• I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…as long as it takes. I am not anti-Rothbard. I simply don’t treat Rothbard as any more than a pretty decent economist who wrote a lot of stuff that was just beyond his area of competence. Unfortunately, my taking of this attitude would probably, to some people, lump me into the ‘anti-Rothbard cult.’ Either you acknowledge Rothbard as the most significant figure in the history of libertarian thought, or you are anti-Rothbard.

    And what in the world does Woods’s ruminationis about how nice a guy Rothbard was have ANYTHING to do with whether he was a significant intellectual? Have the ‘anti-Rothbard cult’ (whoever they may be) been denying that Rothbard was a nice guy? Do they even say ANYTHING on that score?

    • The description in your first paragraph could also describe the Ayn Rand cult. Why is it that the atomistic Libertarians seem to fall prey to the cult of personality much the same way leftists do?

    • ” Either you acknowledge Rothbard as the most significant figure in the
      history of libertarian thought, or you are anti-Rothbard.”

      That is an extreme misrepresentation of the argument being made in the linked-to audio clip.

      Woods repeatedly emphasizes what he perceived to be a total silence or lack of any mention regarding Rothbard when discussing key figures in libertarian thought.

      For instance, he specifically says: “It is not that Rothbard is mentioned once for ever 100 of Friedman….it is zero!”

      It is fine and healthy to disagree. It is important to start by correctly representing your opponent’s views, however.

      • Brainpolice

        Great – so instead, we get what is effectively a conspiracy theory that Rothbard is suppressed, argued under the question-begging assumption that Rothbard deserves special recognition for something.

        And if we wish to speak about correctly representing opponent’s views, then Rothbard isn’t someone to look up to, given that much of his work is litered with misunderstandings and misrepresentations of thinkers.

        • gertsieger

          Can you name some or one of those misunderstandings/misrepresentations?

  • Chad Nelson

    Afterwards, the first name that came up was Matt Zwolinski.

    • Hah, for reals? But I certainly don’t fit the description that Woods gave in his talk, i.e., someone who “doesn’t talk about Rothbard.” I talk, and write, about Rothbard all the time. And I do so in the way I would treat any scholar – I take his arguments seriously, and criticize them when I think it is warranted.

      • Chad Nelson

        no, i was only kidding….i’ve read your material on here re: rothbard and enjoy it immensely. boaz is probably chairman of the cult’s board, however.

        • David Boaz

          Mr. Nelson, I’m curious: What have I done to deserve such an accolade? Was it my including only one Rothbard essay in The Libertarian Reader? Or was it the meager 7 mentions of Rothbard, all of them positive, in Libertarianism: A Primer?

      • I’m virtually certain Tom’s not talking about BHL.

  • David Boaz

    You’re not going to make us LISTEN to the tape, are you?

  • Chad Nelson

    It’s pretty tough to see how America’s Great Depression, Man, Economy & State and Conceived in Liberty don’t, by themselves, immediately put him in the upper echelon. Those are libertarian gold standard (no pun intended).

    While I hate to compare any halfway decent libertarian to WF Buckley, Buckley is always lauded by both left (reluctantly) and right as this super-prodigious writer/thinker/scholar who contributed so much to his movement on such a wide range of topics. When most people discuss the conservative movement, Buckley is mentioned as one of the godfathers.

    It’s tough to see how Rothbard doesn’t get the same treatment with respect to the libertarian movement, that’s all. He probably wrote more and on a wider array of topics than did Buckley, and had none of it whatsoever been on economics (which you say he is just okay on), he still would have contributed such an enormous amount to the movement, and would deserve to be in the upper echelon.

    My suspicions are that he doesn’t get mentioned because he was an anarchist. There is this very weird divide in the larger libertarian tent between minarchists and anarchists. I really don’t get it, but I see how vitriolic the minarchists are towards anyone who even hints at an anarchistic theory, and sometimes vice versa.

    • To me, Buckley’s greatness was not so much that he was an original thinker, but that he had a particular image of what the conservative movement should look like, and he successfully tailored the movement to that image. He did this primarily by distancing conservatives from the seedier elements on the fringes: the John Birch Society, Pat Buchanan, Joseph Sobran, Sam Francis, Rothbard, Rand, Ann Coulter, Peter Brimelow, John O‚ÄôSullivan, and John Derbyshire.

      If only libertarians had their own Buckley who could do the same sort of pruning. Rothbard did the opposite, appealing to the ugliest of paleoconservatives and associating them with libertarians.

      • When people laud Buckley, they often talk about his “gift for friendship,” including friendships with people whose political views were quite different from his own. He did not just prune at NR but also made it a home for gifted writers whose conservatism came in a wide variety of types. Do these two qualities sound like Rothbard?

        • Chad Nelson

          Yes, they do. For two easy to find concrete examples, see 1) The Libertarian Forum. Look at the collection of libertarians who he assembled to write for that publication over the span of several decades. And 2) Just take a gander through Betrayal of the American Right. You’ll see what kind of role he played in the movement.

