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The Betrayal of the American Right

2 Ratings: 4.5
A book by Murray N. Rothbard

This remarkable piece of history will change the way you look at American politics. It shows that the corruption of American "conservatism" began long before George W. Bush ballooned the budget and asserted dictatorial rights over the country … see full wiki

Author: Murray N. Rothbard
Publisher: Ludwig von Mises Institute
1 review about The Betrayal of the American Right

Remarkable history and autobiography

  • Nov 11, 2007
More than a decade after his death, Murray Newton Rothbard continues to make important contributions to libertarian thought, in this case with a manuscript first written in the 1970s and newly published by the invaluable Ludwig von Mises Institute. In typical Rothbardian form, this book is packed with theory and history, but also full of storytelling, personalities, and the author's trademark good humor. It's a book that Rothbard's many fans will certainly enjoy, but could -- and should -- also be read with profit by thoughtful people all over America's political spectrum.

It might seem nonsensical to some to try to draw a distinction between "rightism" and "conservatism," but that's just evidence for Rothbard's main point: that the true form and legacy of the American Right has been hijacked and perverted -- "betrayed" -- by self-styled "conservatives." Not really "rightists" at all, Rothbard argues, modern "conservatives" are a segment of social democracy, accepting the fundamental premises of militarism, corporatism, mercantilism, fiat money, and expensive, intrusive, bureaucratic government at home to enable the Global Anti-Communist Crusade, as it then was, around the world.

As this new kind of "right wing" grew to prominence in the 1950s, Rothbard suddenly found himself redefined as a "left-winger," without having changed any of his own views. This book thus becomes, not only a history of the Right, but also (as editor Thomas E. Woods notes), the closest we'll presumably ever have to Rothbard's autobiography. Given that Rothbard was a man who wrote movie reviews as well as philosophical treatises, "The Betrayal of the American Right" introduces us to personalities, events, and the social dynamics of political groupings around New York City. There is even, to my surprise and delight, mention of an anarcho-capitalist flag design unveiled in the 1960s.

At the root, though, what really stood out for me in these pages is the -- otherwise suppressed -- history of what's come to be called the "Old Right." While modern conservatism teaches that the American Right descended in a straight line from Burke to Kirk then sprung afresh from the brow of William F. Buckley to be carved into the stone tablets of "National Review," there's really quite a bit more to it than that. I would love to find a way to get College Republicans and other young conservatives to read this book and discover, not only how much wider America's political spectrum really is, but also how different "NR conservatism" is from the roots of the American Right.

Rothbard here reminds us of many of the most important thinkers and writers of the pre-NR Right, erased from the canon by modern conservatism. How sad to think Hannity or Coulter are the best there is, when Nock, Mencken, Chodorov, Harper ... or indeed Mises and Rothbard ... are still fresh and relevant. (R. Taft and H. Buffett, N. Gingrich and T. DeLay: compare and contrast.) As in almost any Mises Institute book, the bibliography of "The Betrayal of the American Right" is one of the most rewarding chapters of all.

Finally, I should note something most reviewers don't comment on, and that is the beautiful design and typesetting of this, and again almost any Mises Institute, book. Mises Institute typography is distinctive and, I've found, exceptionally readable. Combined with Rothbard's equally-readable prose, it's a winning combination.

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