Tag Archives: Murray Rothbard

Rothbard and War by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

You can’t have a limited, libertarian government at home if that same government pursues interventionist policies abroad. From Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. at lewrockwell.com:

This talk was delivered at the Ron Paul Institute’s Conference on Breaking Washington’s Addiction to War.

Murray Rothbard was the creator of the modern libertarian movement and a close friend of both Ron Paul and me. His legacy was a great one, and at the Mises Institute I try every day to live up to his hopes for us.

One issue was the most important to him, of all the many issues that concerned him. This was the issue of war and peace. Because of his support for a peaceful, noninterventionist foreign policy for America, the CIA agent William F. Buckley blacklisted him from National Review and tried, fortunately without success, to silence his voice.

During the 1950’s, Murray worked for the Volker Fund, and in a letter to Ken Templeton in 1959, he complained about the situation:  “I can think of no other magazine which might publish this, though I might fix it up a bit and try one of the leftist-pacifist publications. The thing is that I am getting more and more convinced that the war-peace question is the key to the whole libertarian business, and that we will never get anywhere in this great intellectual counterrevolution (or revolution) unless we can end this . . . cold war-a war for which I believe our tough policy is largely responsible.”

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He Said That? 11/3/18

From Murray Rothbard (1926–1995), American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, a historian, and a political theorist whose writings and personal influence played a seminal role in the development of modern right-libertarianism:

Moreover, in the system of criminal punishment in the libertarian world, the emphasis would never be, as it is now, on “society’s” jailing the criminal; the emphasis would necessarily be on compelling the criminal to make restitution to the victim of his crime. The present system, in which the victim is not recompensed but instead has to pay taxes to support the incarceration of his own attacker — would be evident nonsense in a world that focuses on the defense of property rights and therefore on the victim of crime.

Libertarianism and War, by Justin Raimondo

Statists use war abroad to expand the government at home. The single most important thing libertarians can do to oppose the growth of government is to oppose its wars. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

Rothbard’s rule: Foreign policy comes first

The year was 1956: the icy winds of the cold war were blowing across the political landscape. And it was a presidential election year, pitting the internationalist Republican Dwight Eisenhower against Adlai Stevenson, the darling of the Democratic party’s left wing. The “isolationist” faction of the GOP, led by Sen. Robert A. Taft, had been finally defeated by what Phyllis Schlafly later called the Republican “kingmakers” of the Eastern Establishment. And the looming menace of the cold war turning hot was everywhere in the headlines. While Eisenhower was rallying the nation against the alleged Communist “threat,” Stevenson was calling for a nuclear test ban, negotiations with the Soviet Union, and an end to the military draft.

There was no organized libertarian movement at the time, although the people and institutions that would later emerge as the leadership were beginning to coalesce. Prominent among them was Murray Rothbard, then a thirty year old economist and consultant for the Volker Fund, who was also the Washington correspondent for the quasi-libertarian Faith and Freedom magazine. While most if not all conservatives and libertarians favored Eisenhower, Rothbard shocked his readers with a ringing endorsement of the liberal Democrat Stevenson.

While opposing Stevenson’s domestic program of more government spending and expanded social programs, Rothbard explained that it was the Democratic nominee’s position on the vital foreign policy issues of the day that ought to earn him libertarian support. While Eisenhower was playing the Soviet “threat” card, Stevenson was warning of the dangers of a nuclear confrontation between the two superpowers. Richard Nixon was quick to jump on Stevenson as an “appeaser” when Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin endorsed Stevenson’s nuclear test ban proposal. The Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolt further escalated the cold war hysteria that was sweeping the nation, and Eisenhower easily won a second term.

Yet Rothbard’s dissent was prescient: the Communist system, he wrote in Faith and Freedom, was “relatively inefficient” and doomed to fail. The enemy, he pointed out, was not merely communism, but “statism in all its forms.” Furthermore, under a wartime regime the State made its greatest inroads on the private sector: America’s wars had always been the occasion for a “great leap forward” in the power of the centralized State to impinge on every aspect of our lives. The ultra-conservative readers of Faith and Freedom were not convinced, and Rothbard was soon out as a columnist – yet his stand against the anti-communist hysteria and warmongering of the cold war Right was both prescient and principled.

As early as 1952, Rothbard had noted the fatal flaw in the “New Right” of William F. Buckley, Jr., whose magazine, National Review, would become the flagship periodical of the conservative movement a few years later. In a piece for Commonweal, Buckley had written:

“We have to accept Big Government for the duration – for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged … except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”

Buckley maintained that conservatives had to become apologists for “the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign policy” and the “large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington – even with Truman at the reins of it all.”

To continue reading: Libertarianism and War

He Said That? 5/23/16

From Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), American economist of the Austrian School, historian of both economic thought and American history, and a political philosopher, What Has Government Done to Our Money? (1980):

Freedom can run a monetary system as superbly as it runs the rest of the economy. Contrary to many writers, there is nothing special about money that requires extensive governmental dictation.

