Libertarian Papers Vol. 2, Art. No. 14 (2010)



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Anyone who studies the organizations and individuals who opposed liberalism in the cold war years, and advanced an alternative position, face what Rothbard called the, “conceptual chaos of conservatism.”76 The most publicized attempt to resolve the apparent contradictions between conservative traditionalists and conservative libertarians came in Frank S. Meyer’s ‘fusionist’ approach to the problem, first aired in ‘Freedom, Tradition, Conservatism.’ Published in Modern Age, in 1960, Meyer’s article attempted to find a common ground for all conservatives by stressing that both doctrines originated from the same source. The founding fathers, he argued, “created a political theory and a political structure based upon the understanding that, while truth and virtue are metaphysical and moral ends, the freedom to seek them is the political condition of those ends.”77 Meyer insisted traditionalists did not appreciate that the libertarian desire for the political end of individual freedom was only the first, but crucial, condition whereby they could conduct a personal search for the metaphysical and moral end of truth and virtue. Meyer, like Lord Acton, believed that libertarians, “‘take the establishment of liberty for the realization of moral duties to be the end of civil society.’”78

Meyer then explained to libertarians that the traditionalist insistence on an organic moral order did not obstruct the libertarian position on the political end of individual freedom, and that they should accept, as traditionalists did, that “the only possible basis of respect for the integrity of the individual person and for the overriding value of his freedom is belief in an organic moral order.”79 Meyer’s ‘fusionism’ took as its uniting theme the assertion that only the freedom of choice, the freedom from coercion, could make any action virtuous. In somewhat tortured language, Meyer set forth a theory of conservatism that is Christian libertarianism in all but name. Christian libertarians do not want to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, an organic moral order, by coercion. They wish to see a Christian society, devoted to the development of individual personality, arise from the virtuous choice of individuals persuaded by the truth of the Scriptures. As a doctrine that recognizes the political end of freedom is nothing more than the means for individuals to determine what their duties to others are, Christian libertarianism still holds relevance today. Meyer warned that political freedom, “failing a broad acceptance of the personal obligation to duty and to charity, is never viable,” ending with the “licentious war of all against all.”80 The Christian ‘Rock of Ages’ recognized Meyer’s caution against individual freedom without moral principles long ago, and, presumably, will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

In 1964, Milton Heimlich, a business associate, wrote to Pew advising him to desist from financing ‘fascist’81 organizations; a reference to Pew’s reported support for The John Birch Society. Pew replied: “All of my life I have fought for the freedom of the individual—for the antithesis of the centralization of power which created such horrors as we witnessed in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, and which we see today in Mao Tse-tung’s China and Khruschev’s Russia.” And that, “I have also done what I could to promote a return to God, for Divine guidance is the desirable condition under which to give expression to individual freedom.”82 Many may not agree with the philosophy of Christian libertarianism, but as the opposite face of the totalitarian ideologies that slaughtered countless millions of people in the twentieth century, it deserves more than the cursory attention it has received so far from historians of the conservative intellectual movement. Study that will, perhaps, reveal that America’s claim to ‘Exceptionalism’ finds its foundation in the country’s respect for the religious justifications for individual freedom.



*Lee Haddigan (lhaddigan@yahoo.com; ABD, University of Delaware), Worcester, England, thanks Hagley Museum and Library, Delaware (HML), for allowing access to the personal papers of J. Howard Pew.

Cite this article as: Lee Haddigan, “The Importance of Christian Thought for the American Libertarian Movement: Christian Libertarianism, 1950­–71,” Libertarian Papers 2, 14 (2010). Online at: libertarianpapers.org. This article is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (creativecommons.org/licenses).

1 Lew Rockwell and Jeff Tucker, ‘Ayn Rand Is Dead,’ National Review, May 28, 1990, p.35, argues: “‘In the 1950s virtually everyone in the libertarianism movement was a cultural conservative, and virtually everyone was a believer,’ says George Resch of the Center for Libertarian Studies.” ‘The Randian Movement changed that, for the worse.’”

2 Ronald Lora, in Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton (eds.), The Conservative Press In Twentieth Century America (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999), 511.

3 Murray N. Rothbard, For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (1973; Ludwig von Mises Institute edition, 2006), 129.

4 Murray N. Rothbard, Betrayal Of The American Right (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007), 56 “During World War II, I was an undergraduate at Columbia University, and it seemed to my developing conservative and libertarian spirit that there was no hope and no ideological allies anywhere in the country.”

5 See, Rothbard, ibid; 67, for the crucial role played by the William Volker Fund in “promoting libertarian and laissez–faire scholarship” in the post-war period. See also; Dane Starbuck, The Goodriches: An American Family (Liberty Fund, Inc., 2001) 311–430, for the contributions of Pierre F. Goodrich to conservative causes.

6 For a broad overview of Pew’s contributions to causes that explored the relation of Christianity to individual freedom see, Mary Sennholz, Faith and Freedom: The Journal of a Great American, J. Howard Pew (Grove City, PA: Grove City College, 1975). Especially, 152–57, for Pew’s reasons for establishing not only Christian Economics, but Christianity Today (1956) and The Presbyterian Layman (1967) as well.

