Review of The Origins of the Second World War | Murray N. Rothbard

[From a memo to Mr. Kenneth Templeton at the William Volker Fund, April 18, 1962.]

It is not often that one is privileged to review a book of monumental import, a truly significant “breakthrough” from obscuran­tism to historical knowledge and insight. But such a book is the magnificent work by A.J .P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1961 — now New York: Athenaeum, 1962).

As Taylor points out and explains at the beginn­ing of this book, Revisionism of World War II, in every country of the world, has been virtually non-existent. In the United States Pearl Harbor revisionism has progressed a long way, and built up a successful body of historical literature, so that its opponents have had to beat one retreat after another.

But, in vivid contrast to the situation after World War I, the origins of the ”1939 war in Europe have been a locked door,” and the historical profession, as well as all the general public and official opinion, in all the countries involved, have clung grimly and tenaciously to almost the same views that were held at the height of the­ conflict itself.

While there has been a substantial shift in the wartime view that all Germany is and was forever guilty of war there has been no shift in the wartime view of Hitler and his Administration, and of the supposedly sole guilt which they incurred. The extent of the stifling atmosphere is indicated by the automatic disreputability, the shock, and shame, which any deviation from this propaganda line incurs if expressed verbally or in print.

Any raising of the semblance of a doubt over the official line that (a) Hitler was bent on conquering the world, and (b) the only way to meet the situation was to take a “firm” line and stop him, is to incur the automatic charge of being “pro-Hitler” or “pro-Nazi.” In the same way, the “historical blackout” operates today in the Cold War; any intimation that the Soviet is not solely responsible for the Cold War is met with the charge of being “pro-Communist” or “soft on Communism.”

All this is immeasurably aided by the old propaganda trick of identifying a State’s domestic with its foreign policy; paint a government’s domestic policy as wicked enough (e.g., Hitler, Communism), and the ignorant and the superficial will automatically agree that this wicked government must be guilty, and uniquely guilty, of any wars or threats of war that might arise, and that conversely the “good” United States (or Britain or France) will be uniquely innocent and virtuous.

In the United States, even Pearl Harbor revisionism could only fight its way against heavy and oppressive odds, and its champions could be written off by the Establishment as either “mere journalists” (Morgenstern, Chamberlin) or as former isolationists and opponents of U.S. entry into the war (Barnes, Tansill, et al.) — although this was hardly a disqualification for the most enthusiastic praise lavished on such renegade ex-isolationists as Langer, Commager, et al. And, Pearl Harbor revisionism has faced no difficulties compared to revisionism on Hitler and Germany — for the wartime emotionalism whipped up here and abroad against Japan was as nothing compared to the frenzy whipped up against Germany and against Hitler. Here the blackout war-born propaganda frenzy has been virtually total. Continue reading “Review of The Origins of the Second World War | Murray N. Rothbard”

The NAFTA Myth | Murray N. Rothbard

Rothbard’s essay on NAFTA, reprinted below, is available in the collection Making Economic Sense.

For some people, it seems, all you have to do to convince them of the free enterprise nature of something is to label it “market,” and so we have the spawning of such grotesque creatures as “market socialists” or “market liberals.” The word “freedom,” of course, is also a grabber, and so another way to gain adherents in an age that exalts rhetoric over substance is simply to call yourself or your proposal “free market” or “free trade.” Labels are often enough to nab the suckers.

And so, among champions of free trade, the label “North American Free Trade Agreement” (Nafta) is supposed to command unquestioning assent. “But how can you be against free trade?” It’s very easy. The folks who have brought us Nafta and presume to call it “free trade” are the same people who call government spending “investment,” taxes “contributions,” and raising taxes “deficit reduction.” Let us not forget that the Communists, too, used to call their system “freedom.”

In the first place, genuine free trade doesn’t require a treaty (or its deformed cousin, a “trade agreement”; Nafta is called a trade agreement so it can avoid the constitutional requirement of approval by two-thirds of the Senate). If the establishment truly wants free trade, all it has to do is to repeal our numerous tariffs, import quotas, anti-“dumping” laws, and other American-imposed restrictions on trade. No foreign policy or foreign maneuvering is needed.

