Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Smashing the Rothbard Haters

There is an odd cult within the libertarian movement that hates Murray Rothbard.

Tom Woods has done a masterful job of exposing this anti-Rothbard cult and explaining who the real Rothbard was, in a recent speech at the Mises Institute. Lew Rockwell has posted an audio version of  thius must listen to Woods' speech, here.


  1. I'm curious as to who Tom was specifically referring.

    My suspicions lean toward Cato and Randians (though the latter "officially" position themselves outside of the libertarian movement)--but who else is particularly against Rothbardian positions?

  2. I don't really get it. If someone doesn't slobber over Rothbard I should say they are in a cult? Is it just if they don't know about him? If they know about him but don't mention him?
    I like what Rothbard has put out, same with tom woods. But this in itself was cultish. He was making fun of people telling stories about someone buying lunch for MF, but then tells a story about how he got first date nervous about calling Rothbard. LOL.
    It's very strange. Why is there such a quick reaction to label people "in a cult" if they have different views? The cult of Ayn Rand, the cult of not loving Rothbard. Its weird stuff. I think people generally do that when they don't have something of substance to contribute. I don't know why you, rockwell, woods would stoop to this level.
    I mean Walter Block recently said something to the effect of "Rothbard said this, so it must be libertarian" - as an argument!
    If we are stooping to the level of cult labeling, I would say it's the people who say that if someone doesn't hold Rothbard as their favoritist libertarian in the whole wide world, then something is wrong.

    1. What a bunch of nonsense. He never claimed you have to love Rothbard. He also never claimed you have to hold Rothbard as your favorite libertarian. He talked about libertarian groups who never mention him and try to drop him down the memory hole. I think people like you create strawman arguments when they have nothing of substance to contribute.

    2. Maybe you missed the part at the start where I said "I don't get it" and asked a few questions. I didn't get at first that he might be talking about a think tank or something like that. But in any event, why would not mentioning Rothbard make you in a cult? I mean I find it odd myself. But maybe they just don't like some of what he stood for. Maybe they are idiots who don't want to hash out where they think he was wrong. I don't really know (and tom doesnt as he stated). I was excited to listen to it with the Rockwell intro talking about how great it was. After I was left thinking, "thats it"?
      I think the speech is great when you remove the cult labeling. It doesn't seem to serve a purpose. The informative part about Rothbards accomplishments are great, but the underlying theme that anyone who doesn't talk about him is in a cult, is worthless.
      As for strawmen, where did I say "tom woods claimed I have to love Rothbard" Answer I didn't. When did I claim Tom woods said "Rothbard has to be your favorite libertarian"? I didn't. I'm referring to the "Rothbard cult" (see how fun this can be?). A cult is -a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. How could not mentioning someone be a cult? My point is that if those labels are getting thrown around, it's the Rothbard lovers who are a cult if we are making any use of definitions.

    3. "As for strawmen, where did I say "tom woods claimed I have to love Rothbard" Answer I didn't. When did I claim Tom woods said "Rothbard has to be your favorite libertarian"? I didn't."

      You wrote,

      "If someone doesn't slobber over Rothbard I should say they are in a cult?"

      I guess you could go with the argument that you were just asking a stupid question that Tom Woods would obviously disagree with.

      You also said,

      "If we are stooping to the level of cult labeling, I would say it's the people who say that if someone doesn't hold Rothbard as their favoritist libertarian in the whole wide world, then something is wrong."

      Here you could argue that you were just talking about people who hold this stupid belief, although I've never heard of a libertarian who feels this way.

      Either way your comment was either pointless or stupid.

    4. Yes a question mark indicates a question. I was trying to make sense of a senseless post and yes poking some fun at the same time. But I never said "tom woods said.... and therefore..." So there was no strawman.
      Yes I could argue that. This is why I clarified it for you the second time. I was stating that this is more cult-like than people who don't mention someone. No one really comes out and says you have to like rothbard the best, but it is constantly implied by those who completely bash anyone who doesn't fit rothbards perfect standard. He is the one that many hold up as an idol (see Blocks statement invoking the word of rothbard as an argument, and by "word of" I don't meant the idea behind. I mean just the fact that he said something meant it was libertarian).
      The post is stupid. I have yet to hear how not mentioning someone could be cult-like.

  3. Rothbard emerged at a time when the Old Right in America, the vestiges of classical liberalism, was giving way to the New Right. He was not ignored. He was attacked vehemently by William F. Buckley on the pages of the National Review. The Randians, also staunch anti-communists, also rejected him.

    In light of this the Left, which dominated academia, found it quite easy to ignore a figure who had, after all, been rejected even by the right-wing intellectual establishment. Meanwhile the New Right found their "middle ground" economist in Milton Friedman who even eclipsed Hayek as the right's chief economic guru.

