Blogs > Liberty and Power > Albert Jay Nock

Apr 29, 2005 2:49 pm

Albert Jay Nock

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Kenneth R Gregg - 10/13/2004

Thanks for the reminder of this great libertarian and his achievements. It seems to me that Nock was very much in the grand tradition of classical liberalism in his form of radicalism, with the influence of classical writers as well as more American writers. While I cannot imagine him not having read Tucker and Victor Yarros (who was more active during the time of Nock’s writings—Yarros promoted a version of Spencerian anarchism which he called “rational anarchism”, although later recanting), I don’t recall any mention of Josiah Warren, Lysander Spooner or Benjamin Tucker in any of his books or articles.

BTW, if you haven’t read the original version of “Our Enemy The State”, be sure to look through the back pages of “The Freeman” (1920-24) for his multi-part essay, “The State” which includes not only a moral argument against the state, but also a rather unabashed admiration of the Soviet State and the Russian Revolution! It has never been reprinted but is an essential essay in understanding the evolution of the libertarian movement from the left to the right. A comparison of the two (“The State” and “Our Enemy The State”) shows one of the major factors why, in a comparatively short period of time, an entire portion of the political spectrum was forced from left wing politics to right wing as fellow leftists would shun libertarians for their open exposition against the dangers of Stalin’s regime. This, along with the blacklisting of libertarian writers by “Franklinstein” (as E.C. Riegel, another libertarian anarchist of the time, called FDR) who named them as part of the “reactionary right” and who made great efforts to exclude them from his own circle of favored newspaper writers and encouraged his supporters (and friends in journalism) to do the same, were the chief reasons for the evolution.

Nock expressed surprise in one of his “Journals” books that without changing his political philosophy one iota, he was viewed as an extreme leftist, and later, an extreme right-winger. I’ve given some lectures over the years about this left-right libertarian flip-flop, and find it a fascinating subject.

Just a thought.
Ken Gregg