Text Size

Mises.org

  1. Coming of Age with Murray

    [The audio version of Professor Hoppe's keynote address presented at the Mises Institute's 35th Anniversary celebration in New York City on October 7, 2017, can be heard here.]

    I first met Murray Rothbard in the summer of 1985. I was then 35 and Murray was 59. For the next ten years, until Murray’s premature death in 1995, I would be associated with Murray, first in New York City and then in Las Vegas, at UNLV, in closer, more immediate and direct contact than anyone else, except his wife Joey, of course.

    Being almost as old now as Murray was at the time of his death I thought it appropriate to use this occasion to speak and reflect a bit on what I learned during my ten years with Murray.

    I was already an adult when I first met Murray, not just in the biological but also in the mental and intellectual sense, and yet, I only came of age while associated with him — and I want to talk about this experience.

    Before I met Murray I had already completed my Ph.D. and attained the rank of a Privatdozent (a tenured but unpaid university professor), the same rank incidentally that Ludwig von Mises once held in Vienna. Apart from my doctoral dissertation (Erkennen und Handeln), I had already completed two books. One, (Kritik der kausalwissenschaftlichen Sozialforschung) that revealed me as a Misesian, and another, about to be published in the following year, (Eigentum, Anarchie und Staat) that revealed me as a Rothbardian. I had already read all of Mises’s and Rothbard’s theoretical works. (I had not yet read Murray’s voluminous journalistic work, however, which was essentially unavailable to me at the time.) Thus, it was not my personal encounter with Murray, then, that made me a Misesian and Rothbardian. Intellectually, I was already a Misesian and Rothbardian years before I ever met Murray personally. And so, notwithstanding the fact that I am myself foremost a theoretician, I do not want to speak here about the grand Austro-libertarian intellectual edifice that Mises and, in his succession, Rothbard have handed down to us, or about my own small contributions to this system, but about my long personal experience with Murray: about the practical and existential lessons that I learned through my encounters with him and that turned me from an adult to a man who had come of age.

    I moved to New York City, because I considered Murray the greatest of all social theorists, certainly of the 20th century and possibly of all times, just as I considered Mises the greatest of all economists, and, with Mises having long gone and out of the picture, I wanted to meet, get to know and work with this man, Rothbard. I still hold this view concerning the greatness of Mises and Rothbard. Indeed, even more so today than 30 years ago. And since then, there has been no second Mises or Rothbard. Not even close, and we may have to wait for a long time for this to happen.

    So I moved to NYC knowing Murray’s work, but knowing almost nothing about the man. Remember, this was 1985. I was still writing in longhand and then using a mechanical typewriter, acquainting myself with a computer for the first time only during the following year at UNLV. And Murray never used a computer but stayed with an electric typewriter until the end of his life. There were no cell-phones, there were no emails, no internet, no Google, no Wikipedia, and no Youtube. At the beginning, even fax-machines did not exist. My correspondence with Murray preceding my arrival in NYC, then, was by old, regular snail-mail. Murray expressed his enthusiasm about my wish to meet and work with him and immediately offered to enlist the help of Burton Blumert, and indeed, Burt then was of instrumental help in facilitating my move from Europe to the US. (The wonderful Burt Blumert, owner of Camino Coins, and founder of the original Center for Libertarian Studies that would ultimately be merged with the Mises Institute, was one of Murray’s dearest friends and confidants. He was also a great benefactor and dear friend to me.)

    I had seen some photos of Murray, I knew that he, like Mises, was Jewish, that he taught at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (subsequently renamed New York Polytechnic University and nowadays Polytechnic Institute of NYU), that he was the editor of the much admired Journal of Libertarian Studies, and that he was closely associated, as its academic director, with the Ludwig von Mises Institute that Lew Rockwell had recently, 35 years ago, in 1982, founded. That was about it.

    And so, both unprepared, we met for the first time in Murray’s university office. Here was I, the ‘cool blonde from the North,’ to cite a popular advertisement for bitter tasting northern German beers, young, tall and athletic, somewhat unsociable, dry and with a dry sense of humor, and more on the blunt, sarcastic and confrontational side. Perfect Wehrmacht-material, if you will. And there was Murray: the ‘big-city neurotic,’ to use the German title of Woody Allen’s comedic Annie Hall, a generation older, short and round, non-athletic, even clumsy (except for typing), gregarious and hilarious, never moping but ever joyful, and, in his personal dealings (quite unlike in his writings), always non-confrontational, well-tempered or even tame. Not exactly Wehrmacht-material. Personality-wise, then, we could hardly have been more different. Indeed, we were quite an odd couple — and yet, we hit it off from the start.

    Given the long, special relationship between Germans and Jews, especially during the 12-year period of Nationalsocialist Party rule in Germany, from 1933–45, I, as a young German meeting an older Jew in America, had been afraid that this history might become a potential source of tension. Not so. Quite to the contrary.

    On the subject of religion itself, there was general agreement. We were both agnostics, yet with a profound interest in the sociology of religion and quite similar views on comparative religion. Yet Murray greatly deepened my understanding of the role of religion in history through his unfortunately uncompleted great work, during the last decade of his life, on the history of economic thought.

