Saturday, January 07, 2006

Murray Rothbard: "It was up to me"

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of Murray Rothbard’s death. It might be appropriate for those of us trying to build a new Left Libertarian movement to reflect on Murray’s passion for justice, truth, and getting things done no matter the cost. This remarkable passage from a letter by Murray was reprinted in An Enemy of the State, Justin Raimondo’s biography of the great man:

“When I was a young libertarian starting out, I was advised by Leonard Read: ‘Only be critical of bad measures, not of the people advocating them.’ It’s OK to criticize government regulation, but not the people advocating them. One big trouble with that is that then people remain ignorant of the ruling class, and the fact that Big Business often pushes regulatory measures to cartelize the system, so I went ahead and named names. ...

“Then, when I became an anarchist, I was advised, similarly, ‘Forget this anarchist stuff. It will injure your career, and ruin your scholarly image as a laissez-faire Austrian.’ I of course didn’t follow that perfectly accurate advice. Then, come the late 1950s, I was advised by friends: ‘For god’s-sakes, forget this peace crap. Stick to economics, that’s your scholarly area anyway. Everybody’s against this peace stuff, and it will kill your scholarly image, and ruin you with the conservative movement.’ Which of course is exactly what happened. And then: ‘Don’t attack [Chicago School economist Milton] Friedman directly. Just push Austrianism.’ And ‘don’t push Austrianism too hard, so you can be part of one big free-market economics family.’

“... I’m sure that if...I had been ‘careful,’ and followed wise advice, I would now be basking in lots of money, prestige, and ambiance. ...

“Why did I consistently take the wrong course? I like to think that the main reason is one that moved me a great deal when I read about it in [Torsten] Garlund’s life of the great Swedish ‘Austrian’ economist, Knut Wicksel. Wicksel was asked: ‘Here you are, a great economist, and yet you’re getting yourself always into trouble, and ruining your scholarly image, because of all the crazy radical things you’re doing.’ (For example, Wicksel was put in jail for a while for advocating repeal of anti-birth control laws.) ... And Wicksel answered simply: ‘Because nobody else was doing it.’

“For me that summed it up. If there had been lots of libertarians who were anarchists, lots who were antiwar, lots who named names of the ruling elite, lots attacking...Friedman, etc., I might not have made all these choices, figuring that these important tasks were being well taken care of anyway, so I may as well concentrate on my own ‘positioning.’ But at each step I looked around and saw indeed that nobody else was doing it. So therefore it was up to me.”


At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inspiring ... thank you!!

At 5:47 AM, Blogger Speedmaster said...

I like Rothbard too, lots of good quotes.


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did you leave out Rothbard's mention of Hoover? Who would deny now (in the freedom movement) that Hoover was a statist?


Post a Comment

<< Home