Seven Cheers for Murray Rothbard

1087007_579980298728635_102253283_n When I started Bleeding Heart Libertarians about two and a half years ago, it was never my intention to factionalize libertarians. I wasn’t trying to draw a line in the sand, and I wasn’t trying to force anybody to choose between social justice and natural rights, between John Rawls and Murray Rothbard, or between BHL and LvMI.

My point, rather, was to articulate an idea that I saw as already present in the libertarian intellectual tradition – namely, that an important part of the moral justification of  free markets and private property is the way those institutions work to benefit the poor and the vulnerable. That idea is largely implicit and not fully developed in libertarian thought, but it’s there. And that’s why, when John Tomasi and I wrote our essay for Cato Unbound, we took pains to show that there was something of the BHL idea even in those strands of the libertarian tradition where you’d least expect to find it – Herbert Spencer, Murray Rothbard, and yes, even Ayn Rand.

Whatever my intentions, though, the way things have developed have certainly created the perception that to identify with Bleeding Heart Libertarianism is to choose a side in an intra-libertarian conflict. And one of the most central elements of this conflict seems to have to do with what one thinks about Murray Rothbard. LvMI folks love him; BHL folks hate him. Those, it seems, are the party lines. It’s gotten so bad that some random guy on Twitter wouldn’t even believe me when I told him that Tomasi and I talk about Rothbard in almost every single chapter of our book on the history of libertarian thought. After all, I’m Matt Zwolinski. I hate Rothbard.

Now it’s true that I have been very critical, both here and elsewhere, of a number of key Rothbardian ideas and arguments. And I certainly agree with Steve and others who have argued that Rothbard’s “paleo” strategy was a strategic and moral disaster. But I wouldn’t spend so much time engaging with Rothbard’s ideas if I didn’t think they were important. Rothbard was a central figure in the growth and development of 20th century libertarian thought, and just as there is a lot for me to admire in libertarianism, there is, believe it or not, a lot that I admire about Murray Rothbard.

So here, for the record, are a few things I genuinely like and appreciate about Murray Rothbard.

  1. For a New Liberty is an inspiring and visionary introduction to libertarian thought. I 364px-For_a_New_Liberty_(2011_edition)_coverwasn’t brought into libertarianism by it myself – I didn’t encounter it until later – but I know plenty of people who were. And I’m teaching it in an undergraduate seminar on libertarianism next semester. Other books, I think, can help students understand libertarianism better. But this book makes you care.
  2. Without Rothbard, the intellectual and political movement of left-libertarianism would almost certainly not have developed to the scale it has today. Part of Rothbard’s contribution here, as always, was organizational. Both the formal institutions he created like Left and Right and the informal networking he facilitated played an important role. But Rothbard’s ideas were important here too – and still worth paying more attention to. I’m a big fan of his inaugural essay in the aforementioned journal. But his essay on “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” and “Liberty and the New Left” are terrific too.
  3. I learned a tremendous amount from reading Rothbard’s two volume history of economic thought (or rather, listening to it as narrated by the wonderful Jeff Riggenbach). I’m not an economic historian myself, and so I can’t speak to the scholarly accuracy of the book. But in a way, that’s beside the point. I never take Rothbard completely at his word when it comes to intellectual history. But he’s a terrific story-teller, and an incredible synthesist. And this book, even at its most infuriating, is Rothbard at his best in this respect. At the very least, you’ll come away from this book with a very long list of people and ideas that you want to read more about.
  4. SRothbard-MESince I’ve mentioned two of Rothbard’s other books already, I suppose it’s incumbent upon me to mention his Man, Economy, and State as well. As a non-economist, I’m not qualified to speak to the original contributions of the bookto Austrian economic theory. But as someone who tried to learn economics largely on its own, I can speak to its utility as an introduction. And in this respect, it’s simply terrific. It’s an intimidatingly large book, and I suspect a lot of people haven’t bothered to work their way all the way through it. But if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read just the first four chapters – available free here. I could easily see this book serving as the core of an excellent introductory micro course (especially if Pete Boettke was the one teaching it!). But, barring that, it seems to me to be a wonderful tool for self-study.
  5. As Aeon Skoble pointed out in another thread, Murray Rothbard is the guy who got Robert Nozick to take anarchism seriously. I’m not an anarchist myself. But you don’t have to be one to think that the idea is worth taking seriously, and to recognize that Murray Rothbard did more than just about anybody else in the 20th century to make that happen. That’s a significant and laudable accomplishment.
  6. Apart from his own intellectual contributions, one of Rothbard’s greatest accomplishments was to re-discover or keep alive the ideas of other libertarians and quasi-libertarians. Today most of us movement-folk know the names of people like Frank Chodorov, Albert Jay Nock, Benjamin Tucker, Gustave de Molinari, and so forth. But how of those names would we know if it weren’t for Murray Rothbard? If it wasn’t for his writings, or for the writings of others that were published in journals he created or helped to create?
  7. Finally, a personal note. I never met Murray Rothbard. All I know of him I know from his writings, videos of his lectures, and stories from people who did know him personally. But by all accounts, Rothbard was a charming, funny, and delightful person. That doesn’t always come across in his writing so well. But Rothbard was a happy warrior. And if you haven’t had the opportunity to see that side of him, take a look at this video of a talk he gave at the 1981 National Libertarian Party Convention. If you’re like me, you won’t always agree with Rothbard on issues of philosophy, economics, history, or strategy. But I sure would have loved to spend a few evenings in his living room chewing the bull with this guy.

Published on:
Author: Matt Zwolinski
  • Aeon Skoble

    A thread that seems to have vanished, so thanks for reiterating.

  • jdkolassa


    Inasmuch as Rothbard actually made people question the state itself, and thus give them the alternative framework to “the state must do everything,” I can give him credit. But I think in the end Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism may have damaged the liberty movement more than it helped. One of the reasons people don’t take libertarianism seriously is because we have a ton of people running around saying we should just abolish government entirely. People don’t generally take those radical approaches that easily, not unless there is mass starvation and violence going on.

    Also, the paleo strategy was really, really bad. That alone should make one question Rothbard’s judgement, if he was a “happy warrior,” and if someone would want to hang out with him. By all accounts he was kind of nutty, and if he’s writing newsletters blaming blacks for all of society’s ills, then he’s kind of not a charming and delightful person, but just a racist with a veneer of geniality.

    I agree with Brennan. Rothbard is a hack, and his disciple Rockwell (and that other guy, Hoppe) has continued tainting libertarianism with some pretty despicable ideas. I’m not sure I would give him three cheers, let alone seven. Maybe one. And it would be lukewarm.

    I will agree with you on that there shouldn’t be a war between BHL and LvMI types. Except for when the LvMI types express some abhorrent views on race and sexuality, but other than that, you are correct. There is a lot of common ground. (Although praxeology befuddles me a bit…)

    • Sean II

      I see you’ve fashioned Matt’s olive brach into a Punji stick. Don’t hold it against me if I walk the other way…

      • jdkolassa

        Hey, somebody has to do it. 😀

        • Libertymike

          Show us the goods. You claimed he wrote that blacks are the cause of all of society’s ills.

          • jdkolassa

            Well, it’s actually linked to in Matt’s post, which you should really read. But here’s the link anyways:


            Note that in the above piece, Steve cites the Rothbard-Rockwell Report. Oh, and the whole paleo strategy in general. And LvMI, which Rothbard founded alongside Lew Rockwell, who wrote the racist Ron Paul newsletters:


            Consider the goods delivered.

          • Libertymike

            Goods may have been delivered, but not the goods which demonstrate that Rothbard “blam[ed] blacks for all of society’s ills”, as you asseverated above.
            The Rothbard was an evil racist narrative is a dog that just won’t hunt.

          • jdkolassa

            Ah, yes, another Internet commentator who won’t bother to read the evidence and has his mind already made up.

            Oh, and also one who reads things literally.

            Well, clearly you are not open to reason, so I won’t waste my time. Have a wonderfully ignorant day.

          • Libertymike

            Ah, so you were communicating by parable.

          • jdkolassa

            If you mean, did I mean to say that Rothbard blamed every single ill in society to black people, not quite. Overall there was a strong racist tinge to his writings. I reasonably sure that he didn’t attribute every single damn thing to blacks, though.

          • Libertymike

            Regarding any person, the kaleidoscopic view is generally the best. Put another way, analogizing to roles in a play or a full length motion picture, the paleo strategy does not belong on the marquee.

          • jdkolassa

            We call that whitewashing.

          • Sean II

            JD, you know I love ya’ man, but you’re putting yourself in a tough position here:

            1) You’re overstating the sheer amount of racism among Rothbard and Co. In comparison to his and their vast output of writing, race gets about as much attention as a footnote.

            2) Even if you’re not, racism isn’t an integral part of his/their ideas, so you’re overstating its significance. We can be very sure, for example, that John Locke was what we now call a homophobe (even and perhaps especially if he was gay!), but that does not tell us anything about what matters with him – natural rights, property, homesteading, etc. Likewise for Rothbard and his views on race.

            3) Even if I’m wrong about both 1) and 2), the fact remains that there are two types of racism:
            a) Treating individuals differently based on real or
            imagined group differences.
            b) Believing groups have differences.

            Your problem is this: the former is a serious vice, but Rothbard isn’t guilty of that one. The latter is not necessarily a vice, since some group differences do exist and the truth is a complete defense. You would have to show that Rothbard and Co. believed (culpably) in group differences that do not exist. And you just don’t have the goods on that point.

            4) The connection between black people and statism in America is not imaginary. Blacks are the most statist voters in American politics. Their unwavering support for the Democratic part is one of the key things allowing that faction to persist in its economic ignorance without suffering at the polls. Also, many specific statist measures in America were passed in the name of blacks. For example, our vast body of law abridging freedom of association by forcing people to associate clearly began as an attempt to produce black social equality at extraordinary costs.

            You can’t ask libertarians not to notice such a thing. Once again, the truth is a complete defense. It can’t be taboo for libertarians to talk about things that are.

          • Fallon

            The general view today is that “race” fails at the molecular-genetic-biological level. Nonetheless, race continues on as a social construct with far reaching consequences– much of it negative. The problem with libertarian race realists is that they do not change their opinions in spite of these discoveries. Is it any wonder that Pioneer Funders tend to be psychologists while the anti-racists tend to be biologists, geneticists, and the like? Even with the old “They are just rigging the data to fit their rainbow egalitarian goals” meme maintained as a quality criticism– it appears to me like a 90% probability that the new consensus is right: race has no biological basis.

          • Sean II

            “The general view today is that “race” fails at the molecular-genetic-biological level. Nonetheless, race continues on as a social construct with far reaching consequences…”

            I really love this story, which is quite a bit older than you think. I remember hearing this as early as the early 90s, when it was indeed touted as the silver bullet that would end racial tension forever. The idea got a lot of help from two shameless showmen of science, the always odious Francis Collins and the often odious Craig Venter. Reason enough to bring some suspicion to the party…

            Let me give you five reasons to abandon your position:

            1) The conclusion is just obviously false: race clearly does exist, in this important sense: you can take a high school dropout and a geneticist and present them both with a population of 1,000 Americans. If the high school dropout tries to sort them into races based on appearance alone, while the scientist does the same using only genetic tests…the results will be quite the same. If you were right, that would not be possible.

            2) The pop version of the story is based on a fallacy of numbers. Perhaps you’ve heard “only 3% of human differences are explained by race…etc”? Well, that’s playing a trick on the everyday perception of what 3% means. In most realms of life, 3% means “not a lot”. In genetics, it means “a mother-trucking fuckload.”

            Don’t believe me? Perhaps you’ve also heard that humans are separated from chimps by only 5% of our DNA? 3% and 5% are very much in the same ballpark, and yet no one is in a hurry to rush out and announce “It’s settled: species is a social construct”.

            3) All geneticists know that the fallacy described in 2) is a fallacy. It follows from this that any geneticist you catch pretending otherwise is, at least in that moment, practicing politics or moral electioneering rather than science. Simply to say “only 3%…” in a way that invites the public to think “not a lot” is grievous intellectual malpractice. And there is no mystery why someone might engage in such malpractice: science gets money by way of attention (in addition to valuing attention for its own sake), and saying “race doesn’t exist” is a really great way to get attention.

            4) Another trick in this debate involves confusing an epistemological problem with a metaphysical one. There are a small but growing number of mixed race people in the world, and they don’t fit the categories all that well. Focusing on that subset clouds the issue a bit, not by invalidating the category of race, but simply by making it a bit harder to apply in particular cases.

            5) A good way to find out what people (including scientists) really believe is by watching what they do when the chips are down.

            Ever heard a med student or an intern do a medical history presentation? They always begin like “36 year old black female presents with…” Race is one of the first things they tell you, because it has enormous practical significance in medicine. Ever heard an epidemiology lecture? Every other statement makes mention of some racial difference. Drug companies and standards of care take race into account. Should we use diuretics, beta blockers or calcium channel blockers? It often depends on whether the patient is black or white.

