Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Murray Rothbard Was an Apple Computer Fan; 'The Magnificent Macintosh'

Famously, Murray Rothbard never used a personal computer. He stuck to his typewriter and once remarked that he would use a computer if a method was designed so that a typewriter keyboard could be hooked up to computer screen. But that does mean that Rothbard didn't follow the early development of the personal computer and have a favorite. In the March-April 1984 edition of the Libertarian Forum, using the pen name, The Old Curmudgeon, Rothbard wrote under the headline, "Still Keeping Low Tech":

2. The Hands-Off Maven.

I have found a wonderful new way to keep up with the latest computer tech, to be able to hold my own at cocktail parties, and yet still not acutally have to touch a computer.

My role model is an old friend of mine who has done this in many areas of endeavor for many years. He is virtually a Universal Maven, who can discourse learnedly on almost all topics, but without actually doing anything about them. For years, he has been a learned Maven on all aspects of consumer electronics. He subscribes to endless consumer electronic magazines, knows the plusses and minuses of every model of every hi-fi set, VCR, and advanced techno-gizmo imaginable. But he actually has almost nothing.

My friend the Universal Maven took to the personal computer age as a duck takes to water. It's his meat. He subscribes to all the computer magazines, uses all the lingo,advises everyone else on what computer to get, engages in critiques of instruction manuals, but he himself has never touched a computer and has no intention of ever doing so. At first I was puzzled: What can I call this paragon? You can't call him a "theoretician", since he doesn't actually know
any physics, engineering, or whatever. I finally figured that the perfect name for him is the Hands-Off Maven-the man steeped in hands-off experience in the often bewildering world of computers.

And so I find that I have become an apprentice Hands-Off Maven. I will never match my cher Maitre, but what the hell! 1 now understand the lingo, and can discourse upon the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of computers. And, further, I have recently discovered the magnificent Macintosh, which, at the very least, has the best ad copy 1 have seen for any product in a long time. It goes straight to our hearts. (E.g.: "In this country there are 250,000,000 people, of whom only a small fraction know anything about computers. The Macintosh. For the rest ofus.") With the Macintosh you don't have to learn complicated computer codes and signals. You "point" and move the cursor around the screen by shuffling the pointer (the "mouse"). Of course I haven't touched a Macintosh yet, but I have become, in my own way, a Hands-Off Macintosh specialist, carving out my own little though growing niche in the mad, mad world of computers. I have read articles and learned journals on the Macintosh. It has a sparkling black on white screen instead of the dull green stuff. Etc. Why don't I get one? Well, aside from the fact that it doesn't fulfill my Revolutionary requirements, it will take at least a year (a lifetime in the computer world) to develop enough software, to get a letter-quality printer produced for it, etc. And hell, like I said, I can wait.

3. Lower Tech than I.

I received a touching and heart-warming note from a young lad in response to my original article. In a cry from the heart, he wrote that he is even lower tech than I, and that he is deeply convinced that all is a creature of the State, and that, in a purely free market and free society, none of it would be used. Well, I can't really subscribe to this young chap's position, but I find it quintessentially charming. First, for its own sake, and second because I am always delighted when someone makes me look like a middle-of-the-roader.


  1. Someone has finally made Murray's dream a reality: