Murray Rothbard
Austrian School
Born (1926-03-02)March 2, 1926
Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died January 7, 1995(1995-01-07) (aged 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Institution Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Alma mater Columbia University
Opposed Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Fritz Machlup, Milton Friedman, Ed Crane, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Influences John Locke, Ludwig von Mises, Lysander Spooner, Harry Elmer Barnes
Influenced Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Ron Paul, Gary North, Walter Block, Llewellyn Rockwell, Joseph Sobran, Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
Contributions Anarcho-capitalism, paleolibertarianism, and historical revisionism

Murray Newton Rothbard (March 2, 1926 – January 7, 1995) was an American heterodox economist[1] of the Austrian School,[2][3] and a political theorist[4](pp11, 286, 380) whose writings and personal influence played a seminal role in the development of modern libertarianism.[5] Rothbard was the founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism, and a central figure in the twentieth-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on anarchist theory, history, economics, and other subjects.[6] Rothbard asserted that all services provided by the "monopoly system of the corporate state" could be provided more efficiently by the private sector and wrote that the state is "the organization of robbery systematized and writ large."[7][8][9][10][11][12] He called fractional reserve banking a form of fraud and opposed central banking.[13] He categorically opposed all military, political, and economic interventionism in the affairs of other nations.[14](pp4–5, 129)[15] In the words of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "There would be no anarcho-capitalist movement to speak of without Rothbard."[16]

A heterodox economist,[1][17] Rothbard refused to publish in academic journals[18] and embraced the Misesian method which, according to fellow Misesian Hans-Hermann Hoppe, is regarded as "dogmatic and unscientific" by all non-Misesian economists.[17] To promote his economic and political ideas, Rothbard joined Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. and Burton Blumert in 1982 to establish the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama. Rothbard was also known for his acerbic polemics, in which he belittled Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, John Stuart Mill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other major influences on modern Western political and economic institutions.

Life and work

Rothbard was born to David and Rae Rothbard, Jewish immigrants to the U.S. from Poland and Russia respectively. David Rothbard was a chemist.[19] Rothbard was born in the Bronx, but the family moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where he attended Birch Wathen, a private school on the Upper East Side.[20] Rothbard later stated that he much preferred Birch Wathen to the "debasing and egalitarian public school system" he had previously attended.

Rothbard wrote of having grown up as a "right-winger" (adherent of the "Old Right") among friends and neighbors who were "communists or fellow-travelers." Like Rothbard, his father was a rightist. To Rothbard's father, "all socialism seemed ... monstrously coercive and abhorrent."[21]

He attended Columbia University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1945 and, eleven years later, his PhD in economics in 1956. The delay in receiving his PhD was due in part to conflict with his advisor, Joseph Dorfman, and in part to Arthur Burns rejecting his doctoral dissertation. Burns was a longtime friend of the Rothbard family and their neighbor at their Manhattan apartment building. It was only after Burns went on leave from the Columbia faculty to head President Eisenhower's Council of Economic Advisors that Rothbard's thesis was accepted and he received his doctorate.[4](pp43–44)[22] Rothbard later stated that all of his fellow students there were extreme leftists and that he was one of only two Republicans on the Columbia campus at the time.[4](p4)

During the early 1950s, Rothbard attended the unofficial seminar of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, who was then teaching at the Wall Street division of New York University Business School. Rothbard was greatly influenced by Mises' book, Human Action. Rothbard attracted the attention of the William Volker Fund, a group that provided financial backing to promote various "right-wing" ideologies in the 1950s and early 1960s.[23][24][verification needed] The Volker Fund paid Rothbard to write a textbook to explain Human Action in a form which could be used to introduce college undergraduates to Mises' views; a sample chapter he wrote on money and credit won Mises's approval. As Rothbard continued his work, he enlarged the project. The result was Rothbard's book Man, Economy, and State, published in 1962. Upon its publication, Mises praised Rothbard's work effusively and, for Mises, uncharacteristically.[25](p14)