    Moreover, in our countless conversations, I learned from Murray about the importance of complementing Austro-libertarian theory with revisionist history in order to come up with a truly realistic assessment of historic events and global affairs. And it was I, then, as someone who had grown up in defeated and devastated post-WWII West-Germany with the then (and still) ‘official history’ taught across all German schools and universities of (a) feeling guilty and ashamed of being German and German history and (b) believing that America and America’s democratic capitalism was ‘the greatest thing’ since or even before the invention of sliced bread, who had to revise his formerly still, despite all Austro-libertarian theory, rather naïve views about world affairs in general and US-American and German history in particular. As a matter of fact, Murray made me fundamentally change my rather rosy view of the US (despite Vietnam and all that) and helped me, for the first time, to feel consoled, content and even happy about being German, and to develop a special concern for Germany and the fate of the German people.

    To my initial surprise, then, — and ultimately my great and pleasant relief — Murray was quite a Germanophile. He knew and highly appreciated the German contributions to philosophy, mathematics, science, engineering, scholarly history and literature. His beloved teacher Mises had originally written in German and was a product of German culture. Murray loved German music, he loved German baroque churches, he loved the Bavarian beer-garden atmosphere and the from-church-to-beer-garden-we-go tradition. His wife Joey was of German ancestry, her maiden-name being JoAnn Schumacher, and Joey was a member of the Richard-Wagner-Society and a lifelong opera buff. As well, most of Murray’s friends that I would eventually meet turned out to be Germanophiles.

    Foremost among them Ralph Raico, the great historian of classical liberalism, who I had hoped to see again at this occasion but who sadly left us forever almost a year ago now. I met Ralph only a few months after my arrival in NYC, at a party held at Murray’s apartment on the upper Westside. I immediately took to his caustic sarcasm and over the years we developed a close friendship. Apart from our many meetings at various Mises Institute events, I still fondly remember in particular our extended joint travels in northern Italy and especially when, at a conference in Milano, sponsored by some friends and affiliates of the once (but no longer) secessionist Lega Nord, some self-proclaimed — who would have guessed that?! — “anti-fascist” demonstrators appeared in front of the conference hotel to denounce us, to our great amusement, as ‘libertari-fascisti.’ Ralph was also the one who introduced me to the revisionist scholarship concerning WWI and WWII as well as the entire interwar period, and it was Ralph, who taught me about the history of German liberalism and in particular its radical 19th century libertarian representatives that had been almost completely forgotten in contemporary Germany.

    Incidentally, Lew Rockwell, too, early on showed his Germanophile credentials. When we first met in NYC in the fall of 1985, he drove a Mercedes 190, he then went astray for a few years, driving an American-made pickup truck, but ultimately returned to the fold by driving a Mini-Cooper, produced by BMW.

    But above all it was Murray, who taught me never to trust official history, invariably written by the victors, but to conduct all historical research instead like a detective investigating a crime. Always, first and foremost and as a first approximation, follow the money in search of a motive. Who is to gain, whether in terms of money, real estate or sheer power from this measure or that? In most cases, answering this question will lead you directly to the very actor or group of actors responsible for the measure or policy under consideration. Simple as it is to ask this question, however, it is much more difficult and requires often arduous research to answer it, and to unearth, from under a huge smokescreen of seemingly high-minded rhetoric and pious propaganda, the hard facts and indicators — the money flows and welfare-gains — to actually prove a crime and to identify and ‘out’ its perpetrators. Murray was a master in this, and that at a time when you did not have access to computers, the internet and search machines such as Google. And to do this detective’s work, as I learned from Murray, you must go beyond official documents, the MSM, the big and famous names, the academic ‘stars’ and the ‘prestigious’ journals — in short: everything and everyone deemed ‘respectable’ and ‘politically correct.’ You must also, and in particular, pay attention to the work of outsiders, extremists and outcasts, i.e., to ‘disrespectable’ or ‘deplorable’ people and ‘obscure’ publication outlets that you are supposed to ignore or not even know about. To this day, I have heeded, and indeed relished following this advice. Anyone who could see my list of bookmarks of frequently visited websites would likely be surprised, and any establishmentarian or leftist in particular would likely be shocked and shudder in disgust.

    With this general perspective and outlook on things, revisionists such as Murray (and myself) are regularly charged, contemptuously, as some nutty conspiracy theorists. To this charge, Murray would typically respond: First, put bluntly and sarcastically, even if one were a certified paranoid this cannot be taken as proof that no one was actually after you and your money. And second and more systematically: Conspiracies are less likely, of course, the larger the number of supposed conspirators. Also, it is naïve to assume the existence of just one big all-encompassing conspiracy run by one all-powerful group of conspirators. But conspiracies, often rival or even contradictory conspiracies, i.e., confidential efforts of various groups of people acting in concert in the pursuit of some common goal, are indeed an ever-present feature of social reality. As any action, such conspiracies can succeed or they can fail and can lead to consequences that were un-intended by the conspirators. But realistically speaking, most if not all historical events are more or less exactly what some identifiable people or group of people acting in concert intended them to be.  Indeed, to assume the opposite is to assume, incredibly, that history is nothing but a sequence of unintelligible accidents. 

