Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Would There Be a Libertarian Movement Without Murray Rothbard?

Murray Rothbard

Last night, Justin Raimondo spoke at Circle Rothbard in San Francisco, on the new Murray Rothbard book, Never a Dull Moment: A Libertarian Look at the Sixties.

The book is a collection of essays, compiled by Raimondo, which had been written by Rothbard between 1967 and 1968. It was an active period that included the campus revolt; the massive antiwar demonstrations; the Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab powers; the Newark riots; the Vietnam war; the persecution of H. Rap Brown, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the abdication of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the rise of Richard Nixon.

Rothbard wrote on all these topics from his unique perspective as a polymath and radical libertarian.

After his formal remarks, I asked Justin if he thought that there would even be a libertarian movement without Rothbard.

He said he didn't think so. Although there are now various libertarian factions, he said that they can all be traced back to Rothbard.

He suggested that without Rothbard there might be various objectivist groups as there are now and various free market-oriented conservative groups but no libertarian groups.

Indeed, he suggested that without Rothbard the term libertarian wouldn't even be used. He said Murray was the primary promoter of the term.



  1. I have to somewhat agree with Rainmondo on this. I think if there was no Rothbard the libertarian movement wouldn't exist as a movement by itself but it would primarily exist as factions within both the conservative and liberal movements. On the left I could see libertarians within the Blue Dog coalition separate (but willing to work with) from the populist left (think Jim Webb) but against the progressive left. On the right I could see them as a third faction within the conservative movement. Seperate from the neocons and paleocons. If you count the alt-right/neoreactionaries as separate from the paleocons (where much of their ideas come from) then they would be a fourth faction (think the liberty caucus and Rand Paul).

  2. The movement must have existed before Rothbard because he was commissioned by the Volker Fund, which also supported Mises and Hayek. F.A. Harper created IHS after leaving the Volker Fund. Leonard Read started FEE around the same time.

    Those two were probably just as influential, if not more so, to today's libertarian movement than Rothbard. The sad thing is both of those organizations downplay Rothbard and, to a lesser extent, Mises. They promote Hayek, Friedman and public choice theory.

    Thankfully the Rothbardians created the Mises Institute, which seems to have been designed to correct the GMU and Cato beltarians as much as the economics espoused in the mainstream press.

  3. I remember (1960's) a radio show on the LA Pacifica station hosted by a (great) guy who billed himself as a "Right Wing Anarchist". There just wasn't any better way to describe his (and my) political positions.
    I dropped out of politics completely during the 70's, 80's, 90's, and missed the whole Rothbardian emergence. Dang.
    It took Ron Paul to reawaken me. It's great to be home.