Transcript: How Murray Rothbard Became a Libertarian
How Murray Rothbard Became a Libertarian
Editor’s Note: This is a transcript of this video recorded in 1981.
NARRATOR: A prolific author and Austrian economist, Murray Rothbard promoted a form of free-market anarchism he called "Anarcho-Capitalism." In this talk, given at the 1981 National Libertarian Party Convention, Rothbard tells the story of how he came to learn about economics and Libertarianism as he grew up in the Bronx and attended Columbia University in the 1930s and '40s. He reminisces about meeting Frank Chodorov, Baldy Harper, George Stigler and Ludwig von Mises, and takes a number of audience questions.
ANNOUNCER: You've read a lot about Murray. You've probably read some of the things he's done for the movement, some of the things that he's always been so excellent at, keeping us in line. He's radical, he's charming, and he is warm. And also, he and I can see eye to eye, so we don't have to adjust the microphone. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) Murray is a special friend, regardless of the optical illusion. And I think that after you have the opportunity to visit with him tonight -- and I'd like the environment to be like that -- that you, too, will come to care for him as much as many of us do. The format for tonight, since we couldn't really put you around on cushions and move the tables and have a fireplace and a little wine and all, is that basically Murray is going to talk to you for a while, just for a while, and then we have some floor mics set up and you're going to have the opportunity to talk to him. And Murray always responds. (LAUGHTER) This is one of those special historical events as part of our tenth anniversary convention that doesn't really have anything to do with a lot of the politics that we might get involved with over the course of the next few days or some of the things that you might have read. This is for you, getting to know Murray, and for Murray to hear what you're thinking about. I guess the very first thing I ever read by Murray was For a New Liberty. And it's been said that that book alone probably has converted more people to Libertarian philosophy than any other piece of literature. But Murray, of course, never stopped with that. He is probably the most prolific writer of any of us in the movement and has published in just about every journal, small magazine -- some people call them rags -- as well as having his own volumes. There isn't much more that I can tell you about him, since you know so much. It's with a great deal of pleasure that I share with you tonight one of my best friends, Murray Rothbard. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) (APPLAUSE)
ROTHBARD: Thank you. Victory! (LAUGHTER) But thank you very much, Amile, for a lovely, lovely introduction. And this is really a nostalgic city here for me tonight, in keeping the occasion, being the L.P. 10 Convention. So what I'm going to do is go back and talk about the old days. And whatever prominence I have in the Libertarian movement is probably mostly due to the fact I've been around longer than anybody else, so I can talk about the old days, and give new information. Two landmarks for me that sort of struck me that the movement has really grown tremendously in the last 20 years or so -- actually, more than that -- two sort of landmarks that stick in my mind, one is that when I was sitting around my living room with my eight associates and colleagues, which I thought was the whole movement -- I'm not saying it was the whole movement; I just didn't know about anybody else. I'm sure there are other living rooms around all over the place; I've just never heard of them. And we used to joke around a lot about what future historians would write about us. Of course, we just considered it a big yuck because eight crackpots sitting around in a living room talking about wild ideas, it was sort of like an inside academic joke. But what happened back then, I guess six or seven years ago, a friend of mine, who is a professional historian, started attacking me, why didn't I keep all these precious memorabilia from the old days, the early history of the movement. And I realized, by god, future historians are now interested. So that was one landmark. The second landmark for me was that, considering again that you start off with two or three people and then escalate to eight after about 10 years -- (LAUGHTER) -- it was the first time, about 10 year ago, when I was attacked by another budding Libertarian for not being a pure Rothbardian. (LAUGHTER) That was a real shockaroo! (LAUGHTER) And after I got over the first shock, I realized, well, this is great. The movement has really advanced when I can be attacked for not being a pure Rothbardian. In the old days, we used to ask people, when we found another Libertarian, which was very rare -- occasionally, one a year -- the first thing we asked him or her was, well, how did you get started, how did you become a Libertarian, because, obviously, it was a rare event. I'm not sure whether you people ask each other that these days or not, but I'm looking forward to the great day in the future -- I figure we're now in a transition period. And some day in the not-too-distant future, it will just be a matter of course that everybody is a Libertarian. We'll be trying to figure out why is this person not a Libertarian. (LAUGHTER) However, in the old days, that was the big question: How did you become -- how did you get here? And so what I'm going to do tonight is take you back to how I got started, which is a major area of my own expertise. In the first place, I started off, I think -- my first Libertarian instincts or expressions or whatever came about when I was a little tyke. I first entered the public school system as a young lad and hated the guts of it! First experience. I hated everybody. I hated the teachers. I hated the administrator. I hated my fellow colleagues. (LAUGHTER) So I made an enormous amount of trouble for my parents. They finally yanked me out and put me into a private school, which I loved, and then flourished. And so my teeny mind immediately made a connection: public school, bad; private school, good. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) I didn't articulate that, of course, into a full system at that point. (LAUGHTER) I was growing up -- you have to realize, I have to think back now. This is really an active imagination, an historical imagination to recall growing up or to realize what growing up in New York in the 1930s was like, the 1930s and '40s. As a young, middle-class Jewish lad, everybody I knew -- this is literally everybody -- friends, relatives, acquaintances, whatever -- was either a Communist Party member or else was thinking about whether they should join it. Do I have the spirit enough, do I have the spunk to join the C.P.? That was the range of discussion. Either you were a party member or you were puzzling about whether or not you had the guts to join it. In that atmosphere -- I guess my father was the first Libertarian I knew because he was strongly opposed to all this. And so as I -- I kept shocking parties of relatives. I had, I think, four aunts and uncles who were Communist Party members and another two or three or four were pondering whether or not to join. I got more and more obnoxious to these people as I kept going, attacking them and saying this is all nonsense and so forth and so on. That was my first experience in political action with my poor beleaguered family. (LAUGHTER) Actually, as I said, my father was really my inspiration for this thing, so we got along really well, just the immediate nuclear family. It was just the rest of the people that was a problem. Then in the swanky private school in which I was enrolled, everybody except -- well, it was a very peculiar set up. I'm not going to go into great detail, but in New York City, the rich -- in those days, at least, rich people would send their sons to Deerfield Academy or whatever, out of town, to prep school. And the daughters, being especially protected, were sent to New York City schools. As a result, this particular school tried to be co-educational. There were very few boys that would show up. In other words, there was a big boy shortage. And so in order to get boys to attend the school and make it really co-educational, they gave a lot of scholarships to poor and middle-class young lads, including myself. So at any rate, I had the specter of all these wealthy, extreme liberal types, and who would be taken back and forth to school in Rolls Royce limousines, who were extreme New Dealers or Communist Party types or whatever. And I would trudge back and forth to this crummy apartment, increasingly individualistic and pro-capitalist. (LAUGHTER) At any rate, as I kept dealing with these people, I got more and more pure. I was particularly interested in economics. And I remember, in the eighth grade, I was arguing against the capital gains tax, which Roosevelt was introducing at the time. I don't remember my arguments and I don't know if they were sound or not but, anyway, I was arguing against it. Then it's true, as rumor has had it, it's true that my parents both met at an anarchist dance. This is 1920 or something like that. You have to realize the culture of that period. There were a lot of anarchist dances and balls and things like that. And it's true they met there. And I remember, my father's library -- one of the first books I remember reading was Eltzbacher's book on anarchism, which is an exotic book, which I thought was very interesting. I was not yet converted, you understand. I was only 10 or something. At any rate, I guess at one point my father was an anarchist for a couple of years. Then World War I arrived and he found out all his friends were being arrested, which they were, in opposition to the war. He decided it was healthier to drop out of political activity and become a pure chemist, which he did. (LAUGHTER) He was, first, a retreatist on the movement. (LAUGHTER) He felt retreatism was better than martyrdom at that point. At any rate, he sort of lost interest in politics. And then what happened was, in the recession of 1938, after following Keynesian policies, we had a big collapse. He decided that Keynesianism and the New Deal was wrong and so forth and became economically conservative. And so I follow right in there in that spirit. Anyway, then I guess what happened was my next brush with the state apparatus came in high school. Just as I was getting interested in the whole subject, purely for sociological reasons you understand, Mayor LaGuardia, who was an extremely beloved figure at the time among all the left liberal establishment, he wanted to immediately close down the burlesque houses. And I figured that was a personal blow on the personal front. (LAUGHTER) So that was my first interest in civil liberties. (LAUGHTER) You know, you learn from experience. So when I got to Columbia University, I found out that on the campus at the time there were -- I mean, first, you have to literally realize, literally true, on the entire campus, there were a whole bunch of Communists and Communist fellow travelers, a whole bunch of Social Democrats and two Republicans. I was one Republican. The other Republican was an English major. We didn't have very much in common at the time. I wasn't interested in literature. So that was it. And after continuing brushes at Columbia, I got more and more conservative and more and more free-market oriented in an atmosphere that was extremely, in those days, hostile to the free market. However, here's the situation. I thought I was the only free-market person in the world at that point. And there weren't too many evidences to disprove me. So when I got to graduate school, which is I guess 1945, '46, all of a sudden, there appeared this fantastic phenomenon. You have to realize, again, there was a huge number of people coming back from the Army. The graduate school was flooded; probably a peak number of students in all history. 