    Moreover, in learning from Murray about the necessity of complementing Austro-libertarian theory with revisionist history so as to gain a complete, realistic picture of the world and worldly affairs, I also received constant training from him in the art of prudent and judicious judgment and evaluation of people, actions and events. Pure theory allows us to make rather clear-cut judgments of true or false, right or wrong, and effective, leading to the goal intended, or ineffective. But many if not most actions and events provoking or eliciting our judgments do not fall into the category of matters that can be thusly evaluated. We are surrounded, or better still: encircled, by a class of people — politicians and state-agents — that, day-in and day-out, renders and enforces decisions that systematically impact and affect our property and consequently our entire conduct of life without our consent and even against our explicit protestation. In short: we are confronted by an elite of rulers,instead of, in contradistinction, an elite of agents. And confronted with politicians and political decisions, then, our judgment concerns the evaluation of, at best, second-bests. The question is not true or false, right or wrong, effective or ineffective. Rather, it is this: Given that political decisions are per se false, wrong and ineffective, which of these decisions is less false, wrong and effective and comparatively closer to the truth, the right and the good, and which person represents a lesser evil or a greater one than another. Such questions do not allow for a scientific answer, because answering them involves the comparative evaluation of countless immeasurable and incommensurable variables. And in any case, newly discovered facts about the past or future developments may well reveal any such judgment as mistaken. But the answer is also not arbitrary. What is true, right and effective is given, as fix-points, and reasons must be supplied, whether based on logic or empirical evidence, for locating various second-bests as closer or more distant to such points. Rather, judgment-making in matters such as these is a difficult art, much like entrepreneurship is not a science but an art. And just as some people are good at entrepreneurship and others bad, indicated by monetary profits or losses, then, so are some people good at judging political events and actors and others bad, gaining or losing in the reputation as wise and prudent judges.

    Murray was of course not unfailing in his judgments. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, for instance, he misjudged the anti-war stand of the New Left as more principled than it really was, something that he afterwards readily admitted as a mistake. And I know of at least one, rather personal case, where Joey’s judgment was better and more on the mark than his. This notwithstanding however, I have not encountered anyone of sounder, subsequently vindicated judgment than Murray.    

    With this I want to come to the second major lesson I learned during my long association with Murray. While the first lesson in revisionism concerned matters of practice and method, the second lesson concerned existential matters.

    Before I met Murray, I knew of course that he was a radical outsider in a predominantly leftist-liberal academia and I expected (and was willing to accept for myself) that this would involve some sacrifices, i.e., that one would have to pay a price for being a Rothbardian, not only, but also in terms of money. But I was quite surprised to realize how high this price was. I knew that Brooklyn Polytechnic was not a prestigious university, yet I expected Murray to occupy there a comfortable, well-paying post. Moreover, at the time I still fancied the US as a bastion and bulwark of free enterprise and consequently expected that Murray, as the foremost intellectual champion of capitalism and the personified anti-thesis to Marx, would be held in high esteem, if not in academia then certainly outside of it, in the world of commerce and business, and accordingly be rewarded with a certain degree of affluence.

    In fact, at Brooklyn Polytechnic Murray occupied a small, grungy and windowless office that he had to share with a history professor. In Germany, even research assistants enjoyed more comfortable surroundings, not to speak of full professors. Murray ranked among the lowest paid full professors at his school. Indeed, my German National Science Foundation grant at the time — a Heisenberg scholarship — turned out to be considerably higher than Murray’s university salary (something that I was too ashamed to reveal to him after I had discovered it). And Murray’s apartment in Manhattan, large and filled to the ceiling with books, was dark and run-down. Certainly nothing like the penthouse that I had imagined him to occupy. This situation improved significantly with his move in 1986, at age 60, to Las Vegas and UNLV. While my salary went down there as compared to my previous compensation, Murray’s went sharply up, but was still below 100K, and he could afford to buy a roomy but spartan house. Even as the holder of an endowed chair at UNLV, however, Murray did not have command of any research assistants or a personal secretary.

    Yet Murray never complained or showed any bitterness or signs of envy but always plugged along joyfully and pushed ahead instead with his writings. This was a hard lesson for me to learn and I am still having difficulties following it at times.

    A propos, Joey and Murray once told me laughingly how, at the time when they were still dating, both had expected the other to be a good catch. Joey, because Murray was Jewish, and Murray, because Joey was gentile — only to then find out that they were both wrong in their expectations.

    Moreover, despite his towering achievements as an intellectual champion of free market capitalism, Murray never won any prizes, awards or honors to speak of. That he did not win a Nobel prize in economics was not surprising, of course. After all, the great Mises also did not win it. But in the US alone there existed dozens of institutions — think-tanks, foundations, business associations, research centers and universities — that professed their dedication to free markets and liberty, and yet none of them ever awarded Murray any significant prize or honorary award, all the while they showered people with money and awards who had done little more than to suggest — “daringly” — some incremental reform such as, let’s say, lowering the marginal tax rate from 35% to 30 or cutting the budget of the EPA by some percentage points, or who had simply expressed their “personal love” of “freedom” and “free enterprise” often, loudly and emphatically enough.

