Wednesday, May 8, 2019

What Mises Said about Rothbard

Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt
 and Ludwig von Mises.
By Joseph T. Salerno


In the last decade or so, a handful of Austrian economists have been aggressively promoting a strange story of the postwar development of the Misesian tradition.  In their telling, Friedrich Hayek and Israel Kirzner were busily developing Mises’s approach to economic theory and method when Murray Rothbard showed up and shunted the methodological train onto the wrong track.  


For this reason, Rothbard and his followers—who these storytellers collectively and derisively refer to as “the Rothbardians”—are to be read out of the Austrian movement.  In an article published last year, I explained why this story concocted by the “Rothbard deniers” is flat wrong and provided textual evidence that Mises and Hayek themselves, as well as Henry Hazlitt, would have disagreed with it.    
Just recently another piece of evidence turned up confirming Mises’s approval of Rothbard’s interpretation of his a priori economic methodology.  This is in the form of a letter written by Mises to fellow Mont Pelerin Society member and French positivist philosopher Louis Rougier.  Dr. Patrick Newman discovered the letter in the Mises archives at Grove City College and kindly shared a copy with me. 
In the letter, dated December 6, 1962, Mises is responding to criticisms of one of his books by Rougier.  Given the date of the letter and its focus on epistemology and methodology, the book in question is probably Mises’s last one, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method, published in 1962. In summing up his position, Mises writes:
The proof of the cake is in the eating.  I can only refer to the systematic exposition of the whole doctrine of praxeology in my book Human Action and nowadays in the brilliant book of a younger man, Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State. . . .
So Mises clearly considered Rothbard’s treatise as an updating and advancement of his own system of economic theory.  But this is not all.  After a paragraph recommending to Rougier his earlier book on the methodology of economics, Epistemological Problems of Economics, first published in German in 1933, Mises closes the letter with an entreaty to Rougier: 
But, please, first of all read the book of Rothbard.  It is very interesting also from the epistemological point of view. 
Given the evidence, including the words of Mises himself, I think that there remains little doubt that the mainline Misesian tradition in economic theory and method runs through Murray Rothbard. 

The above originally appeared at Mises.org.



1 comment:

  1. Identify those handful of Austrian economist who promote the false narrative Salerno writes about, and you have found the lackeys of those that seek to steer humanity and civilization from logos.

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