500 people in the graduating economics class, things like that, never to be seen even before or since. And all of them were -- the big argument at the time was should you join a C.P.; should you be pro-Henry Wallace or pro-Harry Truman or whatever. And in that spirit, George Stigler, a distinguished Friedmanite economist, arrived at Columbia University campus. I remember this very vividly. His first two lectures, one was on the evils of rent control and the second was on the evils of minimum wage, at which point, almost hysteria breaks out. He was almost lynched. (LAUGHTER) I mean, this is unheard of. You have to realize -- you have to kind of have an active imagination and realize this is unheard of for anybody, an economist -- you can think, well, maybe the Hearst press might say it, but certainly nobody of academic pretensions. So I wrote away for a pamphlet, an anti-rent-control pamphlet, which Stigler had mentioned and, thereby, discovered the movement. It was my first experience with the movement. Before that, it was just me, my father, and that was it as far as I knew; a two-man movement. (LAUGHTER) Then I discovered the Foundation for Economic Education, which, in those days, was the movement. That was it. So it was a tremendous thing for me. It was like that was the "open sesame." I realized there were a lot of people around; there wasn't just one person, OK? (APPLAUSE) And I think it was a tremendous achievement on their part. They had -- well, that was it. That was the movement; people who will say the same sort of things and be interesting and recommend readings, because I had never read any of this stuff. It was all sort of -- I don't know -- it sort of evolved. There were no real readings on the topics of John Stuart Mill; nobody since 1948, as far as I knew. And so with FEE, which had seminars and cocktail parties and drew people together and so forth, I discovered the movement, and two marvelous people, which I want to pay tribute to, Frank Chodorov and Baldy Harper. (APPLAUSE) Frank Chodorov was a fantastic person. He was an unbuttoned type in a three-button world, and scattering ashes everywhere and so forth and so on. He was magnificent. And he also was very interested in discussing ideas. Many of the other people at these cocktail parties were really not. They were more agriculturally oriented. I have nothing against agriculture. I love agriculture. But many of their conversations were confined to things like agricultural metaphors, like the seed corn and butterflies. And since I know nothing about either seed corn or butterflies, I felt a little bit out of it. Chodorov, being an urban type, was not interested in seed corn. At any rate, he's a great individualist and I recommend -- there's a new book of his collected essays that just came out, called Fugitive Essays. And it was my first real experience in radical individualists. I remember it was a real shock for me. I arrived at the Columbia University book store one afternoon and I see a headline -- remember, the atmosphere at the time, it was all Socialists, to a man -- and I see this pamphlet with a headline in big, bold, red letters saying, Don't Buy Bonds; another one saying, Taxation is Robbery. That was a real shockaroo for me. I said, by god, it is robbery! And that was my first education in political theory. (LAUGHTER) So Chodorov had a great little magazine and bullet sheet called analysis, which he kept going, I guess, on his own meager funds. A very small circulation. And he had magnificent radical stuff. He was also a great writer; a marvelously clear, lucid writer. And so under the auspices of reading both Chodorov and the stuff he recommended, like Albert Jay Nock, another magnificent political philosopher and a great writer -- my hope is you discover him if you don't know about him yet -- a marvelous book called Our Enemy, the State; another great book called Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. And H.L. Mencken is my favorite writer as a core writer. (APPLAUSE) In a very short period of time, I became a pure Libertarian. In other words, before that, I was sort of moving in that direction. I was sort of a Chamber-of-Commerce type or something like that. (LAUGHTER) In a very short period of time, I became a pure Minarchist. I mean, all-out radical and in favor or repudiating the debt and everything else. I'm still a Minarchist. I still believe that point that the government -- there should be government but strictly confined to the police and courts, and that was it. The third person, of course, I want to pay tribute to is another person I met through the Foundation for Economic Education, namely my great mentor, Ludwig von Mises, who is this year's -- (APPLAUSE) This year is his centennial. You know, it's really amazing to think, considering Mises died a very few years ago -- he died almost about the same time as his centennial that's coming up. And I met him through FEE. I heard that he was giving lectures at New York University. At that point, I didn't know he was still alive because he was not mentioned in economics courses, either undergraduate or graduate, except as somebody who had tried to show that Socialism couldn't work, and that had been refuted 30 years before, and that was it. And they told me at FEE that he was coming out with a book that fall, a big new book. I said, oh, that's interesting; what is it about. They said, "Everything." (LAUGHTER) That, of course, was Human Action. And, of course, they were right. (LAUGHTER) So I started taking Mises' seminars in the fall of 1949, which is the second year he was giving it. And two months later or so, Human Action came out. So the combination had a synergistic effect. To me, it was a real conversion experience, Human Action. I read the thing I think -- you have to realize, I had gone through all the graduate economics courses, right, and I was unhappy with all of them. I felt somehow that there was something missing somewhere from the picture. I was a free-market person but I didn't have the economic theory background. I realized these things didn't work. I was politically in favor of it but I didn't really have a satisfactory economic theory to support this. And I felt the Keynesians were right when they attacked Institutionalists, and the Institutionalists were right when they attacked the Keynesians. I didn't see any real positive way out. And so I read Human Action. I say it was a conversion experience. I read it very fast. It was really like reading a new Bible. That was it. It was a tremendous experience. And at that point, I became an Austrian and a Misesian. And providing us with a satisfactory economic theory, solving all the problems such as, what about monopoly or what about business cycles and what about this, that and the other thing, and providing a firm foundation of analysis of human action itself. Mises himself, another person to pay tribute to personally, just a magnificent person. Before we met Mises, me and other people, who were disciples or potential disciples, we were quaking in our boots. I know one friend of mine, he was just a kid and he was still in high school -- He's still a great Libertarian -- and he wanted to meet Mises in the worst way. He couldn't think of a way to do it. So he shows up at Mises' door, rings the door bell. And Mises opens the door and says, "Yes," and he says, "I'm selling subscriptions to The Freeman." This, of course, is a big joke because The