    None of this fazed Murray in the slightest. Indeed, he expected nothing else, for reasons that I still had to learn.

    What Murray realized and I still had to learn was that the most vociferous and ferocious rejection and opposition to Austro-libertarianism would not come from the traditional socialist Left, but rather from these very self-proclaimed “anti-socialist,” “limited government,” “minimal state,” “pro-private enterprise” and “pro-freedom” outfits and their intellectual mouthpieces, and above all from what has become known as the Beltway-Libertarians. They simply could not stomach the fact that Murray had demonstrated with plain logic that their doctrines were nothing but inconsistent intellectual clap-trap, and that they were all, to use Mises’s verdict vis-a-vis Milton Friedman and his company, a “bunch of socialists,” too, notwithstanding their vehement protestations to the contrary. For, as Murray argued, once you admitted the existence of a State, any State, defined as a territorial monopolist of ultimate decision making in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving the State itself, then all private property had been effectively abolished, even if it remained provisionally, qua State-grant, nominally private, and had been replaced instead by a system of “collective” or rather State-property. State, any State, means socialism, defined as “the collective ownership of factors of production.” The institution of a State is praxeologically incompatible with private property and private property based enterprise. It is the very anti-thesis of private property, and any proponent of private property and private enterprise then must, as a matter of logic, be an anarchist. In this regard (as in many others) Murray was unwilling to compromise, or “intransigent,” as his detractors would say. Because in theory, in thinking, compromise is impermissible. In everyday life, compromise is a permanent, and ubiquitous feature, of course. But in theory, compromise is the ultimate sin, a strict and absolute ‘no no.’ It is not permissible, for instance, to compromise between the two incompatible propositions that 1+1=2 or that 1+1=3 and accept that it is 2.5. Either some proposition is true or it is false. There can be no “meeting in the middle” of truth and falsehood.

    Here, regarding Murray’s uncompromising radicalism, a little anecdote told by Ralph Raico seems apropos. To quote Ralph:

    Murray was someone special. I recognized that fact the first night I met him. It was after the Mises seminar; a buddy of mine and I had been invited to attend, and afterwards Murray suggested we have coffee and talk. My friend and I were dazzled by the great Mises, and Murray, naturally, was pleased to see our enthusiasm. He assured us that Mises was at least the greatest economist of the century, if not the whole history of economic thought. As far as politics went, though, Murray said, lowering his voice conspiratorially: "Well, when it comes to politics,some of us consider Mises a member of the non-Communist Left." Yes, it was easy to see we'd met someone very special.

    Unlike Murray, quite a few individuals who had learned essentially everything they ever knew from Murray, in particular his Man, Economy and State, were willing to make such intellectual compromises, and they were richly rewarded for their intellectual “flexibility” and “tolerance.” But that was not Murray! And consequently, he was (and still is) ignored, excluded or denounced by the chieftains of the “limited-government-free-market-industry.” And he was essentially left without any institutional support, as a lone fighter, until the arrival of Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute.

    I experienced this Rothbard-phobia second-handedly, if you will. For as soon as word had gotten out that the new German arrival was Murray’s boy and also appeared rather “intransigent,” I found myself immediately placed on the same blacklists with him. Thus, I had quickly learned a first important real-life lesson of what it means to be a Rothbardian.

    Another lesson was in humility. Murray had a huge library, had read and digested an enormous amount of literature and was consequently a humble man. He was always reluctant and highly skeptical to assume or recognize any “originality” claims. “Originality” claims, he knew, are made most frequently by people with tiny libraries and little reading. In distinct contrast, Murray was highly generous in giving credit to others. And he was equally generous in giving advice to anyone asking. Indeed, on almost any conceivable subject, he was prepared, off the top of his head, to provide you with an extensive bibliography. As well, he encouraged any sign of productivity even among his lowliest students.

    While I always tried to follow this example, I could not bring myself to go quite as far as Murray did, however. Because I thought and still think that Murray’s humility was excessive, that he was humble almost to a fault. His students at Brooklyn Polytechnic, for instance, mostly engineering majors (or, as Murray described Mises’s students at NYU, “packaging majors”), had no idea who he was, because he never mentioned his own works. They were genuinely surprised to find out from me who their jolly professor was when I substituted teaching Murray’s class while he was out of town. And at UNLV the situation was not much different. While I actively promoted him as his unofficial PR-agent, Murray continued in his self-deprecation. Although he had written on almost any imaginable subject in the social sciences, he would, when he suggested or assigned term-papers to his students, mention his own related writings, if at all, only as some sort of afterthought or upon specific request.