            Question: “What do you call an ER doc who thinks race is socially constructed and ignores the evidence saying otherwise when it’s time to diagnose and treat?”

            Answer: “Will the defendant please rise!”

            You’re wrong on this Fallon. Way wrong.

          • Fallon

            Okay, just wanted you to know that I have read your comment and want to reply in such a way that avoids allele grouping controversies, etc. What i can say now is that you counter with the traditional narrative– going back to the 19th century– that would need to include skull measuring and social darwinist explanations for completion. It is a strong narrative– so obvious, intuitive and backed up by enormous amounts of common sense and data. But that’s just it. This is the problem– and why the new hardcore science of it– and we can disagree on the degree of differentiation with the traditional narrative on race– is having a hard time. ‘Sure looks like the sun goes round the earth. Just look!’

          • Sean II

            That may be the friendliest way anyone has ever compared someone else to a geocentric in an argument.

          • AE Hall

            I’m not sure how 19th century scientists managed to get large samples of genetic microsatellite markers among a test group of a few thousand, an aggregate picture of various traits among populations at the biochemical level, and access to technologies to capable of determining the medical tendencies of people with different genealogies let alone races.

            “The problem with libertarian race realists is that they do not change their opinions in spite of these discoveries.” – I think that was your quote?

          • Fallon

            Well, Kolassa gets most things wrong. And he is over-selling the racist newsletter case. However, there are other connections with racism/racists that fans of Rockwell/Rothbard should know. So I invite you to do research. But keep in mind the idea of the range in topic– whether it is white culture, IQ determinism, race etc.- and that these categories are subject to different degrees/style of belief per individual, too.

            Can one be a free market libertarian and believe in “racial superiority” at all? Are one’s scientific beliefs grounds for purge?

            Ok. Lot more to be said, but for kicks– try a little mix and match grouping of the following in google using “racism”, “IQ”, etc, as key words: Rothbard, Rockwell, Sam Francis, Michael Levin, Peter Brimelow, VDare, Hans-Hoppe, Jared Taylor, Pioneer Fund, Paul Gottfried,The Occidental Quarterly, and American Renaissance.

            What do you think? Definitely not the Southern Poverty Law Center’s version of events. But not mere background noise either. In fact, from an anti-racist position it would appear that the situation in some ways is actually worse than what the SPLC says, but non-existent in others…

          • Libertymike

            Just started your suggested research with Hoppe. I found two websites with diametric viewpoints which, nevertheless, were both critical of Hoppe on race and immigration. One website,, belittled Hoppe for his condemnation of the role democracy plays in frustrating the free movement of individuals. Another website distorted Hoppe into a racist anti-immigration lunatic.

          • Fallon

            Hoppe has Jared Taylor and Peter Brimelow out to Turkey for his Property and Freedom Society conferences. I don’t know about calling anybody a lunatic– but these guys are racists and anti-immigration stalwarts.

          • MJ

            Murray did an about face in immigration because of the welfare society. Whether right or wrong it’s not an illogical conclusion given the current system. It’s hardly, don’t let them in because they’re brown.

          • Fallon

            It is the ‘scientific/logical’ meaning attached to ‘brown’ by Rothbard and friends that makes their anti-immigration de facto racist, if only de jure discriminative by country of origin.

          • jdkolassa

            Oh, you mean this one?


            Yeah, no racism there.

          • Libertymike

            Racism, first and foremost, is state action / policy predicated upon race. In the United States, this has manifested itself in (1) de jure slavery; (2) black codes, particularly the black codes championed by saint Abraham for his state of Illinois; (3) gun control; (4) fugitive slave laws; (5) the Jim Crow regime; (6) the forced relocation of native peoples; (7) the deliberate mass murder of native peoples; (8) the death camps, “reservations”, established for native peoples; (9) the forced relocation and internment of Japanese people; (10) the creation of the Great Society and the welfare state effected by the forced transfer of trillions of dollars from mostly white folks to (a) other white folks who administer, control and design the welfare state and (b) black people who have been encouraged to sojourn on the plantations of the democrat / statist welfare overlords; (11) affirmative action, quotas and set asides and (12) coerced association.
            Recognizing that nearly 80% of black children are born out of wedlock is not racism. Recognizing that a white person is 8 times more likely to be assaulted by a black person than the reverse, is not racism. Recognizing that a black person is far more likely to cast a vote upon racial lines than a white person, is not racism. Recognizing that a black person is far more likely to be in the public sector than a white person, is not racism. Recognizing that a black person is far more likely to vote for big government, progressive, totalitarian democrats, is not racism. Recognizing that a black person is far more likely to be a welfare recipient than an Asian, is not racism.
            In my view, those who would ascribe racism to the aforementioned observations are, themselves, racists. Those who would assert that black, in and of itself, is beautiful, are, themselves, racists. Those who would complain that “there are more white people on welfare than black people” are, themselves, racists as any person, even those a few fries short of a happy meal, understand that a far higher percentage of black people are on the dole.
            True, one may properly ascribe racist motives on the part of the democrat / statist / progressive / social justice types who administer and design and profit from the Great Society; their aim is to keep the black person dependent on Washington.

          • Lila Rajiva

            I think you can believe the moon is green cheese and still be a libertarian, as long as you don’t plan on killing anyone who thinks differently.

            You can believe your race is superior and be a libertarian. Where it gets iffy is if you reserve the right to disqualify members of “inferior” race from protection for their rights.

            If you don’t accept any public (government) defense of rights and reserve that for the private sector, then things become iffier still.

            I can imagine a world divided up between J P Morgan, Goldman Sachs. Citibank and favored corporations (Monsanto, BP, Exxon, for eg.) who would “police” their property rights in ways not too different from the current “War on Terror” but would be cheered on by libertarians, because they were defending private property rights and not prosecuting an aggressive war. And if they policed their property in accordance with their theories of racial superiority, I imagine we could get a privately run genocide.

            So if you define away the state but still keep the mechanisms of it in place, is it statism or libertarianism?

            Just asking…

          • Libertymike

            The question is one I often ponder.
            However, why do you accept the proposition that rights protection is best effected by an armed group of thugs who insist upon monopolizing such protection? Why do you accept the fallacy that such a monopoly is better suited to effect such rights protection, particularly in view of the last 150 years in which the most precious of all rights, life, has been violated to the tune of several hundred million by, and in the name of, the state?

          • jdkolassa

            You should read the posts here on thick libertarianism and libertarian morality. They go into the consequences of believing libertarian political philosophy and why it goes farther than what you describe. Great reading, all in all.

          • I respectfully disagree. I don’t think it’s possible to be a racial supremacist and a libertarian. I know she’s fallen out of favor in these circles, but Rand wrote absolutely crushing arguments against racism. So did Mises.

          • Lila Rajiva

            I like Rand.

            Much more than several libertarian theorists.

            But I think she herself was a “racist” toward Palestinians, regarding them as animals on at least one occasion.

            So she’s an odd person to cite on that.

            I still think she was – on other occasions – a pretty persuasive libertarian.

            So chauvinism itself isn’t the problem.

            The problem is advocating for legal disenfranchisement of the objects of your chauvinism.

            On the other hand, I think chauvinism along with certain beliefs – like Darwinism – are guaranteed to lead to undesirable outcomes, but that’s a different thing.

            The difficult question is discrimination.

            Once you admit a right to free association, it’s difficult to figure out how to make an exception for racists.

            I don’t think the Blockian argument holds water for an instant.

            I can well imagine a racist discriminating in hiring even if it were to his commercial advantage not to.

            No skin off my nose, because, as a minarchist, defense of life, liberty and property would justify state intervention.

            Ancaps don’t have that joker in their pack.

          • Sol Logic

            what do you mean by “justify state intervention”? How would that work in a minarchist state?

          • AE Hall

            “But I think she herself was a “racist” toward Palestinians,” – Given the vague access of information folks were granted in those days, it’s kind of easy to see why she would believe so. For all she knew these actually were people who were hell bent on the absolute genocide of the Israeli people.

          • Valentine Joseph

            Exactly. I don’t even understand how those two opposite ideologies can co-exist

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            Certainly what you envision is a logical outcome of certain libertarian thought. Most of us are not anarcho capitalists though. I want a government, and I want a very efficient and powerful one, but I just want it to be limited in scope to protecting us from foreign and domestic agression, operating a court system, maybe some small rolls in education, transportation, weights and standards, and enviromental protection. But not the ever flowing fountain of regulatory destruction we have now.

          • Fallon

            Thanks Lila!

            These big banks and corporations are dependent on central monopoly power. Everything from the Federal Reserve to law, regulations and foreign policy create and express privilege at the expense of the politically hapless. Take away the state and keep a demand for genocide ceteris paribus– and the lack of conglomeration of force will limit the killing possibilities. Cartels fail without legitimized monopoly.

            I cannot think of a modern genocide, mass murder or great famine that cannot be laid at the feet of centralized political domination. The Great Irish Famine of1845-52 and the Great Famine of India 1876-78 had British imperial dominance and contingency efforts in common. State power is the key common factor among devastating famines: in Soviet Ukraine 1933-34, Mao’s China 1958-61, Ethiopia of 1980s, later Somalia, and today’s North Korea, to name some.

            Genocides and mass murders, same story. The US, like imperial Britain, does its mass murdering overseas. Centralized political monopoly like the state has no place in civilization. At the heart of all this is ideology, not inherent forces of history. If people no longer believe in state forms of government, it will fold. Now, this still leaves the debate of minarchism v. anarchism. But as soon as one realizes that market anarchism– taking in the best insights of Mises e.g., minus his mistakes and limits– does not preclude political organization, defense, welfare, law, policing etc, then what do minarchists have left to stand on?

          • Lila Rajiva

            You’re missing an important point. That was the CORPORATE- state…

            My point is, if you take out the state part of the corporate-state, the corporate part will just manufacture another “state” or its equivalent….and it might be much worse.

          • Fallon

            If there is enough general belief in the state, reinvigorated even, then indeed history will appear to repeat itself. Most of man’s history is admittedly persistent dominance. But this is not written in the stars. The classical liberal idea, especially as most developed and expressed in market anarchy, offers a distinct way off the merry-go-round: but it must be impressed on every new generation.

          • Cowboydroid

            I did a skim-through of AmRen once, and was so thoroughly disgusted and found it so revolting that it caused me to actually feel sad. I was literally shocked that such beliefs were held by so many people. And I am by no means sheltered from hate. But the extent to which some people will go in order to justify their hate is just mind-boggling.

            Being libertarian means believing in the power of love and cooperation in order to hold society together. It is the state that feeds on hate and fear. People who attempt to scientifically justify their hate and fear are no better than the sociopaths in government who resort to hate and fear in every interaction with another human being.

          • Fallon

            Thank you. Some of my diligence stems from my admiration of a lot of Rockwell and co.s’ work. No matter how obvious Rockwell makes it that non-violence is the way to achieve ends– it is easily ignored by opportunists and those blinded by life in the trenches.

          • Cowboydroid

            Robert Higgs had a great piece on Mises a few days ago about the power of love in libertarianism. It’s a great read if you can find it.

          • AE Hall

            Hahahaa oh man, here we go. Are you honestly implying that people who espouse racial hereditarian views on evolution and a defensive valuation of white people are prone to aggressive violence? Specifically the AmRen crowd? You do realize there is a nuance here right?

          • AE Hall

            “But keep in mind the idea of the range in topic– whether it is white
            culture, IQ determinism, race etc.- and that these categories are
            subject to different degrees/style of belief per individual, too” – Yes, because my belief on the correlations of a specifically defined classification of behavior, phenotypes, gene frequencies, etc, are all that truly matters. I mean, that’s what science is about right? Determining how I see the world and not how the world actually is!

    • Anders

      People thought calls for abolitionism were extreme, but look who won!
      Pointing out that State evils are systematic is essential. Otherwise pointless reforms will continue.
      Also if we consistently followed libertarianism and generally accepted ideas of justice and common decency and applied them to the state, then state officials will no long be able to conduct their activities and the state would be unrecognizable. To put it another way – if we strip out all the bad things the state does nothing will be left.

      • jdkolassa

        I agree that questioning the moral foundations of the state is a good thing. I’m more concerned about the PR/tactics angle; a lot of people are operating far outside the Overton window and they’re not moving the ball down the field so much.

        To be fair, this isn’t really Rothbard’s fault. Nobody can really control their followers. But he is, directly or indirectly, a cause for most of this. He also, I think, went a bit too polemical in many cases and could’ve backed off. But then von Mises called Hayek and Friedman socialists, so whaddya I know.

        • Sean II

          The Overton window offers a truly disgusting view of our fellow humans. Allow me to illustrate…

          Things you CAN say without suffering social sanction:

          1) “I think heroin dealers should be publicly executed.”
          2) “The government should require parental licensing.”
          3) “People who need kidneys should never be allowed to buy them.”

          Things you CAN’T say without suffering social sanction:

          1) “Since information is costly, employers and creditors should be allowed to discriminate based on race.”
          2) “The fact that cocaine feels awesome is relevant to any discussion of its future legal status.”
          3) “There are important values that directly compete with the safety of children.”

