With the explosion of the liberty movement over the past five or six years there has likewise been a surge in interest in libertarian ideas as well as Austrian economics. And slowly, references to these ideas are leaking into the mainstream, as evidenced most recently by the mentioning of Austrian economics on an episode of “The Simpsons”.
Even one of America’s great CEO’s has been “coming out of the closet” lately. Whole Foods founder John Mackey, who has recently received both scorn and praise for comparing Obamacare to fascism, was recently interviewed by Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. At one point during this interesting interview, Mackey describes how he began to read the works of many free market economists such as Ludwig Von Mises, FA Hayek and the subject of this weekly column Murray Rothbard, all associated with the Austrian School of Economics. The reference can be found around the 3:25 mark in the video here.
Any references to the Austrian School and Austrian economists in the mainstream media are of course great for the liberty movement. Sometimes all it takes is one Google search of ”Austrian economics” or “Murray Rothbard” to send someone down the liberty rabbit hole from whence they shall return as a full-fledged freedom fighter.
However, in the case of Mr. Mackey’s interview on Fox News, something odd seems to have occurred. On the transcript of the interview, it seems that the reference to Murray Rothbard has been eliminated completely:
But once I did — once we did start whole foods and I did have a meet a payroll, I was having trouble. I mean, we had our team members wanted higher pay and our customers saw our prices were too high and suppliers, we were small and they didn’t want to give them discounts. So we lost half of the capital. We had $45,000 to start with and we lost $23,000 of it the first year. Renee and I only got paid $200 a month and people were saying I was, you know, kind of a bad guy now because I was a business person.
So, I threw out that philosophy, didn’t work, and I began to read widely and I read a number of free market economists like Frederick Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises and I discovered these explanations of the world worked a lot better than the philosophy I had previously. I learned the business is the greatest value creator in the world. We create value for customers, for employees, for suppliers, for investors, the communities we’re part of. Business people are heroic. We’re not the bad guys. We’re the good guys.
The reference to Murray Rothbard is very clear in the video, yet has completely disappeared from the transcript of the interview. But are the corporate fascists at Fox News the only ones sending Rothbard down the memory hole? Maybe not.
At his blog EconomicPolicyJournal.com, Robert Wenzel recently pointed out how Laissez-Faire books, a “free market book club” , does not list Murray Rothbard amongst it’s “Top Authors”. Now before you dismiss Laissez-Faire as simply being a mainstream economics site that doesn’t cater to libertarians or Austrians, check out their top authors:
- Ludwig von Mises
- Mark Skousen
- Friedrich A. Hayek
- Hans-Hermann Hoppe
- Ron Paul
- Bill Bonner
- Robert Higgs
- Addison Wiggin
- Jeffrey A. Tucker
- Ayn Rand
Von Mises, Hayek ,Hoppe, Ron Paul, Robert Higgs, Ayn Rand…. I think it’s safe to say Laissez-Faire is not afraid to promote libertarians and Austrian economics. So why the exclusion of Rothbard? In regards to the question posed on EPJ, Jeffrey Tucker, who left the Mises Institute (possibly the biggest proponents of Rothbard’s work) over a year ago to work at Agora Financial and relauch Laissez-Faire books, had the following response:
Tucker seems to dismiss the question all together without actually addressing it. There may be a very logical reason to not list Rothbard in the “Top Authors” section or heavily promote his works, but it would be nice if he would have simply stated this in his response.
We can postulate all day long why certain entities might have no problem pushing the works of Ludwig Von Mises and F.A. Hayek while shying away from the works of Rothbard. But you know damn well I didn’t write this article not to espouse a little conspiracy theory of my own.
Unlike Murray Rothbard, most of the other authors mentioned in this column are not truly anti-State. Von Mises, Hayek, Rand…while all have contributed greatly to the economic and philosophical foundations of libertarianism, were ultimately supporters of the existence of a State. This is where Rothbard diverges from them. Rothbard was unapologetically an “anarcho-capitalist”, believing 100% in the rights of the individual, which are ultimately incompatible with the existence of the State.
With Fox News, we can understand the removal of Rothbard’s name. After all, regular old free market economics is ok with them as long as we don’t question the existence of the State itself. Jeffrey Tucker and Laissez-Faire books on the other hand, have a little more explaining to do if you ask me.
It is my belief that as the ideas of liberty become more popular there will continue to be greater demand for the works of libertarians and Austrian economists both past and present. Many organizations which attempt to capitalize on this new found interest will decide to “play it safe” by discussing certain libertarian ideas but keep the “crazy stuff” – the anarcho-capitalists who reject the state all together as Murray Rothbard advocated – off in the fringes. This may be less a sinister attempt to marginalize Rothbard and more an attempt to become accepted in the mainstream.
Regardless, we here at Lions of Liberty find great value in Rothbard’s writings. We were all in one way inspired by Ron Paul, who often cites Murray Rothbard as one of his greatest influences. Rest assured, Murray Rothbard will not fall down the memory hole on this site. Quite the opposite; his words and ideas will be repeated and analyzed often.
Be sure to check back here each and every week for Mondays with Murray!