All posts by Joel Schlosberg

Free Mice in Free Markets

An actual, if animated, Marxist at Disney: “Little Red Henski” en route to inciting class struggle in Alice’s Egg Plant. Public domain.

Readers of the Wall Street Journal opinion page on March 1 may have had to double-check that April didn’t arrive early.  Or at least that the byline for an editorial lambasting Republicans who “have campaigned on free-market principles but governed as corporatists — supporting subsidies, tax breaks and legislative carve-outs,” all “policies that benefit corporate America [but] don’t necessarily serve the interests of America’s people and economy” wasn’t Ralph Nader’s.

A closer look at “Why I Stood Up to Disney” shows that it’s business as usual for governor Ron DeSantis, who may style his Florida “the state where woke goes to die” but whose crusade against the Magic Kingdom remains haunted by the grim, grinning ghosts of what Nader alternately calls “corporate socialism” and “government guaranteed capitalism.”

Three decades before DeSantis’s threats to micromanage Mickey, a different Republican governor was eager to “kick down any hurdles” in the Mouse’s way. George Felix Allen’s red carpet wasn’t enough to bring Disney’s America to Virginia, yet the unrealized project faced uncannily similar criticisms.

Murray Rothbard called it an examplar of “subsidized, state-directed growth: the opposite of free markets” (not unjustifiably, given nine-figure handouts) and the “vulgarized, shlockized” output of a conglomerate more devoted to pandering for profits than safeguarding “the old Disney tradition.” Rothbard also anticipated DeSantis’s charges of “cultural Marxism” by tracing the pedigree of Disney’s historical research to “the notorious Foner family of Marxist scholars and activists.”

DeSantis could have read in the pages of The Wall Street Journal about how, despite Walt Disney’s admission that “my father was a Socialist,” his ideological inheritance amounted to little more than honing draftsmanship skills by copying imagery of “the big, fat capitalist with the money” placing “his foot on the neck of the laboring man.” The Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge comic book might have been just as cartoonish, but when developing the character of a post-Ebenezer Scrooge McDuck, Carl Barks took pains to distinguish the fanciful treasure hunter from “the millionaires we have around who have made their money by exploiting other people to a certain extent.”

Even the website of Rothbard’s own Ludwig von Mises Institute includes his “Eisnerizing Manassas” alongside Philip S. Foner’s edition of The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine.  And Disney didn’t need help from “the Communist-dominated Fur Workers Union” or “the Communist-dominated Drug and Hospital Workers Union” to get audiences to line up for The Lion King while Rothbard wrote his warning.

DeSantis professes to be merely putting Walt Disney World Resort on a level playing field with the Sunshine State’s other theme parks like Universal Studios and SeaWorld.  Yet his insistence on cutting off “a way for the left to achieve through corporate power what it can’t get at the ballot box” when “it is unthinkable that large companies would side with conservative Americans” reveals a willingness to use his electoral votes as carte blanche to override those voting with their untaxed dollars — or their feet.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Free mice in free markets” by Joel Schlosberg, The Enterprise [Wilson, North Carolina], March 6, 2023
  2. “Free mice in free markets” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic], The Madill, Oklahoma Record, March 9, 2023
  3. “DeSantis’ Disney stance anti-free market” by Joel Schlosberg, The Daily Advance [Elizabeth City, North Carolina], March 14, 2023
  4. “DeSantis’ Disney stance anti-free market” by Joel Schlosberg, Rocky Mount, North Carolina Telegram, March 14, 2023
  5. “DeSantis’ Disney stance anti-free market” by Joel Schlosberg, [Greenville, North Carolina], March 14, 2023

Buy Our Bootstraps

It’s always nice when a comrade remembers you on your birthday.

To be sure, when the socialists at Jacobin magazine published Akil Vicks on “the hardened individualism of Ayn Rand” the day the author of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal would have turned 118 (“There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Self-Made Man,’” February 2), they probably didn’t have in mind NYU Marxist professor Bertell Ollman’s description of Rand as “a comrade of Marx, methodologically speaking.”

Despite the obvious differences between Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Rand’s capitalist manifestos, Ollman highlights the common attention to social context. The writer Vicks sees as epitomizing “isolating notions of individual ‘grit’” was not, as Vicks implies, unaware of the notion of “finding intellectual and emotional fulfillment as part of a community.”

Although the community of Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged would not appeal to many socialists, Rand’s The Fountainhead was among the inspirations for socialist psychologist Abraham Maslow. He cited that novel as a source for the insight that “the most stable and therefore most healthy self-esteem is based on deserved respect from others rather than on external fame or celebrity and unwarranted adulation.” The “self-actualization” atop Maslow’s pyramid of needs was not self-isolation.