          So, you know…to hell with that.

          • dalecarville

            “Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)”


          • Sean II

            That passage has been discussed here many times. It has NOTHING to do with the present discussion.

          • dalecarville

            Ah yes, February 20, 2012, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

            Apparently you remember it as it were Groundhog Day.

          • AE Hall

            Not a Rothbardian, but it’s always interesting to me how the unsophisticated always use this chapter as the end all be all against him. Again, I don’t agree with Rothbard’s ethics, they were too closed off like Rand’s and further from my preferred Humeian views. But really, this is a crap argument that oversimplifies. Stop using it.

    • Jordan Breon

      Rothbard never took a position because he thought it would be wiser from a strategic point of view, but because he believed it was the truth. Anarchism is just the result of following the logic to the end, which if you listen to the above video, you’ll hear Rothbard explain it himself.

      I’ve been a supporter of LvMI and Murray Rothbard from the day I bought For A New Liberty at a garage sale when I was 15. I simply cannot fathom what mental gymnastics it requires to convince oneself that Rothbard was a raving racist. The most I ever see is some anachronistic terms that my great-grandmother would use. Like ‘colored’ or ‘Jap’.

      If people want to attack Rothbard on strategy, that’s fine. He seemed to have an almost naive belief that if you gave people the truth they would do right with it. Most Rothbardians I know are wholly uninterested in politics or using the State’s machinery to further libertarian goals. Many even treat it as an error to even consider using politics as an educational device as Ron Paul did.

      • David Friedman

        “Rothbard never took a position because he thought it would be wiser from a strategic point of view, but because he believed it was the truth.”

        If so he was very good at fooling himself.

        Consider my favorite example, his opposition to permitting fractional reserve banking in a free society. The underlying argument is that the bank, in agreeing to redeem its notes for (say) silver, is making a contract it might be unable to fulfill. But that is true of all insurance companies and indeed of all contracts in an uncertain world. As long as the bank does not misrepresent the situation, its notes are no more fraudulent than any other contractual obligation. And in fact, we know that in a real system of private fractional reserve banks, 18th c. Scotland, banks issued notes which included the warning that they might not be able to redeem instantly, and a commitment to compensate the holder for a delay.

        But Rothbard believed that fractional reserve banking was an important cause of economic instability, he believed that a free society could not prohibit economic activities that involved neither force nor fraud, and he believed that a free society would not have anything equivalent to the Great Depression. To make those beliefs consistent he had to fudge up an argument, however bad, to show that fractional reserve banking was fraudulent.

        If you want other examples of Rothbard saying things he did not believe were true, I refer you to my blog post on his economic history book along with the materials linked to it:

        • Conza

          Gotta love strawmen especially from scholars. Some primary source material would be brilliant.

          Re: “…But that is true of all insurance companies and indeed of all contracts in an uncertain world…”

          = Here’s some: ; note 2:16+ “To me the idea of insuring the Fractional Reserve banking system is like insuring the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.. You’re free in the freemarket to do it but there ain’t much percentage in it”.

          Re: “As long as the bank does not misrepresent the situation, its notes are no more fraudulent than any other contractual obligation.”

          = Right. Which isn’t the underlying argument objected to by MNR, Hoppe, or Block etc. As indicated:

          “In order to overcome these objections to the claim that fractional reserve banking accords with the principle of freedom of contract, White and Selgin [Friedman] then, as their last line of defense, withdraw to the position that banks may attach an “option clause” to their notes, informing depositors that the bank may at any time suspend or defer redemption, and letting borrowers know that their loans may be instantly recalled.[26] While such a practice would indeed dispose of the charge of fraud, it is subject to another fundamental criticism, for such notes would no longer be money but a peculiar form of lottery tickets.[27]

          It is the function of money to serve as the most easily resalable andmost widely acceptable good, so as to prepare its owner for instant purchases of directly or indirectly serviceable consumer or producer goods at not yet known future dates; hence, whatever may serve as money so as to be instantly resalable at any future point in time, it must be something that bestows an absolute and unconditional property right on its owner.

          In sharp contrast, the owner of a note to which an option clause is attached does not possess an unconditional property title. Rather, similar to the holder of a “fractional reserve parking ticket” (where more tickets are sold than there are parking places on hand, and lots are allocated according to a “first-come-first-served” rule), he is merely entitled to participate in the drawing of certain prizes, consisting of ownership or time-rental services to specified goods according to specified rules. But as drawing rights—and not unconditional ownership titles—they only possess temporally conditional value until the time of the drawing, and they become worthless as soon as the prizes have been allocated to the ticket holders; thus, they would be uniquely unsuited to serve as a medium of exchange.”
          — Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Against Fiduciary Media

          Re: “And in fact, we know that in a real system of private fractional reserve banks, 18th c. Scotland, banks issued notes which included the warning that they might not be able to redeem instantly, and a commitment to compensate the holder for a delay.”

          = The Myth of Free Banking in Scotland (

          • martinbrock

            Thanks. I’m suspicious of the claim that Rothbard would not permit fractional reserve banking (as though he could prevent it in his anarchic order); however, Hoppe does presume what he purports to show here, namely that money must “bestow an absolute and unconditional property right on its owner”.

            To be “money”, a good must be a widely accepted medium of exchange, that traders accept only to exchange it for something else soon thereafter, but people can and will use, and have historically used, things for this purpose that do not bestow an absolute and unconditional property right in the sense that Hoppe apparently intends.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            Correct, the pupose of money is to increase wealth by making trade more efficient. As such anything will do, stones with holes in them. base metals, or pieces of paper.

      • jdkolassa

        “Rothbard never took a position because he thought it would be wiser from
        a strategic point of view, but because he believed it was the truth.”

        In that case, then, considering his backing of the racist Ron Paul newsletters and the overarching strategy of allying with white supremacists and the racist right-wing fringe, as amply documented in Steve Horwitz’s post I (and Matt) linked to above, then it is clear that Rothbard was a “raving racist.”

        That’s not mental gymnastics, that’s just examining what’s right in front of you.

        • Conza

          Sorry, again, you have no idea what you’re talking about. How about some intellectual honesty? Produce an actual primary source stating as such. Again, here is some to the contrary below. FYI in future, don’t let your unmitigated hatred cloud your analysis.

          “Here again is a profound lesson for us today. Too many
          libertarians have absorbed the negative and elitist conservative worldview to the effect that our enemy today is the poor, who are robbing the rich; the blacks, who are robbing the whites; or the masses, who are robbing heroes and businessmen.

          In fact, it is the state that is robbing all classes, rich and poor, black and white, worker and businessman alike; it is the state that is ripping us all off; it is the state that is the common enemy of mankind.

          And who is the state? It is any group who manages to seize control ofthe state’s coercive machinery of theft and privilege. Of course these ruling groups have differed in composition through history, from kings and nobles to privileged merchants to Communist parties to the Trilateral Commission. But whoever they are, they can only be a small minority of the population, ruling and robbing the rest of us for their power and wealth. And since they are a small minority, the state rulers can only be kept in power by deluding us about the wisdom or necessity of their rule.

          Hence, it is our major task to oppose and desanctify their entrenched rule, in the same spirit that the first libertarian revolutionaries opposed and desanctified their rulers two hundred years ago. We must strip the mystical veil of sanctity from our rulers just as Tom Paine stripped the sanctity from King George III. And in this task we libertarians are not the spokesmen for any ethnic or economic class; we are the spokesmen for all classes, for all of the public; we strive to see all of these groups united, hand-in-hand, in opposition to the plundering and privileged minority that constitutes the rulers of the state.”
          — Murray Rothbard, The Noblest Cause Of All

          • jdkolassa

            Dude, I provided links above. Care to, you know, go and read them?

            Or you can read this ugly essay by Rothbard himself:


            If you think intelligence is genetically determined by race, you might be an idiot. And a racist.

          • Guest

            “Namely: Until literally mid-October 1994, it was shameful and taboo for anyone to talk publicly or write about, home truths which everyone, and I mean everyone, knew in their hearts and in private: that is, almost self-evident truths about race, intelligence, and heritability. What used to be widespread shared public knowledge about race and ethnicity among writers, publicists, and scholars, was suddenly driven out of the public square by Communist anthropologist Franz Boas and his associates in the 1930s, and it has been taboo ever since. Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that individuals, ethnic groups, and races differ among themselves in intelligence and in many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.

            … “But, when all is said and done, the truth about race and IQ means a lot more to liberals and to neocons than it does to paleos. For the liberals and neocons, being statist to the core, are obliged to seize control of resources and to allocate them somehow among the various groups of the population. Liberals-neocons are “sorters,” they aim to sort people out, to subsidize here, to control and restrict there. So, to the neocon or liberal power elite, ethnic or racial science is a big thing because it tells these sorters who exactly they should subsidize, who they should control, who they should restrict and limit. Should they use taxpayer funds to subsidize the “disadvantaged” or geniuses? Which is more socially productive, which dysgenic?”
            — Murray Rothbard

            But yeah… go on, keep on trollin’. Argument? You’re yet to make one.

          • jdkolassa

            Hereditary, in terms of individual traits, is largely genetic, is it not? We’re not still believing in Lamarckism, are we?

            Rothbard is basically trying to say that black people are stupid. And yes, that is racist.

            Facts. You’ve yet to acknowledge one.

          • Conza

            Re: “If you think intelligence is genetically determined by race, you might be an idiot. And a racist.”

            = So then Rothbard’s not a racist, as per your very definition. Brilliant.

            “…Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that individuals…differ among themselves in intelligence and in
            many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial
            traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.

            … But, when all is said and done, the truth about race and IQ means a
            lot more to liberals and to neocons than it does to paleos. For the
            liberals and neocons, being statist to the core, are obliged to seize
            control of resources and to allocate them somehow among the various
            groups of the population. Liberals-neocons are “sorters,” they aim to
            sort people out, to subsidize here, to control and restrict there. So,
            to the neocon or liberal power elite, ethnic or racial science is a big
            thing because it tells these sorters who exactly they should subsidize,
            who they should control, who they should restrict and limit. Should they
            use taxpayer funds to subsidize the “disadvantaged” or geniuses? Which
            is more socially productive, which dysgenic?”
            — MNR

            But by all means, keep on trollin’. You’re yet to make an actual valid argument.

          • jdkolassa

            If you’re going to quote the man, quote the entire passage:

            “Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that individuals, ethnic groups, and races differ among themselves in intelligence and in many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.”

            See, I can screw with quotes too:

            “Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that…ethnic groups, and races differ among themselves in intelligence and in many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.”


          • David Friedman

            Do you disagree that intelligence is in large part heritable? There’s lot of evidence in support of that claim, none I know of against it.

            Are you denying that population groups that have been reproductively separated for long periods of time are likely to have different distributions of heritable traits? It’s easily seen for observable physical traits, so why would you expect it not to be true for less easily observed psychological traits?

            Or is your point only that it might be true, but saying it might be true makes one a racist?

    • Bryan C. Winter

      I’m surprised you got 14 down votes.

      • jdkolassa

        Did you expect more or less?

    • Bob Johnson

      The paleo strategy was an astounding success. It made hypersensitive, uber-PC whores to the neocon-corporatist old left establishment shit themselves. Angry, anti-government, anti-PC populism that directly spits in the face of the tolerance and diversity propaganda taught at schools is what we need, not a bunch of idiotic philsophers, professors who teach a useless subject, unlike economists, trying to make libertarianism an ADL-approved movement. Zwolinski and all his philosopher friends are useless. Economists and historians, like Robert Murphy, Thomas Woods, Peter Schiff, and Robert Higgs, are the true fighters for liberty.

    • Matthew Tanous

      “One of the reasons people don’t take libertarianism seriously is because we have a ton of people running around saying we should just abolish government entirely. People don’t generally take those radical approaches that easily”

      Nor do they tend to listen to someone about principles they are willing to compromise at every turn.

    • Marcy Fleming

      Rothbard published over two dozen serious academic works ! He forgot more on history, philosophy, literature, economics, political theory, you name it, than any of the morons criticizing him here. He was in fact much smarter and much more knowledgeable than Ayn Rand. His paleo strategy was great, his left 60s strategy was a disaster that he was totally forced to repudiate after 1970.
      I need a bath after looking at this site of absolute nobodies daring to libel one of their great intellectual betters.

      • jdkolassa

        Oh look, a lemming.

  • Pingback: Quantum Matrix Scribe()

  • He certainly inspires a lot of passion, doesn’t he.

    I don’t know anything about the history of the libertarian movement and stuff, so all I really know is what I read. I don’t find Rothbard as strong on economics as others, and don’t pay much attention to his polemics. One question I always had was, why did Rothbard keep having huge, deluvian falling-outs with so many other people in the libertarian movement?

    Rothbard vs. Rand. Rothbard vs. Crane. Rothbardians vs. BHLers. Sometimes it looks to me as though Rothbard and his followers put themselves further asunder than anyone else does.

