McCosker on Kinsella on Palmer on Hoppe

Thursday, September 30, 2004
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I am posting an what I think to be an interesting email from R.P. McCosker, on the Palmer-Mises/LRC People attacks:

I read with interest Stephan Kinsella’s excellent item on the LRC blog addressing immigration (“Palmer on Hoppe,”) rebutting Cato’s Tom Palmer on Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s recent LRC commentary on immigration.

This is yet another instance of ad hominem attacks crisscrossing between Palmer and his paleolibertarian foes. I thought I’d discuss my own encounter with him.

Apparently Cato sponsors national speaking tours for various of its fellows. About a year and a half ago it did so with Palmer on the topic of “globalization,” and one of the groups to organize a campus event for him was the UC-Berkeley libertarian club (Cal Libertarians).

I live nearby and usually go to the club’s public events. In this case, I’d never heard of Palmer before, but the talk was well-attended: Anti-NAFTA activism was still great in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the club had succeeded in piquing the activists’ interest.

After being introduced by then-club leader Anthony Gregory (now an LRC regular), Palmer gave a very polished talk. He was also quick on his feet in responding to the many hostile questions from the floor. Later, I overheard a couple of the activists grumblingly concede to one another that the issue wasn’t as clearcut as they’d thought, that there is something to the free trade argument. Overall pretty impressive work, I’d say.

During the Q-&-A period, someone asked about open borders, and Palmer seemed shaken. Because of immigration restriction, he said, he couldn’t live with his British boyfriend. It was a personal issue for him, he in effect said, decrying how people were being hurt by the absence of unrestricted borders. Whether all this was genuine spontaneous emoting, or whether it was calculated to win sympathy from this overwhelmingly leftist, countercultural audience, I don’t know. But I can’t help wondering if this tendency to raise the matter of his own homosexuality in an impassioned plea is a regular habit or technique of his, and that that may have something to do with Hoppe supposedly describing Palmer as an “ambassador of homosexuality.”

Palmer’s Cato commentary doesn’t provide context (or documentation) for Hoppe’s otherwise peculiar phrase, but if Palmer’s Berkeley talk is much indication, it begins to make sense. As it is, Palmer gives no explanation, leaving the reader to suspect that Hoppe is oddball and gratuitously bigoted.

After the talk, Palmer invited everybody over to a nearby pub to have beer on him. (Presumably Cato reimbursed the tab.) About 20 of us went. There I was able to ask him about Rothbard’s criticism of NAFTA (something along the lines of its instituting a lot of bureaucratic regulation over trade), and he replied that Rothbard was dead, so he didn’t need counter him.

I was certainly surprised to hear this. If I was better at thinking on my feet, I might have asked this learned man if he actually believes that ideas are to be dismissed if the originators are deceased. At that rate, we’re all wasting our time reading books from the past.

I simply said to him that there are people who agree with Rothbard’s ideas. I think I detected a wince of recognition that I might be among them.

To his credit, Palmer quickly offered his rebuttal to Rothbard. (Something along the lines of the NAFTA provisions being voluntary, but I forget the details.)

This segued into his dismissing Rothbard as a charismatic cult leader like Ayn Rand. And Rockwell, he made a point of saying to Anthony, was a racist. After all, he’d gratuitously posted those articles about the bones found of Caucasians in prehistoric North America!

So much for all that. Clearly Palmer is one those libertarians, like R.W. Bradford of LIBERTY magazine and so many others, whose feel a profound revulsion to Rothbard and his acolytes. Perhaps because I haven’t affiliated with organized libertarianism long, I really don’t know what this is all about, why libertarians don’t just agree to disagree more often and instead have so many ad hominem feuds. (Though Kinsella, who has been at this quite awhile, asks this regarding hostility to paleolibertarians.)

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