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Advancing Austrian Economics, Liberty, and Peace

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Making Economic Sense
by Murray Rothbard
(Contents by Publication Date)


Chapter 45
Eisnerizing Manassas

Many conservatives and free-marketeers believe that an inherent conflict exists between profits, free-markets, and "soulless capitalism," and money- making on the one hand, as against traditional values, devotion to older culture, and historical landmarks on the other. On the one hand, we have bumptious bourgeoisie devoted only to money; on the other, we have people who want to conserve a sense of the past.

The latest ideological and political clash between capitalist growth and development, and old-fogy preservation, is the bitter conflict over the Manassas battlefield, sacred ground to all who hold in memory the terrible War Between the States. The Disney Corporation wants to build a 3,000 acre theme park just five miles from the Manassas battlefield.

Disney, backed by the Virginia authorities and "conservative" Republican Governor George Allen, hails the new theme park as helping develop Virginia and "creating jobs," and also bringing the lessons of History to the millions of tourists. Virginia aristocrats, historians gathered together to preserve the American heritage, environmentalists, and paleoconservatives like Patrick Buchanan are ranged against the Disney theme park. 

Doesn't this show that right-wing social democrats and left-libertarians are right, and that paleoconservatives like Buchanan are only sand in the wheels of Economic Progress, that conservatism and free-market economics are incompatible?

The answer is No. There are soulless free-market economists who only consider monetary profit, but Austrian School free-marketeers are definitely not among them. Economic "efficiency" and "economic growth" are not goods in themselves, nor do they exist for their own sake. The relevant questions always are: "efficiency" in pursuit of what, or whose values? "Growth" for what?

There are two important points to be made about the Disney plan for Manassas. In the first place, whatever it is, it is in no sense free-market capitalism or free-market economic development.

Disney is scarcely content to purchase the land and invest in the theme park. On the contrary, Disney is calling for the state of Virginia to fork over $163 million in taxpayer money for roads and other "infrastructure" for the Disney park. Hence, this proposal constitutes not free-market growth, but state- subsidized growth.

The question then is: why should the taxpayers of Virginia subsidize the Disney Corporation to the tune of over $160 million? What we are seeing here is not free-market growth but subsidized, state-directed growth: the opposite of free markets.

The second problem is the content of the park that Virginia taxpayers are expected to subsidize. When Walt Disney was alive, the Disney output was overwhelmingly and deliberately charming and wholesome, if oriented almost exclusively toward kiddies. Since the death of Disney, however, and its acquisition by the buccaneer Michael Eisner, Disney content has been vulgarized, shlockized, and gotten less and less wholesome.

Moreover, since Manassas is an historical site and the Disney park will teach history, it is important to ask what the taxpayers of Virginia will be letting themselves in for. The type of history they will subsidize, alas, is calculated to send a shudder down the spine of all patriotic Virginians. This history will no longer be in the old Disney tradition; bland, but pro-American in the best sense. It is going to be debased history, multicultural history, Politically Correct history. 

This sad truth is evident from the identity of the historian who has been chosen by Disney Corp. to be its major consultant on the history to be taught at the Manassas theme park. He is none other than the notorious Eric Foner, distinguished Marxist-Leninist historian at Columbia University, and the country's most famous Marxist historian of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Foner, as might be gathered, is fanatically anti-South and a vicious smearer of the Southern cause. It was Foner who committed the unforgivable deed of writing the smear of the late great Mel Bradford as a "racist" and fascist for daring to be critical of the centralizing despotism of Abraham Lincoln.

Eric Foner is a member of the notorious Foner family of Marxist scholars and activists in New York City; one Foner was the head of the Communist- dominated Fur Workers Union; another the head of the Communist-dominated Drug and Hospital Workers Union; and two were Marxist-Leninist historians, one, Philip S. Foner, the author of volume of a party-line history of American labor.

Eisnerizing and Fonerizing Manassas has nothing to do, on any level, with free-market ideology or free-market economic development. This impudent statist-project designed to denigrate the South should be stopped: in the name of conservatism and of genuine free-markets.

Once again, as in the case of the phony "free traders" pushing for Nafta and Gatt, it is important to look closely at what lies underneath the fair label of "free markets." Often, it's something else entirely. 

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