ONE IS A CROWD No.1, November 9, 2002
Frank Chodorov's Love Affair
By Milton Batiste
Frank Chodorov (1887-1966) became an icon of the struggling conservative movement in the 1950s. You could spot him at right-wing cocktail parties, but he was at heart a radical. Writing to protest the labeling of himself as a conservative in National Review, Chodorov once threatened to reward anyone calling him by that name with a punch in the nose. He favoured the term "individualist". This highly esteemed man of letters actually flirted with anarchism, for a while.
For almost three decades Chodorov guided individuals devoted to freedom. He wrote hundreds of articles and edited three magazines. He did so without hope of remuneration or even wide recognition. Some of his best essays appeared in analysis, a four-page monthly broadsheet. Chodorov published it himself from a dingy loft in lower Manhattan. It never had more than 4,000 subscribers. It was not commercially successful.
The object of analysis was to shape the development of the postwar right by "helping the libertarian Remnant to attain self-consciousness and intellectual coherence". The libertarian nestor Albert Jay Nock considered it "by far the best contribution to our minor litterature of public affairs."
Instead of trying to teach individualism, Chodorov attempted to find individualists. He found several, among them Murray N. Rothbard, Edmund A. Opitz and James J. Martin. Or rather -- they found him. As Rothbard testified:
Frank Chodorov was opposed to government intervention at home and
abroad. He questioned the very idea of taxation. There was, from Chodorov's
point of view, no reason to believe that giving money and power to the
state would benefit society.
"I don't know whether I took to Kropotkin and Proudhon because they furnished me with arguments with which to refute the socialists on the campus or because they wrote much about individualism, which seems to be ingrained in my make-up."
This love affair ended when Chodorov looked into the economic doctrines of the various schools of anarchism then extant. All of them took a dim view of the institution of private property. This was, of course, unacceptable:
There was another reason to reject this creed:
Chodorov found this prospect abhorrent:
Chodorov's ideas are very much alive. Not only that. There exists today an anarchist movement with plenty of room for true individualists in the Chodorovian tradition. This movement is growing. You can see it in action at sites like Strike the Root , Anarchism.net, Lewrockwell.com and Anti-state.com . Labels are not important, but there are many: individualist anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, property rights anarchism, free-market anarchism, agorism, radical libertarianism, paleo-libertarianism. All of them are used by people who want to abolish the state and its wars, and keep the institutional machinery of freedom -- private property rights.
Anarchy and property go together in the visions of modern libertarians. For individualists today, the love affair with Kropotkin need not come to and end. What about Bakunin, then? Still out of the question, I'm afraid.
|Recommended reading Frank Chodorov: Fugitive Essays|