END OF 'THE END OF HISTORY'
great irony of this exceedingly odd little screed is that
it was written by someone whose philosophy most definitely
bit the dust on 9/11: Francis Fukuyama's "the end of history" thesis
was blown to smithereens along with the World Trade Center
and lost amid the smoking rubble on that fateful day. In essence,
the central argument of his famous article, published in the
summer of 1989, is summarized in a single sentence:
we may be witnessing in not just the end of the Cold War,
or the passing of a particular period of post-war history,
but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of
mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of
Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."
he was careful to note that "the victory of liberalism
has occurred primarily in the realm of
or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material
world," this qualification only underscores the colossal
scale of Fukuyama's error. For it seems no one informed the
9/11 hijackers of this alleged "victory" over their
consciousness. Their terrible act was a dramatic (and unanswerable)
refutation of Fukuyama's deterministic evolutionism. Yet now
this recycled neoconservative has-been
is being dragged out in the service of what? War, naturally,
the chief preoccupation
and joy of every neocon.
down as the Soviet empire was tottering into oblivion, Fukuyama's
Hegelianism soon became the favorite intellectual clichι
of Marxists-turned-neocons from Commentary to National
Review. Fukuyama's giddy triumphalism provided a fitting
backdrop for the unabashedly neo-imperialist flights
of fancy indulged in by the post-cold war, post-9/11 neoconservative
right. Bill Kristol's clarion call for "benevolent global hegemony"
and National Review's crazed campaign demanding that
George W. Bush invade and occupy
the Saudi oil fields come immediately to mind. As neocon columnist
Charles Krauthammer proclaimed in the pages of The National
Interest [Winter 1989-90]:
goal is the world as described by Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama's
provocation was to assume that the end [of history] what
he calls the common marketization of the world is either
here or inevitably dawning; it is neither. The West has to
make it happen. It has to wish and work for a super-sovereign
West economically, culturally, and politically hegemonic in
triumph of the liberal values supposedly represented by the
US government is inevitable, according to Fukuyama, but, just
in case it isn't, Krauthammer and his fellow neocons want
to use the American military to "make it happen."
Like Marx, who also posited the inevitable victory of his
adherents, Fukyama is more than willing to go along with this.
Fukuyama recently signed on along with
a passel of neocon intellectuals to a call issued by the Project
for a New American Century calling for the outright invasion
and military occupation of large swatches of the Middle East.
VERSUS THE LIBERTARIANS
is an obstacle to Empire, and, as such, must be removed: conservatism,
says Fukuyama in the War
Street Journal, has "matured," and it's
time to cast away the youthful chrysalis of libertarianism:
the French Revolution, it derived its energy from a simple
idea of liberty, to wit, that the modern welfare state had
grown too large, and that individuals were excessively regulated."
begin with, it is absurd to identify the free-market "revolution"
that supposedly triumphed in the 1980s with the electoral
victories of either Thatcher or Reagan, since neither reduced
the size, scope, or arrogant presumptiveness of government
power, but only at best momentarily slowed the rate of
increase. And I would argue that Reagan, in pursuing a military
build-up unprecedented in our history, did more to increase
the power of the public sector than any other President since
Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
then this confusion on Fukuyama's part is unremarkable in
someone who sees libertarianism embodied in the complaint
that "the modern welfare state had grown too large."
Libertarians abhor the day the welfare state was spawned,
and have called for its complete abolition ever since. As
for Americans being "excessively regulated," it
is not the degree but the presumption that regulation is required
that libertarians have always contested.
the revolution entered a Jacobin phase with the election of
Newt Gingrich's Congress in 1994," Fukuyama continues
hey, wait a minute! This guy is supposed to be a
(neo)conservative, I know, but how come he writes as if he
were Leon Trotsky? His prose is chockfull of references right
out of some Trotskyist tract: "Thermidor" (Trotsky's
term for what called the "degeneration" of the
Soviet "workers state"), "Jacobins," and
comparing the conservative-libertarian ascendancy to the French
Revolution. What is this the Wall Street Journal
or the Socialist Worker? With Fukuyama and his neocon
fan club, it's often hard to tell.
so this "Jacobin" phase of the alleged free-market
revolution, according to Fukuyama, went too far, allowing
the Clintonites to seize the vital center. "For many
on the right," he avers,
Reagan's classical liberalism began to evolve into libertarianism,
an ideological hostility to the state in all its manifestations.