In 1964, at age 37, Rothbard took his first academic job as one of two instructors who taught economics to the engineering students at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Rothbard continued in this role for twenty-two years, until 1986.[26][27] Then 60 years old, Rothbard left Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute for the Butt Business School at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he held the title of S.J. Hall Distinguished Professor of Economics, an endowed chair paid for by an admirer of his work.[28] Rothbard maintained his position at UNLV from 1986 until his death.[26] Rothbard founded the Center for Libertarian Studies in 1976 and the Journal of Libertarian Studies in 1977. He was associated with the 1982 creation of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and was vice president of academic affairs until 1995.[26] In 1987, he started a journal called Review of Austrian Economics, now called the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.[29]

In 1953, in New York City, he married JoAnn Schumacher (1928–1999), whom he called Joey.[25](p124) After Rothbard's death, Joey reflected on Rothbard's happiness and bright spirit. "...he managed to make a living for 40 years without having to get up before noon. This was important to him." She recalled how Rothbard would begin every day with a phone conversation with his colleague Lew Rockwell. "Gales of laughter would shake the house or apartment, as they checked in with each other. Murray thought it was the best possible way to start a day."[30] Rothbard was an atheist.[31] He died in 1995 in Manhattan of a heart attack. The New York Times obituary called Rothbard "an economist and social philosopher who fiercely defended individual freedom against government intervention."[26]

Ethical and philosophical views


Although Rothbard adopted von Mises' deductive methodology for his social theory and economics,[32] he parted with Mises on the question of ethics. Specifically, he rejected Mises conviction that ethical values remain subjective, and opposed utilitarianism in favor of principle-based, natural law reasoning. In defense of his free market views, Mises employed utilitarian economic arguments aimed at demonstrating that interventionist policies made all of society worse off. Rothbard, on the other hand, concluded that interventionist policies do in fact benefit some people, including certain government employees and beneficiaries of social programs. Therefore, unlike Mises, Rothbard attempted to assert an objective, natural law basis for the free market.[25](pp87–89) He called this principle "self-ownership," loosely basing the idea on the writings of John Locke[33] and also borrowing concepts from classical liberalism and the anti-imperialism of the Old Right.[4](p134) Philosopher Matt Zwolinski wrote, "Rothbard's discussion of self-ownership in chapter six of The Ethics of Liberty rests on a fundamental confusion between descriptive and normative claims."[34] In an article entitled "How Not to Argue for Libertarianism", Zwolinski examines the critical role of self-ownership in Rothbard's thought and states that Rothbard's "argument for the self-ownership thesis itself is disappointingly weak."[35]

Rothbard advocated the Lockean proviso, arguing that if an individual mixes his labor with unowned land then he becomes the proper owner, and that after that time it is private property which may change hands only by trade or gift.[36]

Rothbard was a strong critic of egalitarianism. The title essay of Rothbard's 1974 book Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays held, "Equality is not in the natural order of things, and the crusade to make everyone equal in every respect (except before the law) is certain to have disastrous consequences."[37] In it, Rothbard wrote, "At the heart of the egalitarian left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will."[38]

Linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky described Rothbard's vision as a "world so full of hate that no human being would want to live in it".[39] He condemned Rothbard's idea that even public goods like roads and education, which benefit all people in a community, should only be funded at the behest of those who can afford to pay for them. He concluded that Rothbard's moral theory "isn't even worth talking about", since a world governed by an absolutist conception of property rights "couldn't function for a second -- and if it could, all you'd want to do is get out, or commit suicide". He also noted that Rothbard's ideas are not taken seriously by mainstream thinkers.

Heterodox economics

Rothbard embraced Ludwig von Mises' economics methodology, which Mises termed praxeology. According to Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Rothbard's friend and colleague at the Mises Institute and UNLV business department, praxeology is distinguished from mainstream economic methodologies insofar as it conceives of economics "as an a priori science, a science whose propositions can be given a rigorous logical justification".[17] On Hoppe's account, eschewing the scientific method and empirical evidence distinguishes the Misesian approach "from all other current economic schools". Mark Skousen of Grantham University and the Foundation for Economic Education, a critic of mainstream economics,[40] praises Rothbard as brilliant, his writing style persuasive, his economic arguments nuanced and logically rigorous, and his Misesian methodology sound.[18] However, citing Rothbard's absence of academic publications, Skousen concedes that Rothbard was effectively "outside the discipline" of mainstream economics and that his work "fell on deaf ears" outside his ideological circles. Paralleling Skousen's remarks, Hans Hoppe laments the fact that all non-Misesian economists dismiss the Misesian approach, which both he and Rothbard embraced, as "dogmatic and unscientific".

