That Rothbard Race Quote

If, then, the Race Question is really a problem for statists and not for paleos, why should we talk about the race matter at all? Why should it be a political concern for us; why not leave the issue entirely to the scientists?

Two reasons we have already mentioned; to celebrate the victory of freedom of inquiry and of truth for its own sake; and a bullet through the heart of the egalitarian-socialist project. But there is a third reason as well: as a powerful defense of the results of the free market. If and when we as populists and libertarians abolish the welfare state in all of its aspects, and property rights and the free market shall be triumphant once more, many individuals and groups will predictably not like the end result. In that case, those ethnic and other groups who might be concentrated in lower-income or less prestigious occupations, guided by their socialistic mentors, will predictably raise the cry that free-market capitalism is evil and “discriminatory” and that therefore collectivism is needed to redress the balance. In that case, the intelligence argument will become useful to defend the market economy and the free society from ignorant or self-serving attacks. In short; racialist science is properly not an act of aggression or a cover for oppression of one group over another, but, on the contrary, an operation in defense of private property against assaults by aggressors.—Murray Rothbard (1994).

This quotation is from the December 1994 issue of a newsletter, the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, that came out three months after Herrnstein/Muray’s book, The Bell Curve, was published. As many did at the time (the book got a warm review in the New York Times Sunday Review of Books, for example), Rothbard took the findings of the book, about the heritiability of intelligence, and the racial correlations, at face value.

Rothbard saw this as having two implications, depending on whether you were a statist or a libertarian (or “paleo,” the term he promoting at the time).

A statist would see this as reaffirming the necessity of a paternalistic, technocratic state, a justification for the need of a ruling elite:

Liberals neocons are “sorters,” they aim to sort people out, to subsidize here, to control and restrict there. So, to the neocon or liberal power elite, ethnic or racial science is a big thing because it tells these sorters who exactly they should subsidize, who they should control, who they should restrict and limit.

Rothbard, argued, on the contrary, that even if the The Bell Curve was correct in its science:

Paleos believe in liberty; paleos believe in the rights of person and property; paleos want no government subsidizers or controllers. Paleos want Big Government off all of our backs, be we smart or dumb, black, brown or white.

It is truly fascinating that, while liberals and neocons have been deriding paleos for years as notorious “racists,” “fascists,” “sexists,” and all the rest, that actually we, as libertarians, are the last group who deserve such a label: that, in fact, liberals and neocons, as people who all stand with the power elite over the ordinary Americans, are far more deserving of the statist-racist-fascist label.

Of course, in the months and years following the publication of The Bell Curve, critiques of the science emerged. But Rothbard died the next month, just weeks after the above quoted article went to print, so we will never know if or how he would have adjusted his views based on those challenges.

At the time, in late 1994, however, it was certainly in the mainstream of debate, in American, to discuss studies of race, IQ and genetics, and the ramifications of it. It was no longer a taboo subject.  If doing so was racist, then every newspaper and magazine of record was racist, every public intellectual was racist, every Sunday news show was racist, and every college had racist tenured professors.

Of course, quoting Rothbard out-of-context, is easier than trying to understand or refute what he actually said.

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