    Yet Murray’s extreme modesty had also another, unfortunate effect. When we moved to Las Vegas in 1986, we had expected to turn UNLV into a bastion of Austrian economics. At the time, UNLV’s basketball team, the Runnin’ Rebels, under coach Jerry Tarkanian, were a national powerhouse, always slightly scandalous, but impossible to overlook. We had hoped to become the Runnin’ Rebels of economics at UNLV. Several students had transferred and enrolled at the university in anticipation of such a development. But these hopes were quickly disappointed. Already at our arrival at UNLV the composition of the economics department had significantly changed, and then majority rule, democracy, set in. To balance the Austrian influence, only one year later, the department majority decided, against our opposition, to hire a no-name Marxist. I urged Murray to use his position and reputation to interfere with the university’s higher-ups and prevent this appointment. Except for Jerry Tarkanian, Murray was the only nationally recognized person at UNLV. He held the only endowed chair at the university. We knew the university’s president and provost socially and were on cordial terms with both of them. Accordingly, I believed that there was a realistic chance to overturn the department’s decision. But I could not persuade Murray of his own powers.

    After this missed opportunity matters became worse. The department continued to hire anyone but an Austrian or Austrian sympathizer. Our students were mal-treated and discriminated against. The department and the dean of the business college denied me tenure (which decision was overruled by the university’s provost and president, not least because of massive student protests and the intervention of several university donors). The department chairman wrote an outrageous, nasty and insulting annual evaluation of Murray’s professorial performance (upon which the university administration forced the chairman to resign from his position). As a consequence, a second chance for us arose to turn matters around. Plans were developed and were discussed with the provost to split the department and establish a separate economics department in the College of Liberal Arts. This time Murray became involved. But the initial momentum to our advantage had been lost in the meantime, and after the first signs of resistance, Murray quickly resigned and gave up. He was not willing to take off his gloves, and our secessionist project soon fizzled out in defeat.

    Only to quickly finish our UNLV saga: After Murray’s death in 1995, I continued working at UNLV for another decade in an increasingly hostile environment. The once protective university administration had changed, and I felt ever more unappreciated and out of place. Even my great popularity among students was used against me, as proof of the “danger” emanating from my teaching. In 2004, I became embroiled in a scandal. In a lecture I had hypothetically suggested that homosexuals, on average, and owing to their characteristic lack of children, had a comparatively higher degree of time-preference, i.e., of present-orientation. A cry-baby student complained, and the university’s affirmative action commissar immediately, as if he had only waited for this opportunity, initiated official proceedings against me, threatening severe punitive measures if I were not to instantly and publicly recant and apologize. “Intransigent” as I was, I refused to do so. And I am certain that it was only this steadfast refusal of mine to beg for forgiveness that, after a full year of administrative harassment, I ultimately emerged victorious from this battle with the thought police, and the university administration suffered an embarrassing defeat. A year later I resigned from my position and left UNLV and the US for good.

    Coming back to Murray: Naturally, I was disappointed about the developments at UNLV. But they did not have the slightest effect on our continued cooperation. Maybe Murray had been right and more realistic all along and it was I, who had suffered from too much youthful optimism? And in any case, there was one more important lesson about the larger scheme of things that I still had to learn.

    Whereas most people tend to become milder and more ‘tolerant’ in their views as they grow older, Murray grew increasingly more radical and less tolerant over time. Not in his personal dealings, as I already emphasized. In this regard Murray was and remained to the end a ‘softie,’ but in his speeches and writings. This radicalization and increasing ‘intransigence’ came in response to developments in the world of US-politics at large and in particular within the “limited-government-free-market” industry and among the so-called libertarians assembled around Washington D.C.’s Beltway. There, everywhere, a slow yet systematic drift toward the Left and leftist ideas could be observed. A drift that ever since, up to this day, has only further gained in momentum and grown in strength. Constantly, new “rights” were ‘discovered’ and adopted in particular also by so-called libertarians. “Human rights” and “civil rights,” “women rights” and “gay rights,” the “right” not to be discriminated against, the “right” to free and unrestricted immigration, the “right” to a free lunch and free health care, and the “right” to be free of unpleasant speech and thought. Murray demolished all this allegedly “humanitarian” or, to use a German term, this “Gutmenschen” talk as intellectual rubbish in demonstrating that none of these supposed “rights” were compatible with private property rights. And that, as libertarians above all people should know, only private property rights, i.e., the right of every person in the ownership of his physical body and the ownership of all external objects justly (peacefully) acquired by him, can be argumentatively defended as universal and com-possible human rights. Everything except private property rights, then, Murray demonstrated again and again, are phony, non-universalizable rights. Every call for “human rights” other than private property rights is ultimately motivated by egalitarianism and as such represents a revolt against human nature.

    Moreover, Murray moved still further to the right — in accordance with Erik von Kuehneldt-Leddihn’s dictum that “the right is right” — in pointing out that in order to establish, maintain and defend a libertarian social order more is needed than the mere adherence to the non-aggression principle. The ideal of the left- or “modal”-libertarians, as Murray referred to them, of “live and let live as long as you don’t aggress against anyone else,” that sounds so appealing to adolescents in rebellion against parental authority and any social convention and control, may be sufficient for people living far apart and dealing and trading with each other only indirectly and from afar. But it is decidedly insufficient when it comes to people living in close proximity to each other, as neighbors and cohabitants of the same community. The peaceful cohabitation of neighbors and of people in regular direct contact with each other on some territory requires also a commonality of culture: of language, religion, custom and convention. There can be peaceful co-existence of different cultures on distant, physically separated territories, but multi-culturalism, cultural heterogeneity, cannot exist in one and the same place and territory without leading to diminishing social trust, increased conflict, and ultimately the destruction of anything resembling a libertarian social order.