Though he self-identified as an Austrian economist, Rothbard's methodology was at odds with many other Austrians. In 1956, Rothbard deprecated the views of Austrian economist Fritz Machlup, stating that Machlup was no praxeologist, and calling him instead a "positivist" who failed to represent the views of Ludwig von Mises. Rothbard stated that in fact Machlup shared the opposing positivist view associated with economist Milton Friedman.[41] Mises and Machlup had been colleagues in 1920's Vienna before each relocated to the United States, and von Mises later urged his American protege, Israel Kirzner, to pursue his PhD studies with Machlup at Johns Hopkins University.[42] Professors Gabriel J. Zanotti and Nicolas Cachanosky recently reviewed the controversy. They prefer Machlup's reading of Mises to Rothbard's, and state, " Machlup's interpretation shows that Austrian epistemology is well grounded in post-Popperian epistemology and that most criticisms of Austrian economics based on its aprioristic character are misplaced. Furthermore, Machlup's interpretation provides us with a setting to re-build the academic interaction between Austrians and non-Austrians that was characteristic of the early twentieth century." They conclude that Rothbard's approach to economics was an "outdated and untenable extreme apriorism."[43]

According to libertarian economists Tyler Cowen and Richard Fink,[44] Rothbard wrote that the term equally rotating equilibrium ("ERE") can be used to analyze complexity in a world of change. The words ERE had been introduced by von Mises as an alternative nomenclature for the mainstream economic method of static equilibrium and general equilibrium analysis. Cowen and Fink found "serious inconsistencies in both the nature of the ERE and its suggested uses." With the sole exception of Rothbard, no other economist adopted Mises' term, and the concept continued to be called "equilibrium analysis."[45]

In a blog post written in response to Lew Rockwell's claim that Rothbard has been much more influential than Milton Friedman,[46] economist George Selgin wrote that "as a monetary economist, Rothbard was mediocre to bad. His version of the Austrian business cycle theory was naive – in essence it equated behavior of M consistent with keeping interest rates at their "natural" levels with the elimination of fractional-reserve banking, an equation that holds only with the help of about a dozen auxiliary assumptions, all of which are patently false. He then went on to conjure up an equally false history of banking and of bank contracts designed to square his theory of the cycle, with its implied condemnation of fractional reserve banking, with his libertarian ethics."[47]

He strongly opposed central banking, fiat money, and fractional reserve banking and advocated a 100% reserve requirement for banks.[13](pp89–94, 96–97)[29][48][49] George Selgin has called the movement for 100%-reserve banking a "moronic cult."[50] In graduate school, Rothbard wrote a paper entitled "Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics" which was reprinted in a festschrift for von Mises.[25](p27)[51] Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan stated that Rothbard's extreme behaviorist theory of choice presented in the paper was "inadequate."[52]

Rothbard vilified Adam Smith, calling him a "shameless plagiarist" who set economics off-track, ultimately leading to the rise of Marxism. In response to Rothbard's charge that Smith's The Wealth of Nations was largely plagiarized, David Friedman castigated Rothbard's scholarship and character, saying that he "was [either] deliberately dishonest or never really read the book he was criticizing".[53] Rothbard was contemptuous of John Maynard Keynes,[54] and wrote that governmental regulation of money and credit creates a "dismal monetary and banking situation". He demeaned John Stuart Mill as a "wooly man of mush", and speculated that Mill's "soft" personality led his economic thought astray.[55] Rothbard's perspective on these and other major figures in the history of economics were presented in his book, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith. In a review of the book, Peter Hans Matthews and Andreas Ortmann conclude that "few readers, Austrian or otherwise, will find [Rothbard's book] a decisive contribution to our understanding of the discipline's foundations".[56]

In an 2011 article critical of Rothbard's "reflexive opposition" to inflation, The Economist noted that his views are increasingly gaining influence among politicians and laypeople on the Right.[57] The article contrasted Rothbard's categorical rejection of inflationary policies with the monetary views of "sophisticated Austrian-school monetary economists such as George Selgin and Larry White, [who] defend rule-based inflation-targeting policies not all that different from Mr Sumner's".


