarians have so far not displayed enormous affinity for Latino or disabled ‘rights,’ but they are highly enthusiastic about the ‘rights’ of women and feminism generally. And in particular, libertarians have displayed great fervor for gay ‘rights’ and stress the evils of ‘discrimination’ against gays. So ardently are libertarians devoted to gay rights that the word ‘libertarian’ in the public press has now become almost a code word for champion of gay rights. Only his pro-gay agenda accounts for the ardor of Republican libertarians toward Massachusetts Governor Weld, whom they embrace as, in the current slogan, ‘fiscally conservative but socially tolerant.’ (The ‘fiscally conservative’ refers to a one-time budget cut followed, the next time around, by a compensatory budget increase.)’Socially tolerant,’ in the current atmosphere, means a devotion to the entire Left cultural agenda, from gay rights to compulsory multicultural propaganda and condomization in the public schools.”

In a speech delivered to the John Randolph Club in October 1994, only a few months before his death, Rothbard summed up his opinion of Weld, whom he once more denounced as an egalitarian. “Weld’s ‘libertarianism,’ in the minds of himself and his Left-libertarian admirers, consists almost completely in his passionate devotion to ‘gay rights’. . .To round out the picture, I should mention that Weld is also a fanatical adherent of environmentalism, and its despotic crippling of the living standards of the human race.”

I do not think it is going too far to suggest that, if Murray Rothbard were alive today, he would not be in Governor Weld’s corner.


24 min ago

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