    If Murray had been ignored, neglected or resented before by the usual suspects, now, with this stand against everything deemed “politically correct,” he was vilified and met with undisguised hatred. The by now only all-too-familiar litany of denunciatory terms followed: Murray was a reactionary, a racist, a sexist, an authoritarian, an elitist, a xenophobe, a fascist and, to top it all off, a self-hating Jewish Nazi.

    Murray shrugged it all off. Indeed, he laughed about it. And indeed, to the consternation of the “smear bund,” as Murray referred to the united popular front of his “anti-fascist” detractors, his influence only grew and has continued to grow still further since his death. It may not be widely recognized, but without Murray there would be no Ron Paul as we know him — and I say this without wishing thereby to diminish or belittle Ron Paul’s own, personal role and extraordinary achievements in the slightest —, there would be no Ron Paul movement, and there would be no popular or, as the “smear bund” prefers to say, no “populist” libertarian agenda.

    As for me, my own views radicalized, too, along with Murray’s. My Democracy: The God That Failed was the first major documentation of this intellectual development, and if anything, my radical intolerance regarding anything left-libertarian and “politically correct” has been growing still ever since. Almost needless to say that I, too, then have been awarded the same and even a few extra honorary titles by the “smear bund” as Murray (except for the self-hating Jewish stuff). Yet I had learned to shrug all of it off, too, as I had seen Murray do it, and as Ralph Raico had always encouraged and continued to advise me. In addition, remembering a popular German saying helped me: “viel Feind, viel Ehr’.” And indeed, the ongoing success of my annual Property and Freedom Society conference-salon, now in its 12th year, held and conducted in a genuinely Rothbardian spirit, has demonstrated the utter failure of all defamation campaigns directed at me. If anything, they have helped rather than hindered me in attracting an ever larger circle of intellectual friends, affiliates and supporters.

    I should add that during the last decade or so, under the wise and strict guidance of my lovely wife Gülçin, I have also made great strides in combining uncompromising intellectual radicalism with personal lovability, even though nature and natural disposition have prevented me from coming anywhere close to Murray in this regard.

    I have said far too little here about Lew, and I sincerely apologize. But this I must say: Lew, apart from Murray has been one of the most important people helping me become the man that I am today. And to Murray, who I am sure is watching us today from up high, I say: thank you Murray, you are my hero, “I shall not look upon his like again,” and I hope you are happy with your student. I always felt tremendous joy when you told me “great Hans, Attaboy,” and even if I can’t hear you right now, nothing would give me greater pleasure than if you said it again right now up there, where the kings of thought are gathered.

  2. Why Understanding the Progressive Era Still Matters

    Editor's Note: Murray Rothbard's new masterwork,The Progressive Era, is now available for purchase. Judge Napolitano's preface below speaks to why the Progressive Era is so key to our understanding of modern America. This is the first of many selections from the book we will be offering at mises.org in the future. 

    When I was in my junior and senior years at Princeton studying history in the early 1970s, I became fascinated with the Progressive Era. It attracted me at a time when America rejected as profoundly as it did under Lincoln and the Radical Republicans and even under FDR, the libertarian first principles of the American Revolution.

    To pursue this interest, I volunteered to take a course in the Graduate School, a procedure permitted for a few undergraduates at the time. The course was an advanced look at Progressive intellectual thought taught by Woodrow Wilson’s biographer and hagiographer, Professor Arthur S. Link. The readings were all pro-Progressive as were all the other students in the class. We studied Professor Link’s works and the claptrap by his colleague William E. Leuchtenberg.

    In my search for a rational understanding of the Era — and for ammunition to use in the classroom where I was regularly beaten up — I asked Professor Link if any academic had made the argument effectively that the Progressives were power-hungry charlatans in the guise of noble businessmen, selfless politicians, and honest academics.

    He told me of a young fellow named Rothbard, of whose work he had only heard, but had not read. This advice sent me to Man, Economy, and State, which I devoured; and my ideological odyssey was off to the races.

    Like many of Rothbard’s student admirers, I also devoured For a New Liberty, all four volumes of Conceived in Liberty, and The Mystery of Banking. As any student of human freedom in general or of the Austrian school specifically, knows, these must-reads are all a joy to read. And we also know that in those works and others, Rothbard established himself as the great interpreter of Ludwig von Mises.

    While he was writing those books and lecturing nationally and producing many ground-breaking articles and essays on human freedom, he began to write discrete chapters of a book he would not live to publish on the Progressive Era.

    One of his great young interpreters, Florida Southern College professor and Mises Fellow Patrick Newman, has picked up where our hero left off. Professor Newman is a brilliant interpreter of Rothbard. His assemblage of these heretofore unpublished chapters, and the vast notes he has added to them have produced a masterpiece that might actually have made Murray Rothbard blush.

