Murray Rothbard, March 2, 1926-January 7, 1995


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I first learned about Murray Rothbard when the New York Times published an article about libertarianism in 1971.  In September, seven months letter, I was flying home from an Italian vacation and a passenger was reading the NYT.  As I passed him in the aisle, he was reading the op-ed page and an article caught my eye, “The President’s Economic Betrayal,” by Murray Rothbard.  I asked the passenger to borrow his newspaper. Rothbard’s essay was an epiphany.  His critique of Nixon’s wage-price controls was outstanding.   

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I met Rothbard in April 1974, when I visited him at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and sat in on his microeconomics class.  He was a master teacher.  We then spoke in his office, and I invited him to be a member of my Rutgers dissertation committee.  He enthusiastically accepted.  A month later I received an invitation to attend the Austrian School of Economics conference in South Royalton, VT.   I write about this in my memoir because it was a life changing event.  In other words, I owe Murray a huge debt of gratitude for helping make my academic career possible.

Rothbard’s writings over nearly five decades could fill a library.  You can read all his major works for free at the Mises Institute page.  You will get a first-class education in economics, history, and libertarianism.   Enjoy the journey as I have for 50 years.

I will have another column Friday. 

Below is Tom Woods tribute to Murray Rothbard. 

Today would have been the 97th birthday of the great Murray Rothbard, the most prolific man I ever knew.

New Rothbard books somehow continued to be published for years after his death.

I myself edited and wrote the introduction to one of them: The Betrayal of the American Right. At an event introducing the book I said, “There are many academics who only wish they could be as productive as a dead Murray Rothbard.”

Rothbard’s massive work Man, Economy, and State: A Treatise on Economics kept the Austrian tradition alive during a very dark time, and everyone who took part in the Austrian revival that began with the famous South Royalton conference in 1974 had been influenced by it.

As anyone who knew him can attest, Rothbard was vivacious and larger than life, with an instantly recognizable laugh, a determination to learn from anyone who had anything valuable to contribute, and an immense correspondence with anyone and everyone — which he managed to maintain while also editing the Journal of Libertarian Studies and the (later renamed) Review of Austrian Economics and writing dozens of books and thousands of articles.

As one friend put it, dying was the most uncharacteristic thing Rothbard ever did.

We were deprived of the Rothbard podcast that the Mises Institute would surely have produced had the great man lived. Imagine getting Rothbard’s take on the 2008 meltdown, the Covid lunacy, and “climate change.”

But he left us a massive legacy. His America’s Great Depressiondemonstrated that “capitalism” was of course not the culprit. He wrote a five-volume history of colonial America as a spare-time project. For a New Liberty, published by Macmillan, introduced libertarianism to the world. The Ethics of Liberty explored ethical questions. The Mystery of Banking demystified what our overlords would prefer to keep obscure. Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays was Rothbard at his punchiest. His two-volume history of economic thought, among other things, contains the best evisceration of Marxism you’re likely to read (in volume two, Classical Economics).

And trust me, I am touching only the tip of the iceberg here.

Rothbard has critics in the libertarian world (because the libertarian world is full of envious losers), one member of whom called Rothbard “politically retarded.” (Classy.) Whatever political errors one might accuse Rothbard of having made, what could possibly touch Milton Friedman’s support for the Iraq war, or his praise for Alan Greenspan in 2006?

I had a chance to meet him several times, and got to the point where he told me to call him Murray.

In December 1994 Lew Rockwell told me Rothbard would be at his New York apartment over Christmas break (he taught in Las Vegas) and that he wanted to see me. So I should call him.

When I called him, it was like when you’re a boy with a crush on a girl and you’re afraid you’ll blank out when you get on the phone with her, so you write out everything you plan to say.

Of course, Rothbard was a good man and not the ego case he had every right to be, so he made me feel instantly at ease.

We decided I would come visit him in early January 1995.

He passed away before that could happen.

That legacy of his, though, is very much alive in the form of the veritable mountain of scholarship he left us, and the adults and students who continue to learn from him.

Speaking of legacy, yesterday I spoke to you about the Legacy Letter Challenge, and I want to see all the parents reading this take part in it.

I told the story of my friend Blake Brewer, who at age 19 watched his father die in his arms after a tragic accident in the water.

But his father had written him a letter (that he had no idea would be his final words to his son).

That letter was full of advice, guidance, and reminders of his love. It meant everything to Blake, whose life had been turned upside down by the loss of his father.

After much struggle, Blake completed such a letter to his own children not long ago, and he’s now on a mission to get one million parents to write legacy letters to their own children.

Even the Today Show covered Blake’s story, so the mainstream got something right for a change.

I am going to listen to the presentation Blake is making to my audience and then write one of these letters to my own children.

If you decide to join me, I will read you my letter, in a special live session, once it is finished.

If you’re a parent, there’s no good reason not to do this. I know we’re all busy. But some things you simply have to make time for, and I think it’s obvious that this is one of them.

Blake will be presenting to us very soon, and I hope you’ll sign up to join us.

This is more important than all the charts I shared during the Covid fiasco put together.

Please sign up right now, while you’re thinking about it:

Tom Woods

Murray Sabrin, PhD, is emeritus professor of finance, Ramapo College of New Jersey. Dr. Sabrin is considered a “public intellectual” for writing about the economy in scholarly and popular publications. His new book, The Finance of Health Care: Wellness and Innovative Approaches to Employee Medical Insurance (Business Expert Press, Oct. 24, 2022), and his other BEP publication, Navigating the Boom/Bust Cycle: An Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide (October 2021), provides decision makers with tools needed to help manage their businesses during the business cycle.  Sabrin’s autobiography, From Immigrant to Public Intellectual: An American Story, was published in November, 2022.

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Written by CONK!


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