The History of the Anti-Interventionist Right

The first installment of my review-essay of Murray N. Rothbard’s The Betrayal of the American Right, entitled “The Real American Right,” is now up at Taki’s Top Drawer. The second installment is up tomorrow, and the third on Wednesday.

I have to say that I’m really jazzed about this particular piece, and had great fun writing it. Today’s “conservative” movement is a caricature — and, in many ways, an inversion — of what it used to be. In my essay, I examine the historical roots of the “Old Right,” the anti-interventionist, pro-liberty movement that grew up in opposition to the war-mongering collectivist currents of the 1930s.

Oh, and I’ve been doing a lot of Paul-blogging over there: go and check it out.

UPDATE: Part II of the series appears here.


11 thoughts on “The History of the Anti-Interventionist Right”

  1. The problem with the Paul campaign is that he became the "national sovereignty" candidate instead of the "liberty" candidate.

    Two kinds of individualism bracket the ww2/cold war age. Early 20th century, when there was not much point in the government caring what you thought, and late 20th, where the government got in your way of connecting with the world. The old right has clues but it's not the answer. Paul said something about going back to the past on Meet the Press and I felt like the campaign drained away in front of my eyes.

    The candidate of the future would promote greater individual freedom by consolidating governmental functions. National character in this sense is a step backwards.

  2. This is a myth that many cling to, including Doctor Paul. The interventionist right goes back to Alexander Hamilton, who tried to sucker the US into a war with France. The legacy continued with McKinley and the Spanish-American War and the immoral annexation of Hawaii.

    The right has generally been pro-war and pro-empire.

    1. Since when has Alexander Hamilton become the standard bearer of the American right? Hamilton is a classic example of the “let’s grow the federal government-types” so prevalent in Washington today. This ethos could hardly be further removed from the idea of limited centralized government of the 20th century right.

      Paul is right on target to argue for a smaller federal government. Too many people have grown to assume that the federal government provides all of the bounties of this great nation. This has never been the case, and it never will. It’s the citizens of this country, allowed to think and create and grow without government interference, that have led to so many incredible avancements in our lives.

      Moreover, “national character” and “individual liberty” are not mutually exclusive concepts. The past may not have been “better”, but the concepts of individual liberty and small government –which were more acceptable in the past– are what gave us the things that have made people’s lives better, longer, etc. I would argue that the concept of “individual liberty” is one of the foundational blocks of our national character.

    2. These are two different eras we’re talking about. In the 19th century, the left meant classical liberalism and you’re correct, the right was generally the party of intervention.

      In the early 20th century, its the opposite. The left became the party of intervention and big government, and the Paleoconservatives, which is to say, the Old Right, stood in opposition to them. Justin’s “Reclaiming the American Right” does a great job of profiling this somewhat brief era of the anti-intervention, small-government right.

      Of course, neither of these is really the case anymore. The right is the party of big government and intervention, and the left is the party of even bigger government and different interventions.

  3. The problem is that most nation builders have been pro war, as a means of seizing wealth and territory. I prefer Kucinich or Gravel because I believe in different economic models, but they are as much outsiders on the “left” for their antiwar sentiment as Paul, who’s intellect and positions I deeply respect, on the right. THere is at the hear of all large powerful nation states a need to acquire more however it can be done. Right now, powerful factions in the U.S. use trade agreements more than bombs, but in the past use force and only force. I think China’s musings about taking Taiwan will eventually become action for the same reason.

  4. Great article. It contiues to amaze me how little most people know about history (me included). I think one of the great things about the Ron Paul Revolution is that it is informative. I am no expert and normally go on my gut feeling. However, I am doing my homework and the more I read the more it seems that my gut is right.

    We need to reign in Big Government Corperatism/Nationalism/Militarism/Socialism/Fascism. Again, I am no scholar but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the US is headed in the wrong direction. I don't see any true change coming from any other candidate than Ron Paul. A vote for anyone other than Ron Paul is a vote for more of the same and worse.

    Ron Paul for President 2008!

  5. Very interesting points. Right now, I would way let’s abolish the Executive Branch of the US. The presidency has become more trouble than its worth.

  6. I’m an 87-year-old grandmother several times over, and all I have to say about Bill Kristol is that the man is undeniably handsome, like my son. He may be a war-monger, but sometimes old fogeys like me find that sort of thing sexy. Brokaw didn’t call us the Greatest Generation ’caused we lacked a collective libido for syndicated columnists.

  7. The above was just inane and surprisingly juvenile for your age…But I forgive you, that’s what a lot of Fox News watching will do to your brain…

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