Friday, October 30, 2015

Fred James on Murray Rothbard and Walter Block

Dear Walter Block,

     Thanks for your pep talk about buying books on Amazon VIA LRC. As I read your words I was reminded of how every so often LRC has a relevant article by MNR which I always read, even if I've not got a particular interest in the subject. Murray treated me like a young prince when I first met him, and as the years went by became a good friend who was a must read guy for what I hoped would be years until he lefty so early at a way too early 69. His written works were do clear, so important, so funny, so unique to him, so important that I am warmed by the new generation who have discovered him and enjoy hearing their comments about him which were so much like mine when I first read Murray. 

     And now you are the closest thing to MNR now living! It's dismaying to me that there is a small but active cadre of anti-MNR people out there like James Perron who dis Murray at every chance and call him a poor scholar. They are the same kind of people who dismiss Thomas De Lorenzo as a crank and then expect us to supply the reasons for that name calling.

     From about 1980 to 1990 I was the only explicit, Randian, Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist talk show host in the country. Murray came on my show in Anchorage when he was teaching in Vegas and he came to Honolulu at my invitation and spent a week with us there with another luminary in the libertarian movement...Bill Danks. Murray was a total pro. He showed up on time, never deemed to tell us how to operate on the local level and was a perfect guest at social gathering which were every night of his stay. I could tell many funny stories of MNR. He remains my all time favorite scholar and libertarian. Which is high praise indeed because I knew both Milton Friedman and John Hospers personally and, while I admired each for their particular genius, Murray was the brains, guts and style of the whole libertarian effort. I think I've cried very few times in my life when famous people died. When Rand died in March of '82, when Pavarotti died in 2007 and when Murray left us in '95 I felt lost, incredibly sad and, when I was alone, cried out loud for a long time.

    So stay healthy. Don't die on us.

     Most sincerely,

      Fred James

Prof Block responds:

Dear Fred:

I’m gonna blog this far and wide. Shall I keep you anonymous?

To be mentioned in the same sentence as my friend and mentor Murray is a great honor. To be told that I am “the closest thing to MNR now living” is just about the greatest compliment anyone could pay me, and I thank you for it. I am very grateful to you. All I can say is that this is precisely my ambition. Not to teach at Harvard. Not to win the Nobel Prize in economics. But, rather, to be “the closest thing to MNR now living.

James Perron, a member of the NAMBLA (the man boy love association) once asked me what I thought of his group. I gave a two word answer: “child abuse.” He didn’t much like that.

Tom DiLorenzo is one of the most knowledgeable and courageous scholars on the planet. I regard him as a good friend and have learned greatly from him.

You are right. There are all too many “libertarians” who are highly critical of Murray. A big part of my life’s work is to defend him against them. This doesn’t mean I agree with Murray on everything. But, when I criticize him, I do it with respect, love, admiration.

Let me share with you one of my Milton Friedman stories. We overlapped at several conferences, and I was talking about the need for reparations from the children of the conquistadores to the children of the people from whom they had stolen land. This is why in many Central and South American countries a few dozen families own a large disproportionate share of the land. (The libertarian support of land reform stems from returning stolen property, not taking from the rich and giving to the poor.) Milton said (paraphrase): “The best way to help the poor in these countries is to forget about this sort of land reform, and just free up the economy. Land, in many of these countries accounts for roughly 10% of the GDP, therefore, we should focus on economic freedom, not land reform.” My response to him was, Yes, of course, you are right. But it is a matter of justice that stolen property be returned to its rightful owners. He kept repeating his point. He simply didn’t understand what I was saying. So I asked him from whence did his passion for justice stem? He said (my paraphase) that he had no passion for justice; that justice was not in his vocabulary; that seeking justice will blow up the entire world, and that I should focus on economics, not justice. Here is a published exchange I had with Milton:

Block, Walter E. 2006. “Fanatical, Not Reasonable: A Short Correspondence Between Walter Block and Milton Friedman (on Friedrich Hayek).” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3, Summer, pp. 61-80;

One of my most bitter disappointments with Milton was that he favored ending the draft, embracing the voluntary military, in part to make the US military effort more efficient during the VietNam war.

I had John Hospers as my professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College. He never once mentioned libertarianism. I tell you, my students know my views within the first 5 minutes of my first class of the semester. John, too, was a bit of a war-monger.

Murray stands head and shoulders above Milton and John. Heck in my view Murray stands head and shoulders over pretty much everyone in the libertarian movement (with an honorable mention for Ron Paul.)

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business                   
Loyola University New Orleans
And Fred James, once again:

 Aloha Professor,

     Leave my name in, kick it out. Do whatever you think best regarding what I wrote you and your blog.

     I am pleased that I've apparently correctly read your motivations regarding MNR. He was a giant.

     You know we met once in N. Vancouver where you spoke at a local eatery a few years ago. I found you a younger and muscular version of MNR, even down to the NYC accent. And after reading your Defending the Undefendable so long ago I will always be a fan.


Fred James


  1. I wish he hadn't brought anarchism over from the Left. Private property has to be maintained with overwhelming force. Mises was much smarter than Murray.

  2. And money must be managed by the overwhelming force of a central bank.