7 Memorandum, Summary of Income and Expenses from 1/1/1951 to 4/30/1961, Walter W. Brown–J. Howard Pew, June 9, 1961. In J. Howard Pew papers, Accession No. 1634, Box 185; HML.

8 Letter, Pew–Herbert V. Kohler, Sept. 5, 1961, Pew papers, Box 186; HML. See also, James C. Ingebretsen, ‘Pause For Reflection,’ Faith and Freedom, January 1955; 6, for the observation that labor leaders, after a study of workers’ opinions, “were shocked to learn … that the ‘great dominant force in public opinion still remained the ministers, priests and rabbis.’”

9 Draft, ‘Christian Economics: The Editor’s Definition,’ enclosed in letter, Kershner–Pew, Sept. 6, 1951, Pew papers, Box 181; HML.

10 H. Edward Rowe, “The Christian Scriptures and Freedom,” Christian Economics, Sept. 6, 1966.

11 Draft, “Christianity and Freedom,” enclosed in letter, Kershner–Pew, July 7, 1961, Pew papers, Box 184; HML.

12 Grove City College is another example of the Pew family commitment to funding the dissemination of Christian values as they relate to individual freedom. Pew graduated from GCC in 1900, and was chairman of the board of trustees from 1931 to 1971—a role his father had undertaken in 1895 when the school was reorganized as a nonprofit educational institution. GCC does not possess a large endowment, but operates from the principle that the costs of an affordable education can be met from tuition fees. For more, see Sennholz, op. cit.;17 and ‘Chapter Six: Education—A Debt To Future Generations,’ 147–61. See also http://www.gcc.edu/About_GCC.php.

13 Commencement Address delivered at Grove City College, June 8, 1957, Kershner, ‘The Moral Basis Of A Free Society,’ 5; Pew papers, Box 183; HML.

14 Kershner, ‘The Summit Conference,’ Christian Economics, Sept. 6, 1955.

15 V. Orval Watts, ‘How the U.N. Leads to War,’ Christian Economics, May 4, 1954.

16 Draft, “Dare We Limit the Gospel,” in letter, Kershner–Pew, April 22, 1958, Pew papers, Box 184; HML.

17 Draft editorial, on Dr. Dahlberg’s keynote speech at the recent General Assembly of the NCC, Kershner–Pew, Dec. 10, 1960, in Pew papers, Box 184; HML.

18 Pew, “Our Reformation Heritage,” excerpts from an address before the Laymen’s Leadership Institute, New Orleans, LA, 1962, in Pew papers, Box 186; HML.

19 Faith and Freedom, January 1954; 2.

20 Herbert Hoover, ‘Should Government Be Our Brother’s Keeper?’ Faith and Freedom, Volume X, No.2, 1959–60; 20–21.

21 Rev. Julian J. Keiser, ‘Structured Neighborliness,’ Faith and Freedom, Volume 10, No.1, 1959–60; 7.

22 Rev. Harry R. Butman, ‘The Minimized Man,’ ibid; 8–13.

23 ‘Cavalcade of Concerns,’ Faith and Freedom, Volume 10, No.2, 1959–60; 16.

24 Ibid., 17.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid., 19.

27 Audrey Herbert (pseud. Murray N. Rothbard), ‘The Real Aggressor,’ Faith and Freedom, April 1954; 22.

28 Dr. James W. Fifield Jr., ‘Freedom Under God,’ Faith and Freedom, April 1954; 10

29  Ibid., 11.

30 Dr. James W. Fifield Jr., ‘We Need A Leader—Now!’ Faith and Freedom, April 1957; 13.

31 Letter, Pew–Forrest Davis, July 9, 1952; Pew papers, Freeman file; HML.

32 Letter, Fifield–Pew, October 13, 1950; Pew papers, Freeman file; HML. A connection made also by Sennholz, op. cit., 157: “The moral and spiritual antecedents of individual freedom that are emphasized by the Freeman constitute the very foundation of J. Howard Pew’s philosophy.”

33 Letter, Pew–Crane, October 6, 1950; Pew papers, Freeman file; HML.

34 Letter, Hazlitt–Pew, October 31, 1950; Pew papers, Freeman file; HML.

35 Editorial, ‘The Faith of the Freeman,Freeman, October 2, 1950; 5.

36 Pew–Crane, op. cit.

37 George Sokolsky, ‘Freedom—A Struggle,’ Freeman, October 2, 1950; 14.

38 ‘Radio: From Headquarters,’ Time, July 3, 1939.

39 Sokolsky, ibid., 16.

40 Rev. Stewart M. Robinson, ‘Clergymen and Socialism,’ Freeman, August 13, 1951; 719.

41 Ibid., 720.

42 J. Howard Pew, ‘Governed By God,’ Freeman, July, 1957; 11. Clinchy also wrote two pamphlets for the FEE: ‘Two Paths to Collectivism,’ and ‘Charity: Biblical and Political,’ which “sold into the hundreds of thousands.” Freeman, January, 1955; 3.