Freeman has no subscriptions. (LAUGHTER) I mean, you write away for it and you get it free. But he didn't know what else to say. (LAUGHTER) He hoped this would start a conversational gambit, and Mises would say, well, why are you interested in The Freeman or something. And Mises says, "I already have it," and slams the door. (LAUGHTER) And the thing about Mises is, one of the reasons why everybody was afraid to meet him was he was fiercely polemic, of course, in his writings, attacking all of his enemies bitterly with no compromise; attacking them as babblers, et cetera, et cetera. In person, however, he was just the opposite. He was this charming, wonderful person, courteous, and bringing back to us the last days of pre-World War I Vienna. All he's trying to do is bring out the best productivity in his students. His students, many of them were very dumb. Many of them were packaging majors -- (LAUGHTER) -- that he was unfortunately teaching. And this I will never forgive academia for! The only job he could really find was a job in a business school where most people were accounting majors or packaging majors, things like that. They had no interest whatsoever in what Mises was talking about. It was just an easy "A" for them. Mises didn't know anything about the American grading system. In Europe, they don't grade, "A," "B," "C," so he used to give everybody "A's," automatically. And they told him, "You can't do that, Professor." He said, OK, he'll give them automatic "A's" and "B's"; go down the list and alternate. (LAUGHTER) So since he was an easy marker, he had a lot of fillers in this little class. And yet, he would try to think of research projects. Yes, yes, you should do such and such, and have a book on this and an article on this. It sounds pathetic, but he didn't seem to realize it. He just sailed ahead, uncomplaining. He never complained about the situation; and unfailingly cheerful, unfailingly -- telling marvelous anecdotes about the old days in Vienna, magnificent anecdotes, and generally being extremely loveable as well as being brilliant. One anecdote, which those of you who are interested in philosophy will particularly appreciate, he was walking down the street with Max Scheler one day. It was the 1920s. Max Scheler was a distinguished German philosopher, very much opposed, as Mises was, to Logical Positivism, which in those days was flourishing in Vienna. Vienna was the home of Logical Positivism. And they were walking down the street -- in Vienna, you always walk; of course, a great place to walk in. He was walking down the street with Mises and he says, "Tell me, Lu, what is there in the climate of Vienna that creates so many Logical Positivists"? Mises shrugged his shoulders, a typical Misesian gesture, and says, "Well, after all, Max, in Vienna, there are now three million people, and only 12 Logical Positivists, so it can't be the climate." (LAUGHTER) Another, of course, grave thing he was always resigned to, very hesitant students who would be afraid to speak up. They figure he knows everything and they know nothing. He said, don't hesitate to say anything, he said, because whatever you say, regardless of how idiotic it is, it's already been said before by some eminent economist. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) So that was my introduction to Misesianism. In Mises' seminars, I met people who are still my very close friends who -- my so-called living room then begins in this period. Before that, there was no living room; just me and my father. And then I got married, and that was it. Me and my wife, I guess; that was the living room. And then I found these people who were high school students or just beginning college who were Misesians and we had these living-room sessions. We called ourselves the Circle Bastiat, after, of course, Frederic Bastiat, and we had about -- I don't know how many people -- maybe five hard-core people and six or seven fringe people, and that was it. And we'd sit around discussing abstract Libertarian questions, as we now, of course, are familiar with, such as -- which, in those days, nobody ever talked about because that was it. We were the only Libertarians I knew about, at least the only ones interested in these abstruse topics, like if somebody throws a gorilla into a plate-glass window, who is liable for the window. Is it the guy who throws the gorilla? Is it the owner of the gorilla? Or is it the gorilla himself? (LAUGHTER) These sorts of burning questions -- (LAUGHTER) -- that are constantly on our minds. (LAUGHTER) In those days, of course, we didn't argue about strategy. (LAUGHTER) Even people as sort of flighty as we were, to start discussing strategy with eight people, how are we going to win -- (LAUGHTER) -- that was too bizarre even for us. (LAUGHTER) And about the same winter of 1949, '50, this is, I guess, two or three months later, after my conversion to Austrianism, I became an Anarchist. And I can remember exactly what happened. It was pure logic that did it. (LAUGHTER) I used to argue with two or three very close friends of mine who were liberals, who were very intelligent. We would have sessions, sitting around arguing constantly. And we had a similar session at my house. I remember that very vividly. And we had the usual arguments. About 3:00 in the morning, they leave, because as many of you know, I'm a night person, and 3:00 in the morning was just about average for breaking up an evening. And I thought to myself, I think something important happened tonight. What the hell was it? And it wasn't just like the usual argument. And I thought the thing over and I realized what it was because one of them said, at one point -- because I was in favor of Laissez-faire. I was a pure Laissez-faire Minarchist. And they were, of course, regular liberals. And they said, look, why do you favor a government supply of police force and courts? What's your justification for that? I said something like, well, the people get together and they decide that they can have this monopoly court system and monopoly police. And they said -- I think very intelligently now -- well, if the people can get together and say that, why can't the people get together and set up a steel plant and a dam and all the rest of it? Why can't they set up all sorts of other government industries? I thought to myself, by God, they're right. I came to the conclusion that Laissez-faire was inconsistent. Either you had to go over to Anarchism and scrap government all together, monopoly