    But like I said, I don’t know anything about the history of libertarianism, and I’m not into choosing sides. I’m just stick to what everybody wrote and choose all the ideas that make sense to me.

  • Sean II

    “I never take Rothbard completely at his word when it comes to intellectual history. But he’s a terrific story-teller, and an incredible synthesist.”

    A good rule of thumb when it comes to history, intellectual or otherwise: if the tale you’re being told is coherent or captivating, it’s probably built around a lie.

    • Anders

      I’ve read a lot of history and Rothbard’s is solid.
      I think a lot of histories do take a ‘whig’ approach – history is coherent because it is directed and we can see the unstoppable march of progress.
      Rothbard rejected that approach and did a good job of showing each person’s ideas in intellectual history. In all his history he tried to show where the participants fell short of the ideals of liberty and what they were up to.

      • Steven Horwitz

        Rothbard’s history of economic thought is highly questionable half the time and brilliant the other half. That’s what happens when you have your narrative first and read people through it, which is what he does in those volumes.

        Rothbard at his best? Man, Economy, and State and For a New Liberty.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    I read Man, Economy, and State (well I wasn’t educated enough to understand most of it) when in college. Shortly after reading Freidman’s Free to Choose. So I have to say it had some effect on my libertarian ideas. But only a little, as I had to go through a “conservative” phase as a young adult first.

  • John S

    Good points. But his worst legacy from an economics standpoint was his misguided crusade against fractional reserve banking, which fractured the Austrian school into the now dominant Rothbardian-wing (i.e. the Mises Institute) and the Free Banking school (George Selgin and Larry White, now reviled by most Rothbardians for their “apostasy” from the full reserve banking line).

    • Yes, I’ll leave it to the economists to evaluate the technical aspects of that argument. But the moral component has never struck me as at all plausible.

    • CT

      “which fractured the Austrian school into the now dominant Rothbardian-wing”
      Uh no. Rothbard accepted a theory which began with Mises. He didn’t ‘fracture’ anything. Mises believed that holding a deposit was not an instance of an exchange of present goods for future goods and hence developed the foundations for ABCT.

      • Be honest: there are good arguments for free banking in Human Action. Rothbard may have made his case effectively, but he’s not the only one drawing from Mises.

        • CT

          Of course there are good arguments for ‘free banking’ in Human Action – and I agree with them. Banking should be completely free and FRB legal. That doesn’t mean I agree with the ‘free bankers’ in terms of theory or the consequences of completely eliminating gov’t from banking.
          My point was the Mises believed that a deposit is economically equivalent to cash and not a loan. Thus he believed FRB was the source of the business cycle.

          • Steven Horwitz

            That interpretation of Mises is not obviously correct. FRB *under central banking* yes, but not FRB in general necessarily.

          • CT

            Prof Horwitz,
            Could you point me to some articles which corroborates this? Because this is definitely not my understanding of what I read (several times now) in his “Theory of Money and Credit”.

      • John S

        CT, one sincere question, no snark intended at all. How would fractional reserve banking be eliminated without a government enforced ban?

        • Fallon

          If people believe FRB to be bad, they will not do business with it. They may also form independent communities that ban it via enforceable contract. This presupposes that government is possible without the a central political monopoly. Anyway, let the market decide. Even if it turns out that Horwitz et al. are correct, it doesn’t appear so compelling an issue that it demands total world alignment– like breeding children just for organs… (though I suppose there is an argument for allowing even this somewhere in the libersphere ha).

          • John S

            I certainly see nothing with people trying to avoid FRB or patronizing full reserve banks. But many of the Rothbardians try to claim that it’s fraud and would prefer that it be banned for everyone, which I can’t understand.

            let the market decide

            That’s my answer, too. But I believe the historical experience of free banking (Scotland, Canada, USA, Australia) shows that nearly everyone will choose to bank with fractional reserve banks, and that such banks will completely outcompete full reserve banks by paying interest. Even today, people are free to keep their savings as cash in a home safe, but hardly anyone does this. At any rate, let’s let the market–and the consumers–decide. Banning FRB isn’t a defensible stance, imo.

          • CT

            Canadian banks were constantly bailed out by the gov’t when too many people wanted to convert their deposits into cash. In Scotland, there is no data which indicates whether they were or not. Without such data, historical experience has nothing to say since we have no real examples of what banking would look like if it were completely free.

          • John S

            I’m familiar with the counter-arguments against the Scottish case (listed by Larry White in Free Banking in Britain, but I am not aware of explicit lender of last resort action taken in Canada. Can you provide a link?

            we have no real examples of what banking would look like if it were completely free.

            No banking system has ever been completely “free,” but both of these systems were considerably freer and less regulated than what we have now; Scotland in particular allowed the well-known Ayr Bank failure. We do know that people were willing to freely entrust their gold coins to the banks in exchange for notes and deposits, even w/o explicit govt guarantees, so it’s very likely they would continue to do so.

            Incidentally, we’ve also never had a purely free trade system, either, but most economists are in favor of taking steps toward a free trade regime (or at least using a hypothetical free trade condition as the baseline for analysis). Unfortunately, they don’t seem to share the same viewpoint on free banking at all, refusing to even entertain the notion.

            I’m not even completely opposed to some govt action to moderate business cycles, e.g. Miles Kimball’s “federal lines of credit” suggestion (basically helicopter drops to households that need to be paid back):


            But such intervention should be the exception, not the rule. Surely, you agree that “too big to fail” and federal deposit insurance are policies which lead to excessive risk taking and financial instability.

          • CT

            To be clear, I’m for complete gov’t removal from the banking system (that includes not rendering FRB illegal). So yes, I agree that deposit insurance does lead to instability. So do restrictions on branch banking. With that said, whether FRB is stable or not completely depends on what would happen if depositors were allowed to redeem as per their contract. There is simply no way to settle this debate using historical examples. My beef with the ‘free bankers’ is one of theory.

          • CT


            I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply there was a lender of last resort in Canada before the bank of Canada – there wasn’t. But banks were still given holidays and bailed out by the gov’t. They were regulated and charters weren’t that easy to come by (especially outside of Montreal and Toronto). This is pretty easy to look up. These are more mainstream references (although not great). You can also look up the bank act in Canada. It changed over the years but it’ll give you a good idea of the regulations.


            The second link is rather poorly written thesis. But the facts are pretty good (some weird claims). But the point remains, Canadian banks constantly suspended payment with the help of gov’t.
            Sorry for the poor links but most of Canadian banking history is in my head or in textbooks I have at home (I’m Canadian).

          • John S

            CT, thanks for the links on Canadian banking. I will have to take some time to go through them in detail. I assume you are already familiar with Kurt Schuler’s chapter in “The Experience of Free Banking” on Canada, but I’ll link it in case anyone else is interested.


            One other point I would like to make is that stability (either financial, or in terms of a trend line of econ. growth) isn’t the only issue of concern. An loose analogy to return on investment can be made: greater medium and long term returns can accrue if one is willing to tolerate greater volatility. Full reserve banking would certainly lead to more financial stability (at least w.r.t. bank runs), but at what cost?

            Such a dramatic reduction in credit (which is what it would amount to) would certainly reduce the total amount of economic activity. I believe I can say with certainty that the transition from using full-bodied coins (or barter) for transactions in the Middle Ages to various credit instruments (e.g. bills of exchange) and fractionally-backed deposit banking (from Italian city-states onward) entailed a great net benefit for economic growth.

          • John S

            By the way, do you follow JP Koning’s blog? He’s another Canadian interested in money and banking; post for post, the best econ blog out there, imo.

          • George Selgin

            Sorry, CT, but these remarks are bullshit. There’s plenty of evidence that what you claim simply ain’t so.

          • Fallon

            Thanks John. You are coming from a point of conviction. I have not applied the due diligence necessary to even decide whether one should take a position suggesting an absolutist legal/moral stance. Hence, my ‘let the market decide’ angle. Am I being fair? Is it okay to invoke the pragmatic rule in this debate, haha?

          • John S

            I think you’re being fair. As long as you don’t take a rigidly dogmatic position and are willing to read and consider alternative points of view, that’s cool in my book. Unfortunately, quite a few Rothbardians don’t seem willing to do this.

            Personally, I lean strongly Austrian, but I’ve learned a lot from Post-Keynesians, Monetarists, and the “mainstream.” I try to keep my views open to revision, if presented with persuasive theory and evidence.

        • David Friedman

          I can’t speak for Rothbard, obviously, but I think he believed it would be eliminated the same way murder, theft, and ordinary fraud were–by whatever non-governmental institutions protected people’s rights.

        • CT

          No gov’t support whatsoever for banks. If a bank cannot honour its contracts, the bank should be allowed to proceed.

          • CT

            *the bank run* … jeez

          • John S

            Sure, I favor no govt support for banks and allowing bank runs on insolvent /overextended banks to proceed. This is what Selgin and White want, also. So it seems that we are quite close in our positions.

          • CT

            Yes we are … we just differ as to the outcome of our preferred prescriptions.

    • J D

      That the Rothbardian / LvMI group could be construed as dominant is hard for me to believe. They have retreated from academia and become radical political activists. The group of young Rothbardians they’ve tried to cultivate (specifically since Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign) repeat heterodox positions as if they were revealed truth (Gold, Fractional Reserve Banking, ABCT applies to every recession, ever, etc.) in online discussions all over the web. There’s something unseemly about people whose bookshelves feature LvMI pressed titles almost exclusively. Have they even read the economists they vilify?

      • John S

        Right, they’re not at all dominant in academics; the GMU/NYU guys–Boettke, Selgin, White, Rizzo, Horwitz–have better positions and more mainstream publications than Salerno and Hoppe. But in terms of public visibility, the Mises Institute overwhelmingly dominates, while the Free Banking position is almost unknown. That’s unfortunate.

        Alexa rankings:

        Mises Group 26,000 global, 9,000 US 113,000 / 33,000 (Bob Murphy) 173,000 / 46,000

        Free Banking / GMU group (Selgin, White, Schuler, Horwitz) 1,300,000 global (Boettke) 2.7 million (Rizzo) 9 million

        When mainstream economists and bloggers think of “Austrian” econ, they are almost unanimously referring to Rothbardianism (no frac reserve banking, massively pro-gold, ABCT for everything). Here’s Noah Smith, who is completely unfamiliar with Free Banking literature:

        “I have seen nothing and read nothing from the GMU Austrians. So I will continue to behave as if the Mises Institute defines Austrian thinking until the GMU Austrians speak up and make their voices heard.”

        • John S

          Have they even read the economists they vilify?

          Bob Murphy is light years better than Salerno, Huerta de Soto, and Hoppe on this. But he still won’t criticize the anti-frac reserve position, probably b/c he still works closely with the Mises Institute.

          • J D

            I meant young students of the LvMI group (the mass of e-Rothbardians since 2008) when I asked whether they had read the economists they vilify. I did not at all mean LvMI associated economists themselves, who I am sure have read Keynes et al in the original.

          • John S

            Right, I misread you at first. To be honest, however, I really do wonder if Salerno, de Soto, and especially Hoppe have much knowledge about other economic traditions at all (or even the nature of banking in general w.r.t. Hoppe).

          • David Friedman

            He won’t defend the position either, if I correctly remember our exchanges on that issue.

          • Ash

            For the record, here is Bob Murphy’s views on FRB/free banking:

        • David Friedman

          Interesting. Never having heard of Alexa, I naturally found the site and checked my ranking. My web site is between the two groups at at 785,169. My blog is slightly weaker than

          • John S

            Hi David, big fan of yours. I don’t often see you comment on free banking, but I do remember seeing that you had a chapter on smart cards/free banking in a book from a while ago.

            I also really admire your posts on unschooling, and you had a nice short anecdote about John Holt that I enjoyed, too. I hope that you can raise awareness about this issue (and the larger one of children’s rights) among libertarians, who don’t seem to take it seriously. I think Ivan Illich and the Sudbury Valley School deserve a lot more libertarian love than they currently receive (which is close to zero).

          • J D

            A group of objectivists are combining Montessori education and Rand’s wonderful cultural vision in private California primary schools.

          • John S

            Wow, that sounds pretty gross, since I’m not a fan of either of those movements (esp. the latter)! More like brainwashing, not freedom. Parents of SVS students come from a wide range of political backgrounds; they just want their kids to direct their own learning.

          • J D

            The schools are not political; it is Rand’s theory of concepts and her “sense of life” that inspire them. By Rand’s cultural vision I mean, broadly, enlightenment eudaimonism.

            It surprises me that you have no affection for Montessori at all.

          • John S

            To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Montessori. I’m sure it’s far superior to the typical factory school curriculum, and to that extent I’m quite sympathetic. But I really was strongly influenced by John Holt, Illich, and the Sudbury School–total student control over learning.

            Can you recommend a book summarizing Montessori philosophy? My own favorite education books are “How Children Fail,” “Deschooling Society,” and “Free at Last: The Sudbury Valley School.” (all can be found for free on the internet)

          • J D

            Thank you for the list of books. I own a copy of “Instead of Education”, but have not read it.

