COLUMN RIGHT / MURRAY N. ROTHBARD : Little Texan Connects Big With Masses : Perot is a populist in the content of his views and in the manner of his candidacy.

<i> Murray N. Rothbard, professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, heads academic affairs for the Ludwig von Mises Institute</i>

Today, everyone hates Washington, something we haven’t seen since the late 1970s. Indeed, 1992 may usher in the decade and even the century of populism.

Populism, or hatred of the Establishment, can take many forms; within the last year, David Duke, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Brown and now Ross Perot have expressed different aspects. Buchanan’s is right-populism, Brown is left-populism and Perot’s is a fascinating hybrid. And populism, the emphasis on mass action from below, is vitally important in attacking the Beltway elites who are grinding us down.

Since Pat Buchanan will not receive the Republican nomination this year, conservatives must decide what to do in November. Surely, everyone must admit that the little Texan has brought an excitement, a verve, a sense of dynamics and of open possibilities to what had threatened to be a dreary race.


Perot is a populist, both in the content of his views and in the manner of his independent candidacy. And what a manner. Never before in American history has a simple announcement of a possible presidential race brought forth millions of phone calls of support and millions of grass-roots volunteers.

As a billionaire with a proven record of accomplishment, as a folksy, down-home guy with an East Texas twang and a plain, forthright manner who takes no guff from the smarmy media; as a man who talks sense, Ross Perot connected with the American masses in a remarkable way. And as the Establishment begins to engage in “scrutiny” (looking for smear material) and trying to “define” (smear) Perot, they are going to find that the People’s Billionaire is willing to spend $100 million of his own money to define himself.

Perot will at the least throw a monkey wrench into the D.C. machinery, but there are other, highly positive things to say about him. First, his foreign policy: (a) he opposed the Gulf War; (b) he wants to end our paying for the “defense” of Germany and Japan; (c) he opposes the $10-billion loan guarantee to Israel; (d) he opposes foreign agents in American politics and (e) he stresses private rather than governmental action, for example, his heroic rescue of his employees during the Iranian revolution.

In addition, Perot’s nomination of Adm. James Bond Stockdale as his interim veep is most interesting; Stockdale was not only a heroic POW in North Vietnam, he also wrote about the fraudulence of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which L.B.J. used to finagle us into war.

Domestically, Perot is the only candidate to dare touch the sacred universal entitlements of Social Security and Medicare. He puts it neatly and bluntly: “Why should a rich man like me collect Social Security and Medicare?” Why indeed?

Most intriguing, and most sneered at, is Perot’s concept of an electronic town meeting. Political scientists tell us that direct democracy was wonderful in the colonial period, but that it became technologically obsolete with population growth.


But a striking feature of our modern world is that direct democracy, direct mass voting on policies, has become technologically feasible again: through television, pay TV and so on. I have wondered for years now: Why have none of the bombastic champions of “democracy” advocated direct democracy--say, giving the public veto power over congressional laws? Could it be because these “democrats” only want the masses to vote Ja ! in plebiscites ratifying the dictates of the elite?

Many pundits have claimed that Perot is vague on specifics, and that if he doesn’t present an 85-page plan for every conceivable issue, he will lose public support. Rubbish! They don’t understand the genius of the Perot concept: Details? Democracy! Let the people decide through electronic ballots!

This is not to say that the masses will always, or even most of the time, make wise choices. But they are to be more trusted than the elites who are eating out our substance.

Opponents have raised against Perot the fact that he made his money selling computer services to state governments. So what? He was simply carrying out Libertarian Robert Poole’s concept of privatizing by contracting out.

I am not stacking Perot up against Mr. Perfect. Mr. Perfect ain’t running this November. We are weighing Perot, Slick Willie and his Lady Macbeth, and the inarticulate preppie from Kennebunkport. Ross Perot wins hands down. Besides, he’s short, and it’s about time us shorties won one.