government and coercive government all together, or else you had to become a liberal. Of course, it was out of the question for me to become a liberal. (LAUGHTER) That was it. That was my conversion. (APPLAUSE) Then I started reading up on this stuff, Anarchist writings and Libertarian writings, et cetera, et cetera, and broadened my perspective. But that was the essentials. That was a tremendous winter for me. It was a winter of a double-barrel conversion, first to Austrian economics and, second, to Anarchism. Also at Columbia Graduate School -- I was still located -- of course, I used to have arguments with these people all the time. At one point, an interesting thing happened, which stunned my liberal associates. They said, look, here you are an extreme right winger, which I was considered at the time, a right-wing crazy, Anarchist or whatever, and we'll have to meet you up with Whitey. Whitey was the Communist Party leader on the campus. He was sort of the thuggish type -- turtleneck sweaters, 6', 8" or whatever. In that stratosphere, who knows what the height is. (LAUGHTER) A menacing-looking figure in general. They said, we've got to get you together with Whitey. So they introduced me. They set up a meeting on the street, on Broadway. (LAUGHTER) They figured they could get out fast, you see. (LAUGHTER) And they introduced me formally. It was kind of sweet. They said, we introduce here Murray Rothbard and Whitey -- whatever his name was. He was the outstanding Marxist/Leninist on campus. And here's Murray Rothbard, who was attacking Senator Taft for having sold out to the Socialists. (LAUGHTER) And then they figured that would be it; we would pummel each other to death and that would be it. (LAUGHTER) They'd get rid of two extremists. (LAUGHTER) And oddly enough, what happened was that Whitey said, oh, an Anarchist, that's great. And so we shook hands. We had a very friendly discussion in which Whitey tried to prove to me that the way to achieve the withering away of the state is by maximizing state power, and I thought that was a little kooky. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) And my liberal friends were totally confused. Why are these people conversing even? Why aren't they hitting each other over the head with clubs? And so it was a very interesting ideological experience. I think another interesting political point was the -- when was this? Yeah, about this time, I had not -- of course, the Libertarian Party had not yet existed, so I was not yet politically pure in the sense of politically, organizationally pure. And in the 1948 campaign, I supported Thurmond for president. Thurmond was the States Rights candidate. There was a little club on the Columbia University campus called the Students for Thurmond. It was a very small club, as you might expect. (LAUGHTER) And this was during the height of political activism. Most of the people there on campus were Henry Wallace supporters, others were Truman supporters, and there were two or three Dewey supporters. And here I was a Thurmond supporter. Senator Thurmond, I remember, had one meeting. And at the meeting, there were four or five members and about 12 or 13 hostile observers who were trying to find out what kind of evil racism was going to be promoted here. And most of the people who got up and spoke were Southern States Rights types, who didn't have much to say. And I got up. Here's a New York Jewish guy giving an impassioned plea against centralized government, for decentralization. They couldn't understand this at all. Anyway, the Students for Thurmond Club did not flourish. It was my one experience with it. At any rate, we had about six or seven people or something in this little Circle Bastiat. We got along very well. I think those were very happy times. Small in number, but pure in spirit, and arguing, as I said, about arcane matters and never about strategy. I remember then, about this time, it was the first time in my life that I ever got red-baited. It was a big, new experience for me. Those of you who think I'm a Commie now, it's nothing to it. But I consider myself an extreme right winger. This is the Old Right. The Republicans and the right wingers were semi-Libertarian in those days. They were anti-military intervention and anti-conscription and they were in favor of the free market. So I considered myself sort of an extreme version of this. So I wrote a column for an obscure little magazine called Faith and Freedom, which nobody has ever heard of, I'm sure, here. And -- (APPLAUSE) It was actually a very good Libertarian magazine for its day. And it was written for right-wing Protestant ministers. That was the market that they were writing for. (LAUGHTER) The people who were writing it -- it was sort of a culture clash. And so I wrote the Washington column. I succeeded Chodorov. One of my proud moments was, when Chodorov left the Washington column, I became the Washington columnist, even though I had never been to Washington at that point. (LAUGHTER) And I wrote under a pseudonym called Aubrey Herbert, for various obscure reasons that I need not go in to; unimportant reasons. At any rate, this was the beginning of the Eisenhower administration. So I had a lot of fun attacking the statist plans of the Eisenhower administration, attacking the idea that we should spend every drop of American blood supporting Chiang Kai-shek and things like that. I was having a ball. And the editor comes flying to the east. Before that, six months before, he said I was doing a great job, a great writer and all that. He comes east and says, "I have to fire you." I said, why do you have to fire me; I thought you liked -- "That's not the point," he said. "Our constituents are writing letters, calling you a 'Communist'." These were right-wing Protestant ministers. So I was kind of stunned. It was the first time I had ever been red-baited. I'm now, of course, used to it. I mean, it was different. It was a culture shock. So at any rate, I said, since I had spent all the time attacking the government, how could I be a Communist? Because Commies are in favor of all-out government ownership of everything. But logic was lost on the editor, because he was just interested in his constituents. Fortunately or unfortunately, divine retribution struck and the magazine folded about three months later. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) Well, let's see. This brings me up to about the middle or late 1950s. Well, the late '50s, as I say, before that, it was essentially -- those of us who were Libertarians -- again, I guess it was about five or six or eight or whatever -- considered ourselves extreme right wingers in this spectrum of context. Then what happened was the right wing was taken over and changed dramatically by National Review in 1955 for various reasons. One, because of the power vacuum, because the old leaders had died off, like Taft and Colonel McCormick, it was easy for the National Review to take over and sort of change the whole picture into what the right wing is now. The right wing, in those days, was not theocratic. It was not pro-war or pro-conscription. So anyway, the face of the whole right wing was changed, at which point, those of us who had considered ourselves extreme right wingers had to start leaving the movement, leaving the right-wing movement. And it was a painful break, as these things usually are. I wrote quite a few economic articles and book reviews for National Review in the first few years. I used to be appalled by, in those days, what was the New Right, and split with them in about 1959, I guess about that period. My best friend there was Frank Meyer, a very interesting character. He was the book review editor and general theoretician for National Review; now dead. Another very, very charming chap, he was extremely erudite, intellectually exciting, a Libertarian in many ways. He was great on the public school system; hated the guts of the public school system; even hated private schools. (LAUGHTER) And as a result, he raised his kids himself, which is a heroic act, as probably many of you realize. He was pretty good on most things. Unfortunately, he was weak on one particular topic, namely, nuclear war. He was all in favor of it. (LAUGHTER) To give you a sort of a feel for what National Review was in those days -- probably still is, but I haven't had any contact with them in a long time. Frank and his wife, Elsie -- also a very charming person -- the two of them used to argue bitterly about what the foreign policy move should be. Frank was in favor of an immediate nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. (LAUGHTER) Elsie wanted to give them 24 hours to resign before we attacked them. (LAUGHTER) That was the matrix -- (LAUGHTER) -- of the spectrum of opinion in the right wing, the New Right. So we did not politically see eye to eye obviously for a long time; in fact, for the first few years when I found out what was going on. The other thing that struck me about the New Right was the monarchistic aspect. There were many sessions of cocktail parties and the big argument would be something like this: Should the Bourbon Monarchy be restored first or the Hapsburgs? (LAUGHTER) It's not the sort of thing I could relate very well to. It was even worse than agricultural metaphors. (LAUGHTER) So what happened was, after the small growth of the '40s, in other words, after finding the movement in the middle of the late '40s, and then sort of having some intellectual companions or whatever in the late '50s, we're back on square one again, more or less, by 1959 or '60. Also, Libertarians in that period are beginning to swing in a pro-war direction. Whoever they were, mostly, they were swinging in a pro-war direction. One of my close friends, who was an original member of the Circle Bastiat, Robert Schuchman, who died a tragic death very early, was the first chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom. To give you an example of YAF's spirit in those days -- probably still is -- at the founding meeting in Sharon, Connecticut, of YAF, there was a small Libertarian contingent. This was the beginning of the Libertarian/Conservative alliance -- not me, but the other people. And they suggested the term Young Americans for Freedom. The Trads, who were the middle majority, traditionalists, said, no, no, we can't use the word "freedom" because it's a Commie word. (LAUGHTER) To me, it sort of symbolizes the right wing from then on: "Freedom" is a Commie word. (LAUGHTER) But Schuchman was able to prevail with some of the cooler heads, like Buckley -- (LAUGHTER) -- to get the thing started. So we had a situation and, by the early '60s, I had to start battling on the foreign policy front, both with Libertarians as well as with other people. And when the Vietnam War started and the draft, of course, this made things much more intense, the whole problem. And Leonard Liggio and myself founded Left and Right, which is a three-times a year publication. I don't know how you say it, tri-annual, or whatever. And we figured nobody was reading it. We had some subscribers. Unfortunately, it was so ill organized and -- we never cashed anybody's check. (LAUGHTER) At any rate, as a result, we had a heavy deficit, as you can imagine. But we figured nobody was reading it. It turned out later, after the magazine died, a lot of people seemed to have been influenced by it. That's the sort of thing that happens in writing. Writing is sort of like putting a note in a bottle and putting it out in the ocean, hoping somebody reads it some day. And I would be very surprised to find out a lot of people have read it. So with this position of being anti-war and anti-draft, certainly, the war question and position, which split us totally from the right wingers, who then again accused us of being Commies for the second and not the last time, then we suddenly arrive at the famous YAF split. In other words, we get to the point in '69, I guess it was, all of a sudden, Libertarian types pop up at YAF. You'll hear, I'm sure, at the party, more discussion of this. And I wasn't really close to that because the YAF split happened in St. Louis, where I wasn't. I did contribute to the split by running an inflammatory four-page article in Libertarian Forum, which I just founded in '69 to replace Left and Right, saying, listen, YAF -- urging them all and calling upon the split of this evil organization. It apparently has -- (APPLAUSE) Once again, blowing my cool, but it seemed to have a certain amount of effect. (LAUGHTER) At any rate, YAF was split, of course. The big issue being the draft. The conservatives or the Trads at the YAF convention being horrified and appalled when one of our people, one of the Libertarian caucus people in YAF burned his draft card openly, at which point -- (APPLAUSE) -- at which point, they tried to lynch him. (LAUGHTER) And another thing is our people at St. Louis were shouting, "Laissez-faire, Laissez-faire," while they were burning the draft