Rothbard is widely thought to be the founder and central theorist of anarcho-capitalism and is regarded by contemporary libertarian anarchists with great respect and reverence. In the words of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "There would be no anarcho-capitalist movement to speak of without Rothbard."[16] According to Llewellyn Rockwell, Rothbard is the "conscience" of all the various strains of libertarian anarchism, whose contemporary advocates are former "colleagues" of Rothbard personally inspired by his example.[58] In addition to founding anarcho-capitalism, Rothbard provided the intellectual heft to "anarcho-Southern agrarianism, anarcho-anti-federalism, anarcho-protectionism, anarcho-monarchism" and other political movements.

During his years at graduate school in the late 1940s, Murray Rothbard considered whether a strict laissez-faire policy would require that private police agencies replace government protective services. He visited Baldy Harper, a founder of the Foundation for Economic Education,[59] who doubted the need for any government whatsoever. During this period, Rothbard was influenced by nineteenth-century American individualist anarchists, like Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker, and the Belgian economist Gustave de Molinari who wrote about how such a system could work.[25](pp12–13) Thus he "combined the laissez-faire economics of Mises with the absolutist views of human rights and rejection of the state" from individualist anarchists.[5] In an unpublished memo written around 1949 Rothbard concluded that in order to believe in laissez-faire one must also embrace anarchism.[25](pp12–13)

Rothbard began to consider himself a private property anarchist in the 1950s and later began to use "anarcho-capitalist".[60][61] In his anarcho-capitalist model, a system of protection agencies compete in a free market and are voluntarily supported by consumers who choose to use their protective and judicial services. Anarcho-capitalism would mean the end of the state monopoly on force.[60]

In Man, Economy, and State Rothbard divides the various kinds of state intervention in three categories: "autistic intervention", which is interference with private non-economic activities; "binary intervention", which is forced exchange between individuals and the state; and "triangular intervention", which is state-mandated exchange between individuals. According to Sanford Ikeda, Rothbard's typology "eliminates the gaps and inconsistencies that appear in Mises's original formulation."[62][63] Rothbard writes in Power and Market that the role of the economist in a free market is limited but is much larger in a government that solicits economic policy recommendations. Rothbard argues that self-interest therefore prejudices the views of many economists in favor of increased government intervention.[64][65]

In 1975, Rothbard implied that the American distrust of government over the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War marked the breakdown of the U.S. Government. He wrote, "We stand at the threshold of the rollback of statism and the victory of liberty; the forces of statism are in rout at every hand."[66]

Foreign non-intervention

Like Randolph Bourne, Rothbard believed that "war is the health of the state." According to David Gordon, this was the reason for Rothbard's opposition to aggressive foreign policy.[29] Rothbard believed that stopping new wars was necessary and that knowledge of how government had led citizens into earlier wars was important. Two essays expanded on these views "War, Peace, and the State" and "The Anatomy of the State." Rothbard used insights of Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, and Robert Michels to build a model of state personnel, goals, and ideology.[67][68] In an obituary for his friend historical revisionist Harry Elmer Barnes, Rothbard wrote:

Our entry into World War II was the crucial act in foisting a permanent militarization upon the economy and society, in bringing to the country a permanent garrison state, an overweening military-industrial complex, a permanent system of conscription. It was the crucial act in creating a mixed economy run by Big Government, a system of state-monopoly capitalism run by the central government in collaboration with Big Business and Big Unionism.[69]

Rothbard's The Libertarian Forum blamed the Middle East conflict on "Israeli aggression", "fueled by American arms and money." Rothbard warned that the mid-East conflict would draw the U.S. into a world war. He was strongly anti-Zionist and also opposed U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Rothbard personally denounced the Camp David Accords for having betrayed Palestinian aspirations and opposed Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.[70] In his essay, "War Guilt in the Middle East," Rothbard states that Israel refused "to let these refugees return and reclaim the property taken from them."[71]

