Thursday, November 3, 2011

Did David Boaz Invent Libertarianism?

The Kochtopus has launched a new web site,

A quick glance of the site might give you the impression that David Boaz invented libertarianism.

There's an introductory reading list that mentions Boaz, but no mention of Ludwig von Mises or Murray Rothbard.

There's a "deep foundations" reading list with the first book being a Boaz book, but no mention of Mises or Rothbard.

There's a history of libertarianism reading list, the first book mentioned is a Boaz book, but no mention of Mises or Rothbard.

Though there is no work of Mises or Rothbard mentioned others getting on the reading list include, P. J. O’Rourke, Milton Friedman, Matt Ridley, Richard Epstein, Robert Nozick, John Locke.

There's an essay section that includes writings of, you guessed it, many by David Boaz. In addition, essays by Tom Plamer, Nat Hentoff, Gerald O'Driscoll, Nathaniel Branden, Frederick Douglass, Adam Smith. But no mention of Mises or Rothbard.

Mises and Rothbard do get profiles and there are other mentions, including some Rothbard videos. But anyone looking at the reading lists or essays, logically a first stop for learning more, would get the impression that the seeds of libertarianism were planted by, say, Adam Smith and John Locke (and perhaps Tom Palmer) followed by a great leap over to David Boaz.

For those new to libertarianism, here's a few books and essays the Kochtopus appears to have missed. Fourty-one books and essay compilations by Murray Rothbard and thirty three books and essay compilations by Ludwig von Mises. For the record, the best introductory book on libertarianism is Murray Rothbard's For A New Liberty.


  1. On the front page, currently, is "F.A. Hayek on the Social Evolution and the Origins of Tradition" It's 50 minutes long

  2. You do realize this isn't for "libertarians" but for the general population that isn't really considering libertarian philosophy for themselves; rather for those just looking for definitions and theories.

    The Remnant CANNOT be co-opted...WE know this, and they know this.

  3. I just wanted to add that, in case funds are low, The Mises Institute also has a large library of free eBooks (which include just about all of Mises & Rothbard's works).

    If you can pay though, please do, as The Mises Institute survives off of private donations.

  4. No Rothbard? Sounds like "PC Libertarianism for the masses" to me. And we know how dangerous it would be if more people started reading Rothbard's penetrating power elite analysis, I mean "conspiracy theories."

  5. What about J.H.'s book? That's a good one, I think.

  6. In all honesty, I think Ron Paul's The Revolution is superior to Rothbard's For a New Liberty.

  7. Not to stir the pot, but it should be noted that Charles Koch was responsible for the original publication of much of Rothbard's work. For just one example of many, I note from the Acknowledgments found at the introduction to POWER AND MARKET: "Finally, I am grateful to the continuing and devoted interest of Charles G. Koch of Wichita, Kansas, whose dedication to inquiry into the field of liberty is all too rare in the present day." That was 1970. Also see the 1980 acknowledgement where Rothbard credits Koch with enabling Rothbard to take off a year of teaching (1974-75) to write the THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY. I could go on.

  8. I was pretty sure Etienne de la Boetie invented libertarianism.

  9. @Anonymous 3:11

    Which makes it odd that they now shove him down the memory hole.

  10. Maybe their arms were twisted too.

    Good. They can keep libertarianism. It's brand value ain't that great ever since GreenspIn called himself one.

    And seriously, do you want to be on the same side as Matt Ridley?

    What have arch crony capitalists got to do with a coalition of classical liberals, Christian libertarians, an-caps, traditionalists, and monarchists?

  11. It's not so odd about minimizing Rothbard. I witnessed the falling out of Charles Koch and Murray when Koch decided to water down the 1980 Ed Clark for President campaign ("low-tax liberalism" was the new description of libertarianism), and the fight carried over into the Cato Institute and the Libertarian Party in the early 80's. Rothbard was cast out of Cato, and the Kochtopus walked out of the LP in 1983 when their presidential candidate, Earl Ravenal, lost to David Bergland. Read all about it in Justin Raimondo's book on Rothbard, 'Enemy of the State'.

    Actually, I'm kind of amazed that there is any mention of Rothbard at all. That there is is a testament to the powerful presence of the Mises Institute, which has accomplished 100 times what Cato has with 1/100 the money.

  12. @Robert Wenzel. It is odd, and it is certainly a shame. I also was around at the time. "Low tax liberalism" was not a slogan or part of the Clark/(David)Koch campaign. It was a pure Ed Clark remark made on a single Sunday news interview show -- much to the chagrin of his campaign staff. (It was on Meet the Press if I recall correctly.) In 1980, at least, David and Charles Koch were much more radical libertarians than was Clark.

    Of course no one involved in the campaign was in a position to publicly criticize or disavow Clark's comment. (Which, by the way, was simply Clark's attempt to put libertarianism into the context of classical liberalism.)

    The rift between Rothbard and Cato/Crane has been fairly commented upon by David Gordon. Let's just say personality conflicts got out of hand.

  13. The first person who wrote about Libertarianism was Lao Zi. The book is known as Dao De Jing, written around 500 B.C., at the onset of the Warring State Period of China. Just to give an example, he wrote:
    The Great Nature has no preference. It cares for all things in the universe equally and no selected group receives special care. It treats all things like straw dogs used as offering in sacred ceremony. They are given careful attention during the ceremony but left alone after that. A leader shall have no one he especially dears or anyone he disfavors. He cares for all people equally but at the same time leaves them alone to live and die on their own course.

  14. A philosophy is not "invented." It's not a "formula." It is not stagnant and codified. It's a school of thought, with many branches. It's a network, with no one authority or dogma.

  15. A little tough, EPJ. Don't you think? Right in middle of Boaz' account of libertarian history, when liberalism was on the decline, he writes:The Austrian Economists

    "Meanwhile, though, even in the darkest hour of libertarianism, great thinkers continued to emerge and to refine liberal ideas. One of the greatest was Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist who fled the Nazis, first to Switzerland in 1934 and then to the United States in 1940. Mises’s devastating book Socialism showed that socialism could not possibly work because without private property and a price system there is no way to determine what should be produced and how."

    I consider myself a Rothbardian. And I agree with a lot of the above criticism of the Koch's. But is all the in-fighting really that productive? Don't we have bigger fish to fry?

  16. I'm a little late, but the attack on Boaz and doesn't seem fair. The first book on the "deep foundations" of libertarianism is indeed edited by Boaz, but it contains essays by many authors, including Rothbard's radical attack on the state from For a New Liberty and an anti-war excerpt (among others) from Mises.

    The first item under "history of libertarianism" is indeed an essay by Boaz -- in which he gives credit to Murray Rothbard for playing "an important role in building both a theoretical structure for modern libertarian thought and a political movement devoted to those ideas" and then lists his most important works.

    What strikes me in all of this is not how little attention they give to Rothbard, but how much. In light of Rothbard's hostility toward Cato after his split with it -- and in light of feuds of that era that still linger in some participants' minds -- one might expect them not to mention him at all. That they do is to their credit -- and also to the credit of Ron Paul and the Mises Institute, who have made Rothbard so popular among young libertarians that the DC libertarian institutions couldn't credibly ignore him if they wanted to.