card. And the opposition, the Trads, were shouting, "Lazy fairies" -- (LAUGHTER) -- which, again, shows the mentality of these people. In the meantime, the Libertarian Forum had been founded; one, because Left and Right was running too many deficits and, two, because we figured that with the Nixon administration coming to power -- and this has certain parallels right now, of course -- many Libertarians at the time thought that Nixon was going to be their savior; he was going to bring liberty to America. (LAUGHTER) I swear, it's true. (LAUGHTER) Several friends of mine who, in time, became Nixon advisers were claiming Nixon's really a Libertarian. As a matter of fact, some of them said Nixon was really an Anarchist. So get that. (LAUGHTER) He said, "Nixon's one of us. You'll see. Of course, because he's a politician, he's running for office, he has to pretend he's left wing and statist and all that." (LAUGHTER) "But you'll see. Boy, when he gets into office, you'll see what he'll be." You know, take off the gloves; come out of the closet. Of course, we did see -- (LAUGHTER) -- to our deep regret. As a matter of fact, I coined a little clip at that point. Nixon was one of the pioneers in the idea of having special interest groups for Nixon, like Writers for Nixon, Housewives for Nixon, et cetera, et cetera. So I wrote a thing saying there should be a group called Anarchists for Nixon. (LAUGHTER) At any rate, there was quick disillusionment with that. But we founded the Libertarian Forum largely because my publisher and close friend, Joe Peden, believed that we should have a voice pouring out to the public, whoever reads it among the Libertarian public, pointing out that Nixon is not really a Libertarian. And that's really how it got started. And at about the same time the YAF split was going on, we started supper clubs in New York, Libertarian supper clubs. There is now a Libertarian supper club, which is very successful and peaceful. Our supper club was successful but not very peaceful. This was during the Nixon repression period. So we figured out that the meetings in my living room were getting a little too large. I have a pretty small living room. My living room is legendary but it's small. (LAUGHTER) So we decided why don't we have a supper club. We'll hire a Chinese restaurant or something; something nice and cheap, and have a meeting; just announce it and have somebody reading a paper or whatever, some short thing, and having a discussion. So we did that. We met at a Chinese restaurant, a seedy but very good Chinese restaurant at Broadway and 100th Street or 103rd Street or something like that. And we thought we'd get about 30 people. We got about 80. This was the beginning of the sort of big Libertarian growth. Where did these 80 people come from? Who the hell are they? Well, some of them, unfortunately, were police agents; at least one. (LAUGHTER) Because what happened was that the -- and you have to realize, these meetings were extremely innocuous, right? I mean, my friend, Leonard Liggio, would give a paper on History of Classical Liberalism, OK? This is Saturday night. The next morning, we had a contact -- we had one student group at that time at Fordham University. It was our big student Libertarian group, the one and only. Maybe there was another somewhere. And the people at Fordham knew the head of the New York State YAF at the time on Fordham campus. So Saturday night, Leonard Liggio gave a little talk on the History of Classical Liberalism, OK? Sunday morning, the YAF guy would call up my friends at Fordham and say, "Here's what happened last night: Leonard Liggio gave a paper; the following people attended it." And he would reel off a list of the attendees. He got that from his police spies. He was friendly with the New York City Police Department. So that was the sort of atmosphere. They didn't do anything particularly at this point, but I guess we fell around the cutting edge of the revolution. (LAUGHTER) The supper clubs were fairly successful, getting 80 people. We did something very daring and, it turned out, in retrospect, to be pretty crazy. We issued a call in the Libertarian Forum, "Come one, come all, first Libertarian convention." This was Columbus Day, 1969. Everybody show up for this mammoth thing, right? We expected we'd get about 200 people. We got about, I don't know, 400 of something like that. We thought, who are these people? We never saw them before. We never saw them later either. (LAUGHTER) If was very strange. The whole thing was very strange. It was phantasmagoric because, first of all, we held this thing in a notorious Commie hangout, a Commie hotel in Times Square. The reason we went there was because it was the cheapest hotel we could find. We were not the affluent movement we now are, right? (LAUGHTER) This is the old -- (LAUGHTER) This is the old days. So it was a place called the Hotel Diplomat and it had very cheap meeting rooms. So we had these scholarly papers, I mean, and stuff like that. And we found peculiar things were happening. Like all of a sudden, somebody would pop -- we'd stand outside and somebody would pop up with a flashbulb and take our picture. Or somebody would swagger up and say, with a sort of obvious shoulder-holster bulge with a crew cut, "Are you one of those Anarchists in there"? And we'd say, "Anarchists? Who's that? We've never heard of them. We're just standing here and going to the restaurant." (LAUGHTER) Anyway, the situation was almost a police bust. They didn't quite get to it, but it was sort of close to it. Also, the people there were kind of -- we never saw these people. It was a very strange and motley group. And don't forget, we were used to eight people in the living room or 20 people. And here we find a tremendous spectrum of Libertarian variety, ranging from people walking around with capes with dollar signs on them to -- (LAUGHTER) -- to people with black armbands, weird-looking types of black armbands, who were constantly shouting, "Kill! Loot!" (LAUGHTER) So it was not a close meeting of the minds in this convention. It probably turned off more people. It set back the movement -- (LAUGHTER) -- quite a few years, I think. (LAUGHTER) At any rate, that was what we had to learn to experience, obviously. It was such a learning process. So we have now come, I guess, to the early days -- this is '69 or a year or two later. I guess I should talk about the first publicity of the movement. What happened is that, the fall of 1970 -- the campus revolt