While the dividing line between the two is not always straightforward,
libertarianism is a far more radical dogma whose limitations
are becoming increasingly clear. The libertarian wing of the
revolution overreached itself, and is now fighting rearguard
actions on two fronts: foreign policy and biotechnology."
he's right about one thing: libertarianism, while most emphatically
not a "dogma," is indeed radical, in that its critique
of the status quo strikes at the very root of the evil that
besets us, which is the State. If Reaganism represents "classical
liberalism," in any sense, then perhaps Fukuyama means
classical liberalism at the end of its tether, after a long
decline into utilitarianism and gradualism. In any case, Fukuyama's
conflation of Reaganism and libertarianism is interesting
only because it prefaces the real point of his piece:
hostility of libertarians to big government extended to U.S.
involvement in the world. The Cato Institute propounded isolationism
in the '90s, on the ground that global leadership was too
expensive. At the time of the Gulf War, Cato produced an analysis
that argued it would be cheaper to let Saddam keep Kuwait
than to pay for a military intervention to expel him--a fine
cost-benefit analysis, if you only abstracted from the problem
of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a megalomaniac."
course, the reality is that Saddam and Kuwait have kissed and made up, forming a common front, along with the Saudis, against
the US. So it turns out that it would indeed have been
cheaper in terms of lives, both American and Iraqi, as well
as dollars to let Saddam keep Kuwait after all. As for weapons
of mass destruction being in the hands of a Middle Eastern
megalomaniac, I, too, am disturbed that Ariel Sharon has his
finger on the nuclear trigger, but are we going to blame the
Iraqis for that, too?
there was the "isolationist" (i.e. pro-peace) Cato
Institute, daring to question Washington's pro-war consensus.
Ah, but then along came 9/11, when "everything changed"
and the rug was ostensibly pulled out from under the libertarians:
to Mr. Reagan's vision of the U.S. as a 'shining city on a
hill,' libertarians saw no larger meaning in America's global
role, no reason to promote democracy and freedom abroad. Sept.
11 ended this line of argument. It was a reminder to Americans
of why government exists, and why it has to tax citizens and
spend money to promote collective interests. It was only the
government, and not the market or individuals, that could
be depended on to send firemen into buildings, or to fight
terrorists, or to screen passengers at airports."
thank God for the US government! They did a great job
of screening, now didn't they? Why, if not for them, the 9/11
hijackers would've wriggled through our security nets and
managed to smuggle weapons aboard four aircraft, hijack the
planes, and ram them into the hey, uh, hold on there, correct
me if I'm wrong, but didn't something terrible happen
that day in spite of all the warnings, all the precautions,
all the "anti-terrorist" task forces and government
studies, all the billions poured into "security"?
It's pathetic, really, that the neocons are now imitating
the Daschle Democrats in proclaiming that big
government, post-9/11, is back
in style. Good lord, we may not have reached the end of history,
but surely we have reached the end of our patience with Fukuyama's
sloppy polemic. What makes it interesting to begin with, however,
is that this attack on the Cato Institute is completely gratuitous.
the Cato folks were once committed to the cause of noninterventionism,
because they, like all authentic libertarians, know that war
is the health of the state, as Randolph Bourne famously put it. The centralizing effect of military priorities in wartime,
the comprehensiveness of state controls for the duration of
the conflict, necessarily shrinks the sphere of liberty and
increases the role and reach of government. Even more importantly,
just as libertarians oppose the consolidation and expansion
of the public sector at home, so they must logically oppose
its geographical extension abroad. This view was held by Murray N. Rothbard,
the real intellectual founder of the Cato Institute, and advocated
in one form or another by Cato (in spite of their break with
Rothbard in the early 1980s) up until 9/11.
the post-9/11 atmosphere, however, this principled opposition
to warmongering dubbed "isolationism" by Fukuyama
is understood to be "anti-Americanism" of the
worst sort, and has been explicitly disavowed by Cato. As I pointed out in a previous
column, their representatives now have set themselves
in the vanguard of the War Party, with Cato foreign policy
honcho Ted Galen Carpenter calling
for the invasion of Pakistan (!) and Cato coming out in
favor of Bush's endless "war on terrorism." Carpenter
has even gone so far as to jump on the "Let Sharon be
Sharon" bandwagon, urging "nonintervention"
by opposing US pressure on Israel to stop slaughtering the
Palestinians. But intervention in the form of US tax dollars
filling Israeli coffers as Israeli tanks roll over the Palestinians for
some reason this form of intervention goes unmentioned
by Cato's chief foreign policy "expert." But all
that backtracking and neocon ass-kissing, in the end, didn't
get them anything but an attack in the Wall Street Journal
and a particularly galling one, at least from the pro-war
CLONES FOR WAR
the one big crusade of the Virginia Postrel-Glenn
Reynolds-Warblogger axis of cyber-evil
has been the legalization of cloning; on their endless little
"blogs," calls to nuke Mecca and replace the House
of Saud with the International House of Pancakes are interspersed
between earnest little petitions for the legalization of cloning,
which will supposedly usher in a golden age. To Fukuyama and
his fellow neocons, this is monstrous, and must be stopped,
while the pro-war libertarians are ready to make the first scientist
prosecuted for illegal cloning their very own Mumia Abu Jamal.
taking a position on cloning one way or the other, it is interesting
to note that the neocons wouldn't cut their "libertarian"
satellites any slack, not even on this somewhat abstruse issue.