If authentic free trade ever looms on the policy horizon, there’ll be one sure way to tell. The government/media/big-business complex will oppose it tooth and nail. We’ll see a string of op-eds “warning” about the imminent return of the 19th century. Media pundits and academics will raise all the old canards against the free market, that it’s exploitative and anarchic without government “coordination.” The establishment would react to instituting true free trade about as enthusiastically as it would to repealing the income tax. Continue reading “The NAFTA Myth | Murray N. Rothbard”

Murray Rothbard’s Star Wars Review

Arts and Movies

By Mr. First Nighter

Star Wars, dir. by George Lucas. With Alec Guinness and Carrie Fisher.

First came the hype. That Star Wars is going to be the biggest popular film success since Jaws means very little. So every season is going to have its oversold smash hit, so what? But the difference, the new hype, with Star Wars was its overwhelming acclaim among the critics. Usually the masses whoop it up for a Jaws while the critics go ape over Bertolucii or Fassbinder. Yet here they were in joint huzzahs, with the critic from Time flipping his wig to such an extent as to call it the best movie of the year and making Star Wars the feature of that week’s issue.

But the oddest, the most peculiar part of it was what my fellow-critics were saying: “Hurrah, a fun movie-movie”; “good escape entertainment”; “a return to good guys vs. a happy ending again”; “movie fare for the entire family”; “like Flash Gordon” etc. Here were men and women who have spent the greater, part of their lives deriding these very virtues, attacking them as mindless, moralistic, unaesthetic, fodder for the Tired Businessman instead of the Sensitive Intellectual. And yet here were these same acidulous critics praising these mindless, reactionary verities. What in blazes was going on? Had all colleagues experienced a blinding miraculous conversion to Old Culture truths? While I do not deny the logical possibility of such a mass, instantaneous conversion from error, my experience of this wicked world has convinced me that it is empirically highly unlikely. So what gives?

The best thing about seeing Star Wars is that my curiosity was satisfied. The mystery explained! For it was indeed true that Star Wars returns to the good guy-bad guy, happy ending, and all the rest. But there is an important catch, and it is that catch that enables our critical intelligentsia to praise the movie and yet suffer no breach in their irrational and amoral critical perspective. The catch is embodied in the reference to Flash Gordon: namely, that this is such a silly, cartoony, comic-strip “movie that no one can possibly take it seriously, even within its own context. No one, that is, over the age of 8. Hence, in contrast to Death Wish or Dirty Harry, where the viewer is necessarily caught up in the picture and must take the viewer is seriously, Star Wars is such kiddie hokum that the adult critics can let their hair down and enjoy it without having their aesthetic values threatened.

To put it another way, our critics, who are bitterly opposed to a moralistic and exciting plot, are scarcely challenged by the plot of “Star Wars, which is so designedly imbecilic that the intelligentsia can relax, forget about the plot and enjoy the special effects, which the avant-garde always approves.

Even on the kiddie level, Star Wars doesn’t really work. It is peculiarly off-base. The hero, for example, is so young, wooden and callow that he doesn’t really come off as an authentic comic-strip hero. As a result, his older mercenary aide becomes a kind of co-hero, which throws off the balance of the story. The hero presumably doesn’t get the Fairy Princess in the end, either, although far worse is the casting of the Princess. For, Carrie Fisher is ugly and abrasive, and if one could care very much about the hero one would hope that nothing came of their proto-romance: Miss Fisher is the quintessence of the Anti-Princess, and this ruins whatever may have remained of interest of value in Star Wars. There are more problems; not only does wise Alec Guinness lose his mighty duel with his evil ex-disciple, but the whole duel is pointless and leads nowhere, even within the context of the plot.

“Not only is this oversold turkey not the best movie of the year, it is not very good even within the sci-fi movie genre. Some of the critics have proclaimed Star Wars as even better than “2001”, but that would be no great feat, since there have been few movies of any genre that have been worse than that pretentious, mystical, boring, plotless piece of claptrap. But Star Wars doesn’t begin to compare with the science fiction greats of the past, e.g.: “The Thing”—the first post World War it sci-fi movie; “It Came from Outer Space”; “The Night of the Living Dead”, and, best of all, the incomparable “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”; None of these movies needed the razzle-dazzle of “special effects”; they did it on plot, theme, and characters. Back to them!

First appeared in The Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10.6, June 1977

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