    Readers of The Progressive Era will carry away an overwhelming impression that history is “a comprehensive resurrection of the past.” Rothbard was never satisfied with the presentation of a general thesis or the sketch of a historical period, which is why readers will find detailed accounts of an enormous number of people. Only a historian of Rothbard’s immense intellectual energy and knowledge could have written what would become The Progressive Era.

    Rothbard did not amass details merely to give readers a sense of the Progressive Era, from the 1880s to the 1920s. Rather, he uses these details to support a revolutionary new interpretation. Many people view the Progressives as reformers who fought against corruption and modernized our laws and institutions. Rothbard proves to the hilt that this common opinion is false.

    The Progressives aimed to displace a 19th-century America that respected individual rights based on natural law. They claimed that natural law and a free economy were outmoded and unscientific ideas; and argued that through applying science to politics, they could replace a corrupt and stagnant old order with a State-ordered more prosperous and egalitarian one.

    Rothbard dissents:

    Briefly, the thesis is that the rapid upsurge of statism in this period was propelled by a coalition of two broad groups: (a) certain big business groups, anxious to replace a roughly laissez-faire economy by a new form of mercantilism, cartelized and controlled and subsidized by a strong government under their influence and control; and (b) newly burgeoning groups of intellectuals, technocrats, and professionals: economists, writers, engineers, planners, physicians, etc., anxious for power and lucrative employment at the hands of the State. Since America had been born in an antimonopoly tradition, it became important to put over the new system of cartelization as a “progressive” curbing of big business by a humanitarian government; intellectuals were relied on for this selling job. These two groups were inspired by Bismarck’s creation of a monopolized welfare-warfare state in Prussia and Germany.

    Rothbard constantly overturns accepted ideas as he argues for his interpretation. Most of us have heard of the furor early in the 20th century over conditions in the Chicago meat packing industry, set off by Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle. Few people are aware, however, that Sinclair’s sensationalism was fiction, in direct contradiction to what contemporary inspections of the meat packing plants revealed.

    Rothbard goes much further. He shows how, beginning in the 1880s, the large meat packing plants lobbied for greater regulation themselves.

    Unfortunately for the myth, [about The Jungle’s influence] the drive for federal meat inspection actually began more than two decades earlier, and was launched mainly by the big meat packers themselves. The spur was the urge to penetrate the European market for meat, something which the large meat packers thought could be done if the government would certify the quality of meat, and thereby make American meat more highly rated abroad. Not coincidentally, as in all Colbertist mercantilist legislation over the centuries, a governmentally-coerced upgrading of quality would serve to cartelize: to lower production, restrict competition, and raise prices to the consumers.

    Rothbard sees in postmillennial pietism a key to the entire Progressive Era. The postmillennials preached that Jesus would inaugurate His kingdom only after the world had been reformed, and they accordingly saw a religious mandate to institute the social reforms they favored.

    Their influence was pervasive. For example, Rothbard draws an unexpected connection between their ideas and eugenics:

    One way of correcting the increasingly pro-Catholic demographics... often promoted in the name of “science,” was eugenics, an increasingly popular doctrine of the progressive movement. Broadly, eugenics may be defined as encouraging the breeding of the “fit” and discouraging the breeding of the “unfit,” the criteria of “fitness” often coinciding with the cleavage between native, white Protestants and the foreign born or Catholics — or the white-black cleavage. In extreme cases, the unfit were to be coercively sterilized.

    Theodore Roosevelt was the quintessential Progressive, and Rothbard shows in convincing fashion how his analytic framework helps explain that bizarre and flamboyant figure. Roosevelt was allied with the banking interests of the House of Morgan. His “trust busting” activities were very selective. Only the trusts opposed to Morgan control were in Roosevelt’s crosshairs. He supported “good” trusts, i.e., ones allied with the Morgan interests. Besides his Morgan alliance, Roosevelt was dominated by a bellicosity of maniacal proportions. “All his life Theodore Roosevelt had thirsted for war — any war — and military glory.”

    War and the Progressives were natural allies. War brought centralized control of the economy, and this allowed the Progressives to put their plans into effect. Rothbard writes:

    The wartime collectivism also held forth a model to the nation’s liberal intellectuals; for here was seemingly a system that replaced laissez-faire not by the rigors and class hatreds of proletarian Marxism, but by a new strong State, planning and organizing the economy in harmony with all leading economic groups. It was, not coincidentally, to be a neomercantilism, a “mixed economy,” heavily staffed by these selfsame liberal intellectuals.

         And finally, both big business and the liberals saw in the wartime model a way to organize and integrate the often unruly labor force as a junior partner in the corporatist system — a force to be disciplined by their own “responsible” leadership of the labor unions.

    I have addressed only a few of the themes analyzed in this vast book. Readers have many insights in store for them, including the origin of the Federal Reserve System, Herbert Hoover’s activities as a Progressive, and the role of the Rockefellers in promoting Social Security. Nor does Rothbard shy away from the constitutional implications in all this, planted by Roosevelt and nurtured by his personal enemy but ideological comrade Woodrow Wilson. Rothbard notes that, the War Between the States aside, the Madisonian model — the federal government may only lawfully do what the Constitution directly permits — prevailed in government from 1789 to the 1880s. After the Progressive Era, the Wilsonian model — the federal government may do whatever there is a political will to do except that which the Constitution expressly prohibits — continues to prevail up to the present day.

