Who gave our souls–will intellect and emotions–free will? ANSWER: GOD.
Murray N. Rothbard has many more thousands of words that elaborate on the below.
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This post: from the book: Rothbard Reader
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Some years ago, an article in the Journal of the History of Ideas, in an attempt to score some points against the great “economic determinist” historian Charles A. Beard, charged that for Beard it was only his historical “bad guys” who were economically determined, whereas his“good guys” were governed largely by ideology. To the author, Beard’s supposed“inconsistency” in this matter was enough to demolish the Beardian method. But my contention here is that in a sense, Beard wasn’t so far wrong; and that, in fact, from the libertarian if not from the Beardian perspective, it is indeed true in a profound sense that the “bad guys” in history are largely economically motivated, and the “good guys” ideologically motivated. Note that the operative term here, of course, is “largely” rather than “exclusively.”
Let us see why this should be so. The essence of the State through history is that a minority of the population, who constitute a “ruling class, govern, live off of, and exploit the majority, or the “ruled.” Since a majority cannot live parasitically off a minority without the economy and the system breaking down very quickly, and since the majority can never act permanently by itself but must always be governed by an oligarchy, every State will persist by plundering the majority on behalf of a ruling minority. A further or corollary reason for the inevitability of minority rule is the pervasive fact of the division of labor; the majority of the public must spend most of its time about the business of making a daily living. Hence the actual rule of the State must be left to full-time professionals who are necessarily a minority of the society.
Throughout history, then, the State has consisted of a minority plundering and tyrannizing over a majority. This brings us to the great question,the great mystery if you will, of political philosophy: the mystery of civil obedience. From Etienne de La Boétie to David Hume to Ludwig von Mises, political philosophers have shown that no State—no minority—can continue long in power unless supported, even if passively, by the majority. Why then do the majority continue to accept or support the State?
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when they are clearly acquiescing in their own exploitation and subjection? Why do the majority continue to obey the minority?
Here we arrive at the age-old role of the intellectuals, the opinion molding groups in society. The ruling class—be they warlords, nobles, feudal landlords, or monopoly merchants, or a coalition of several of these groups—must employ intellectuals to convince the majority of the public that their rule is beneficent, inevitable, necessary, and even divine. The dominant role of the intellectual through history is that of the Court Intellectual, who in return for a share, a junior partnership, in the power and pelf offered by the rest of the ruling class, spins the apologias for State rule with which to convince a deluded public. This is the age-old alliance of Church and State, of Throne and Altar, with the Church in modern times being largely replaced by “scientific” technocrats.
When the “bad guys” act, then, when they form a State or a centralizing Constitution, when they go to war or create a Marshall Plan or use and increase State power in any way, their primary motivation is economic: to increase their plunder at the expense of the subject and taxpayer. The ideology that they profess and that is formulated and spread through society by the Court Intellectuals is merely an elaborate rationalization for their venal economic interests. The ideology is the smokescreen for their loot, the fictitious clothes spun by the intellectuals to hide the naked plunder of the Emperor. The task of the historian, then, is to penetrate to the essence of the transaction, to strip the ideological garb from the Emperor State and to reveal the economic motive at the heart of the issue.
What then of the actions of the “good guys,” i.e., those unfortunately infrequent but vital situations in history when the subjects rise up to diminish, or whittle away, or abolish State power? What, in short, of such historical events as the American Revolution or the classical liberal movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? It goes without saying, of course, that the economic motive for diminishing or throwing off State power is a “good” one from the libertarian point of view, in contrast to the “bad” economic motives of the statists. Thus, a move by the ruling class on behalf of higher taxation is a bad economic motive, a motive to increase their confiscation of the property of the producers, whereas the economic motive against taxation is the good one of defending private property against such unjust depredations. That is true, but that is not the major point I am trying to make here. My contention is that, in the nature of the case, the major motive of the opposition, or the revolutionaries, will be ideological rather than economic.