            I know only Montessori basics; I see it as a third way in the best sense, though there is a lot of variance and disagreement among advocates. Independence and spontaneity are emphasized. Classrooms are mixed-age according to her (Maria Montessori’s) Planes of Development theory. A student-directed “discovery” model of learning is used, but within a very carefully prepared environment containing manipulatives that teach the child concepts experientially and which are self-correcting. If something is wrong, the child can see this and solve the problem themselves. From the Wiki article:

            “Based on her observations, Montessori believed that children at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously for optimal development.”

            I have not yet read a book on the Montessori method, but recommend this essay:


          • John S

            “Instead of Education”—oooh, that’s a good one!! One of my favorites. Holt really fleshes out his theory.

            From what you describe, Montessori sounds pretty good. Age-mixing def a huge plus, and I can see the merit of guided discovery for kids under say 10 (I also think pure self-direction from the start works fine for many, if not most, kids).

            From a libertarian perspective, I really am puzzled that most don’t seem to take children’s rights very seriously. The right to control what one spends one’s time learning and doing as a child seems incredibly important since these experiences have a huge influence on the course of one’s life. Holt wrote a great little book on children’s rights called “Escape from Childhood.” Ch. 24, “The Right to Control One’s Learning,” (p. 96-100) is a firebomb.


          • J D

            It’s because we have a welfare state. If you are able to impose the costs of your decisions onto others, it actually does matter that you learn things conducive to independence. If, in exercising “The Right to Control One’s Learning”, a ten year old boy decides to learn how to play xbox games, he cannot be allowed to force others to pay the rent as an illiterate adult. It’s an example of one intervention necessitating additional intervention, and unfortunately, I am worried that a welfare state of some kind may be permanently necessary (See Tyler Cowen’s “Average is Over”, or any pessimistic account of automation and wage polarization).

          • John S

            The children at Sudbury Valley School are free to do whatever they want, but no one spends their entire time there doing nothing but playing video games**. Also, at least as of the publication of “Free At Last,” every single child has learned to read. You’re obviously a smart, thoughtful guy, but I’m not impressed by this rather weak strawman.

            I’d recommend the chapter “Fishing” in “Free at Last,” and this video on the SVS (Peter Gray has also done some more empirical research, which I haven’t looked into yet, and there have been studies done on SVS graduates; all quite normal in terms of life outcomes):


          • John S

            And in the current system, can we say that all students are literate and numerate by the time they graduate? I don’t even have to cite statistics on that one. Likewise, how many children in conventional schools prioritize video games over studying? A very large percentage, I’d wager.

            I agree that the welfare state is a huge problem, and I am very familiar with the automation/wage debate (“The Lights in the Tunnel” anticipated this debate by several years). In fact, automation is one reason why I think it’s crucial to move away from the factory school model towards one that maximizes the scope for self-direction and creative thinking. In my book, that’s unschooling. And if you’re worried about illiterate, ZMP, future welfare demanding adults being churned out by the millions–well, the current system is contributing plenty on that front.

            Libertarians can dream, right? So let’s attack both the factory school system AND the welfare state. I don’t see a need to tolerate the former b/c of the adverse effects of the latter.

            ** To be sure, a few play video, board, or card games intensively for a period of a few months or even a year or two. But they burn out and move onto something else, and the focusing ability is transferable. And from a productive skills perspective, is there really a huge difference between time spent on xbox and football/basketball?

          • David Friedman

            I can’t speak to Sudbury Valley School itself, but our kids spent some years in a small school modeled on it. The central features of the model are freedom and democracy. Freedom I approve of. Democracy means that, although there are in theory no required courses, a kid who does not make himself skilled in small group politics is likely to have decisions made for him by those who do–which is connected to the reasons we eventually left the school in favor of home unschooling.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            They ought to really fit into the anti capitalist hell hole that California is becoming.

        • martinbrock

          I read regularly. It suffers from the same mainstreamism malady that Jason heralds at BHL. Here’s the thing, as long as a blog confines itself to topics occasionally covered, however superficially and dismissively, in the New York Times, it’s unlikely to draw a large following in the blogosphere. It’s like trying to start a small restaurant serving practically a subset of the McDonalds’ menu, featuring only the least popular items. Why would anyone bother with this restaurant rather than McDonalds?

          The problem is not that that freebanking offers no rants on the evils of fractional reserve banking. I don’t take these rants seriously either. The problem is that it adheres too closely to the periphery of acceptable, mainstream opinion, largely because the bloggers are professional academics I suppose. An occasional post addresses Bitcoin, but I’ve never seen a post on Ripple or BerkShares, and the blog does cover theoretical, central planning strategies like nominal GDP targeting.

          Basically, freebanking’s bloggers are so fearful of being dismissed as “kooks” and “hacks” that they stick to a fairly narrow counterpoint to “mainstream” (statist quo) opinion. This reticence to stray far from the mainstream buys them little credibility within the mainstream, which dismisses them as kooks anyway, and it also attracts few followers outside of the mainstream.

          • “The problem is that freebanking adheres too closely to the periphery of acceptable, mainstream opinion, presumably because the bloggers are professional academics…asically, freebanking’s bloggers are so fearful of being dismissed as “kooks” and “hacks” that they stick to a fairly narrow counterpoint to “mainstream” (statist quo) opinion.”

            An alternative interpretation: the free banking bloggers have achieved mainstream success (partly) because their actual beliefs fit well within the mainstream. It’s not that they’re hiding their ‘real’ beliefs out of ‘fear’ of being dismissed as kooks and hacks; it’s that they really think the mainstream views are roughly correct.

          • martinbrock

            Your interpretation doesn’t oppose mine as much as you suppose. The blogger’s consciousness of an emotion like fear isn’t critical to the analysis of freebanking’s Alexa ranking.

          • John S

            As always, I don’t mean to be snarky, but is this really a mainstream POV?


            Re: currency boards, NGDP targeting–the free banking bloggers are always careful to endorse these as potential steps on the path to free banking. To a man, each of them would like to see the Fed go away, and they have explicitly stated this numerous times.

          • martinbrock

            The Wall Street Journal publishes a call to end the Fed occasionally, but even Bitcoin is taken more seriously lately.

   is what it purports to be, so its bloggers do advocate free banking. I’m not suggesting otherwise. I’m only suggesting that they aren’t sufficiently radical opponents of the regulatory status quo to attract a following among radical opponents, and their idea of free banking doesn’t stray far from the status quo ante.


            I don’t like the idea of a statutory gold standard with a legal tender dollar pegged to gold or the Treasury buying publicly held Treasury securities with the gold in Ft. Knox. This idea does not remotely exhaust the possibilities of free banking, and I’d like to see the site explore more of the possibilities. The occasional article on Bitcoin is nice, but Bitcoin doesn’t exhaust the possibilities either, and I’m a skeptic of credit based on Bitcoin for the same reasons that I dislike a statutory gold standard.

            In the article you link, Selgin links White on the Fed’s influence over mainstream economic research, so the FB bloggers are clearly aware of this pressure. Are they “fearful” of it? I obviously can’t know, but pressure toward a “status quo bias” (White’s term) is what I have in mind anyway.

          • John S

            I agree with you that there is a gap that needs to be filled, i.e. research on other alternatives to a gold-backed free banking system (I also see Ripple as among the more promising paths).

            To be fair to Larry White, in his book “Theory of Monetary Institutions,” he does mention other alternatives (Black-Fama-Hall indirect redemption, New Monetary Economics cashless payment systems). Personally, I’m less pro-gold than White, but his main point is to show that there’s plenty of gold to back a free banking system (around 15-20% reserve ratio of in terms of M1).

            You may find Jim Canton’s blog to be of interest; I predict that he will be one of a new generation of scholars to “fill the gap” that I alluded to earlier. But I think it really is a bit much to fault Selgin and White for not being “radical” enough. Without their contributions (and Hayek’s, of course), the modern free banking movement–small as it is–doesn’t even exist, full stop.

          • martinbrock

            I’m not faulting anyone for being too moderate. People should be as radical as they want to be. I’m only doubting that a not-so-radical approach to free banking will excite many people to browse I’m responding as much to Jason’s critique of libertarian “hacks” and their ideologically biased cults as to

            Ripple has its problems, and if it had a cult following, we could debate these problems with followers and non-followers alike. Bitcoin has a large and growing following, and many followers display a cultish zeal, but so what? A gold standard has a large following, and many followers display the same zeal, and “mainstream” economists dismiss them as a cult.

            There’s enough gold or silver or Bitcoins or common labor to support a free banking system. The problem with gold specifically is that so much of it is held by states and their wealthiest, nominally “private” lords of propriety.

            I have no problem with anyone using gold coin in trade or banking gold or using it as a standard of value or leveraging it with promissory notes or using the notes as money, but I wouldn’t promise to pay gold in a long term credit agreement, and I don’t want a state imposing settlements in gold in contract disputes or compelling anyone to collect gold or notes promising gold to pay taxes or other statutory rents.

          • John S

            “Mainstream” economists dismiss as a “special, ideological website”

            Sure. Which is why I think a gradualist approach to promoting free banking has a lot of merit. The first step is just to get the mainstream to take free banking seriously merely on theoretical grounds. Most aren’t even willing to do that much (Scott Sumner just barely does, and he himself barely counts as mainstream). **

            Ultimately, though, I agree with you in principle. Only the real world success of alternative monetary systems–Bitcoin, Ripple, or something better–will be the main factor in getting mainstream economists to take privately produced money seriously.

            ** This is where I see the main harm done by the Rothbardian anti-FRB movement. Mainstream economists aren’t going to touch that one with a 100-foot pole (and rightly so, I believe; even as an Austrian, I find it unconvincing). Had Rothbard endorsed White’s Free Banking in Britain, at least on theoretical, if not historical grounds, the “End the Fed” movement today would be much stronger with synergy between the popular side and the free banking academic side. Instead, the End the Fed populist side is seen as kooky (i.e. goldbug nuts) while the free banking academics toil away in obscurity. Selgin and White are the rightful heirs to lead the Austrian monetary tradition, not Salerno and the ridiculous Hoppe.

          • Lila Rajiva


            Yes. Exactly. Not every view in the mainstream is mainstream because it is some kind of thought-control or PC.

            Just as not every view is marginalized because it is a powerful iconoclastic truth.

            To tell the difference takes quite a bit of individual thought, research, and humility.

            Since those aren’t wide-spread traits, it’s much easier to just go around shouting “idiot,” “evil,” “statist,” or “racist” or anything else that tends to shut down conversation.

            The libs are not unique in that. They’re just imitating their enemies. Why not? It’s a highly successful strategy, guaranteed to bring in a lot of howls of approval from the mindless.

            Lies often work. That’s why people lie.
            Truth is a more painful business.

          • martinbrock

            Mainstream views, and views more generally, are products of thought control. When Jason declares his allegiance to the Good Argument Team, he’s advocating a particular method of thought control. Rigorous logic is a particular method of thought control, but conclusions from rigorous logic are only as true as the axiomatic assumptions, and I don’t much believe that Jason adheres exclusively or even primarily to the Objectively True assumptions, because too few of these assumptions exist.

            Real views, however rigorously argued, involve assumptions that are little more than social conventions. Even the hardest of physical sciences incorporate these assumptions. Physicists know what a classical particle is, and good physicists know that classical particles are and always were theoretical fictions, however useful.

            I’m not anyone’s caricature of a post-modernist, and I’m not denying objective, empirical truth here. I’m only denying that most of what people call “truth” is true in this sense. I’m particularly denying moral realism, since we primarily discuss ethical propositions here.

            So what is a mainstream view really, particularly in politics, ethics and the social sciences? I suppose it’s a view most agreeable to the most people, but I don’t suppose it’s any closer to absolute truth than a marginalized view for this reason.

  • I just can’t praise the guy who brought is the Paleo strategy.

    • Sean II

      Arggh. I swear this is the libertarian version of the dolchstosslegende.

      Everything was humming along so nicely until that nefarious Rothbard teamed up with them Duke boys and jumped the General Lee over the line that separates minarchism from anarchism.

      It’s bullshit, and it combines two things I hate: movement daydreaming, and pearl clutching.

      Here’s why the paleo strategy doesn’t matter:

      1) Newsflash: the left calls everyone racists anyway. So that was gonna happen with or without Murray’s rednecks and Paul’s newsletters

      2) So what? Being racist is not in fact the worst thing in the world. It’s about as bad as being a statist, and we all associate with those everyday…somehow without perishing of shame.

      3) And finally, who cares? Murray Rothbard + paleo gets 200,000 hits on Google (many of them perhaps attributable to a popular diet craze). By contrast, the phrase “Dancing with Molly” gets 29,000,000 hits.

      Our main problem, now as in 1970, is not having a bad image, it’s having no image at all.

      • Raymond the Racist

        Do NOT compare us racists to those statist a holes!

        • Sean II

          Great. Now even racists have learned how to bitch about being offended.