          • But not later in his life. In his later life Rothbard was infamous for picking fights and being acrimonious to any who he disagreed with.

          • Ah, so it is his personality that justifies the criticism/dismissal of his work in economics and libertarian thought. Now that sounds about right…

          • Brainpolice

            There isn’t a strict dichotomy between the two. One’s personality is stamped on their intellectual work. And much of Rothbard’s intellectual work in “libertarian thought” is filled with nasty misrepresentations of his political opponents.

  • famadeo

    I’m sorry, but Rothbard was a weak thinker. As an economist, I don’t know (although there’s plenty to say about some of the epistemological tools frequently relied upon by the Austrian crowd), but as a philosopher (as the pretense goes) he was pathetic.

    • Lower Ed

      Say something about those Austrians and their epistemological tools.

      • famadeo

        Recruiting themes include “self-ownership”, the “non-agression principle” as the be-all, end-all ethical consideration, the homo oeconomicus narrative… all such things are questionable, to say the least.

        • 3cantuna

          Self-ownership, NAP and ethics are issues of libertarianism, not Austrian economics. As a science it stays clear of value judgments. As for homo oeconomicus, Mises deals with it in several places. Chptr 5, Sec. 4, of Epistemological Problems of Economics is labeled “Homo Economicus” for that reason. http://mises.org/epofe/c5sec4.asp
          Subjective value theory does not presuppose a particular motivation, only that an individual is indeed motivated. Man is not a cookie-cutter businessman buy-low sell-high automaton, says Mises.

  • David Peterson

    This is the first time I can think of something being called a cult for acting like something DOESN’T exist.

  • I think Rothbard is the most overrated figure in the libertarian movement. America’s Great Depression is riddled with macroeconomic illiteracy (there was no “inflationary boom” in the 1920s and fractional-reserve banking was widely practiced in free banking societies). I never found his philosophical arguments for a libertarian society convincing either, though I would agree with someone like Jeff Friedman that deontological arguments for such a society are unlikely to persuade those who don’t already accept the outcomes of a free market.

    • I mean, I’m with you on a lot about what you think about Rothbard, but did you even read America’s Great Depression?

    • Michael Matalucci

      Buying on margins wasn’t an inflationary boom?

      And I do not agree with 100% reserves, either. I prefer Vera Smith’s form of “Free Banking”.

    • Lower Ed

      Rothbard does a solid empirical job of demonstrating the massive increase in money supply during the 1920s. On pg 93 or so in AGD there is a chart- that even if you exclude the life insurance column, which Rothbard admitted was controversial, you still get 4% or so a year inflation for most of the decade.
      Your macro aggregations only hide the devil in the details. Artificial money creation helps some at the expense of others, and the effects appear through time and fall unevenly, to begin with. Are you going to use the stabilization card?
      As a student of Mises, Rothbard knew a lot about the Currency v. Banking School debate. Rothbard was also expert on the history of banking and the nature of less centralized frb. His doctoral thesis turned book was on the Panic of 1819. Plus there was that large work of his, A History of Money and Banking in the United States.
      You have not even read Rothbard.

      • Michael Turner

        So how would Rothbard respond to the massive increase in the money supply in Japan, where deflation seems persistent?

        • Pajama

          a. When was that “massive increase” exactly? I don’t see it on the charts.
          b. He’d say inflation is caused when supply of money grows faster than demand of money. So if the supply is growing and you see inflation, you must have seen increase in demand for money. Google “financial repression.”

  • Michael Matalucci

    Rothbard, like every libertarian/individualist thinker added quite a bit to the philosophy. I do not agree with Rothbard 100% of the time, nor do I agree with Lysander Spooner or Ayn Rand 100% of the time. But each of them contributed to the overall movement and philosophy. Any libertarian that claims to agree with any libertarian thinker on 100% of the issues, needs a good kick in the ass.

    • Sean II

      You know the old joke, right?

      “If you ever meet two libertarians who agree on anything, you can be sure that one of them has sold out.”

  • There sure are a lot of whack-a-doodle libertarians.

  • Sean II

    Isn’t there a natural tendency among libertarians to develop a highly focused loyalty to whatever source first rescued them from the idiocy of statist life? For many that source is Ayn Rand, for others it’s Rothbard, for some it was probably Virginia Postrel, etc.

    When I found out the the purpose of political life wasn’t simply to choose between potential rulers like Al Gore, Duc D’Nashville, and George II, Prince of Petrol, I was pretty damn excited. I didn’t realize how many of these interesting new ideas came from a deep and common store of libertarian thought, so for a time I credited them all exclusively to that source which gave me my first acquaintance.

    Isn’t that what Woods is saying here? “Rothbard is my personal hero. Why isn’t he yours? Why isn’t he everyone’s?”

  • Old OddJobs

    The word cult is overused on all sides. Give me Rothbard over ten of you bleeding-heart windbags. These comments are so DULL.

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