    Rothbard was marginalized academically because he was marginalized politically, and so he sought a way out through the Libertarian Party. But here he also soon ran into problems because of his own sectarianism. He still had the Friedmanites to deal with and the Randians. And Rothbard's foreign policy views were attitudinally far different from the nationalistic non-interventionism of the old Taft people.

    A successful political movement is not driven by ideology but by interests. These interests may be venal but are not necessarily so. An ideology as narrow as Rothbard's is never going to have mass appeal. Even Ron Paul didn't dare to embrace the greater part of it.

    Rothbard may yet come to be admired in academia, but if that happens it will be because people who gained inspiration from him will have gained power within the very state that he so consistently opposed.

    1. Three false statements: First, that Rothbard was a sectarian within the LP. Rothbard fought the sectarians before he fought Ed Crane and the opportunists. Second, that Rothbard's ideology i somehow "narrow" and not suited for popularity. Something like Rothbard's ideology, minus the anarchism, was very popular in the 19th century. Third, that the those who admire Rothbard and gain state power will cause the academics to be won over. Possible, maybe, but the premise is self-contradictory.

  4. Woods, Gordon, Wenzel and Rockwell are getting in a ruckus over nothing.

    Most people reading this blog LIKE Rothbard. He's an easy read, he's funny, lucid, combative and gossipy.

    There's a real reason for his being ignored in academia and it's not because of any kind of smear bund.

    It's because he believed strongly in racial inequality based on genetics and believed the free market would prove it (whites would be productive, blacks wouldn't).

    He was completely mistaken...although I don't stop reading him on that account.

    I do however understand why they don't teach him in colleges.

    Frankly, why should they?

    Colleges are paid for by everyone, Why should someone's mistaken notions about IQ and genes (yes, they're mistaken) come up when many other thinkers can promote Mises better without that baggage?
    After all, Rothbard can still be promoted freely at Mises related schools. Maybe Peter Thiel can take him up or Uncollege can do an Unseminar and you can charge Untuition for it and become Unmillionaires with that.

    Also, why re-fight Rothbard's battles with Randians or Buckleyites from decades ago?

    Rothbard got a lot of recognition, published scores of books, has a devoted following, created a movement and lived to see it flourish. He had a happy life, successful life.

    The only downside seems to be he doesn't have academic respectability among people whom he spent his whole life attacking, anyway.

    Big phooey. Get over it.

    Cease and desist with the persecution complex. Your guru deserves better than that.

    1. Lila,

      Please explain, then, why Keynesian is worshiped at colleges and universities, when it's clear he was an anti-Semite:

      And your suggestion that Rothbard is racist flys in the face of the facts. Rothbard personally told me that he sponsored overseas children through one of those "save the children for xx cents per day" programs. Some racist.

    2. Lila,

      I've never heard this accusation before and I've never heard any critic of Rothbard cite it.

      Can you source me some links on where Rothbard said this?


    3. your accusation regarding the reason Rothbard was ignored (his supposed belief in racial inequality regarding IQ) is the first time I've EVER heard of this.

      And even if true, it would merely put Rothbard in the same camp as Richard Lynn and Arthur Jensen, two of the top names in the field of intelligence testing over past 50 years. You can disagree of course, but it's not evidently "wrong" the way you seem to so clearly think it is.

    4. As others have mentioned, if you were correct other academics who do actually espouse these views to a far greater degree than Rothbard would not be academic "celebrities". No, the reason I think Rothbard was not popular in academia, despite being an unapologetic Austrian/anarcho-capitalist was because he didn't mince words. The opinions you refer to comprise such an infinitessimal part of his overall body of work that it is a bit astounding to see anyone cite this, of all reasons, for his marginalisation.

      If you genuinely believe there's no IQ differences, I dare you to debate FringeElements (on youtube) on the matter. He has done a lot of research on the topic, so if you actually have anything new supporting your case it'd be an interesting debate. That is, "if".

  5. Hey Bob

    Please read what's written and not what you think I wrote.
    1. Who said MR was a racist? Saying someone's IQ is lower or higher doesn't make anyone a racist.
    I said he comes with a lot of baggage and maybe professors think they can do without that baggage.

    You guys are reading a lot of stuff into things and acting like a jilted girl.

    2. Yes, I forgot about Keynes' anti-Semitism, but then he was Lord Keynes....

    It's stupid, but in general, mainstream thinking seems to be that if you believe in equality and redistribution of wealth, you're a good guy, so you're allowed more lee way.

    If you're totally against redistribution, people will assume you are a defender of the rich, of oppression etc. The bar will be higher for you.

