Bryan Caplan  

The Joy of Econ

Cinematic Proof... Stuck on 1968...

Are you puzzled by the appeal of the late Murray Rothbard? Try his newly available lectures on The History of Thought: From Marx to Hayek. All libertarian prejudice aside, I don't think any thoughtful economist could deny that Rothbard exudes charisma and has a lot of interesting things to say. Whatever your views, he's ha-ha funny. You could easily subtitle Rothbard's lectures "The Joy of Econ."

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
John writes:

Your link is messed up - its a mailto: link in front of an http: link

[Thanks, John. I think it's fixed now--Econlib Ed.]

Robert Schwartz writes:

IIRC, I once read an article by him claiming that banking is inherently fraudulent. I thought it was just nuts.

David Friedman writes:

I haven't heard the lectures, but his book on the subject is, in my view, deliberately dishonest. In order to show that Adam Smith was a bad guy, Rothbard (correctly) states that he suggested a tax on the export of English wool. He neglects to mention that Smith was proposing the tax as a replacement for an absolute ban on such export, which was the existing situation.

He is similarly dishonest in his comparison between Smith and Turgot. He not only misrepresents Smith's views with regard to public education, he doesn't even mention Turgot's call for contralizing all French education under government control, in part to make sure students were taught the right things.

Interested readers may want to look at my Usenet posts on the subject some years back, starting with this one. from alt.society.anarchy, Oct 25, 1999.

Bill Stepp writes:

There is no question that some of Rothbard's ideas were problamatic, especially his views on money and banking. While it's true that he did misrepresent Smith as David Friedman points out above, some of his criticisms of the Scottish economist were correct, such as his "maxims of justice" regarding taxation.
Another of his questionable views was Andrew Jackson as an alleged exemplar of laissez-faire. Jackson wasn't, not by a long shot, as a cursory glance at his state papers shows.
Even Robert Remini, Jackson's sympathetic biograhper, acknowledged Jackson as precursor of Lincoln's power mongering, through the Force Bill, which he used to squelch South Carolina's secession bid.

Rothbard did get a lot of things right though, and he gave J.-B. Say his proper due. His overall critique of the State, as expressed in his papers "The Anatomy of the State" and "War, Peace, and the State," was the best ever written in my view.
Anyone who wrote as much as MNR did is bound to get some things wrong, although I would agree that this doesn't excuse deliberate misrepresentation, to the extent he did this.

Scott Scheule writes:

The USENET thread David linked to is quite interesting, particularly for those of us who are curious as to his feelings towards Austrian economists in general.

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