Murray Rothbard on “Luftmenschen”
Many of the tensions within the liberty movement today are nothing new. Murray Rothbard addressed the problem of those who see self-marginalization as a positive end in 1987. If your mission is to bring as many Americans as possible to the ideas of liberty, this goal is significantly complicated by the presence of those who revel in repelling the masses. Wrote Rothbard:
But here we face an inner problem and a paradox not only for libertarians, but for any radical, minority ideological movement. For marginal movements attract marginal people. Such movements are filled with what Germans call ‘luftmenschen,’ people with no steady jobs, incomes, or visible means of support; the sort of people who instinctively alienate the mainstream bourgeois Americans, not so much by the content of their ideas, but by their style, lack of moorings, and “counterculture.”
If a serious opportunity should arise… for the movement to make a great leap into Middle America, into genuine influence in our society, that Libertarian ‘luftmenschen’ will react not with enthusiasm but in fear and trembling. For far greater than their professed love of liberty is their hostility to bourgeois America.
As one critical observer of the party has harshly charged: ‘they want the Party to be a social club for crazies.’