David R. Henderson  

Rothbard on Stigler and Friedman

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Many of us libertarian economists, even relative veterans such as me, are so used to seeing the late Murray Rothbard attack the "Chicago School." So the following from Rothbard came as somewhat of a surprise:

It was in this stifling atmosphere that I first became aware that I was not totally alone; that there was such a thing as a libertarian "movement," however small and embryonic. A young economics professor from Brown University began to teach at Columbia in the fall of 1946: George J. Stigler, later to become a distinguished member of the free-market "Chicago School" of economics. Tall, witty, self-assured, Stigler strode in to a huge class in price theory, and proceeded to confound the assorted leftists by devoting his first two lectures to an attack on rent control, and to a refutation of minimum wage laws. As Stigler left the classroom, he would be surrounded by moving circles of amazed and bewildered students, arguing with his point of view that seemed to them to be deposited all of a sudden from the Neanderthal Age. I was of course delighted; here at last was a free-market viewpoint of intellectual substance, and not simply couched in the lurid and confused tones of the Hearst Press! Professor Stigler referred us to a pamphlet (now long out of print, and still one of the few studies of rent control) jointly written by himself and another young free-market economist, Milton Friedman, "Roofs or Ceilings?" and published by an outfit called the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Stigler explained that he and Friedman had published the pamphlet with this obscure outfit because "nobody else would publish it." Enchanted, I wrote away for the pamphlet, and for information about the organization; and by that act I had unwittingly "entered" the libertarian movement.


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CATEGORIES: Price Controls



COMMENTS (7 to date)
Ed Dolan writes:

Nice post, Dave-- Great footnote to the history of free-market thought. Happy Holiday!

david writes:

So, would you identify yourself more with Friedman or with Rothbard?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ed Dolan,
Thanks, Ed. Happy Holidays to you too.
@david,
Not a question that’s easy to answer in a short space, but I’ll give a brief answer that avoids nuance. Personality- and character-wise, I identify more with Friedman. In terms of actual policy positions, more with Rothbard. On foreign policy, WAY more with Rothbard. I had some correspondence with Friedman trying to persuade him to sign a statement I had written against the 1991 Gulf war. I failed.

david writes:

Hm. Odd, I had figured you were more monetarist-era anti-neo-Keynesian neoclassical in persuasian. Like Friedman at the height of his influence.

You did not write as if you self-identified as an Austrian, for instance.

David R. Henderson writes:

@david,
I am closer to Friedman than Rothbard on the effect of money. That’s not a policy position.

david writes:

What's monetary policy, then, if not policy? :D

David R. Henderson writes:

@david,
Monetary policy is policy. Except for his position on fractional reserve banking, I’m closer to Rothbard than to Friedman, or, at least, Friedman pre-1986, on monetary policy.

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