      • It associates us with the right. That doomed the liberty movement.

        • Sean II

          Being associated with the right could not have doomed the the liberty movement because the liberty movement came pre-doomed. Reason: people don’t like liberty much…not on the right, and certainly not on the left.

          Besides, the libertarian-right wing alliance goes back way before Rothbard, so you can’t even blame him for creating the link in the first place.

          And besides that besides, all you have to do is imagine for a moment that things went the other way. What if Rothbard had, near the end of his life, launched himself into a desperate courtship of the left?

          We’d be sitting here today, talking about how he “doomed” us by sucking up to the unions and the champagne liberals, thereby selling out the core of libertarian economic principles in order to make us the party of weed, pornography, and public TV. We’d be doing face-palms, asking how Ol’ Murray could have missed the obvious affinity of conservatism / classical liberalism with our movement, blah, blah, blah…

          The fact is, there were no good choices, there were no golden opportunities. Movements that are poised to succeed do NOT get derailed by a couple of obscure guys making a couple of obscure racist remarks.

          • People don’t like liberty because it is presented as a right wing conservative faction. Not an empowering promoter of individual rights.

            I only wish we would suck up with Unions, we could promote them as they should be, an alternative to the privileged corporatist system we live under.

            It is all in how we present the message, we need to use concrete terms, not abstract ideals.

          • Sean II

            I’m not sure you get how this arguing thing is supposed to work. You just keep repeating your original comment with new words.

            It’d be much more fun if each subsequent comment featured some new ideas, new evidence, etc. Preferably, you would select these in response to the ideas and evidence presented in my comments…almost like, you know, we were talking to each other.

          • I think you don’t care because you probably don’t try and market liberty to anyone but “natural libertarians”. Dealing with average people would help you to see how trashed our image is.

      • David Friedman

        The argument has nothing to do with the anarchism/minarchism question.

        • Sean II

          Yes, I know…except some of the other lads in one of the adjacent threads were complaining that Rothbard’s anarchism was just as bad as any of his other sins (real or alleged), so I threw it in anyway.

          The important thing is to combat this silly notion that “if it weren’t for Murray Rothbard, the liberty movement would be kicking ass today…”

  • adrianratnapala

    Thanks for the links. I had never read any Rothbard before.

    He is bit of a pinko isn’t he?

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      If you are at all interested in understanding some basic
      economic ideas read Man, Economy, and State. If you are already a
      libertarian then there is not much in For a New Liberty that would
      be new to you. But it is a good book to recommend to someone who
      wants to learn about libertarianism.

      • adrianratnapala

        I suppose I am a confirmed “libertarian” (I dislike the word, and don’t understand the finer points of American political taxonomy). But I think if I were to read about economics, I would like a fairly dry, orthodox primer that explained technical terms. Lots of equations.

        • Bryan C. Winter

          You would be surprised.

          Economics isn’t just the study of money. Money is the medium that we use to exchange, but economics extends beyond money. It is the relationship between how we spend our time, money and other social resources to advance our interests in society.

          Most of the best books on economics are not mathematical, but philosophical. Why people make the decisions they do, because ultimately we always economize our decisions, and find value in things that may not be reflected in their monetary costs.

          It is amendable to mathematical arguments, but that isn’t the only place the idea exists.

          • adrianratnapala

            I have no doubt that Economics is a philosophical discipline. But it is also a technical one. Over the years I have soaked up much of the philosophy, but if I study it further, then I think I need to catch up on the technicalities.

            As it is, I find I can’t rationally or evaluate what even the arguments on the blogosphere. Economist PK might invoke variable $Y$ to make a point, economist TC might say “hold on, $Y$ is not even defined in the real world.” Me, I don’t even know what $Y$ is, even in the simplified models where everyone agrees it exists.

        • Bryan C. Winter

          I’d also agree that Taxonomy is a bit ‘weird’. But Libertarian-ism originated in Europe in the 17th Century. Labels are bad because they let you box people in, but they are also the only way to explain ideas … so we have the tools we have.

          It is basically the modern form of Enlightenment philosophies of guys like Locke, Voltaire, Mills, Adams, Kant and other philosophers who thought of markets as a way of weakening the power of despotic states.

          For the most part, they were correct. I think nothing has changed in our society that has fundamentally altered that equation.

          Keep in mind that powerful mercantile interests were not nearly as strong as they are today. The biggest challenge to libertarianism is the growth of the multinational mega-corp, and for the political philosophy to be successful, it will need to address that limitation.

  • Question for BHL Admin:

    The “Von Mises vs. Rothbard: A Clarification” post by Prof. Brennan has no comment box or comments. Is this by BHL administrative intervention or disqus fail? Thanks, oh Gods of BHL. .

    • Aeon Skoble

      I commented there (as referenced in this post), and now the thread is gone. Don’t know whether it was deliberately deleted or if it’s a glitch in the matrix.

      • Question for BHL Admin:

        Thanks Prof. Skoble. I feel less singled out now… Time to call Alex Jones?

      • Fixed.

    • I’m not sure what happened there. I think I’ve fixed it now, though.

      • Jason Brennan

        Yeah, I turned off comments, because I didn’t want comments.

        Somebody wrote a nasty comment, then I wrote a joke response. “I’m promoting Rothbard by even talking about him.” But then I decided to just delete the two comments, and somehow couldn’t. So I turned off all comments.

        • Aeon Skoble

          Now the whole post is gone.

          • I think Jason might have deleted it, along with several others.

          • Aeon Skoble


          • Aaaaand now they’re back.

          • Jason Brennan

            I managed to get them back in the shape I wanted them.

            Matt, if you ever see a post of mine with no options for comments, it’s because I turned them off.

          • Cowboydroid

            I noticed that as well.

  • I don’t have a lot to say about Rothbard, not having read a whole lot of his stuff, but I definitely sympathize with watching this LvMI/BHL thing unfold—indeed, the “split” between left- and right- libertarians in general. I have been told by folks older and wiser than I that “left” libertarianism is not so much a new thing, but rather those folks had been in the background during the rise of the paleo/right libertarians. Now, it seems, with the rise of BHL/SFL/C4SS/others, left libertarians are coming back into the spotlight and are having their views aired. To me, that seems like a great development. I think it has provided a bridge for a lot of people, who might have otherwise been turned off of libertarianism, to come over.

    But it has also brought with it much discord and personal grievances between people, and that is somewhat saddening. I admit I am not always clear about the line between critiquing someone’s ideas and critiquing their person, but some of this feud has crossed that line.

    But, hey, that’s politics, and it’s nothing new, I suppose

    • Sol Logic

      Did I miss something? All the BHL’s consider themselves Left-Libertarian?

      • good_in_theory

        I don’t think so. IIRC there are posts about the difference between bhl and left-libertarianism.

      • I don’t think so, but that is the general conflict I think Matt is referring to here.

      • David Friedman

        “Left libertarian” gets used to mean several different things. Among them:

        1. Anarcho-communists.
        2. Ordinary libertarians whose cultural sympathies are close to those of people on the left.
        3. Georgists and others who follow a generally libertarian line but depart from the usual position, usually in a way associated with the problem of initial appropriation of unearned resources, usually in a way that justifies some state activities that other libertarians disapprove of.

        • Sol Logic

          Hey thanks. So Hayek could be considered a ‘left libertarian”?

    • Bryan C. Winter

      Categorization can be dangerous, but i Guess it is the only way people can talk about things.

      I definitely find myself personally more in the ‘left libertarian’ court, which is why I like BHL. At the least I find these forums to be rational and generally calm. The articles are insightful, and they require questioning of previously held view points.

      Though i’m not a fan of the term ‘left-libertarian’. I’m more to the right of the republican party on economic issues, and dividing us into left and right camps is a great way to lose a national debate.

  • Lila Rajiva

    I’m a classical liberal and much to the right of this site ( sympathetic to some of the paleo positions), but I find these litmus tests very off-putting.

    If you don’t like Rothbard, you should stick to your guns. To hell with Alexa rankings. Likely they are just as manipulated as everything else in the “free” market is.

    Also, how is it possible to be a libertarian and be in favor of redistribution? I thought statism was advocating state intervention for anything more than defense.


    Lila Rajiva

    • Gimme My UBI, It’s Mine

      Advocating state intervention for defense is still statism and redistribution. You are forcing everyone to pay and redistributing money from those who end up needing defense to those who end up not needing it.

      Also, having a state for defense implies you believe in positive rights. You believe people not only have the negative right to not be aggressed against but also the positive right to police protection.

      I say, if you’re gonna go the inch, go the mile. Replace the current welfare state along the lines of a negative income tax or UBI. Then abolish the minimum wage

      • Gimme My UBI, It’s Mine

        I got those backwards: redistributing money from those who end up NOT needing defense to those who end up needing it.

        • Lila Rajiva

          In every system, some part of the system must not conform to the rules of the system. Defense fits into that paradigm.

          • Libertymike

            Say what?

      • Lila Rajiva

        Maybe so, but then you can’t pretend you’re a classical liberal in the tradition of Mises.

        The traditional classical liberal position allows for a night watchman state.

        So, Rothbard isn’t even a Misesean in quite a fundamental sense.
        So why is he the touchstone of the Mises Institute?

        I’m interested in the politics of this.

        • Libertymike

          The classical liberal position does not require the state.

          • Lila Rajiva

            That wasn’t my point, though, was it?

            My point is that Mises was not an anarchist and the classical liberal position historically did involve the state.


          • Libertymike

            Yes, even some fairly intelligent people like Mises demonstrated that they can be pretty dopey when it comes to the historical performance of the nation state when it comes to protecting rights.
            How many hundreds of millions have been slaughtered in the last 150 years by, and in the name of, the nation state?
            Check and mate.

      • Les Kyle Nearhood

        Among minarchists, you are correct. But many libertarians, like myself understand that it would be virtually impossible to eliminate a social safety net from modern
        Societies. So we advocate for something small and easy to control. Of course I am more a consequentialist than many here.

  • Patrick T. Peterson

    Neat post. Do you have a similar one for Mises?

    • Not at present, but it would certainly be easy to come up with a long list of things to admire about him too. That list might start with his under-appreciated book, Liberalism.

      • Patrick T. Peterson

        Absolutely!!!!! Am rereading now. What a gem.

  • David Friedman

    ” I’m not an economic historian myself, and so I can’t speak to the
    scholarly accuracy of the book. But in a way, that’s beside the point.”

    An odd position for an academic to take. You don’t care whether what he is saying is true? Do you feel the same way about books in your own field?

    Those more curious than Matt about whether that particular book can be trusted can find a good deal on the subject in an old blog post of mine and the material it linked to:

    • It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I think the book is worth reading even if Rothbard is often wrong on the details, and sometimes glaringly wrong about the big picture. Reading Rothbard on economic history, for me, is like reading Malcolm Gladwell on science. It’s visionary and entertaining and inspiring, and it can lead you to think about ideas and read up on sources that you never would have thought/read about otherwise. But you’ve got to take it with more than a couple grains of salt.

  • David Friedman

    So far as your point about the unfortunate perception of choosing sides, I have done my best to deal with that problem by being critical of both the BHL and Rothbard et. al.

  • Smiling Dave

    My humble contribution to why fractional reserve banking should be illegal, even when everything is clearly spelled out. Gist: It harms everyone else, even if not the two parties to the loan.

    • martinbrock

      Suppose I own a house that I don’t need. You do need the house, but you don’t have the 10,000 ounces of sliver that I’d like in exchange for my house. Finding no one with 10,000 ounces of silver and also wanting to exchange this silver for my house, I offer you a bargain. I’ll divide the title to my house into 200 shares, and I’ll sell you one share per month for 50 ounces/share until you own all shares. Before you own all shares, you’ll also pay me two ounces of silver per share that you don’t yet own.

      After buying a share of the house, you may resell this share to someone else for 50 ounces of silvers, and I may also sell shares of the house to others who, by holding a share, become entitled to the two ounces of silver that you pay for each share of the house that you do not own. You’ll pay me, and I’ll distribute portions of your payment to anyone else holding shares.

      If house shares of this kind become widely accepted in trade by people who accept the shares only to exchange them soon thereafter for other goods, then the shares are money, because anything that people trade this way is money. Do you have a problem with this sort of money?

      • Smiling Dave

        Checks written by a bank give someone title to a house?

        • martinbrock

          No. I hold title to this house. It’s my house, and no one disputes my claim. There is no bank, but I might employ an accountant to manage the rent-to-own arrangement described above. [I altered the terms slightly after you replied to make the monthly rent more realistic.]

          I issue 200 shares of the house and offer each share for 50 ounces of silver. A holder of one share receives two tenths of an ounce of silver each month from an occupant of the house. This occupant also purchases shares of the house until he owns all 200 shares. Before purchasing all shares, he owns part of the house and rents the part he doesn’t own.

          People understanding that circulating notes represent shares of this house use the notes as money. Do you have a problem with that?

          • Smiling Dave

            Did you read my article? What I’m saying is that your scenario is different from a bank writing a check, way way different, as a careful reading of my article will make clear.