Historical revisionism

Rothbard embraced "historical revisionism" as an antidote to what he perceived to be the dominant influence exerted by corrupt "court intellectuals" over mainstream historical narratives.[4](pp15, 62, 141)[72] Rothbard wrote that these mainstream intellectuals distorted the historical record in favor of "the state" in exchange for "power, prestige, and loot" from the state.[4][page needed] Rothbard characterized the revisionist task as "penetrating the fog of lies and deception of the State and its Court Intellectuals, and to present to the public the true history".[72] He was influenced by and a champion of Harry Elmer Barnes.[72][73][74] Rothbard endorsed Barnes's revisionism on World War II and the Cold War and promoted him as an influence for revisionists.[75]

Rothbard's endorsing of World War II revisionism and his association with Holocaust deniers have drawn criticism from within the political right. Kevin D. Williamson wrote an opinion piece published by National Review which condemned Rothbard for "making common cause with the 'revisionist' historians of the Third Reich", a term he used to describe American Holocaust Deniers associated with Rothbard, such as James J. Martin of the Institute for Historical Review. The piece also characterized "Rothbard and his faction" as being "culpably indulgent" of Holocaust Denial, the view which "specifically denies that the Holocaust actually happened or holds that it was in some way exaggerated".[75]

Children's rights and parental obligations

In the Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard explores issues regarding children's rights in terms of self-ownership and contract.[76] These include support for a woman's right to abortion, condemnation of parents showing aggression towards children, and opposition to the state forcing parents to care for children. He also holds children have the right to run away from parents and seek new guardians as soon as they are able to choose to do so. He asserted that parents have the right to put a child out for adoption or sell the rights to the child in a voluntary contract in what Rothbard suggests will be a "flourishing free market in children". He believes that selling children as consumer goods in accord with market forces, while "superficially monstrous", will benefit "everyone" involved in the market: "the natural parents, the children, and the foster parents purchasing".[77][78]

In Rothbard's view of parenthood, "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."[77] Thus, Rothbard stated that parents should have the legal right to let any infant die by starvation. However, according to Rothbard, "the purely free society will have a flourishing free market in children". In a fully libertarian society, he wrote, "the existence of a free baby market will bring such 'neglect' down to a minimum".[77]

Economist Gene Callahan of Cardiff University, formerly a scholar at the Rothbard-affiliated Mises Institute, argues that Rothbard allows "the logical elegance of his legal theory" to "trump any arguments based on the moral reprehensibility of a parent idly watching her six-month-old child slowly starve to death in its crib." He criticizes the absolutism of Rothbard's system, arguing that Rothbard has "taken a valid concern in political reflection, that of property rights, and treated it as if it were the only valid concern".[79]

Race and civil rights

In a 1963 article, Rothbard wrote that "the Negro Revolution has some elements that a libertarian must favor, others that he must oppose. Thus, the libertarian opposes compulsory segregation and police brutality, but also opposes compulsory integration and such absurdities as ethnic quota systems in jobs."[80] According to Rothbard biographer Justin Raimondo, Rothbard considered black separatist Malcolm X to be a "great black leader" and integrationist Martin Luther King to be favored by whites because he "was the major restraining force on the developing Negro revolution."[4][page needed] Rothbard again wrote fondly of Malcolm X in 1993, praising him for "acting white" through use of his intellect and wit. Rothbard contrasted him favorably with the "fraudulent intellectual with a rococo Black Baptist minister style, "Dr." King". But while he compared Malcolm X's black nationalism favorably to King's integrationism, he ultimately rejected the vision of a "separate black nation", stating "does anyone really believe that ... New Africa would be content to strike out on its own, with no massive "foreign aid" from the U.S.A.?"[81] Rothbard also suggested that opposition to King, whom he demeaned as a "coercive integrationist", should be a litmus test for members of his "paleolibertarian" political movement.[82][83]