    I assume that's why Chomsky, also an anarchist, called MR "evil."

    1. LR,

      You apparently don't know the definition of racist. Wenzel ahd it right. This is from the first paragraph on wikipedia:

      Racism, also called racialism, is generally defined as actions, practices, or beliefs that reflect the racial worldview: the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races". This ideology entails the belief that members of a race share a set of characteristic traits, abilities, or qualities, that traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral characteristics are inherited, and that this inheritance means that races can be ranked as innately superior or inferior to others

  6. @Anoymous

    I didn't say it was so evidently wrong. I said *I* thought he was wrong.

    Rothbard wasn't a racist but he most certainly was a racialist (and I am not saying that is bad).

    Sources? He's written on the Bell Curve, so some of his views are expressed in that piece. But there are several others. Plus there are the comments of people who've heard him speak (may be biased, I don't know).

    The other writers you mention (Charles Murray etc) are not, also, tied to views on foreign-policy that are not mainstream.

    They have also not attacked as many major figures as Rothbard has.

    Taken altogether, I can quite see why his writing might be marginalized.
    Teaching a bunch of undergrads of different backgrounds is difficult enough without having to deal with all that.

    That's my personal assessment, by the way.

    No cabal or cult has contacted me or paid me (I wish) to do hatchet jobs.

    Not has a foreign intelligence agency hired me to break up the antiwar resistance.

    The foreign intel agencies are probably figuring we do a better job at that ourselves.

    1. Different Anon. Just wanted to say thank you. I agree with you completely. Whats your blog?

    2. In all my reading of Rothbard books, essays and articles or listening to his lectures I have not come close to anything that suggests what you claim. I'm really curious to see what you are speaking of. Can you please provide more specific details than:

      "Sources? He's written on the Bell Curve, so some of his views are expressed in that piece. But there are several others. Plus there are the comments of people who've heard him speak (may be biased, I don't know)."


  7. @Peter L.

    racialism (plural racialisms)

    The belief in the existence and significance of racial categories.
    The belief in racial separatist ideologies, the emphasis on perceived social and cultural differences among races.
    (UK) Variant term for racism.

    These were two different terms that have been conflated, in my opinion, for political reasons.

    I blogged about the conflation in 2007 when I had a very extended discussion with some racialists and plain racists on the subject.
    Even if the distinction has been lost, because of Boas, it should be revived. There is a real distinction.

    Since my discussion is on the web and runs into scores of posts
    I'll leave it at that.

    Why so much defensiveness? I'm not saying MR was a racist in the sense of advocating legal disenfranchisement or chauvinist behavior, which is the strict meaning of it.

    I was saying he identified race with certain traits. Read his piece on Hutus and Tutsis.

    He gave his enemies plenty of ammunition and I can quite see why someone one would ignore him.

    If you prefer to believe there is a cabal attacking him, go ahead.

    Just remember the last few attacks (against Rand,for eg) were initiated by Wenzel and my own posts since then have just been responses.

    Now that I know the history, I'll remember never to mention Rand or Friedman or anyone else, even in passing, in a favorable way,

    Murray for ever. Death to the infidels.

    1. There's a reason Rand and Friedman are not popular here. It is because they both opposed Austrians (or libertarians in Rand's case) on differing points with what in essence were strawman arguments, and they have both contributed to a general public view of libertarianism very different to what the Austrolibertarians advocate, in some case making our work much harder. Friedman, in particular, unlike Rand, was very influential in policy and brought in many outright evil schemes in. He recanted on his dimwitted monetarist views towards the end of his life.

  8. Selgin is part of this cult

  9. Woods says they drop Rothbard's name down the memory hole because of envy. I say it's simply because he was an anarchist.

    Government schools and government-funded intellectuals are obviously not going to promote free-market anarchism.

  10. @wags

    But you won't find Rothbard in most private colleges either...(although all of them also have some federal funding most of the time)
    So maybe that's it.
    But then why is that you can find plenty of left anarchists (Goldman, Bakunin and so on)?

    1. Because left anarchists are opposed to capitalism? They are "useful" idiots as it were, and they also tend to be much less militant in their ideology. Some of them see statism as a second best, so they are more tolerable.

  11. Total copout by Woods to not name names....makes it all seem somewhat paranoid.

    I've always felt like there's an attitude of "Rothbard can do no wrong" among certain groups...

    (see, 2 can play that game-lol)

  12. @Taylor and @Dusan:

    MR's racialism:

    QUOTE Hutus v Tutsis (

    "He assumed the Tutsi are smarter because they are taller and fairer and that they must be dominant because of those traits:

    Tutsi dominance was actually a creation of colonial policy and the genetic differences are very I read.