          • martinbrock

            I haven’t described the monetary system in the U.S. I agree that the system we have is problematic, and you can call the problematic aspects of the system “fractional reserve banking” if you want, though the problems with the system involve a central bank monetizing the state’s sale of entitlement to tax revenue and the FDIC and a complex myriad of systematic bailouts.

            You don’t have a problem with a system of house shares, reflecting the value of houses relative to silver, and people using these house shares as money?

          • Cowboydroid

            Bank notes are not an invalid form of money. They are backed by something.

            It’s when government suspends payments on these banknotes that they become fiat money – unbacked currency.

            Government always suspends specie payments when it has no hope of ever covering all payments with specie, or even all outstanding claims. This is the history of fiat currency. It happened in Britain, in France, and right here in the US.

          • martinbrock

            I agree. The problem with “fiat money” is not that banks create it out of nothing in a fraudulent, fractional reserve banking scheme. The problem is that a state gives the money its value by forcing it to circulate by taxing, spending and selling entitlement to its tax revenue (state “borrowing”).

            What people call “fractional reserve banking” can be reformulated as a system of “rent to own” transactions as described above. I need a few more provisos to complete the isomorphism, but there is no substantial difference.

            Seen in this light, the people “creating money out of nothing” are not bankers but property owners selling shares of their property in order to obtain liquidity while transfer title over time in this “rent to own” fashion.

            Even an “unsecured” loan can be understood in this way, since no loan is literally unsecured. An “unsecured” loan essentially issues shares of the borrower’s labor, shares that the borrower rents back from the shareholders while also buying the shares back until he owns all the shares again.

          • Cowboydroid

            But that IS the problem with fiat money, that banks create it out of nothing. It is the issuance of currency that is not backed by any real assets. It inflates the money supply artificially, leading to credit cycle booms and busts.

            Fractional reserve banking is a separate issue from the issuance of fiat currency, but the two are related. Fractional reserve banking is leveraging against deposits in the issuance of loans. The Federal reserve is a mechanism by which the banks can leverage against new, artificial deposits in the issuance of loans when they run out of real deposits. It’s like a double whammy to the credit market.

            The difference with your scenario is that the shares you issue are backed by a house – a physical asset. The “shares” a bank sells are not backed by anything. There is no “property” that the banks are selling shares to when they create “new deposits” against which to make more loans.

          • martinbrock

            Banks don’t create fiat money out of nothing. They create it out of the state’s power to command its subjects to collect the money to pay taxes while also spending the money and selling entitlement to the tax revenue. This state power is a real asset, and it’s really valuable to the state. It’s not a proper asset to libertarians of my sort, but it’s not fictional either.

            I prefer to say that the state creates fiat money. We have a statutory banking system in the U.S., and the state’s banks play a role in the state’s scheme for creating money, but banking is certainly possible outside of a statutory system of this sort.

            Banks need not lend deposits in a freer system without fiat money, except insofar as a property owner liquidating the value of his property to transfer its title (as above) deposits notes representing shares of his property in a bank. The willingness of the buyer and seller to liquidate the property this way, and the willingness of others to accept the resulting notes in trade, creates the money.

            I accept the ABCT in certain contexts, including the recent “financial crisis”, but a statutory monetary system need not be inflationary, and the ABCT is not the whole story of the business cycle.

            In our system, it’s not strictly true that banknotes are backed by nothing. On a bank’s books, they’re backed by collateral, and banks in principle must extend credit with due diligence. In practice, the state bails them out when they overextend, and that’s a problem.

            Another problem is that banks extend credit against Treasury securities as collateral, and Treasury securities are pure entitlement to tax revenue, as valuable as the state’s power to impose taxes as necessary to pay the principal and interest due. The Fed effectively controls the price of these securities and can inflate this way.

          • Cowboydroid

            The Federal Reserve most certainly does create fiat money out of nothing. That’s kind the whole point of its existence. It creates demand deposits out of thin air. It then lends that money to its banking shareholders, or it buys government bonds to finance government debt-spending.

            The only state power required for the Federal Reserve to do this is its power to refuse to hold the Federal Reserve liable in lawsuits against this practice. It has no Constitutional power to actually establish the Federal Reserve or any central bank.

            A statutory monetary system doesn’t need to be inflationary. In theory, the state can keep the money supply stable, and it will work, even though it still doesn’t pay specie. That’s what Milton Friedman argued.

            Unfortunately, history tells a different story. Statutory monetary systems always fail because states ALWAYS inflate the money supply.

            Banknotes are backed by nothing. You cannot go into a bank and redeem your banknote for specie. They will no longer pay you gold or silver for you banknotes, and they certainly aren’t going to pay you with their own collateral.

            A bank’s debts are backed by collateral. Banknotes are not debts, they are currency. Yes, in principle banks will lend against their deposits and collateral by carefully considering risk. Unfortunately, moral hazard is created when banks are not allowed to fail. They thus feel immune to risk, and thus is created a spiral of defeat for the monetary system.

            Yes, we will all eventually become debt slaves to the Federal Reserve. It took them a century, but those bankers on Jekyll Island managed to dupe and enslave an entire nation.

            “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” ― John Adams

          • martinbrock

            We agree, but I can go to a gold dealer and exchange my FRNs for gold, because the notes have a value. The gold dealer will sell me gold for dollars, because he needs dollars to pay taxes and to buy other things that people sell for dollars.

            Banknotes under a gold standard are debts. They are promises to pay gold. If you hold a banknote promising a gram of gold, the bank owes you a gram of gold, but it makes this promise because the bank may claim collateral with a market value relative to gold, not because the bank has gold itself.

            Banks would still operate this way without fiat money, but they would not favor a particular currency because the state commands its subjects to pays taxes in the currency.

            If the state demands taxes in gold and sells entitlement to the gold it collects in taxes, and if banks then extend credit by accepting promises of gold and creates liquidity by issuing notes promising gold and redeems these notes for gold as much as possible, gold is still fiat money.

            We agree about the problem, but we shouldn’t imagine that banknotes redeemable for gold is a solution.

          • Cowboydroid

            If you go to a gold dealer to exchange notes for specie, you’re going to pay tax on that gold, precisely because the government views gold not as money, but as a commodity, no different from rice or lawn mowers.

            I think what you’re trying to say is that banks will still engage in fractional reserve banking even if they were required to make specie payments on their bank notes. Naturally, this is true. This is how banking worked before FDR suspended specie payments. There still exists the problem that banks will lend out more banknotes than they can cover. They have a profit incentive to do this. Those banks that over-leverage would fail. Bank runs happen when people are not convinced their bank has enough specie to cover its claims.

            So, to eliminate bank runs, the government said it just isn’t going to require banks to make specie payments anymore. Which is, of course, a blatant violation of property rights.

            Fractional Reserve banking is also a violation of property rights. That is the crux of the issue. Libertarians oppose fractional reserve banking because property rights are the foundation of society, and without property rights, we’re all just animals fighting over scarce resources because no one has any productive capability.

            Bank notes redeemable for gold are not a problem, as long as the bank is required to cover every single bank note, and not just the measly 10% or so of deposits that fractional reserve banking argues for. And I’m talking about deposit banks. Investment banks most certainly could and should be allowed to invest their depositor’s wealth in the lending business. But that’s a different topic.

          • martinbrock

            My only point is that fiat money has a value in gold and that its value is a product of the state’s forcible circulation.

            I don’t want banks required to make specie payments on their banknotes, but if you want to use notes promising grams of gold, or ounces of silver or pounds of flour or gallons of milk, as money, I have no problem with that. For reasons we can discuss, the notes promising gallons of milk might make better money, but I don’t want banks required to circulate these notes either. I only want a choice and a level playing field.

            Before FDR suspended specie payments, the U.S. monetary system was still a fiat money system, not because the Fed existed but because the state commanded a particular currency to circulate through legal tender laws, taxes, state “borrowing”, spending and related policies.

            The original dollar standard was a silver standard. The monometallic gold standard was a product of state reform of the earlier bimetallic standard, which was also statutory but arguably a bit freer. The earlier use of silver as money in the British colonies was freer still, but the U.S. has never had what I would call a libertarian monetary system.

            When Georg Knapp argued in the nineteenth century, in The State Theory of Money, that promising specie was not necessary to give legal tender its value, he was right enough, but his argument does not imply that a legal tender promising specie circulates for any other reason or even that notes promising specie much constrain the size of the state.

            A state suspending a policy of exchanging its legal tender for specie is not a violation of property rights any more than taxation is a violation. Both may offend my sense of propriety, but the Treasury had already ceased coining silver and taken other steps in this direction.

            Fractional reserve banking doesn’t violate my sense of propriety as long as the transactions are voluntary. If you’re defining “deposit bank” as one that only warehouses specie, that’s fine with me, but common people don’t need to use warehouse receipts from such a bank for money, because a pocket full of gold is far more money than people commonly carry.

          • Cowboydroid

            Well anyone who knows anything about money theory knows how fiat money gains its value. It always starts out as banknotes backed by gold or silver. It never starts out as paper by itself. It’s value is residual. It has nothing to do with the state’s “forcible circulation.” The market would never choose paper as money. Paper has to be forced onto the market, and only by being first backed with silver or gold.

            No, milk is not “better money” than gold or silver. Gold and silver both became the standard for money in the world the past 5000 years for a reason. Given the choice, gold and silver are always chosen by the market as the standard for money.

            “A state suspending a policy of exchanging its legal tender for specie violates property rights no more than taxation.”

            I’m hoping you make the logical connection here…taxation IS a violation of property rights. Both actions are a violation of property rights. If the state can only exist by violating property rights, then it loses its authority to govern in the first place. It becomes the very thing it was supposed to protect society against.

            Which leads us to the next conclusion: government is immoral, and has no moral authority to exist.

          • martinbrock

            The market doesn’t choose a legal tender as money. People obtain it to pay taxes and other statutory rents. It circulates for this reason. Gold has never been common money, because it’s too scarce.

            Many things have been money other than silver and gold, including things of only token value, without first being convertible to gold or silver. Bitcoins have value now. They’re only strings of bits in a computer’s memory, and they were never convertible into gold or silver, except by people freely choosing to exchange other valuable goods for them.

            Here’s the thing. I don’t want to decide what you use for money, and I don’t want you deciding what I use for money. You may not agree that notes promising milk are a good form of money, but you need not agree in order for me to use these notes as money. Only the other people with whom I trade must agree. Agreed?

            I have my sense of propriety, and you have yours, but states rule by virtue of their monopoly of force, not because of your theory of their authority.

            I want you to be free to live by your moral code, along with anyone else sharing your morality. I really do, but states really don’t, and that’s the problem with states from my perspective.

          • Cowboydroid

            Gold has never been common money? You’re getting way off here…no need to start making baseless claims.

            Yes, in the days of barter, and in economies where goods are relatively cheap, other currencies develop besides gold and silver. But gold and silver have always been the ultimate forms of money.

            Yes, now we have something that mimics gold – Bitcoin. It is attempting to be the digital equivalent of gold. The market will determine whether it becomes a standard currency. All signs are pointing that direction, at the moment. No, it is not an inflatable paper currency. And yes, it does face the challenge of being unbacked by a physical good. But as it becomes more widely adopted, that problem diminishes in proportion.

            I want a free market in money just as much as you do. I’m just pointing out that when there IS a free market in money, paper is never chosen. It’s always gold and silver. Milk could arise as money under certain conditions, but it lacks several critical properties of money.

            States rule by consent. They manufacture consent by convincing you that they have authority. They develop a monopoly of force. Cause and effect here…

            We agree on the problem with states. I want freedom for you, too. So what do you think will happen?

          • martinbrock

            Gold was never what people commonly used as a medium of exchange. After the first U.S. coinage act, the smallest denomination gold coin was worth about $200 in modern terms. Common people at this time didn’t carry around $200. I rarely carry around $200 now. Copper cents and half cents were the common currency at this time.

            I don’t expect Bitcoin to become a common currency, but I have no problem with anyone using it.

            Paper is not money in the U.S. Particular pieces of paper are monetary tokens, along with coins, but the vast majority of money in the U.S. is electronic already.

          • Cowboydroid

            The state will collapse. It’s not a matter of if, just when. States are not eternal – far from it.

            The Free State Project is a great idea, but wouldn’t work until the current federal government collapses. The last time a state tried to secede, 700,000 people lost their lives. The federal government is simply too drunk with its own power.

          • martinbrock

            A state might collapse, as the Soviet Union collapsed, but many legions of armed men yearn to command another state. So it goes.

            I don’t associate the FSP with the secession of New Hampshire from the U.S. A community of free staters might congregate in Keene or on land crossing the border with Maine. Such a community then withdraws as much as possible from subjection to the Federal government as well as the governments of New Hampshire and Maine, using a combination of lawful means (within the laws of the U.S., N.H. and Maine) and unlawful means that established states will not expend scarce resources to suppress.

