STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Mises Shakes the World?
By Staff News & Analysis - September 02, 2010

At the very least, the Journal is guilty of extremely uninformative and selective editing. One could also read this article, however, as an attempt to cast the Rothbardian school as irrelevant while propping up the Hayekian school as the "respectable" kind of Austrian Economics. This would be perfectly in line with the Wall Street Journal's generally conservative slant, and the Journal has shown itself to be a friend to neither Ron Paul nor any other serious or trenchant critic of the current kleptocracy. As Wenzel notes, the failure to mention Mises is odd at best. If there is a deliberate effort to obscure the importance of Mises or Rothbard, it is also certainly unlikely that a mere beat reporter sent to interview Boettke would insist on such a thing. Such a policy is far more likely to originate at the editorial level, where it can be absolutely guaranteed that a discussion of Austrian Economics will mention neither Mises nor Paul nor Rothbard nor anyone else who is presently central to the real-life political milieu surrounding the Austrian School today. … So either the Journal is incompetent, or it has deliberately tried to disparage Ron Paul's Rothbard wing of the libertarian movement. I suspect the latter, although the former is always a possibility. None of this should surprise anyone who is familiar with the debate between the Hayekian branch and the Rothbardian branch. Twenty-eight years ago, Lew Rockwell was told in no uncertain terms that his efforts would be sabotaged by the existing libertarian establishment if he tried to name his new institute after Ludwig von Mises (left) who was labeled as "too radical." Rothbard's eventual inclusion in the effort only solidified the animosity toward what is now the Rothbard school. So … the first question that crosses my mind with controversies like this is: "Should I even care about this?" – The Rothbardian School / LewRockwell.com/Ryan McMaken

Dominant Social Theme: Ignore 'em and they will go away.

Free-Market Analysis: We are returning to the "Spreading Hayek, Spurning Keynes" Wall Street Journal article to answer the question that Ryan McMaken asks in his fine article at LewRockwell.com (and then answers judiciously as well). We are returning as well because this is an incredibly important issue from our point of view as a periodical that analyzes power-elite dominant social themes from a free market perspective. We do have a slightly different take on the answer; in fact we feel, collectively, a tad passionate about the article from a libertarian standpoint.

The question, again: Why did the Wall Street Journal write an article about the history of Austrian finance without mentioning the Mises Institute or Lew Rockwell? Our answer to the question is not so eloquent as Mr. McMaken's but is almost as heartfelt. Our answer would be that "people who are interested in freedom should care very much about this article and the surrounding debate." Why? Because we think the Austrian economic movement is one of the longest-lived and most important intellectual and ideological conversations in history. And whatever misrepresents it is of similar import, especially if it represents a larger trend.

Here's an anecdote … One of us walked into an Austrian "conference" in the late 1980s, perhaps. At the time, it consisted of a fairly rundown room, perhaps rented for the day. At a fold-out table, Joe Salerno was sitting next to Murray Rothbard who was cackling. Lew Rockwell was shaking hands with a deep-pocketed individual who had happened to drop by. Later on, Rockwell spoke and then Rothbard spoke. It wasn't anything special. It could have been a humid venue for selling vacuum cleaners. But for an hour or so all the truth in the world, relatively speaking, was suddenly confined to one room – one "phone booth" as Jonah Goldberg so eloquently put it a few years later (and he didn't mean it kindly).

Out into the sun to walk through a city crowded with lies. There is no way to describe the impact of the Austrian school on someone who wanted to know more and had the (mis)fortune of running into the Institute in the late 1980s or early '90s. It was a virtual out-of-body experience. The movie the Matrix is about as close as you can get. It was the red pill, only you had to swallow it without any support group and live the rest of your life, or so it seemed then, as an intellectual schizophrenic.

You begin to follow the argument. You see how the Institute is ignored and misrepresented. Gradually you realize the ambit of a conspiracy so gigantic it's hard to fathom. It ignores and misrepresents the entire history of human ideas. It is a fully manufactured world. What is black is white. What is up is down. When the Internet comes along you start to see how far back in time the conspiracy goes and how deeply it runs.

You notice with some surprise that for a while everything is labeled, so the paper trail is fully available. This is because the power elite did everything in the open so no charges could be laid. The names are all there on the annual reports, on the legislation, on the funding. Nobody ever expected all of it would show up in one place on the Internet. (And now, of course, it is being taken down and the paper trail is not quite so easy to follow. But if you know where to look, it's obvious.)

