Monday, February 4, 2013

The Laughter of Murray Rothbard

Murray Rothbard's wife JoAnn once wrote that she was able to find Murray in a darkened theater by following his familiar laugh.

I only met Murray a couple of times, but it was enough to give me the opportunity to be exposed to that laugh. It was great fun but, up until now, I have never been able to explain to anyone the uniqueness of the laugh as part of his personality. Somehow, the laugh and his personality were damn unique and addictive. Once you were exposed to it, you really wanted more.

I think I have finally come to figure out part of what made the laugh unique. He used it as a teaching tool, maybe not consciously, but that was the effect, at least on me. This thought came to me while listening to today's Morning Coffee with Murray Rothbard clip.

Something really caught my ear about it. After I had Chris Rossini clip it from a recording of a longer lecture that Murray gave, I listened to it several times. I finally realized it was Murray's laughter and the way he was using it that caught my attention. At the key part in the clip, he explains that the then Bronx Democratic chairman, Stanley Friedman, received a chunk of stock in a company, as a legal fee, for directing a city contract to the company. Murray after stating the facts busts out in his famous laugh. He didn't have to say, "Hey, look this legal fee was a bribe." He didn't have to say, "This legal fee was a payoff." His laughter did the talking and educated you.

That was Murray, or at least part of him. He would state some fact, then give out his famous laugh and you were left to think: What was so absurd about the facts? Murray would see the absurdity instantly and those around him often only spotted the absurdity after Murray gave out a clue with his laugh.

I recall, specifically, one of the times when I was with him. He had spotted a news story in the New York Post about an NYC government official who wanted to ban hot dog carts from NYC sidewalks to make the city cleaner. Murray relayed the facts and then broke out into his laugh. After you heard Murray's laugh, the absurdity of the situation became obvious, banning hot dog vendors was going to have no impact on the city cleanliness. It was just another crazed scheme by  some government official, who perhaps was just an anti-business lefty, or possibly an official who was in the pocket of some deli-type restaurateurs that had to compete with the hot dog vendors.

That was Murray. He was surrounded in a world full of interventionists and was able to instantly spot the absurdities of what the interventionists were trying to do, or the absurd ways that they were trying to justify the interventions. He would then laugh at the absurdities, which helped a lot of us spot them and understand them. His laughter is also spread throughout his lectures that were recorded and are now online. Pay attention, they are really fun and damn good teaching moments.

1 comment:

  1. Quite interesting. I am becoming fond of his laughter too, now I will pay even more attention to it.