43 Julian Maxwell, ‘Our Pink-Tinted Clergy,’ Freeman, July 27, 1953; 773.

44 Annual Report of the Committee on Un-American Activities for the Year 1953 (Washington, D.C.: Committee on Un-American Activities, U.S. House of Representatives), 95.

45 Ibid., 96.

46 For an early interpretation of the religious right as a ‘Ministry of Hate,’ and a ‘Ministry of Disruption,’ see, Ralph Lord Roy, Apostles of Discord: A Study of organized bigotry on the fringes of Protestantism (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953). This portrayal of the Old Right as ‘extremists’ reached its height in the early 1960s as an attempt to discredit the burgeoning appeal of Goldwater. See, for instance, Brooks R. Walker, Christian fright peddlers (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964).

47 ‘Christianity in Eclipse,’ Christian Beacon, October 25, 1956; 1.

48 ‘How Radical Are the Clergy?’ Christian Beacon, April 12, 1951.

49 ACCC release, ‘Marx or Christ in the Churches.’ Accessed, June 6, 2009; cm.org/speeches-marx.php.

50 20th Century Reformation Hour, ‘What is the Difference Between Capitalism and Communism.’ Accessed, June 9, 2009; cm.org/booklets-capitalismVcommunism.php.

51 Rev. Carl McIntire, Author of Liberty (Christian Beacon Press, 1946), xiv.

52 Ibid., xv.

53 Ibid., xvi.

54 Ibid., xvii.

55 Ibid., 74.

56 Ibid., 93.

57 Ibid., 101.

58 Ibid.

59 Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, Danger on the Right (New York: Random House, 1964), xvi.

60 Ibid., 103.

61 Author of Liberty, 83–84.

62 Ibid., 84.

63 Ibid., 85.

64 One of the recurring concerns of American liberals was the amount of money conservative organizations were able to spend in disseminating their ‘propaganda.’ See, Appendix: ‘Sources of Finance of the American Right Wing,’ Epstein and Forster, op. cit.; 272–80. The Institute of American Democracy estimated that the 1965 incomes of the above organizations were: 20th Century Reformation Hour, $3,040,000; CACC, $604.000; Christian Crusade; $1,106,900; JBS, $4,089,000. ‘Who’s Who on Far Right,’ Homefront, May 1967, 5.

65 The Blue Book of The John Birch Society (Tenth Printing, 1961), 127.

66 Ibid., 141.

67 Ibid., 174.

68 Jack Schwartzman, ‘The Omelet and the Eggs,’ Fragments, April–June, 1963, 4; in Lora, 361.

69 Ben Moreell, ‘Be Ye Doers of the Word,’ Fragments, July–Sept., 1964, 4; in Lora, 361.

70 Ralph Raico, ‘The Fusionists on Liberalism and Tradition,’ New Individualist Review, Autumn 1964, 31.

71 M. Stanton Evans, ‘Classical Liberalism and Religion,’ New Individualist Review, Winter 1966, 24.

72 Godfrey Hodgson, The World Turned Right Side Up (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), 303.

73 Joseph R. Peden, ‘Liberty: From Rand To Christ,’ Libertarian Forum, July–August, 1971, 4.

74 Murray N. Rothbard, ‘Comment,’ ibid., 5.

75 Murray N. Rothbard, ‘Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué,’ Modern Age, Fall 1981, 355.

76 Ibid., 352.

77 Frank S. Meyer, ‘Freedom, Tradition, Conservatism,’ Modern Age, Fall 1960, 363.

78 Ibid., 361.

79 Ibid., 360.

80 Ibid. See also Chapter One of Goldwater’s 1964 book, The Conscience of a Conservative, which argues that the central importance of political freedom is ensuring the conditions whereby the individual can fully develop their—much more important—unique spiritual personality.

81 In his speech at the first meeting of the CFF on April 17, 1950, Pew stated; “in Washington there are many politicians who will tell you that I am an economic royalist—some who contend even that I am a Fascist.” A reference, primarily, to the accusations of George Seldes in, e.g., 1000 Americans (New York, 1947), 292-98, which presents an appendix titled, ‘Nazis Parading on Main Street,’ detailing Pew’s contributions to anti- New deal groups like the Liberty League and Sentinels of the Republic. These accusations continue today in, e.g., Glenn Yeadon and John Hawkins, The Nazi Hydra in America: Suppressed History of a Century (Joshua Tree, CA: Progressive Press, 2008), 183: “A quick look at the officers of the National Industrial Information Committee, the propaganda arm of NAM, reads like a who’s who of fascists … Pew [also] was a large financial contributor to the Sentinels, Crusaders and other pro-fascist groups.”

82 Letter, Pew–Milton Heimlich (President, Plymouth Machinery Co., Inc.), Oct. 27, 1964; Pew papers, Welch file; HML.

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