Thursday, March 19, 2009

Murray Rothbard

Today we celebrate Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) for his life-long devotion to capitalism. Rothbard's defense of capitalism is best know as anarcho-capitalism - "...a political philosophy which advocates removal of the state and the elevation of the sovereign individual in a free market. In an anarcho-capitalist society, law enforcement, courts, and all other security services are provided by voluntarily-funded competitors such as private defense agencies rather than through compulsory taxation."

Rothbard contended that "the difference between free-market capitalism and 'state capitalism' is the difference between 'peaceful, voluntary exchange' and a collusive partnership between business and government that uses coercion to subvert the free market."

Rothbard completed his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D in Mathematics and Economics at Columbia University. He also studied under Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises at New York University during his graduate years - much of his influence evolving from Mises' Human Action.

Among his major contributions to history, economics, and political philosophy are: For a New Liberty; Man, Economy, and State; and Power and Market.

For more on Murray Rothbard and other Austrian scholars see the links below.




The Austrian Economists


Eric D. said...

I must note, as a matter of public record, I vehemently disagree with ranking Murray Rothbard as a hero of capitalism. Despite his contributions to Austrian theory and to research into American economic history, his ideological commitment to anarchy is actually antithetical to capitalism.

Further, I condemn Rothbard for his dishonest and vicious attacks on Ayn Rand, a woman he actually knew and knew better than to attack in such a way.

I know this is a blog where we're supposed to challenge and disagree and discuss who counts and who doesn't as far heroes of capitalism are concerned, but so far as Murray Rothbard is up for discussion, I have to disagree in the strongest terms.

Travis Wiseman said...


I chose Rothbard as a HOC for the wealth of knowledge shared and created as a result of his life-long intellectual endeavor.

Whether his ideological commitments are in opposition to capitalism is debatable as is Bill Gate's initiative for a new, "creative capitalism."

Concerning the dispute between Rand and Rothbard: I've not read in depth their differences, only that Rothbard accused Rand of being a cult leader, and Rand excommunicating Rothbard from the "group" for having a Presbyterian wife. Either way the attacks from either side seem, to me, a bit out of character for both. I prefer to focus on their agreements, primarily concerning individual freedom.

The point being, each of these individuals - Rand, Rothbard, and Gates - created wealth with private property, which is sufficient, at least in my mind, to celebrate each of them as HOC.

David said...

Capitalism is a big tent.

Mike L. said...

I second Daniel's comment. His Man, Economy, and State is indeed a brilliant text but the claim that he is a defender of liberty is irreversibly blemished by his eager advocacy of anarchism. Its a pitty he did not share Mises's belief in government.
If the manifestation of an individual's political beliefs would lead to the elimination of capitalism, then I wouldn't say such a person could be designated as a "hero of capitalism."

Caleb said...

I'd like to see any Eric or Mike try to actually argue against the substance of anarcho-capitalism, on deontological or consequentialist grounds. They won't ...because logical consistency is hard to actually argue against.

In point of fact, the case has been made and is sound that anarcho-capitalism is redundant. Free market capitalism and anarchism are ideologically the same thing - belief in the optimality of voluntary human interaction. Anarchism applies this belief consistently, anarcho-capitalism applies it scientifically, and statist capitalism applies it inconsistently.

Also, Rand is not the inventor of capitalism, nor did she have a sound understanding of economics or libertarian philosophy (hell, she promoted a bad teleological libertarianism and didn't even understand it)... and Randist "objectivism" is a personality cult, by definition.

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