The Betrayal of the American Right and the Rise of the Neoconservatives

IS_H_BAR — with David Gordon

Cost: $49   Length: 6 Lectures
Format: Independent Study
Status: Open for enrollment

About the Course

This course offers a detailed look at the American Right since World War II, based on Murray Rothbard’s The Betrayal of the American Right. Rothbard argued that American conservatism since the 1950s sharply reversed the policies of what he called the Old Right. This latter movement combined opposition to Roosevelt’s New Deal with principled non-interventionism in foreign affairs.

Post-war conservatism abandoned laissez-faire and a foreign policy of peace in favor of an interventionist State, essential for the pursuit of an aggressive Cold War strategy aimed at the overthrow of World Communism. In this transition, William F. Buckley and his circle at National Review played a pivotal role. Buckley began as a disciple of the American individualist anarchist Frank Chodorov, but he soon executed an about-face, holding that laissez-faire must be abandoned for the duration of the Cold War. True to his convictions, he worked as an agent of the CIA.

The views of Willmoore Kendall and James Burnham, key editors of National Review who along with Buckley were former CIA agents, were completely at variance with the individualism of the Old Right. Burnham was also a former Trotskyite; and another influential editor, Frank S. Meyer, at one time a high official of the Communist Party (CPUSA).

The course examines the views of these writers as well as the efforts of Buckley to purge from the American Right individuals and groups, including John T. Flynn, the John Birch Society, Ayn Rand and her followers, and Rothbard himself, who refused assent to his doctrines.

After Rothbard’s book was written in 1973, a new group of statist activists, the neoconservatives, rose to influence and power. Buckley, whose own views, like those of his mentor Burnham, prefigured the ideas of the neoconservatives, soon allied with them. The course will examine the views of key figures in this movement, including William and Irving Kristol and Robert Kagan. How important was Leo Strauss in this movement? To what extent were the neoconservatives responsible for the Gulf War and the Iraq War? These are among the questions the course adresses.

Besides The Betrayal of the American Right, the reading material will consist of additional articles by Rothbard and selected writings of the persons discussed in the course.


All other readings for this course are free, available online, and provided to students in a fully-hyperlinked syllabus.

Independent Study

Independent study courses are courses that were presented live in the past. These courses are now offered at a discount to anyone who wants to study independently. All courses include lecture recordings, slides, a complete hyper-linked syllabus, automatically-graded quizzes, and a discussion forum. Professors are not available for academic support for these independent study courses.

Sample Certificate of Participation

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