Rothbard later called for the elimination of "the entire 'civil rights' structure" stating that it "tramples on the property rights of every American." Rothbard also urged the (state) police to crackdown on "street criminals", writing that "cops must be unleashed" and "and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error". He also advocated that the police "clear the streets of bums and vagrants", and quipped "Who cares?" in response to the question of where these people would go after being removed from public property.[84]

Torture of criminal suspects

In The Ethics of Liberty,[85] Rothbard seeks to derive an "inclusive and deductively correct legal order from a minimal set of rationally justified principles."[86] Turning his attention to suspects arrested by the police, Rothbard states that "We may qualify this discussion in one important sense: police may use such coercive methods provided that the suspect turns out to be guilty, and provided that the police are treated as themselves criminal if the suspect is not proven guilty. For, in that case, the rule of no force against non-criminals would still apply. Suppose, for example, that police beat and torture a suspected murderer to find information (not to wring a confession, since obviously a coerced confession could never be considered valid). If the suspect turns out to be guilty, then the police should be exonerated, for then they have only ladled out to the murderer a parcel of what he deserves in return; his rights had already been forfeited by more than that extent. But if the suspect is not convicted, then that means that the police have beaten and tortured an innocent man, and that they in turn must be put into the dock for criminal assault. In short, in all cases, police must be treated in precisely the same way as anyone else; in a libertarian world, every man has equal liberty, equal rights under the libertarian law. There can be no special immunities, special licenses to commit crime. That means that police, in a libertarian society, must take their chances like anyone else; if they commit an act of invasion against someone, that someone had better turn out to deserve it, otherwise they are the criminals."[85] Gene Callahan examines this position and concludes that Rothbard gives no consideration to the widely held belief that torture is inherently wrong, no matter who the victim. Callahan goes on to state that Rothbard's scheme gives the police a strong motive to frame the suspect, after having tortured her.[86]

Science, evolution and scientism

In an essay condemning "scientism in the study of man", Rothbard rejected the application of causal determinism to human beings, arguing that the actions of human beings, as opposed to those of everything else in nature, are not determined by prior causes but by "free will".[87] He argued that "determinism as applied to man, is a self-contradictory thesis, since the man who employs it relies implicitly on the existence of free will." Rothbard opposed what he considered the overspecialization of the academy and sought to fuse the disciplines of economics, history, ethics, and political science to create a "science of liberty." Rothbard described the moral basis for his anarcho-capitalist position in two of his books: For a New Liberty, published in 1973, and The Ethics of Liberty, published in 1982. In his Power and Market (1970), Rothbard describes how a stateless economy might function.

In a blog post defending Ron Paul from a letter published by The Daily Dish accusing Ron Paul of "evolution denial," Lew Rockwell noted that, like Paul, Rothbard "had doubts about the official church of Darwinism" and linked to two relevant articles by Fred Reed.[88]


In 1954, Rothbard, along with several other students of Ludwig von Mises, including George Reisman and Ralph Raico, associated with novelist Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism. He soon parted from her, writing, among other things, that her ideas were not as original as she proclaimed but similar to those of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and Herbert Spencer.[4](pp109–114) In 1958, after the publication of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, Rothbard wrote a "fan letter" to Rand, calling her book "an infinite treasure house," and "not merely the greatest novel ever written, it is one of the very greatest books ever written, fiction or nonfiction." He also wrote that "you introduced me to the whole field of natural rights and natural law philosophy," prompting him to learn "the glorious natural rights tradition."[4](pp121, 132–134)[89](pp145, 182)[90] He rejoined her circle for a few months, but soon broke with Rand over various differences, including his defense of anarchism. Later, Rothbard lampooned Rand's circle in his play Mozart Was a Red and essay, "The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult."[89](p184)[91][92]

Political activism

As a young man, Rothbard considered himself part of the Old Right, an anti-statist and anti-interventionist branch of the Republican Party. In the 1948 presidential election, Rothbard, "as a Jewish student at Columbia, horrified his peers by organizing a Students for Strom Thurmond chapter, so staunchly did he believe in states' rights."[93]

