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Libertarians and Austrians in the Washington Post

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Amazingly, two separate articles in Sunday’s Washington Post mentioned such libertarian luminaries as Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Walter Williams, and John T. Flynn. For names such as these to be mentioned in the mainstream press — and some twice in one day — reflects the tremendous strides that libertarianism has made in the past 20 years.

The first article, “What Books Are the GOP 2012 Contenders Reading?”, includes Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann and lists books that are important to them.

The article mentions three books on foreign policy that Paul recommends in his book The Revolution: A Manifesto: Dying to Win by Robert Pape, Blowback by Chalmers Johnson, and Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer. While such authors are not libertarians, their perspectives on foreign policy are generally libertarian.

My personal favorite among the three is Chalmers Johnson, who was a liberal. There are fewer people who have a better grasp on the problems facing our country in foreign affairs than Johnson did. The book mentioned, Blowback,was written before 9/11 and accurately predicted that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East would ultimately produce terrorist retaliation on American soil. Johnson’s next three books were equally good — The Sorrows of Empire, Nemesis, and Dismantling the Empire. I can’t recommend all four books enough. In fact, there are many great articles online by Johnson — just Google his name. In my opinion, all articles by Chalmers Johnson are worth reading.

The article also mentions Paul’s recommendation of John T. Flynn as well as Ayn Rand’s novels. Most everyone is familiar with Rand but not so with Flynn. He was a conservative who battled against Franklin Roosevelt’s socialist-fascist New Deal, even while many other conservatives were throwing in the towel and joining up with the statists after 1937, when the Supreme Court made it clear that economic liberty was gone from America for the foreseeable future.

The author of the Post article, Tevi Troy, seems to express some skepticism regarding Flynn’s urgent warning about fascism reaching American soil. Perhaps Troy is unfamiliar with Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act, which, with its cartelization of American industry and its infamous Blue Eagle campaign, was a mirror image of what Mussolini and the fascists were doing in Italy. In fact, I’d recommend to Troy the book Three New Deals by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, which shows the similarities between Roosevelt’s New Deal and what Hitler and Mussolini were doing in their respective countries.

Even though Troy doesn’t mention how important Mises and the Austrian school are to Ron Paul, everyone familiar with Paul’s economic philosophy knows that Mises and the Austrian school are the foundation of his thinking on economic and monetary issues.

According to Troy, Bachmann reads Mises, Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, and Arthur Laffer. My observation about Bachmann’s reading Mises? Perhaps Mises will lead her to Hayek’s great essay, “Why I Am Not a Conservative.”

The other Post article, “The Republicans’ New Voodoo Economics” by Greg Ip, criticizes Austrian economics and praises Keynesian economics. That of course is not surprising given that the article is published in the liberalWashington Post.

But what’s good about the article is that it describes the big intellectual battle that was waged during the 1930s between Mises, Hayek, and the Austrians, on one side, and the Keynesians on the other. Many Americans have no idea that such a battle even took place and that its outcome has had an enormous impact on the lives of the American people. They simply think that America has always had the same basic economic system and monetary system, with minor reforms along the way.

Ip clarifies that such is not the case.

On the one side of the battle were the Austrians, who advocated economic liberty and sound money. On the other side were the Keynesians, who advocated socialism and fiat money. Of course, as we all know the statists ended up winning the battle, but all the things that Mises and Hayek predicted have followed: out of control spending, massive debt, inflation, high taxes, continual debasement of the currency, and, of course, ever-greater loss of economic liberty.

But the battle isn’t over yet, as reflected by the fact that articles are now increasingly appearing in the mainstream press mentioning Mises, Hayek, the Austrians, and libertarian economic principles. Succeeding generations of libertarians and Austrians are carrying the battle forward, and our ideas are becoming more popular and influential every day. Just check out Sunday’sWashington Post for confirmation. Why, the paper doesn’t even feel the need to explain who Mises, Hayek, Friedman, Williams, Flynn, and Rand are. That’s a good sign.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.