          • Smiling Dave

            I see nothing wrong with someone taking out a loan and offering his house as collateral. And if he uses a middle man, and divvies up the loan among a few people, I see nothing wrong with that, either.

            If your plan is more complicated than that, I will have to defer my opinion for a while. I regret not being able to go into this further.

            All the best.

          • martinbrock

            In the scenario I describe, I’m not taking out a loan and offering my house as collateral. I’m dividing the title to my house into 200 shares and selling each share for 50 ounces of silver (or anything else worth as much to me). If you buy a share, you receive 1/200th of the rent on my house, payable in silver, but you agree after a certain time to resell your share to the renter for 50 ounces of silver (or anything else worth as much to you).

            You can think of the share as a certificate of deposit, but this certificate is also negotiable. If you decide that you want something else worth 50 ounces of silver more than you want the share, and if someone else has what you want and prefers the share, you can exchange the share for what you want. Accepting this share in exchange is equivalent to accepting money and depositing it in a bank where it earns interest (a share of the rent on the house).

            If many people use house shares this way, they are money. You and the people using the shares as money make them money. I create the shares to account for a gradual transfer of the title to my house to a renter, but you and other people accepting the shares in trade make them money.

  • John

    I just think it’s entirely absurd to try to bring the words “social justice” into libertarianism, given that this is just leftspeak for wealth redistribution. There’s nothing libertarian about taking stuff from someone just to be “fair”. Further, “bleeding heart” is a leftspeak term for “I feel guilty, and that’s why you need to hand over your money”. Libertarians by nature don’t feel guilty about things someone else did or didn’t do. It’s not part of the psyche. So, either you’re a leftist, or you’re trying to be something you aren’t. I don’t know which, but both are annoying.

    • Bryan C. Winter

      That is pretty hostile there. I Like this group for exactly that reason.

      Libertarianism just means that liberty is the most important value for a society. That’s it. It is just the philosophical anchor that we all share. Other than that there are a dozen ways to think through the consequences of various policies. it isn’t a club where you all act the same or think the same. That is tribalism at it’s worst and I prefer diversity.

      Secondly the left has used social justice as a way to say ‘lets give people people money’ but there is nothing wrong with re-purposing that word. Social justice means instead setting up institutions and systems and markets that enable them to help themselves. This can be done without giving them money, and instead by a protracted effort to target laws that prevent people from acting in their own interests.

      I believe in social justice, in that I think most people in the world should live as well as I do. I think the best way to do that is through a Libertarian Regime. Capitalism, properly structured, reduces and does not create poverty.

      Now if you try to make it a label that only applies to people who think the government sucks, then your going to find yourself a member of a very shrinking club. I don’t think Goverment Sux, I just know what it is good and what it is not good at, and a results based approach as opposed to an ideological one would be helpful.

      • John

        But repurposing a word or phrase that is already been repurposed is not a winner. No advertising exec would ever tell you to try to do that. It would be like repurposing Ford Pinto to mean something other than a totally lame car that is dangerous and unreliable. You can’t just come along and say “oh, we mean social justice in a totally other way”. Bad marketing, and just generally a bad idea.
        So why not “legal justice” or “individual justice” or something like that? Why would one even want to sound like a socialist? It makes no sense. I mean, you’re saying “I believe in social justice AS I DEFINE IT, not necessarily how the masses define it”. Well, that’s confusing, because now I have to ask “what do you mean by social justice?!?”

        It’s fine for everyone to have their own view of libertarianism, which is why I see it as a direction, not a destination. A libertarian is someone who, given the choice between two scenarios, is going to pick that which provides the most freedom and least government intervention, virtually without exception (exception largely being protections against natural rights abuses).

        I just think BHL as it is set up is a bad concept that is doomed to be a distraction or worse.

        • Bryan C. Winter

          Eh. Seems like splitting hairs to me.

          And i’m not in the ‘without exception’ category in the least. I’m certainly not a fan of the purity test for an ideology. It leads to ‘I’m a better libertarian because i think this thing you want public should actually be private’.

          I prefer a results based approach to deciding that line.

          Exhibit A) The current mess that is the republican party. What happens when an ideology is not constrained by moderation.

          • John

            You think Democrats are constrained by moderation?!?

            Virtually ever major breach of the Constitution over the last 100 years has been by Democrats, while the Constitution has increasinly reined in Republicans.

          • Bryan C. Winter

            Yes actually I do. Bill Clinton was a ‘moderate’ democrat. He took democratic ideology and said ‘ no wait, marketplaces aren’t evil, people aren’t greedy, economic laws are relevant to how we compose government programs’.

            Moderate doesn’t mean “good”. It only means whatever ideological absurdity you support (and all ideologies taken to extreme are absurd) should be moderated by ideas taken from elsewhere, that is all it means.

            Democrats have effectively captured moderates, where as republicans look at moderates with disdain. This has created a dysfunctional and ineffective republican party that cannot act as a loyal opposition. I want a strong and effective republican party, but the republicans I like (the non-red-meat actual statesmen type to try to solve problems) are ostracized as Rino’s. There is no such thing as a Dino. Which is why they win the elections in a ‘right of center’ country. Conservatives should sweep most elections by default, but they absurdity they are associated with destroys them before they have a chance. What it means to be a democrat is sufficiently flexible ideologically. Republicanism is a bigger d**k competition between other republicans to prove who is a better republican.

            I’m usually partial to Chamber of Commerce rational republicanism as opposed to burn the government tea party republicanism. Keep in mind, both groups seek a limited government, but the Business side of the house is both more rational and

            Now I am of an age, when the best and most effective president i remember in my life history, as an actual president while it happened, was Clinton. I was 16 When he got elected. Bush Was an Atrocity, and Obama was almost as bad. So your going to have a hard time selling to me that ‘democrat’s’ suck but republicans are ok. I read alot, I do math, I analyze positions. I’m not 100% for Clinton, but he wasn’t stupid, and intelligence, as an executive is far more important than ideology.

            Liberals like Bloomberg run very successful and powerful companies. Diversity is important. A libertarian ideology accepts the existence of liberals and doesn’t try to demonize them. If a liberal moderates his position, as Clinton did, we should celebrate it.

            Republicans are failing because Obama is not a dumb ass. His strategy is rope-a-dope. Exploit the enemies psychological flaws and make them hang themselves in public. He played this thing to a T. The people who think they are fighting him are playing right into his hands.

            If republicans kept their mouth shut, Obama would be hanging on his own rope right now. Just now we spent 3 weeks shutting down the government ( a strategy that failed with Gingrich in the 1990’s), while The Obamacare website was exploding in real time. Even if your only looking at this politically, the approach they took was suicide.

            Health care WAS broken before obamacare. That crisis created the abomination that it was. People aren’t irrational for wanting a solution to a broken marketplace. Practical leadership from republicans could have fixed this. Moderation could have fixed this. It didn’t.

          • John

            Okay, so how is breaking the Constitution a little bit rather a lot “moderation”? Shouldn’t moderation follow the law?

            Bill Clinton was a moderate only because he wanted to win reelection and he was dealing with an ideologically balanced country and managed to handle the two extremes pretty well. It’s not that HE was moderate, he did it because he wanted to have a “legacy”.

            George Bush was SUPER moderate before 9/11. He wanted immigration reform, health care reform, HSAs, social security reform, and I supported that as it is better than doing nothing.

            The ACA is worse than doing nothing because it is yet another major constitutional breach which basically opens the flood gates for the Federal government to dictate how you live, or tax you into oblivion.

            And, again, while Clinton was moderate, the Democrat Party was not and was fighting to spend, spend, spend and a lof the left was angry with him for NAFTA and welfare reform and for slowing down government spending increases. But he simply blamed it on Republicans and “oh, yeah, that’s right, let’s blame them”.

            Democrats ALWAYS fight free market solutions and always have. Any exceptions? Can you give me an example of a Democrat free market solution? Any time when they voted to spend less money because we were in debt? Any time they suggested we need to get a Constitutional amendment to do what they want? Pretty hard to find, right?

            Democrats aren’t interested in free markets. What they want is centralized control. You don’t get it yet, but eventually you will. Why not vouchers? Have that argument with a Democrat. Even if you could demonstrate that it was a major success, they would simply say “no, it’s bad for the kids”. Sure, maybe there are a few exceptions, but you can’t go by exceptions.

            I mean, look, I don’t really have that much time for your fantasies about how logical the left is and how convertible they are with logic. You’ll figure it out eventually after pounding your head against the wall trying to discuss rational ideas with them. I convert people that really don’t want to be aligned with the left or the right, but you can’t convert someone who wants to be a leftist.

            Being a leftist is about assuaging guilt. Guilt for being born a little more rich, or a little more intelligent, or a little more socially positioned, or a little more connected, or a little prettier. You can’t fix that. You can isolate it and pound it into the ground, but you can’t reason with it because it’s not a logical position from the get go. It’s based in an emotional need and logic doesn’t defeat that.

            So, like I said. Good luck trying to explain how you can provide “social justice” without stealing from the rich and giving to the poor via central authority.

        • Bryan C. Winter

          Also the term social justice is a winner. You have to get people interested who are democrats. People listen for buzz words in politics, dog whistles, whatever. Social Justice means only that all people are doing well. People on the right interpret as redistribution.

          What BHL is trying to say here is you can have the results of social justice, within a free market economy. AT some point we have to make the argument to people that their objectives are met with your ideology.

          The worst way to make an argument is to attack them and label them. The best way to make an aurgment is to say ‘your objective actually fits into my framework, and here is why’.

          Now many ‘libertarians’ have this view of the left as government loving statists who want to take away your freedom. But they perceive themselves as protectors of the innocent against the strong. So appealing to that is more effective than ‘going for the jugular’. You can’t hurt people with words, you can either change their mind, or harden their positions.

          So trying to redefine words is always a winner. It’s how memes and cultures win.

          • John

            I think that’s rather naive. I’ve argued, discussed, spoken with hundreds if not thousands of Democrats. Social justice is definitely wealth redistribution and they intend to see it carried out and no amount of discussion about it is going to change their minds. Now, you can peel off some of the youth vote, sure, catch them before they get caught up, but you’re not going to suddenly convince a 40 or 60 year old Democrat that you can achieve their goals in a free market, because it’s not about achieving goals and hasn’t been for decades. The first rule of the system is preserve the system. Rationalize it all costs and give it increasing numbers of tasks.

            This is what I see here as well, a group naivete about how the left thinks and what their goals are. But you’ll understand over time because you’ll see how ineffective your strategy really is. It’s not like people haven’t been trying for decades to win them over with rational discussion. Now suddenly you guys come in and think you can magically retask “social justice”? Okay, well, good luck!!!! You really have no idea what you’re trying to defeat and who you’re trying to woo.

  • John

    Also, the problem I see here is that everyone is too interested in beating up on other libertarian thinkers instead of learning from them, by either agreeing or disagreeing, either one. If you don’t learn something from someone who’s philisophy you don’t like, you’re not doing it right. I enjoy learning via argument. But simply bashing isn’t useful either, or shutting people up, as some of the writers here do. Further, people who demand PC out of libertarians while calling people names or attacking their ideas or just generally insulting people are really amazingly boring. People attacking anyone with another opinion, other scholars/philosophers, people attacking TSA agents, etc, all shows a hypocrisy that really makes the whole “left libertarianism” rather revolting, though true to form. I really don’t need to hang around with people who just want to hear themselves talk while attacking others, or people that just think they’re the most brilliant person in the room and expect others to simply bow at their feet. Libertarians needs to respect each other’s differences, because if you can’t do that, you can’t survive in a libertarian world for more than 24 hours without shouting “someone needs to make a law!!!”

  • Lila Rajiva
    The Libertarian Moment — caught on tape!

  • astralislux

    Reminds me of when I went to a libertarian conference where Ben Stein was the speaker. Afterwards, there was so much infighting with the board of the organization who ran the conference, that half of them were fired.

  • IQ Scores Are Racist!

    All of this SPLC style posing as libertarian about the “racism” of Rothbard or Ron Paul is pretty hilarious considering that reason published holocaust revisionism – far, far worse than anything in the newsletters. The main line quoted from the newsletter was also told as a joke by robin Williams on the Tonight Show. SPLC style Bolshevik brainwashing had not been anywhere near as effective as it now is, especially among the hipsters calling themselves libertarians these days who embrace and love the state. But everyone associated with reason and Cato should now be tainted with the same charges and forced to answer for their holocaust denial past in the same way they always attack Rothbard and Paul. The irony is just too funny!

    And the guy who claims that simply noticing that IQ is linked to genetics is a racist is the sort of guy who thinks everyone has an equal chance to be in the nba or nfl. Or that gender is just a social construct like race – biological differences do not exist because noted scholars in the feminist movement have proclaimed it. These are also the same sort of people who think that quoting race stats with crime is “racist” when linking it to the welfare state that they are going to openly embrace in just a matter of time.

    By the way, since race is a social construct just like gender, can I choose to be a black man the same way trans sexuals now claim they are actually women? Why not? Wouldn’t that be racist since race is just a social construct?

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