Rothbard vs. the Religion of Progressivism
[Editors note: The following was the opening address from Dr. Joseph Salerno to this week’s Rothbard Graduate Seminar. ]
Our main text for the Rothbard Graduate Seminar this week is Murray Rothbard’s Power and Market: Government and the Economy, which contains a systematic treatment of one area of economic theory, interventionism. This represents a departure from past seminars in an important respect. Earlier seminars focused on texts by Mises or Rothbard that addressed a much broader scope of their thought. Previous seminar texts such as Man, Economy and State and Human Action over the entirety of economic theory. Human Action, in addition, features a full treatment of methodology as well as discussions of epistemology, political philosophy, and economic history. Other texts used at earlier Rothbard Graduate Seminars such as The Ethics of Liberty and Economic Controversies are also broad in scope, containing, respectively, Rothbard’s systematic presentation of his political philosophy and a broad spectrum of his essays on theoretical and applied economics.
This week’s RGS deliberately focuses on the much narrower topic of interventionism, because it is the economic program of Progressivism, the prevailing ideology of the 21st century. Progressivism attained this position after a leftist “long march” through Western educational, cultural, religious, economic, and political institutions, which began shortly after World War Two, gained momentum during the 1960s, and rapidly accelerated in the 1980s. In a prescient memo written shortly after the war, Ludwig von Mises pointed out that the essence of the Progressive policy agenda is interventionism. Mises called the teachings of Progressives, “a garbled mixture of divers particles of heterogeneous doctrines incompatible with one another.” He included Marxism, British Fabianism, and the Prussian Historical School in this doctrinal witch’s brew. Whatever the differences among them, however, all Progressives were passionately united on two points. First, they believed that “contradictions and evils are . . . inherent in capitalism.” And second, they argued that the only way to root out the inequities and irrationalities of capitalism and transform it into a more humane and rational system was by imposing the p
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