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The basic reason is that the ruling class, being small and largely specialized, is motivated to think about its economic interests twenty-four hours a day. The steel manufacturers seeking a tariff, the bankers seeking taxes to repay their government bonds, the rulers seeking a strong state from which to obtain subsidies, the bureaucrats wishing to expand their empire, are all professionals in statism. They are constantly at work trying to preserve and expand their privileges. Hence the primacy of the economic motive in their pernicious actions. But the majority has allowed itself to be deluded largely because its immediate interests are diff use and hard to observe, and because they are not professional “anti-statists” but people going about their business of daily living. What can the average person know of the arcane processes of subsidy or taxation or bond issue? Generally he is too wrapped up in his daily life, too habituated to his lot aft er centuries of State-guided propaganda, to give any thought to his unfortunate fate. Hence, an opposition or revolutionary movement, or indeed any mass movement from below, cannot be primarily guided by ordinary economic motives. For such a mass movement to form, the masses must be fired up, must be aroused to a rare and uncommon pitch of fervor against the existing system. But the only way for that to happen is for the masses to be fired up by ideology. It is only ideology, guided either by a new religious conversion, or by a passion for justice, that can arouse the interest of the masses (in the current jargon to “raise their consciousness”) and lead them out of their morass of daily habit into an uncommon and militant activity in opposition to the State. This is not to say that an economic motive, a defense for example of their property, does not play an important role. But to form a mass movement in opposition means that they must shake off the habits, the daily mundane concerns of several lifetimes, and become politically aroused and determined as never before in their lives. Only a common and passionately believed in ideology can perform that role. Hence our strong hypothesis that such a mass movement as the American Revolution (or even in its sphere the Calvinist movement) must have been centrally motivated by a newly adopted and commonly shared ideology.
We turn now to the insight of such disparate political theorists asMarx and Mises, how do the masses of subjects acquire this guiding and determining ideology? By the very nature of the masses, it is impossible for them to arrive at such a revolutionary or opposition ideology on their own. Habituated as they are to their narrow and daily rounds, uninterested in ideology as they normally are, concerned with daily living, it is
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impossible for the masses to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps to hammer out an ideological movement in opposition to the existing State. Here we arrive at the vital role of the intellectuals. It is only intellectuals, the full-time professionals in ideas, who can have either the time, the ability, or the inclination to formulate the opposition ideology and then to spread the word to the mass of the subjects. In contrast to the statist Court Intellectual, whose role is a junior partner in rationalizing the economic interests of the ruling class, the radical or opposition intellectual’s role is the centrally guiding one of formulating the opposition or revolutionary ideology and then to spread the ideology to the masses, thereby welding them into a revolutionary movement.
An important corollary point: in weighing the motivations of the intellectuals themselves or even of the masses, it is generally true that setting oneself up in opposition to an existing State is a lonely, thorny, and oft en dangerous road. It would usually be to the direct economic interests of the radical intellectuals to allow themselves to “sell out,” to be co-opted by the ruling State apparatus. Those intellectuals who choose the radical opposition path, then, can scarcely be dominated by economic motives; on the contrary, only a fiercely held ideology, centering on a passion for justice, can keep the intellectual to the rigorous path of truth. Hence, again, the inevitability of a dominant role for ideology in an opposition movement. Thus, though perhaps not for Beardian reasons, it turns out to be true that the “bad guys,” the statists, are governed by economic motivation with ideology serving as a smokescreen for such motives, whereas the “good guys,” the libertarians or anti-statists, are ruled principally and centrally by ideology, with economic defense playing a subordinate role. Through this dichotomy we can at last resolve the age-old historiographical dispute over whether ideology or economic interests play the dominant role in historical motivation.
If it is the shame of the intellectuals that the Court Intellectual has been their dominant role over the course of world history, it is also the glory of the intellectuals that they played the central role in forming and guiding the mass movements of the modern world in opposition to the State: from the Calvinist upsurge of the Reformation to the classical liberal and radical movements of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.
Researching our free wills given by God; and finding those trying to reduce or remove our free wills–by Richard Duke