By the late 1960s, Rothbard's "long and winding yet somehow consistent road had taken him from anti-New Deal and anti-interventionist Robert Taft supporter into friendship with the quasi-pacifist Nebraska Republican Congressman Howard Buffett (father of Warren Buffett) then over to the League of (Adlai) Stevensonian Democrats and, by 1968, into tentative comradeship with the anarchist factions of the New Left."[94] Rothbard advocated an alliance with the New Left anti-war movement, on the grounds that the conservative movement had been completely subsumed by the statist establishment. However, Rothbard later criticized the New Left for supporting a "People's Republic" style draft. It was during this phase that he associated with Karl Hess and founded Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought with Leonard Liggio and George Resch, which existed from 1965 to 1968. From 1969 to 1984 he edited The Libertarian Forum, also initially with Hess (although Hess's involvement ended in 1971).[95]

Rothbard criticized the "frenzied nihilism" of left-wing libertarians, but also criticized right-wing libertarians who were content to rely only on education to bring down the state; he believed that libertarians should adopt any non-immoral tactic available to them in order to bring about liberty.[96]

During the 1970s and 1980s, Rothbard was active in the Libertarian Party. He was frequently involved in the party's internal politics. He was one of the founders of the Cato Institute, and "came up with the idea of naming this libertarian think tank after Cato's Letters, a powerful series of British newspaper essays by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon which played a decisive influence upon America's Founding Fathers in fomenting the Revolution."[97][98] From 1978 to 1983, he was associated with the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, allying himself with Justin Raimondo, Eric Garris and Williamson Evers. He opposed the "low-tax liberalism" espoused by 1980 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ed Clark and Cato Institute president Edward H Crane III. According to Charles Burris, "Rothbard and Crane became bitter rivals after disputes emerging from the 1980 LP presidential campaign of Ed Clark carried over to strategic direction and management of Cato."[97]

Rothbard split with the Radical Caucus at the 1983 national convention over cultural issues and aligned himself with what he called the "right-wing populist" wing of the party, notably Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul, who ran for President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988. "Rothbard worked closely with Lew Rockwell (joined later by his long-time friend Burt Blumert) in nurturing the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and the publication, The Rothbard-Rockwell Report; which after Rothbard's 1995 death evolved into the website,"[97]


In 1989, Rothbard left the Libertarian Party and began building bridges to the post-Cold War anti-interventionist right, calling himself a paleolibertarian, a conservative reaction against the cultural liberalism of mainstream libertarianism.[84][99] Paleolibertarianism sought to appeal to disaffected working class whites through a synthesis of cultural conservatism and libertarian economics.

Rothbard supported the presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan in 1992, and wrote that "with Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy."[100] In the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Rothbard's friend and confidante Llewellyn Rockwell reflected on the paleolibertarian vision, stating "We have a dream. (Hell, if 'Dr.' King can have a dream, why can't we?) Our dream is that, one day, we Buchananites can present Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the liberal and conservative and centrist elites, with a dramatic choice....We can say: 'Look, gang: you have a choice, it's either Pat Buchanan or David Duke."[101]

Rothbard endorsed the 1992 gubernatorial candidacy of white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke,[102] and later argued that he had won a majority of the white vote in the election by running as a "right-wing populist", an ideology Rothbard embraced. According to Reason, Rothbard advocated right-wing populism in part because he was frustrated that mainstream thinkers were not adopting the libertarian view and suggested that Duke and former Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy were models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks" effort that could be used by a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition.[84] In discussing what he called the "hysteria" against Duke, whom he noted was newly converted to Christianity, Rothbard described "right wing populism" as opposition to a "statist world dominated by a ruling elite, consisting of a coalition of Big Government, Big Business, and various influential special interest groups".[103] Rothbard also argued that there was "nothing" in Duke's political program that "could not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleo-libertarians; lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system, attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for equal rights for all Americans, including whites."[103] An article by Reason noted Gene Epstein's criticism of Rothbard for what he describes as an "infatuation" with Duke and Pat Buchanan which, according to Epstein, shaped Rothbard's later political thought.[104]

