Murray Rothbard Day
| Peter Klein |
Today would have been Murray Rothbard’s 86th birthday. Rothbard is widely (and rightly) regarded as the father of the modern libertarian movement, and a driving force behind the “Austrian” revival in the US, beginning in the late 1950s. For this occasion I hope I can be forgiven a bit of personal reminiscence, courtesy of a brief excerpt from the introduction to my 2010 book, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur:
As a college senior, I was thinking about graduate school—possibly in economics. By pure chance, my father saw a poster on a bulletin board advertising graduate-school fellowships from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. (Younger readers: this was an actual, physical bulletin board, with a piece of paper attached; this was in the dark days before the Internet.) I was flabbergasted; someone had named an institute after Mises? I applied for a fellowship, received a nice letter from the president, Lew Rockwell, and eventually had a telephone interview with the fellowship committee, which consisted of Murray Rothbard. You can imagine how nervous I was the day of that phone call! But Rothbard was friendly and engaging, his legendary charisma coming across even over the phone, and he quickly put me at ease. (I also applied for admission to New York University’s graduate program in economics, which got me a phone call from Israel Kirzner. Talk about the proverbial kid in the candy store!) I won the Mises fellowship, and eventually enrolled in the economics PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley, which I started in 1988.
Before my first summer of graduate school, I was privileged to attend the “Mises University,” then called the “Advanced Instructional Program in Austrian Economics,” a week-long program of lectures and discussions held that year at Stanford University and led by Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Roger Garrison, and David Gordon. Meeting Rothbard and his colleagues was a transformational experience. They were brilliant, energetic, enthusiastic, and optimistic. Graduate school was no cake walk—the required core courses in (mathematical) economic theory and statistics drove many students to the brink of despair, and some of them doubtless have nervous twitches to this day—but the knowledge that I was part of a larger movement, a scholarly community devoted to the Austrian approach, kept me going through the darker hours.
I go on to discuss Oliver Williamson’s influence on my research program. Later I include Rothbard among my dedicatees:
Murray Rothbard, the great libertarian polymath whose life and work played such a critical role in the modern Austrian revival, dazzled me with his scholarship, his energy, and his sense of life. Rothbard is widely recognized as a great libertarian theorist, but his technical contributions to Austrian economics are not always appreciated, even in Austrian circles. In my view he is one of the most important contributors to the “mundane” Austrian analysis described above.