Scholar, Gentleman, Freedom Fighter and Poetic Justice Warrior Murray Rothbard’s Radically Unique Sense of Life.
Words mean things. Words like Center for Disease Control. Food and Drug Administration. National Institutes of Health. Yet in this cowardly new world of the Wuhan virus, those particular words have become anti-concepts like gender neutral pronouns, social justice, or better yet, “We’re all in this together.” The cheerleaders for this latest collectivist chant include network and cable news outlets from PBS to FOX. On a daily basis, they flood the airwaves with emotional stories of self-sacrifice, but very little new information about things that really matter.
Instead of learning how many fast and reliable new test kits have been produced, we are hearing about kids sewing face masks. Instead of data about Americans who have tested to be immune to the virus, and are donating plasma, we hear about empty cathedrals delivering mass. Instead of hearing how much new technology for ventilators is being manufactured each day, we see big crowds cheering health care workers; the ones who would rather have badly needed protective gear and equipment to do their jobs.
Conveniently, there is little mention of the fraudulent computer models that inspired all of this. Instead, the Surgeon General warned that this week will be the worst for America since Pearl Harbor. If he meant the colossal intelligence failure that led to December 7, 1941, he is doing a public service.
What we are witnessing is Mediocrity Worship. National media and their compliant audience are nominating a career government bureaucrat to sainthood. In January 2020, the Director for the National Institute for Infectious Disease told America that the Wuhan virus is not a serious threat. But how could he know? He’s been in charge for only what, forty years?
What’s missing is objective reporting, economics driven solutions, and heroes of stature – The precise, impolitic analysis of Poetic Justice Warrior Murray Rothbard!
The Libertarian Manifesto
One way to identify possible greatness is to discover who someone’s enemies are. With Rothbard, not so much; that list is too broad and deep. As Mises Institute founder Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr. explains about Murray’s 1973 book, For A New Liberty, “More than any other of his works, this book explains why Rothbard seems to grow in stature every year. His influence has vastly risen since his death, and why Rothbardianism has so many enemies on the left, right, and center.”
As Rothbard explains best about the recent confluence of conservative and progressive big government objectives,
The ideal of conservatives and liberals is to cage everyone and coerce him into doing what they believe to be the moral thing. Differently styled cages, but cages just the same. The conservative would coerce everyone to act according to his version of moral behavior. The liberal would place everyone in a box to be run by a benevolent dictator.
Regarding the collectivist “We’re all in this together” virus, the Libertarian Manifesto says,
Society is sometimes treated as a superior or quasi-divine figure with overriding “rights” of its own. The individualist holds that only individuals exist, and that “society” is not a living entity but simply a label for a set of interacting individuals. Treating society as a thing that chooses and acts serves to obscure the real forces at work.
And it is interacting individuals we must lean on, and reward them with Moral Sanction and profits,
It is infinitely better to rely on the pursuit of economic interest than to depend on the dubious “altruism” of government officials. The ultimate Libertarian program may be summed up in one phrase: the abolition of the public sector into activities performed voluntarily by the private-enterprise economy.
Once considered the State’s Greatest Living Enemy, Rockwell summarizes, “Rothbard forged a blend between Austrian economics and natural-rights political theory of the old liberal school to create a modern Libertarianism.”
Mises, Rand, and Anarchism
To describe Murray Rothbard as maverick would be an understatement. As a college student, he became an ardent fan of the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, began to write a college textbook explaining Mises’ masterwork Human Action, and ended up writing his own classic Man, Economy, and State in 1962. In fact, Rothbard’s devotion to the primacy of individual human action transcended Mises, and on the subject of morality and ethics they differed.
In the essential Is – Ought Dichotomy, most philosophers (and Mises) believe that what Is, existence defined as objective reality, is unrelated to what Ought to be, meaning a person’s subjective values. According to historian David Gordon,
Rothbard dissented, maintaining that objective ethics could be founded on the requirements of human nature. His approach, based on his study of Aristotelian and Thomist philosophy, is presented in his major work The Ethics of Liberty (1982) of political philosophy.
Of course this is no accident, in the mid-1950s Rothbard was a member of philosopher Ayn Rand‘s inner circle for several weeks, one that she satirically named “the collective.” It was an informal group that would meet at Rand’s apartment to discuss philosophical ideas. One of those was in the realm of Objectivist Ethics – “the fact that a living thing is, determines what it ought to do.” After Rand published Atlas Shrugged, a novel that won Rothbard’s admiration, they reconnected but eventually parted company again over the issue of anarchism.
Rothbard and Rand shared a common commitment to individualism – the idea that we own our lives, and the pursuit of our happiness is our highest moral purpose. But what about the role of government? Rand believes government is essential to protect morally derived rights. Rothbard believes government rooted in objective law is impossible to maintain.
He named his system Anarcho-Capitalism, meaning all customary functions of government could be performed more efficiently and peacefully by private enterprise. On a similar note, he supported the ideas of the authors of America’s Anti-Federalist Papers.
To that end, Rothbard founded The Journal for Libertarian Studies in 1977 with a symposium on Robert Nozick’s 1974 classic Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which directly refuted the social justice and government redistribution ideas of political philosopher John Rawls. As poetic justice would have it, this symposium could easily have predicted the failures of the CDC, FDA, and NIH in anticipating, preventing, and isolating the Wuhan virus.
We Are All Austrians Now
The absence of an Austrian style pricing mechanism for health care finance and delivery is the root cause of the Wuhan shortages, the disastrous government response, and the collectivist public reaction. One of Rothbard’s greatest achievements, singlehandedly and poetically, was the revival, recognition, and respect for Austrian school economics we can use today to stop the Leviathan. As Gordon reveals,
Rothbard established in 1987 another journal, the Review of Austrian Economics, to provide a scholarly venue for economists and others interested in Austrian theory. It too is the key journal in its area of specialty. It has continued to the present, after 1997 under the new name Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.
As poetic justice would have it, Gordon writes that Rothbard’s scholarship was vast, and there were no sacred cows to the truth.
Adam Smith, contrary to general belief, was not the founder of modern economics. The heroes of Rothbard’s study were the Spanish scholastics, who long before Smith had developed a subjective theory of value.
Aristotle, Aquinas, Say, Mises, Garret, and Rand produced words that mean things. They were the Poetic Justice Warriors, real heroes deserving of moral sanction, that helped Murray Rothbard formulate his radically unique sense of life. For all of us.