You understand it is a familial conspiracy. Eventually, you begin to believe it goes back to Venice, and then to Rome and even farther than that. Today, you decide, it is structured a little bit like the mafia. There are ties of blood and allegiance. But the ties don't extend to everyone and nobody talks – except to lie. It is the misleading methodology of Money Power. And the conspiracy floats a promotion that tars an entire religion when in actuality only a few benefit. That's the core, baseline misinformation. Even the religion itself may be different than what is purported. (And how can a family worth a reputed US$50 trillion be considered in any way normal?)

You observe that the intellectual currency of repression is built from dominant social themes relentlessly pounded into the public ear. You keep watching the patterns build and you keep getting headaches because after watching the patterns for 20 years, you've come to believe that it encompasses, or tries to encompass every country, every state, every individual on the planet, binding them to invisible chains of ignorance and servitude.

This is one "take" on the power elite and their methodologies. Even if you don't believe it, dear reader, you may have to grant that certain ideologies are promoted in the mainstream press and others are not. One of the ideologies that is NOT promoted is that of the Mises Institute. There is a virtual blackout on the Institute in the mainstream press. Not that it matters. The Internet has created a whole new world. But the way the elite deals with free-market thinking is still by ignoring it. So why this WSJ article now? All we could come up with initially was willful ignorance (bias) or antipathy.

Other information has emerged – much of it thanks to the fine bloggers at LewRockwell.com. The consensus seems to be that editors at the Journal conspired to leave out the "harder" and more uncompromising Misesian school. Meanwhile feedback conversations with such estimable GMU commentators as Steve Horwitz reveal that the author of the WSJ article had set out to write a profile of Austrian academics. The confusion is then seemingly the Journal's fault as nowhere in the lead of the article does the Journal make clear what the article is about. Thus, the entire article becomes confusing. It leaves out Mises with a seeming arbitrariness. Once the lead is muffed, the article degenerates.

What should the lead have been? Apparently it should have been something along the lines of: "Peter Boettke might seem an odd sort to be leading the charge for free-market academic purism." You would have to make the argument for a certain kind of purism as the Mises Institute has plenty of academics themselves who are noteworthy. The difference, as Peter Boettke pointed out in his blog, is that he and his department are focused relentlessly in publishing in certain mainstream academic journals. This sounds like a differentiating factor, or at least could be construed as one.

The estimable Lila Rajiva (who would be an ornament to any blogsite let alone her own) has been working day and night to compile a running commentary on the Wall Street Journal controversy. While we have had disagreements, her take on the article is that it was a willful attempt to set the parameters of the free-market conversation in such a way as it can be controlled by mainstream academia. In other words, (as we understand it) the relevant conversation is taking place amidst gatekeepers and no one else is to be allowed in.

This is a most credible observation. But we will stick to our analysis for now, as we have indicated previously: willful ignorance and/or antipathy. Until we know better, we will not believe the CIA had a hand in the article or even that the topmost editors at the WSJ micromanaged in it. (If they did, they sure did a lousy job.) We're not even sure the Kochs are directly involved. No, the larger elite strategy of message control aimed at the Mises Institute is evidently and obviously one of omission rather than commission – and we have not yet observed any change in that weather. (Or not until Lila finishes her compilation of links.)

These are generally well-thought and substantive promotions. They employ the massive, global power of the elite's tremendous resources. They are logical and evidently and obviously preplanned: The global warming promotion was very obviously strategic and thematic. In fact, they have a pattern as we have indicated – and once you understand it, you can begin to predict manifestations.

They (the promotions) begin in think tanks and academia and then migrate to the mainstream press. Eventually specially built NGOs and other sorts of organizational structures advance these promotions. As the rhetoric heats up, legislation is developed and authoritarian solutions are generated via the tools of modern-day regulatory democracy.

We don't see this happening yet as regards free-market thinking. We observe the promotional pattern is still one of negation. But if it does change; if the promotion becomes one of commission, promoting the idea regularly and in various mainstream avenues that Austrian economics is the provenance only of certain academic forums, then it will become obvious that the rhetoric has changed and that a promotion of omission has morphed to one of commission. That is a very big deal, we would argue. It has tremendous ramifications. In no way is it unimportant.

After Thoughts

Lew Rockwell and his colleagues have done what few others in the history of the world have accomplished. They have led a modern thought revolution that has stabbed a vital empire. If Leviathan groans and gropes in response, it is no trivial matter. What began in a room now shakes the world.

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