    And here, more implicitly:

    "Those ethnic and other groups who might be concentrated in lower-income or less prestigious occupations, guided by their socialistic mentors, will predictably raise the cry that free-market capitalism is evil and "discriminatory" and that therefore collectivism is needed to redress the balance. In that case, the intelligence argument will become useful to defend the market economy and the free society from ignorant or self-serving attacks. In short; racialist science is properly not an act of aggression or a cover for oppression of one group over another, but, on the contrary, an operation in defense of private property against assaults by aggressors.

    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."

    He's clearly implying that without affirmative action, certain "ethnics" would congregate in low-skilled jobs.


    "There are two ways by which it might be crip­pled and defeated. First, the retal­ia­tory cre­ation of a white counter-revolutionary mass move­ment, equally deter­mined and mil­i­tant. In short, by the re-creation of the kind of Ku Klux Klan that smashed Recon­struc­tion and the Negro move­ment in the late 19th cen­tury....

    This shouldn't be read as AGAINST civil rights. It's more an extended consideration of all the ramifications of the movement.

    But still..the tone tends to be slightly it is to the women's movement, as well.

    1. You have a serious reading comprehension problem, buddy. I found nothing like your summaries of the articles in those links.

  13. @Dusan
    The first quote was cut off because of the length.

    "How are we to explain this consistent pattern of domination by a small minority? Could it be – dare I say it – that along with being taller, slimmer, more graceful and noble-looking, the Tutsi are far more i-n-t-e-l-l-i-g-e-n-t than the Hutu?"

    What you got, accidentally, was just my comment on that quote, which is that he assumed that the taller, lighter people were naturally more intelligent and therefore dominant, whereas it was colonial policy that made them dominant.
    If you had bothered to actually read the Rothbard piece closely you would have found the passage and understood what I was referencing.

    The second quote was not cut off and is indeed a quote from the "The Negro Movement".
    It is not my summary and , while I clearly state that his general tenor in the piece is not opposed to the Civil Rights movement," there are passages, like the one above, which show hostility.

    There are also passages which indicate that he felt that marches and some of the civil disobedience tactics were encroachments on private property, and shouldn't be tolerated.
    I'm not supporting or criticizing him. I'm just saying passages like these might be one reason for his neglect in universities.

    So, now, just like the fellow who didn't know that racist and racialist have had distinct meanings, I'm the one with the problem, right? Not that you might not know something.

    1. Where did he say "fairer"? It is one thing to say there's a race-IQ link, and another to say there's a fairness-IQ link.

      You're right that he, like Walter Block or Hoppe, is anything but PC and I agree that this is a reason for his marginalisation. A reason, though, because it doesn't stop far more controversial authors from being very famous. It's funny because he even says this:

      "The real issue, as in most other cases, is not skin color but various character traits of different population groups."

  14. @inquisitor - no, I made a mistake. I meant "slimmer".

    I don't know why a slimness -height link to IQ makes sense. Rothbard was short and pudgy and not "noble-looking," right>

    So it's not about something being "not PC."

    This is far different from a rude remark. For such a sharp mind, this is a quite peculair generalization, especially taken in the context of other remarks and political alliances.

    Being non-PC is alright. But being irrational isn't. It's irrational to equate height with IQ, when they're manifestly not linked.

    That betrays not just a racialist perspective (in the sense of accepting race as a factor), but active chauvinism.

    If, along with that, one finds that the author also advocates on behalf of natural elites and the dismantling of government, supports discrimination among private groups/persons, and associates with Dixiecrats, you shouldn't be surprised if ordinary people get worried about his motives.

    The critics might be mistaken, but it's not unreasonable for them to raise the question.

    1. "I don't know why a slimness -height link to IQ makes sense. Rothbard was short and pudgy and not "noble-looking," right>

      So it's not about something being "not PC."

      This is far different from a rude remark. For such a sharp mind, this is a quite peculair generalization, especially taken in the context of other remarks and political alliances.

      Being non-PC is alright. But being irrational isn't. It's irrational to equate height with IQ, when they're manifestly not linked."

      Way to knock that strawman down. Rothbard never equated height with IQ. He simply said that in addition to being taller, slimmer, more graceful and noble-looking, they also might be more intelligent. No where did he say because they were taller that made them more intelligent. I would agree that it would've been a peculiar generalization for such a sharp mind, which should have been your first clue that you were mangling what he said.

  15. @Dan

    There is NO OTHER evidence given in that essay for Rothbard's assumption that the Tutsi were more intelligent - besides the physical attributes he listed in that sentence.

    That's a fair reading, not mangling.