    We owe the appearance of The Progressive Era to the masterful detective work and patient labor of the good and youthful Professor Newman. In his “Introduction,” he tells the dramatic tale of how Rothbard’s book was discovered and assembled; and he has planted many teasers for the Rothbardian gems to come.

    Rothbard’s posthumous masterpiece is the definitive book on the Progressives. Only Murray Rothbard, with his unique scholarship, penetrating intelligence, prodigious work ethic, infectious love of life, and indefatigable devotion to liberty, could have written this book. It will soon be the must read study of this dreadful time in our past.

  3. Busting Myths About the State and the Libertarian Alternative

    In non-technical terms, the libertarian is simply someone who is against the use of force against peaceful people in civil society. You would think that this would be a universally accepted idea but, as will be discussed in greater depth in this paper, to believe in government as we know it is to be at odds with this idea.

  4. The Law Of Power

    From the author's introduction:

    The people of the world stand under the principle of power. The whole social entity is governed by power, this being the highest value peoples aspire to and by which they counted, weighed, and judged. But, contrary to what is usually assumed, it is not external power which determines everything, but fundamentally internal power is the core of the power phenomenon. As this core gradually matures over time, it bursts open the shell of external power under whose protection it grows to maturity.

  5. The Mises Reader Unabridged

    The Mises Reader can be found here.

    From the Introduction by Shawn Ritenour...

    During my time in college, while I was still working through Human Action, I sought out other more accessible books by Mises. This was years before the advent of the internet and mises.org. I had to turn to that ancient institution called the library and I discovered that our college library had a collection of shorter essays by Mises published by Libertarian Press in a collection entitled Planning for Freedom and Sixteen Other Essays. This book proved to be a more accessible introduction to Mises’s thought. I began reading it during my free time and did not stop until I had come to the end. Planning for Freedom turned out to be the first book by Mises that I read completely. As I read, I began to put together an economic and political philosophy that revolved around private property. It was the writings of Mises that provided me the intellectual foundation to evaluate and integrate what I was being taught in school. Looking back on those years, I have grown to appreciate the wisdom expressed in the sentiment by Mark Thornton that one of the best ways to become introduced to the work of Ludwig von Mises is through some of his shorter, more popular works. While sacrificing nothing in the way of sound economic theory, they are more accessible and in any event are not as intimidating as Mises’s 881-page magnum opus.

    In The Mises Reader, I have sought to bring you the best of both worlds. An attempt has been made to acquaint the reader with the broad spectrum of Mises’s ideas and analyses in a way that is more accessible and less daunting. The selections include, therefore, several shorter, more popular works side-by-side with excerpts from longer, more scholarly and technically difficult works. It is my hope that this book will provide a user-friendly gateway into the brilliance of Mises, because we desperately need his wisdom as much now as in any other time in our history.

    The work of Ludwig von Mises is an important guide for thoughtful citizens because he strongly, yet matter-of-factly sets forth economics as the pursuit of truth. Not the truth of the passing fancy, nor the so-called “small t-truth” that is always in danger of being refuted by the latest bit of empirical data; but economic truth that will stand for all ages. Misesian economic theory is a triumphant response to the epistemological relativism of today because it is economics developed in light of reality.

    Upon reading the works of Mises, one is immediately set forth on the right road, because Mises begins where economics must begin — human action. All of his economic theorems and corollaries are deduced from the non-controversial axiom that people engage in purposeful behavior. This immediately sets his theories on intellectual bedrock....

    Ludwig von Mises truly was an intellectual giant among men and, as Murray Rothbard saw, his thought and causal-realist framework is the best alternative to the economic paradigm of our age. In the contemporary fog of the modern academy, Mises serves as a lighthouse, warning unsuspecting students of the perils of bad economics and statist economic policies, while illuminating students to the principles of the free society.

    The book in your hands is intended to give a taste of the many facets of Mises’s thought in a way that accessibly communicates most of his key contributions to the social sciences. It therefore includes excerpts from his larger and more technically demanding works side-by-side with shorter, more introductory articles and lectures. The finished product is sort of an intelligent person’s guide to the work of Ludwig von Mises. It is especially suitable for those with an interest in Mises, but find jumping right into Human Action, Socialism, or The Theory of Money and Credit rather daunting. The hope is to give the reader a survey of Mises’s insights in a format that nourishes his intellectual soul, while also whetting the appetite for his larger corpus of work. Those not quite ready to dive deeply into Misesian waters may wish to pick up The Mises Reader, an abridged version of this volume. It is hoped that together these two volumes will foster a rising generation of citizens more thoroughly acquainted with sound economics and the principles of the free society....

Download these apps for your Android/SmartPhone or iPhones and you can listen to your favorite LWRN programs wherever you go.

            

 Androids                 iPhones

Administrative Login Only