This course will offer 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).
We will study 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 will address.
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.
The course consists of weekly lectures, followed by questions and discussion. A voluntary weekly quiz will be offered to those who want to take the course for credit.
The video lectures are online. Lectures will be Wednesday evenings, 8:15 – 9:45 pm Eastern Time. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.
All readings for the course will be free and available online.
Grades and Certificates
The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.
If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.