As with all conspiracy theories, a willingness to suspend disbelief is the price of entry, but McGowan has this going for his theory: If he’s right, it worked. Before Laurel Canyon – before The Mamas and The Papas, CSN, the Byrds – the kids were radicalized. Afterwards, they were mellow, content to tune in, turn on and drop out.
I don’t subscribe to McGowan’s conjectures, but they’re fascinating, especially the huge number of connections he is able to make to the military intelligence apparatus: If you wanted to make it as a rock star in folk/country-rock L.A., a dad high up in the spy business turned out to be a big career boost.
I’ve been thinking in a McGowanly way about the libertarian agenda since last summer, when I realized that Stefan Molyneux’s anti-family stance was fundamentally at odds with the growth of his internet cult. I think Molyneux is engaged in a frenzied obsession to commit mass-parricide-by-proxy – I think he is killing his own parents over and over again in pantomime – but anti-familialism pervades libertarian philosophy.
That’s a problem. Why? Because philosophical movements grow by families. The initial growth comes from converts, obviously, but the long-term growth, from a fringe group to an established cultural force, comes about when children who were raised in the movement’s doctrine raise their own children in it. Two converts become seven adherents become twenty-five champions in just two generations. Add in on-going evangelism and you’ve got a growth machine that just won’t quit.
Libertarianism doesn’t have that. It is evangelical, if obnoxiously so, but it is all-but-adamantly anti-family, with the anti-family agenda being pushed relentlessly by theorists like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard and gadflies like Molyneux. This is bad for people who subscribe to their ideas, since the family is the sine qua non building block of human civilization, the last redoubt against the incursions of the state. But it’s worse for the libertarian movement, since movements grow by families.
The question that has bugged me since last summer: How could anyone have missed something this obvious?
And that leads me to an even uglier supposition: They didn’t miss anything. Being anti-family is not a defect of libertarianism but is in fact its actual clandestine agenda. That, as with the folk-rock song stylings of Stephen Stills, the purpose of libertarianism is to divert the energies of otherwise-troublesome young people, giving them something seemingly important to do while assuring they have zero long-term impact on the growth of the leviathan state. Too absurd for words? Given that Abstract Expressionism, the anti-art that destroyed the visual arts, was a CIA op, why not libertarianism?
Do I believe that? Hell, no. Does it scare me? Hell, yes. Here’s why: Because, as with Laurel Canyon, that’s just what happened. Libertarianism-writ-large has been a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The progress toward totalitarianism has been stayed not at all, with the only discernible change being a cadre of clipboard-weilding poindexters accounting for and lamenting the carnage. Where before freedom was being slaughtered in the dark, it is now perishing by a dim flashlight’s glow. Big improvement.
What if, instead of being an ineffectual academy-borne political fringe group, libertarianism is in fact a hugely successful clandestine intelligence operation? It’s purpose? To make sure that kids too smart for Marxism do not coalesce by the minivan load into a formidable anti-statist movement. Of the two potential outcomes – the reduction or elimination of the state versus boundless verbiage with no growth and no real-world impact – which has eventuated?
Ayn Rand and her ridiculous, indefensible argument for abortion fit right in with a divide-and-conquer agenda. Post-war students on the G.I. Bill are reading too much of paleo-libertarian writers like Mencken and Nock? Hayek and von Mises are both teaching in New York – and changing minds? William F. Buckley is organizing an egoist, anti-Marxist coalition? Here comes Ayn Rand, who champions the same ideas with one insuperable obstacle: Abortion. There can be no rapprochement between the religious and the atheist libertarians, and, for good measure, Rothbard drives a wedge between the limited-government and the no-government libertarians.
And for fifty-five years, the entire span of my young life, there we have stood, glaring venomously at each other and doing absolutely no damage to our common enemy – all while killing our best recruits by the box-car load. Not much of a success for the cause of liberty, but an undiluted victory for the leviathan.
I’m an easy sell on that idea that what you did is what you intended to do and, therefore, what happened was what was intended to happen. So did Buckley, Rand and Rothbard intend to wreck their Sopwith tri-plane, or was it maneuvered toward its ignominious crash by someone else?
Ayn Rand was a Russian national, of course, a fact we manage to forget by means of incessant repetition. She escaped the Marxist charnel house at a time when virtually no one was getting out, all but instantly establishing herself in Hollywood – propaganda central. She made a big splash at the House Un-American Activities Committee, which may have been a proof of her loyalty – or a false-flag representation thereof. She built a small following of Sociable personalities led by Cautious personalities, putatively celebrating the accomplishments of Driven personalities – who were driven away in droves by the suffocating Cautious tyranny of Rand’s “collective.”
Was Rand an unrepentant Red, a sleeper agent sent by the KGB to neutralize libertarian thought in America? Was she a CIA plant set up to bring down the resurgent paleo-libertarians? (Note that Buckley in his own turn commissioned an allegedly-repentant Soviet spy to review Atlas Shrugged.) Or was she simply behaving much like Molyneux, obsessively killing her own children over and over again in pantomime?
Ayn Rand’s stand on abortion is completely irrational in the context of the rest of her philosophical claims, so something is amiss. It’s easy to surmise that she was Molyneux-crazy, rather than Machiavelli-clever, but the net consequence is the same: The more stridently young people uphold official-Obectivism, the less likely they are to have children. Ayn Rand’s movement grows only by evangelism, and then only among highly-Cautious personalities.
Accordingly, in the long run official-Obectivism is doomed. Popular movements grow by families, and official-Objectivism and Rothbardian libertarianism are both adamantly pro-abortion and consistently anti-family.
Rand’s gnome-like monkish minions at the Ayn Rand Institute could fix her atrocious, viciously anti-life position on abortion, but they have not done so. Does that make them co-conspirators in a decades-long black op? That’s at least plausible, though my money is always with Occam: They’re scared-rabbit Babbitts milking what’s left of Rand’s money machine.
But if libertarianism were an intelligence operation contrived to neutralize the quest for freedom – what would be different?
When Ayn Rand made a sacrament of abortion, she sealed libertarianism’s fate: Our movement cannot grow so long as we reject the means by which movements grow – by families.
Don’t go all cargo cult on me. Merely having children is not sufficient. You have to raise them right. But they have to be born for that to happen, and as long as official-Objectivism and libertarianism-writ-large are champions of abortion, nothing of moment can change.
Ideas have consequences, so whether they arranged for that outcome or not, you can be sure The Ruling Class is well pleased with our persistent failures.