Vicks doesn’t directly mention Rand’s fiction as examples of “bootstrap narratives.” (A term also presumably not a nod to Robert Heinlein’s “By His Boostraps,” whose protagonist is indeed a “self-made man” via encounters with his own time-traveling future self.) Instead, it refers to supposed Rand influences like what fellow Jacobin contributor David Sirota calls the “tale of [Michael] Jordan as Rand’s Atlas, who easily lifts the weight of the entire sport of basketball on his shoulders” — and that anyone sufficiently determined could step into Jordan’s Air Jordans. (Other Jacobin contributors have pointed out that millionaire athletes are paid a minuscule fraction of the billions their skills generate — much of which further enriches billionaires.)

Yet Rand’s nonfiction showed a clear understanding that real individuals weren’t omnipotent. In the 1972 essay “What Can One Do?,” Rand observed that it was just as much “an impossible goal” to “perform instantaneous miracles” in “the realm of ideas” as “to stop an epidemic overnight, or to build a skyscraper single-handed.” Even the most talented physician could only “treat as many people” as possible, and might do so in “an organized medical campaign.”

Emma Goldman, currently juxtaposed with the denunciation of Rand through the banner ads on Jacobin‘s website, found “the greatest social possibilities” in forerunners of Rand’s individualist philosophy like Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner, concluding that “only when the [individual] becomes free to choose … associates for a common purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos and inequality.”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


In 2023, Myths are True Lies and New Deals are Old

Help Him To Get Out editorial cartoon

A week into 2023, The New York Times has gotten perspective on the news from further back than one week.

In the newspaper’s January 7-8 weekend edition, Carlos Lozada took “A Peek Behind the Curtain of American History” via a deep dive into Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past.  (Not to be confused with Richard Shenkman’s Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History from 1989.)

The longtime editor of The Washington Post‘s 5 Myths series acknowledges that “some myths serve a valid purpose” when they provide a narrative for facts rather than being mere falsehoods, or akin to what Nigel Andrews called political spin “somewhere between the simple truth and the possible souping-up” in the Arnold Schwarzenegger biography True Myths.

Lozada pushes for a more complex interpretation; even focusing on outright deceptions from the right-of-center aisle of American politics implies that “left-wing activists and politicians in the United States never construct and propagate their own self-affirming versions of the American story.” Ironically, Lozada buttresses conservative framings while determined to push back against them.

Lozada lists “notions that free enterprise is inseparable from broader American freedoms” among the “myths peddled or exaggerated, for nefarious purposes, by the right.” While Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian imports that literally provided the paper on which dissenting views were printed, his opponents extended their dismission of free trade to civil liberties in general (earlier American left leaders like Henry George supported both.)

Lozada and Myth America contributor Eric Rauchway consider the New Deal unfairly maligned by misguided reactionaries, reinforcing what Ronald Radosh dubbed “The Myth of the New Deal.” That two of the essays forming the basis for Radosh’s were Barton Bernstein’s “The New Deal: The Conservative Achievements of Liberal Reform” and Howard Zinn’s “The Limits of the New Deal” —  and that Radosh saw them as understating the failure of the New Deal to break with the status quo — indicates how far it was from a partisan potshot.

“The Myth of the New Deal” was part of A New History of Leviathan, in which coeditors Radosh and Murray Rothbard attempted to “transcend the ideological myths that enable the large corporations to mask their hegemony over American society.” Rothbard balanced Radosh’s uncovering of the corporatist nature of the New Deal with a retrospective on how its policies amplified those set in motion by Franklin Roosevelt’s supposed antithesis, Herbert Hoover.

Marvin Gettleman and David Mermelstein observed that “although Rothbard’s critique is based upon a belief in the kind of free-market, laissez-faire principles that are usually associated with the political ‘right,’ many of the points he makes could easily be assented to by the ‘new left'” to which those editors of The Great Society Reader: The Failure of American Liberalism belonged.

If, as Chris Matthew Sciabarra noted in 2005, “mainstream politics offers no genuine opposition to FDR’s Old ‘New Deal’ or Bush’s New ‘Old Deal'” equally committed to “massive government intervention,” that may be because it has forgotten the old lessons of the New Left.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “In 2023, myths are true lies and new deals are old” by Joel Schlosberg, Newton, Iowa Daily News, January 12, 2023
  2. “In 2023, myths are true lies and new deals are old” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], January 12, 2023
  3. “In 2023, myths are true lies” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic], The Madill, Oklahoma Record, January 12, 2023