This article was first published in the June-July, 1981, issue of Libertarian Forum, Vol. 15.3-4.
And I mean friends, for most of you have been and even still are my friends. Some of us have been good friends for many years, and we have fought many joyous battles together, arm-in-arm. Why are we now on opposite sides of the barricades? Why? I can assure you that fighting against you now is not at all joyous, but a very painful experience, as I presume that it is for you. Why? Why have we forsaken each other?
I know what your motivations were for entering the Crane Machine, and they were not power-lust or opportunism. You joined the Crane Machine for the same reason I once did, because you burned with a passion for human liberty, and because you wanted to spend your lives, 24 hours a day, in a noble struggle for the libertarian cause. Having realized that liberty was the only just system for mankind you were not content to remain as parlor libertarians. You wanted to do something, to put your considerable talents and energies to work, full-time, to try to achieve the triumph of liberty. You wanted to become "professional libertarians," and when you saw the prospect of jobs and careers opening up as lifelong libertarians, you jumped at the chance.
I don't blame you for that; on the contrary, your motive was a noble one, and probably remains so today. Let us hope that someday there will by a myriad of opportunities and institutions so that all of you can work full time in the libertarian cause.
But, my dear friends, dear brothers and sisters and (alas) former comrades, you forgot the pitfalls. In the heady excitement of working full-time as libertarians, as part of a cohesive and well-integrated team, it was easy for you to forget, to lose hold of the larger picture amidst the exciting day-to-day details of working for liberty. As able technicians, it was easy for you to get so wrapped up in the daily technique, the process at work, that the ultimate goals and principles began to grow kind of hazy. Didn't they? So that little by little, day by day, the means the razzle-dazzle, the jobs, the excitement, the intake of funds and the output of product, began to be transmuted into the ends themselves. Didn't they? Your daily lives, your daily work became the reality, while the reason you entered the whole thing, the very reason for your existence as libertarian in the first place, became ever more remote and ethereal didn't it?
And so, when Boss Crane, either impelled or followed by his Donor, gave the signal in the spring of '79 to downplay all those now remote principles and go for the big numbers, you went along didn't you? I wasn't surprised that you made the shift and went along, but I tell you frankly one thing that still shocks and hurts: That you shifted your gears so damned easily and smoothly, apparently without a second thought or a backward glance. Was it really that easy to surrender, my old and dear friends? Didn't you at least have some pricks of conscience, some moments of doubt, some second thoughts? Some qualms in the middle of the night, or when you looked at yourselves in the mirror?
I know that most of you are not doing it for the money, because you and I know that, contrary to myth, pay in the Crane Machine is crummy. I know that it is the action that keeps you there, the heady wine of working full-time on behalf of liberty.
But, oh my friends, what good is the action if it has become corrupt? What good is the means if it contradicts and sells out the ends, the goals which once brought you and me together? What good is the process, be it ever so exciting, if it is betraying everything we have long sought to accomplish?
Please, I beseech you in the name of liberty and of all we once meant to each other, to think that you may be mistaken. I plead with you to take off a few days and rethink your present courage in the good old Randian phrase, to "check your premises." To think that you may have allowed yourself to be manipulated by a ruthless politico to betray the cause of liberty rather than advance it. Consider for a moment: surely you must know in your heart that your Boss has total contempt for you just as he has for the entire human race. That he values you only as pawns that he can use to advance his power and his will. Do you think he would spare you for a single moment if it became in his interest to toss you down the tubes? Do you think he is ever moved by a single iota of sentiment, of reverence, of friendship, of love?
And even if you are still blinded by all other considerations, dear technicians, you should at least wake up to the fact that, in the long run, you are on a sinking ship. Eventually, you are going to lose, and I'll tell you why. I don't care if your Boss is backed by a billion dollars. The libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party are not a corporation or a military machine. They are not for sale. Except for the handful of Crane Machine members, we are every one of us independent people. We are all men and women of principle, and we are all passionately devoted to the cause of liberty. And in the LP, every single one of us has a vote. Once they have wakened up fully to what the Crane Machine has been doing, and they are in the process of waking up, believe me, the LP will overthrow the Crane Machine, and all the action that has lured and kept you in its clutches will be over, gone, kaput.
And the reason for your defeat is not only that your Machine has been systematically betraying principle. It is because your Boss, the man who aspires to be the leader of a political party, lacks the most important qualification for that post. To be leader of a political machine, one must be well liked and trusted by his own constituents, his party members. Mayor Daley was loved and trusted by his organization, because he clearly liked them, and because he always kept his word. And so with Jim Farley, and with all other successful political bosses. They commanded loyalty because their organization liked and trusted them. But Boss Crane is cordially and fiercely detested by almost all LP members who know him. He has a reputation for almost never keeping his word. Honestly, do you think he would keep his word to you if he saw some advantage in not doing so? And Crane is not smart enough to even try to mask his contempt for his fellow libertarians or LP members, so that people cotton to him very quickly. How can a person like that succeed in politics?
Consider: the Crane Machine is in a small minority, and it gets smaller by the minute as more and more LPers wake up to the truth and join the ranks of its opponents. The rising, swelling opposition, my friends, is at the gates.
But do not despair, because as the movement grows, the Crane Machine will no longer be the sole means of employment as professional libertarians. Other libertarians, other institutions, other jobs, even other Donors, will spring up, and provide healthy competition at long last for libertarian careers. More and more, the action will be elsewhere. The Death of the Crane Machine will not be the end of the libertarian movement; on the contrary, the movement will be far healthier and stronger as this blight is removed from its midst.
And so, dear old friends, I beseech you, I entreat you, I plead with you, to leave the dank and fetid air of the Crane Machine, to abandon the sweet smell of corruption, to quit the foul Corridors of Power. Come out, get out, and join me in the clean fresh air of freedom. If you leave, I will rejoice, and embrace you, and then once again we can fight for liberty together, arm in arm, as true comrades. My dear lost friends, let us find each other again, so we can sing once more the sweet songs of freedom.
Reprinted from Mises.org.
Murray N. Rothbard (19261995) was dean of the Austrian School, founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of the Mises Institute. He was also editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his literary executor. See his books.
Copyright 2006 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission is granted to reprint in whole or in part, provided full credit is given.