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How the “Respectable” Media Serves the Political Elite

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[Editor's note: Two interviews from August 1992 given by Murray Rothbard to the Swedish student publication Svensk Linje (continuously published since 1942) were recently discovered in the Rothbard Archives and translated by Sven Thommesen for the first time. In this interview, Rothbard offers his thoughts on the 1992 election and the role of the "respectable" media in promoting ...

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[Editor's note: Two interviews from August 1992 given by Murray Rothbard to the Swedish student publication Svensk Linje (continuously published since 1942) were recently discovered in the Rothbard Archives and translated by Sven Thommesen for the first time. In this interview, Rothbard offers his thoughts on the 1992 election and the role of the "respectable" media in promoting the campaign of Bill Clinton.]

The Presidential Election: Clinton and the Media

In January 1993, Bill Clinton will be inaugurated as President of the United States. On August 7 [1992], while it was still unknown whether this would be the outcome of the election, Anton Wahlman interviewed the libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. Rothbard is S.J. Hall Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and he has among other things written books on the topics of monetary theory, business cycle theory, and the philosophy of economics.

Anton Wahlman: Anyone who has been interviewed by the media knows that in principle they always present reality from a particular point of view. News from the United States is usually particularly distressing in this sense. Even the largest newspaper in Sweden, the Expressen, publishes editorials in favor of the Democratic Party presidential candidate, Bill Clinton. Give us your take, Murray Rothbard!

Murray Rothbard: I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to address a Swedish audience. During the last half century, the social democrats [liberals] in the United States, though a tad embarrassed by the excesses of communism, have promoted the supposed success of the Swedish “third way.” I am therefore greatly pleased that Sweden seems to be on its way to emerging from the darkness of the “third way” and starting along the path to a free society.

Your question is about the prospects for an eventual victory by Bill Clinton in November. I believe that the most important lesson I have for my Swedish readers is that they should not believe any reporting or any articles from American media. American media are divided into “respectable” and “non-respectable” media. Respectable media, which are the only ones that are read by the American political elite, and presumably are all that filters down to European readers, are completely biased in favor of social democracy. The non-respectable media, which are read by the masses but have no influence at all in the circles of power, do not care about ideology but are mostly interested in selling as many copies as possible, and in racking up the largest numbers of viewers and listeners they can. For this reason, truth occasionally manages to find its way into the non-respectable media.

The ”respectable” media aren’t just in favor of Clinton because they are social democrats, but also because they like his style: that is to say, he is young (people in the media are generally of an age with Clinton and Gore, and they share the outlook of that generation), and he is a “social democratic reformer” (read: neo-liberal), which is to say that he hides his socialist ideology in technocratic “value free” rhetoric, rather than the old 1930s-style slogans of class struggle.

The great media lie in the 1992 electoral campaign is that Clinton, unlike earlier Democratic presidential candidates, has moved from the “left” to the “middle” of the political spectrum, and also that unlike earlier presidential candidates he is not beholden to left-wing special interests. The fact is that they tried the same nonsense in the Dukakis campaign in 1988, and they were not successful in fooling too many people. Clinton’s “moderation” and “business friendly” views consist of his promotion of “investments.” But these “investments” have mysteriously been redefined to consist of government spending! The current media narrative claims that the US economy is losing productivity, and that what is needed to improve productivity is higher taxes (!) and increased government spending on “infrastructure”—that is to say, more money wasted on government roads and more money for schools which serve mostly as indoctrination camps.

To sum up my view on this presidential campaign: The Bush administration has been a quasi-catastrophe, stumbling along the road to ever more government power: higher government spending, higher taxes, more regulations. A Clinton administration would constitute a complete disaster: Bush’s stumbling would be replaced by a deliberate and intentional desire to drag the United States down into the socialist maelstrom. This is obviously not an optimistic perspective, at least not in the short run. In the long run, on the other hand, I am enormously pleased that ever more Americans hate the state, realize the evil of the two-party system, and demand a radical change in our political system.

If Ross Perot had stayed in the campaign there would have been some hope that we could have seen a system change that would have shaken up the corrupt and monopolistic two-party system, which is worshipped and glorified by those who benefit from their monopoly privileges. When Perot backed out of the campaign it became clear that we will have to wait a while longer before we see fundamental institutional changes in American politics.

Murray N. Rothbard
Murray N. Rothbard, a scholar of extraordinary range, made major contributions to economics, history, political philosophy, and legal theory. He developed and extended the Austrian economics of Ludwig von Mises, in whose seminar he was a main participant for many years. He established himself as the principal Austrian theorist in the latter half of the twentieth century and applied Austrian analysis to historical topics such as the Great Depression of 1929 and the history of American banking.

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