Kirk on Libertarians


Closing quote:

"At the Last Judgment, libertarianism may find itself reduced to a minority of one, and its name will not be Legion, but Rothbard."


  1. I just skimmed it. Do you agree with a lot of his points Gene, or did you just like the Rothbard quip? I.e. if I don't hate Rothbard, is this worth my reading?

  2. Rothbard isn't mentioned save for the last sentence.

    A lot of it seemed to be "libertarians aren't ever gonna amount to anything so why would we want them for friends" coming from an angle with the main interest being a political majority.

    There's also the whole "well, libertarians are either kooks or just naive fellow travelers of the conservative cause re-inventing the wheel" idea.

    idk how to feel about it. Surely the wide spectrum of libertarianism has some important lessons to teach the subscribers of other ideologies. I have a tough time believing that everyone who is a conservative or a progressive or whatever was once intimately familiar with libertarianism but has just moved on with age and wisdom.

    Maybe I just got the tone of the article all wrong but that's what it seemed like to me

  3. Brian N.3:12 PM

    "Thus the typical libertarian of our day
    delights in eccentricity - including, often,
    sexual eccentricity (a point observed by
    that mordant psychologist Dr. Ernest van
    den Haag)." --Kirk

    That claim is many things...nonfalsifiable (often is so broad as to be meaningless) irrelevant to the philosophical arguments libertarians make, and the sort of ad hominem one laments when reading the lowest of lowbrow Usenet groups. The whole thing reads like Kirk is preaching to the conservative choir. I think L. Neil Smith was far more correct when he described American conservatism as a parasite on libertarianism.

    Sorry I broke my promise.

  4. Brian N.8:38 PM

    If Mr. Callahan's previous quote of Kirk wasn't unintentionally funny enough...

    "Be that as it may, I predict that within-a very few years we will hear no more of the Neoconservatives: some will have fallen away, and others will have been merged with the main current of America's conservative movement, and yet others' pert loquacity will have been silenced by the tomb." --"The Neoconservatives: An Endangered Species"

    I admit Kirk's gift for rhetoric was excellent. His capacity for rational argument, on the other hand, leaves everything to be desired. He never seems to seriously get up past the kind of insults one would expect to hear in a fifth grade classroom today when the teacher's back is turned.(1) And of course, not one of his central criticisms even applied to Rothbard, few - if any - of those who were most influenced by Rothbard, were somewhat influenced by Rothbard, were not at all influenced by Rothbard or those that apparently despise Rothbard's now-decomposed guts. There is something so deliciously bad about Kirk's essay.

    More complete responses to Kirk, better than I could have written:

    Tibor R. Machan, "A Passionate Defense of Libertarianism"
    Jacob G. Hornberger, "An Open Letter to Russell Kirk"

    (1) I know I've read a variation of Kirk non-quoting Van den Haag where he claims Van den Haag observed that an 'inordinate number' of libertarians were homosexuals. One does not require an atlas mapping all the road signs to see where that implication points. Needless to say, a mainstream conservative outlet wouldn't be able to quickly live down printing something like that today.

  5. Another line from Kirk's essay on neoconservatives - "Having dreed the weird of that faction called Neoconservatives, I proceed to praise them."

    Classic Kirk - LOL! :)

  6. Muray Tyson1:52 PM

    I have the original Kirk document and the final word is not Rothbard but Koch (He buys up the entire space)according to Kirk, who by the way believes he will be referred to as Captain Kirk in heaven.

    There is an addendum that Rothbard ends up in an area of heaven where kvetching is allowed. It will also include Woody Allen, Alan Dershowitz and Gene Callahan. Mario Rizzo will be moderator. (Karen DeCoster will make apperances during breaks as a cheerleader for LRC. However, LR will not make it.)

  7. Machan: "They would like to appropriate it - they would like to tell us that America's is a conservative culture, that it follows Edmund Burke rather than John Locke."

    Actually, I think the real point is it would have been much better to have followed Burke than Locke!

  8. Machan: "Yet what do conservatives offer as an alternative? Tradition. But what is tradition? It is the accumulated - tried and accepted - thought produced by our fellow human beings in the past. So if they had the temerity to think up ideas that we ought to respect, why may we not do the same?"

    So Machan hasn't even remotely grasped the issue at hand. Not surprising.

  9. Russel Kirk - the original Hoppe

  10. Economista10:38 PM

    So, why would America have been better off had it followed Burke instead of Locke? (Not that it has really followed Locke...) And, please do enlighten us, just what is the issue that Machan has supposedly failed to grasp?

  11. "And, please do enlighten us..."

    You know, as soon as someone says this, they have no interest in enlightenment and no intention of listening to what you say.

    To anyone who has understood the critique of rationalism put forward by Wittgenstein, Oakeshott, Hayek, Polanyi, MacIntyre, and others, Machan's misunderstanding is self-evident. If you are no so familiar, anonymous, may I suggest you become so?

  12. Brian N.11:20 AM

    For those of us who are genuinely interested, what, precisely, is Machan misunderstanding? As a side note; if you have to read the works of half-a-dozen philosophers to understand something, whatever you've learned or figured out probably isn't self-evident. It is evident through knowledge gleaned from other sources. For example, any criticism of rationalist politics which uses the historical records of Marxist dictatorships or the French revolution and evaluates them against the messianic promises thrown around when the whole rotten brew was still just another bad soup in the cauldron is not making self-evident arguments.

    I don't have an unlimited budget for books (or anything else for that matter) and a little summary would be a big help.

  13. "if you have to read the works of half-a-dozen philosophers to understand something, whatever you've learned or figured out probably isn't self-evident."

    Ho, Brian, you are just so witty! Yes, what I wrote was "this is self-evident to infants," wasn't it, not "this is self-evident once you know this material." Man, you sure got me there!

    Short version of Machan's error: he thinks that because society, norms, etc. were the result of human action, that therefore they are the result of human design!

  14. Brian N.10:49 PM

    "Man, you sure got me there!"

    From Wikipedia,

    "In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof."

    Self-evidence is not the same thing as obviousness, even if popular usage of the term implies such. I don't think I'll be back for a while, if ever.

  15. But that piece is completely wrong: liberalism as progressivism may descend from Mill Jr., yet libertarianism does not. The Kirk piece is terribly confused on what liberty means to libertarians, and even for Mill, as if liberty was an end on itself, instead of a philosophy of -peaceful- human interactions.

    P.S. Most probably this comment will be deleted (if ever approved) but Mr. Callahan has shown enough intellectual prowess (see his "Economics for Real People", a very fine text) as to find himself a better hobby than sniping at Rothbardians and libertarians and anyone related to the LVMI from the placid yet muddled waters of conservatism.


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