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Rothbard on Libertarian “Space Cadets”

spacecadetInteresting comments by Rothbard. I don’t completely agree, as I am partly indicted by this! Still, amusing and interesting:

David Gordon:

Again, in a manner that will delight Mrs. Virginia Postrel, Doherty remarks:

Advances in technology have made possible new wired worlds where governments might be unnecessary, new biological abilities have expanded our potential power over ourselves and our environments to almost godlike status. We may even be on the cusp of creating new societies off the surface of the planet itself. (p. 4)

Though he does later mention in passing Rothbard’s criticism of “space cadets,” he does not elaborate. The unwary reader would not guess that technological Titanism is not a universal feature of libertarianism. It is a particular point of view, again insinuated as part of a libertarian consensus when it is not.

And here:

Both the left libertarians and the devotees of technology find fault with Ron Paul. He is not cosmopolitan enough for them: he is so benighted as to defend the traditional family. Almost as bad, he is a genuine American patriot, who opposes NAFTA and similar agreements as inimical to American national interests. To me, these are virtues, not defects; but let us for the sake of argument assume that the values of the left libertarians and the technologists – those Rothbard termed “space cadets” – are correct.

And here:

I cannot think that Mrs. Postrel has advanced any arguments whatever against most of these reactionaries. If they prefer rooted societies with traditional morality and family farms, what is the matter with that? Is the difficulty that the reactionaries oppose change? But obviously they favor some changes, namely the ones that will get them to the society they want. Is it that they wish to control change? But why must they have this wish? Maybe they believe that people will naturally act in a manner to their liking, absent propaganda of space cadets of various stripes. Admittedly, Mrs. Postrel does raise a valid complaint against some of the reactionaries.


Newt Gingrich is a fanatical space cadet, whose first book was about the necessity of tax-funded space colonies. In his infamous lecture series on American civilization, he praises the marriage of big government and big science. It’s “worth the costs.” Indeed, big projects are particularly suited to government control, provided they are “focused.”

And one more guy:

The Free State Project of Jason Sorens focuses on the conversion of a single U.S. state to liberal principles, by having a critical mass of voters move to the state. That critical mass is thought to be 20,000. However, this number is about equal to the number that migrate to the state for other reasons. And in spite of the appeal of the idea, so far only 8,234 have pledged and 518 have actually moved.

Finally in this broad category is the one who enfranchises his family or himself, moving opportunely anywhere in the world as he sees fit. This is the “Sovereign Individual” of James Dale Davidson, who proposed it after exasperation with the half-measures of the National Taxpayers Union, which he had founded. While we may discount much of what Rothbard derided as “space cadet” features of Davidson’s eponymous book – that is, the hyperbolic gushing that new technologies would transform and save everything – the principle works if you can afford it. Notably lacking in this kind of hyperbole is Bill Bonner, who is perhaps a better representative of the principle.

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