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Sunday, 29 March 2009

Did libertarians create Radio One?

There is an interesting academic debate going the rounds at the moment in response to the assertion that the modern age began in 1959. This is probably more true for the UK than elsewhere; we had retreated from Empire, and our young Queen began to form her identity as head of a new Commonwealth. From 1959 we began to abandon our lead in aerospace and nuclear technology. Children born in the Blitz were then young adults, and demanding a very different nation to that which rationed their meat, milk and chocolate in childhood. We started to reject the 'establishment', from the Lord Chamberlain's censoring of stage plays to the grip of the old-boy network on the nation's institutions.

There is an emerging allied analysis that casts the 60s not as a left-wing social revolution, but a right-wing libertarian societal shift. Robert LeFevre has long been held as the guru of modern libertarianism, and the Mises Institute helpfully reprints online his influential 'The Nature of Man and his Government', published in 1959. Prescient in parts, such as this:
In our own time we have seen one curious variance occurring to this otherwise monotonous and easily predictable routine. The "ins" and the "outs" have performed a merger. The party in power has now scarcely a discernible difference from the party out of power. And the reason for this merger is self-evident. The government has in itself grown so large and so formidable that it tends to absorb any and all politically interested persons, regardless of party affiliation. And since, in the main, there is no real difference in political parties, each party desiring only to rule — each party adopts an advertising program consisting of those public statements which each party leader feels will win an election — the merger is that of blood brothers and constitutes no betrayal.
In which he predicts the rise of the political class, the whole when re-read now foreshadows the find-yourself self-help communitarianism that underlaid the 60s:

You can grow with the growth of your family and your home. You can grow with the growth of your business or your work. But you cannot grow with the growth of your government. You must shrink, and from the shrinkage the government grows. You are on the threshold of a new world. This is true every day of the year and every year of your life. Can you and will you discipline yourself so that you will not employ an agency of coercion and affliction to compel others to support you in your fondest hopes and dreams?

Interesting that in the week in which Curtis' new romcom 'The boat that rocked' is released to question whether the north sea pirate radio jocks were not lefty anarchists but libertarians seeking to break the shackles of an overweening State. The mantras of personal growth and realisation that I listened to for years from Radio Caroline now seem to owe far more to LeFevre than Kropotkin. Discuss.

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