Rothbard on Truman

- written 1973 in the Complete Libertarian Forum Vol IV #11. Wow!
In paying tribute to [the recently deceased] Harry Truman with the utmost sycophancy, the media are celebrating the present and seemingly permanent status quo. It is in this light, too, that we must consider the fulsome tribute paid to Truman by his one-time supposed “enemy”, Richard Nixon.

In point of fact, there was scarcely a single act committed by President Truman that was not the quintessence of evil; the Truman administration was an unmitigated disaster for freedom, both at home and abroad. It was Harry Truman who launched and then institutionalized the Cold War; it was Harry Truman who fastened the military-industrial complex and the garrison state upon America. It was Harry Truman who institutionalized government budgets that were gigantic by any peacetime criteria in the history of the country. It was Truman who carved out the policy of permanent counter-revolutionary suppression of radical movements in the Third World: from Greece to Iran to the Middle East. It was Truman who put America permanently in Asia as the world “policeman” by his unconstitutional act of entering the Korean civil conflict. It was Truman who, in short, first boldly took us into war without so much as requesting a declaration of war from Congress (in Korea), and thereby cemented the absolute despotism of the Chief Executive in foreign affairs in an act far beyond anything which Franklin Roosevelt had ever contemplated. It was Truman who induced the United Nations to seize Arab lands on behalf of the new state of Israel.

It was Truman, furthermore, who took us in a giant leap toward domestic collectivism and bureaucratic socialism, with his Fair Deal program, a program that later bore fruit in federal aid to education, Medicare, and compulsory integration. It was Truman who instituted price and wage controls during the Korean conflict, and whose “state of emergency” has continued ever since, to account for a raft of domestic despotism. It was Truman, moreover, who severely repressed civil liberties with his loyalty and security programs; not Joe McCarthy but Harry Truman was the real and effective opponent of civil liberties during the late 1940’ s and early fifties. Consider the unfortunate hacks whom Truman appointed to the Supreme Court: every one a defender of government prerogatives in every area as against the liberty of the individual. Look around at the Truman record, and there is scarcely a single area that one can observe without indignation; his administration was truly a cornucopia of horrors.

Last but not least, there was the Truman act of mass murder of innocent civilians at Hiroshima, compounded by Nagasaki. His decision to drop the atomic bomb for the first and let us hope the last times, was done for “reasons of State” as a counter in the emerging Cold War. Not only was it totally unnecessary as a measure to defeat Japan, but what is more Truman knew full well that it was unnecessary. In the long and bloody record of shame in American foreign policy, there is no single act of degradation that can compare with this.

In face of the ghastly Truman record, we cannot remain silent in obedience to the polite canon that one must not speak ill of the dead. If we cannot speak ill of the dead, where is the justice that only the historian can bring to the record of the past? The great classical liberal historian Lord Acton once wrote that the muse of the historian must not be Clio, as blood. And in the case of Harry S. Truman, there is O so much blood to avenge.


Alex R. Knight III's picture

Who, pray tell, was the author of this?  I'm guessing Karl Hess.  This is outstanding in every way.
Incidentally, I have ordered the Complete Libertarian Forum 1969-1984 in two-volume print form from LVMI.  I look forward to running across much of this!

Jim Davies's picture

No, it was Murray Rothbard; as hinted in the title :-)  Outstanding indeed. I had naively supposed that Truman was a rather nice, mild-mannered guy whom FDR kept out of the loop for so long he could be forgiven a few mis-steps. Was I ever wrong.
CLF is excellent value, and so large it will take me at least a year to read it all. I'm still (at 1973) finding a preoccupation with politics, which is IMO why Rothbard's brilliant perceptions never gained traction. Yet.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Ugh -- sorry, Jim:  I was so impressed with the text, I failed to even do more than glance at the title.  :-)

Glock27's picture

Perchance anyone is interested these volume's are available for Kindle (if you have one) for immediate download for $6.99. Some people like hard copy, but I thought since the volume's are offered only in paper back for $30.00. The Amazon Kindle version has the same words. You can highlight and make notes on the kindle, and should it ever go bonkers on you Amazon will replace it free. Just a point of interest.