Like Buchanan, Rothbard opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).[105] However, later he became disillusioned with Buchanan, believing that the latter's "commitment to protectionism was mutating into an all-round faith in economic planning and the nation state."[106] Rothbard then shifted his interest and support to Ross Perot,[107] who Rothbard wrote had "brought an excitement, a verve, a sense of dynamics and of open possibilities to what had threatened to be a dreary race."[108] Rothbard ultimately supported George Bush over Bill Clinton in the 1992 election.[109][110]

After Rothbard's death in 1995 Lew Rockwell, President of the von Mises Institute, told The New York Times that Rothbard was "the founder of right-wing anarchism".[26] William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote a critical obituary in the National Review criticizing Rothbard's "defective judgment" and views on the Cold War.[14](pp3–4) The von Mises Institute published Murray N. Rothbard, In Memoriam which included memorials from 31 individuals, including libertarians and academics.[111] Journalist Brian Doherty summarizes Buckley's obituary as follows: "when Rothbard died in 1995, his old pal William Buckley took pen in hand to piss on his grave. Rothbard, Buckley wrote, spent his life "huffing and puffing in the little cloister whose walls he labored so strenuously to contract, leaving him, in the end, not as the father of a swelling movement…but with about as many disciples as David Koresh had in his little redoubt in Waco. Yes, Murray Rothbard believed in freedom, and yes, David Koresh believed in God."[112]



  • ISBN 0-945466-30-7
  • ISBN 1-933550-08-2.
  • ISBN 0-945466-05-6
  • ISBN 0-945466-30-7
  • ISBN 0-945466-47-1)
  • The Essential von Mises, "Bramble Minibook", 1973; Full text reprint, Mises Institute, 1988
  • ISBN 0-945466-23-4.
  • ISBN 0-945466-26-9
  • The Logic of Action (2 vol.), Edward Elgar Pub, 1997, Full text reprint as Economic Controversies, Mises Institute, 2011
  • ISBN 0-8147-7506-3
  • ISBN 978-1105528781
  • ISBN 0-945466-17-X
  • Vol. 2, Mises Institute, 2009
  • Making Economic Sense, Mises Institute, 2007, Full text reprint updated 7/15/2011 version
  • Full text reprint


  • The Case for the 100 Percent Gold Dollar, originally published in Audio Book
  • ISBN 0-945466-44-7
  • Economic Depressions: Causes and Cures, Constitutional Alliance of Lansing, Michigan, 1969; Full text reprint, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007
  • Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy, World Market Perspective, 1984; Center for Libertarian Studies, 1995, Mises Institute 2005; Full text reprint, Second edition, Mises Institute, 2011
  • Education: Free and Compulsory, Center for Independent Education, 1972; ISBN 0-945466-22-6
  • Individualism and the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, introduction by Friedrich Hayek, Cato Institute, 1979, ISBN 0-932790-03-8


  • Left and Right, Selected Essays 1954–65, (includes essays by Rothbard, Mises Institute information page
  • Full text reprint, Mises Institute, 2009


  • Rockwell, Llewellyn H., Jr., (editor), ISBN 1-883959-02-0
  • Full tex reprint
  • Rothbard, Murray (editor), ISBN 1-933550-02-3
  • Modugno, Roberta A. (2009). Murray N. Rothbard vs. The Philosophers: Unpublished Writings on Hayek, Mises, Strauss, and Polanyi, Mises Institute, 2009, Full text reprint

See also


  1. Quote: "economist and philosopher Murray Rothbard"
  2. David Miller, Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought, p. 290. Quote: "the American economist Murray Rothbard"
  3. F. Eugene Heathe. Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society, SAGE, 2007, p. 89; Quote: "an economist of the Austrian school"
  4. Ronald Hamowy, Editor, ISBN 1412965802 Quotes: p. 62 calls Rothbard "a leading economist of the Austrian school"; pp. 11, 365, 458 describe Rothbard as an "Austrian economist"
  5. Kevin D. Williamson, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, ISBN 1596981741 Quote: "the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard".

Further reading

External links

  • Murray Rothbard full bibliography at
  • Murray Rothbard at Wiki
  • Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • Murray Rothbard Institute, Belgium
  • Find a Grave

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