It didn't matter that Postrel and her little blogger kids
kowtowed on the all-important foreign policy question. Not
even running interference for Sharon's blitzkrieg was enough
to earn them sufficient brownie points for any kind of exemption.
Any deviation from the neocon line is the occasion
for a denunciation, a reminder of who is on what end of the
pro-war libertarians thought that, if only they allowed themselves
to be properly domesticated, if only they bought into the
globalist foreign policy agenda of the neocons, and stuck
to economics and exotica like cloning and drug legalization,
they would be left alone in peace. Let this be a lesson to
them not that they can afford to learn it, as this point.
I am reminded of what Murray N. Rothbard said of the Catoites
back in the 1980s, when they were trying to pass off libertarianism
as "low-tax liberalism": "They have sold out
for a mess of pottage," he wrote, "without even
getting the pottage in return."
A TASTE FOR THE LASH
is right to herald the fall of the pro-war libertarians: they
have corralled themselves into a tiny and rather unrewarding
ideological niche, where individualism is conflated with a
narcissism so overweening that the Postrelian embrace of cloning
issue seems almost too parodic to be true. Relegated to the
fringe, the "libertarian" branch of the War Party
will be allowed to feed off crumbs from the neocons' ample
table only as long as they keep quiet about their more unconventional
ideas. Okay, drug legalization, well, maybe that's okay, since
even Bill Buckley agrees with them: but cloning? No way. It
was time for them to feel the editorial lash, time to let
them know who's the dominant force in this coalition: but they shouldn't despair. The lash may sting the first couple
of times, but they'll get used to it after a while and may
even come to like it.
such masochistic tendencies are obvious in Cato "scholar"
Brink Lindsay's craven reply to Fukuyama. As the number one critic of those libertarians who
have retained their opposition to empire-building interventionism,
Lindsay loudly protests his loyalty to the War Party and even
distances himself from his employer:
it's true that some libertarians, including folks at the Cato
Institute, opposed the Gulf War. But I'm a libertarian, I
support cloning, and my only complaint with the Gulf War is
that we didn't take Baghdad. Virginia Postrel, far and away
the most prominent libertarian on the cloning issue, supported
the Gulf War
. Many prominent libertarians have been front
and center in urging vigorous and aggressive military action"
Brink, why don't you crawl on your belly all the way over
to Bill Kristol's doorstep? Maybe that will do some good.
Or maybe you can make your argument for cloning in terms of
the US acquiring an invaluable military asset. Imagine cloned
American soldiers, genetically-designed warriors ready to
fight practically from birth: why, we could win the war on
terrorism, and even conquer the whole world, given such bioengineered
Surely such a prospect could go a long way toward helping
us achieve Bill Kristol's dream of "benevolent world
AND THE PROMISED LAND
way to appeal to a neocon audience is to show how cloning
will benefit Israel. And of course the benefits to the Israelis
are glaringly obvious. Instead of trying to convince the Diaspora
to move to one of the most dangerous places on earth, a socialist Sparta where
the government takes more than half your income, the Israelis
could solve their demographic
problem by simply cloning new citizens more than enough
to populate the Greater Israel of Sharon's dreams.
sickening, really, to contemplate the self-abasement of these
social-climbing careerists, whose degenerate "libertarianism"
is but a distorted shadow, a caricature of the real thing:
and they aren't worth contemplating, really, except as a lesson
and a warning to the young. This is what you turn into
when you sell out: as Rothbard put it, "and they didn't
even get the pottage!" The fall of the pro-war libertarians,
and their absorption into the neoconservative grand consensus,
is an event worth noting only as an object lesson in what
it means to fail.
ALIVE AND WELL
real libertarianism, however, is alive and very well, thank
you, flourishing as a result of the great work being done
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell,
Jr., president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, as well as Antiwar.com's
sponsoring organization, the Center for Libertarian Studies.
We are reaching, every day, tens of thousands of people from
practically every country on earth. From the Midwest to the
Middle East, from Northern Europe to South and Central America,
the libertarian message on the vital issue of war and peace
as well as free trade and economic and personal liberty
is being broadcast globally to a large and steadily increasing
audience. Let the "warbloggers" and pro-war "libertarians"
congratulate each other on their career-advancing war fervor,
and imagine they are defining the terms of the debate. We
are defining the future of libertarianism that is, if it
is to have one.
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