History Note: The Complete Demolition Of Milton Friedman’s Monetary Statism, by Murray N. Rothbard

Why David Stockman’s website chose to republish this piece by Murray N. Rothbard, which is at least 40 years old, is unknown, but it’s a must read for anyone interested in economic theory and practice, particularly the Austrian and monetarist schools of economics. From Rothbard, at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Mention “free-market economics” to a member of the lay public and chances are that if he has heard the term at all, he identifies it completely with the name Milton Friedman. For several years, Professor Friedman has won continuing honors from the press and the profession alike, and a school of Friedmanites and “monetarists” has arisen in seeming challenge to the Keynesian orthodoxy.

However, instead of the common response of reverence and awe for “one of our own who has made it,” libertarians should greet the whole affair with deep suspicion: “If he’s so devoted a libertarian, how come he’s a favorite of the Establishment?” An advisor of Richard Nixon and a friend and associate of most Administration economists, Friedman has, in fact, made his mark in current policy, and indeed reciprocates as a sort of leading unofficial apologist for Nixonite policy.

In fact, in this as in other such cases, suspicion is precisely the right response for the libertarian, for Professor Friedman’s particular brand of “free-market economics” is hardly calculated to ruffle the feathers of the powers-that-be. Milton Friedman is the Establishment’s Court Libertarian, and it is high time that libertarians awaken to this fact of life.


Friedmanism can be fully understood only in the context of its historical roots, and these roots are the so-called “Chicago School” of economics of the 1920s and 1930s. Friedman, a professor at the University of Chicago, is now the undisputed head of the modern, or second-generation, Chicago School, which has adherents throughout the profession, with major centers at Chicago, UCLA, and the University of Virginia.

The members of the original, or first-generation, Chicago School were considered “leftish” in their day, as indeed they were by any sort of genuine free-market criterion. And while Friedman has modified some of their approaches, he remains a Chicago man of the thirties.

The political program of the original Chicagoans is best revealed in the egregious work of a founder and major political mentor: Henry C. Simons’s A Positive Program for Laissez Faire.[1] Simons’s political program was laisse-faire is only in an unconsciously satiric sense. It consisted of three key ideas:

(1) a drastic policy of trust-busting of all business firms and unions down to small blacksmith shop size, in order to arrive at “perfect” competition and what Simons conceived to be the “free market”;

(2) a vast scheme of compulsory egalitarianism, equalizing incomes through the income-tax structure; and

(3) a proto-Keynesian policy of stabilizing the price level through expansionary fiscal and monetary programs during a recession.

Extreme trust-busting, egalitarianism, and Keynesianism: the Chicago School contained within itself much of the New Deal program, and, hence, its status within the economics profession of the early 1930s as a leftish fringe. And while Friedman has modified and softened Simons’s hard-nosed stance, he is still, in essence, Simons redivivus; he only appears to be a free-marketeer because the remainder of the profession has shifted radically leftward and stateward in the meanwhile. And, in some ways, Friedman has added unfortunate statists elements that were not even present in the older Chicago School.[2]

To continue reading: History Note: The Complete Demolition Of Milton Friedman’s Monetary Statism

He Said That? 1/11/16

From Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), American economist, “Interview with Murray N. Rothbard : The Austrian Economics Newsletter,” (1990):

There is one good thing about Marx: he was not a Keynesian.

He Said That? 12/28/14

From Murray N. Rothbard, What Has Government Done to Our Money:

Debasement was the State’s method of counterfeiting the very coins it had banned private firms from making in the name of vigorous protection of the monetary standard. Sometimes, the government committed simple fraud, secretly diluting gold with a base alloy, making shortweight coins. More characteristically, the mint melted and recoined all the coins of the realm, giving the subjects back the same of “pounds” or ” marks,” but of a lighter weight. The leftover ounces of gold or silver were pocketed by the King and used to pay his expenses. In that way, government continually juggled and redefined the very standard it was pledged to protect. The profits of debasement were haughtily claimed as “seigniorage” by the rulers.

Rapid and severe debasement was a hallmark of the Middle Ages, in almost every country in Europe. Thus, in 1200 A.D., the French livre tournois was defined at ninety-eight grams of fine silver; by 1600 A.D. it signified only eleven grams. A striking case is the dinar, a coin of the Saracens in Spain. The dinar originally consisted of sixty-five gold grains, when first coined at the end of the seventh century. The Saracens were notably sound in monetary matters, and by the middle of the twelfth century, the dinar was still sixty grains. At that point, the Christian kings conquered Spain, and by the early thirteenth century, the dinar (now called maravedi) was reduced to fourteen grains. Soon the gold coin was too light to circulate, and it was converted into a silver coin weighing twenty-six grains of silver. This, too, was debased, and by the mid-fifteen century, the maravedi was 1.5 silver grains, and again too small to circulate.

Rothbard cites Elgin Groseclose, Money and Man (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1961), pp 57-76.

Governments have a long and dishonorable tradition of rendering their coins and currencies worthless; it’s what they do. The US government is following in that tradition, although few call it the theft it is. Generally a nation’s money precedes, by a varying span of years, a nation’s government as they both go down the drain.