was taking place in '69 and '70 basically, all the burning of the buildings or whatever. By the fall of '70, the whole thing had died out very, very fast. So The New York Times was looking around for something to write about. And they went to the campus and they couldn't find any political activity. They went to Columbia University, the year or two before, the heartland of sit-ins and burnings and all that, and couldn't find any political activity at all, except for one peculiar group called the Freedom Conspiracy. Who are these people? Never heard of them before. The Freedom Conspiracy was the only active political group on campus in 1970; in favor of Jim Buckley for Senate, a deviation which, fortunately, has now been corrected. (LAUGHTER) A weird group because, on the one hand, they were talking all this stuff about Laissez-faire and free markets. Also had very counter-culture types. There are black flags and so forth and so on, long hair, and all the rest of it. So The New York Times felt this was a very interesting phenomenon. They wrote a little article about it. And then, two or three months later, The New York Times magazine section, which was extremely influential in the media and general opinion groups, wrote a front-page article -- this was early 1971 -- with a picture of these guys, with the two leaders standing there on the terrazzo with a black flag and whatever and "Anarchy" written on the back, and so forth and so on. And a long lead article on this strange new group called Libertarians, and they're in favor of John Locke and so forth and so on. And this is the first time, I think, the modern Libertarian movement got any kind of media publicity. And it kicked things off, because then there were op-ed pieces about it. And what happened then was that they asked me to write something about it and I got in an argument with Buckley, as usual. And from that, they asked me to write For a New Liberty. The whole thing began to snowball. And, of course, later that year, the Libertarian Party was founded. I think, since you all, of course, all familiar with the history of the party -- you'll hear much more about it from the founding members who really are here in person in Colorado -- I'll end my reminisces and nostalgia at this point because we've now brought it up to the modern, current period. And I've brought you from the antediluvian period of my birth, all the way up -- (LAUGHTER) -- all the way up to modern times. So thank you very much. (APPLAUSE) Thank you. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: Does somebody want to talk to Murray? Somebody want to show him your bow tie? (LAUGHTER) There are some floor mics in case we have problems hearing you, or in case I can't recognize you. A question here? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) ROTHBARD: Oh, wow. (APPLAUSE) That's something I could spend at least two days on. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. I had met Ayn actually through mutual friends in the early '50s. And in those days, she was quite different. She was talking to non-Randians. There was no Randian movement at the time. (LAUGHTER) We had mutual friends and so forth. And I didn't follow up on this. And then when Atlas Shrugged came out, our little group, we were all enthusiastic about it, so we wrote her a fan letter and we got introduced. This was late '58. So the Circle Bastiat meets the Randian movement. It's sort of like Godzilla meets the Wolf Man. (LAUGHTER) It was a very peculiar experience. It was a very traumatic six months I spent in the Randian movement. And how can I sum this up? You see, the peculiar thing about it, first of all, we didn't know about cults in those days. There were no Hare Krishna and that sort of stuff. But the thing is, there was a total disjunction between the external and the internal, the exoteric and esoteric creed. In order words, in religious cults, there's an exoteric creed, which is the creed for the public, the printed writings, which draws people into the movement. Then there's the esoteric stuff. This is the stuff you get when you're a 33rd-degree whatever. Here's what we really believe, fellows. And you work your way up to that. Well, there's a very similar thing in the Randian movement. In other words, the exoteric stuff was great. I mean, it's super stuff, natural rights and liberty and reason and all that, which is why most of us got into it. And then the esoteric creed was quite different, almost contradictory, which created all sorts of fantastic problems, obviously, in their contradictions, tensions. The esoteric being essentially Ayn Rand is right on everything, every conceivable topic. But she changed her mind a lot on -- (LAUGHTER) -- on concrete issues. You know like, is Mike Wallace a good guy or a bad guy? In other words, the line was handed down, "Mike Wallace great; pseudo Objectivist." Six weeks later, Mike Wallace was a leper. (LAUGHTER) If you weren't clued in, you could get kicked out very easily. So it's that sort of atmosphere. And it's the atmosphere in which, unfortunately, we lost, of course, a lot of good people, because you either stay in and get robotized or you leave. So that's the essence of the experience to me. As I said, I could go for -- I could tell anecdotes until the cows come home. (LAUGHTER) We should get on to another topic. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm going to be real unfair here because I actually don't have a question. I have a quick announcement about something that isn't in the information. But there will be a short state chair's caucus at the back of the ballroom here if Murray ever decides to finish, which I hope he doesn't. ROTHBARD: Go on. (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don't like caucuses. (APPLAUSE) ROTHBARD: Where's Amile? (LAUGHTER) ANNOUNCER: Even you overlook me. (LAUGHTER) Is there another question? There. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) ANNOUNCER: A present. ROTHBARD: That's very sweet. Fantastic. That's great. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: "In homage to Murray from the Brazilian Libertarians." (APPLAUSE) And here is their magazine with a picture of Murray and obviously some of his writings or an article about him in a language that I don't know. (APPLAUSE) Who's next? There. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) ROTHBARD: Come on. (LAUGHTER) ANNOUNCER: You want to repeat it? ROTHBARD: Yeah. The question is, what is the orthodox Rothbard position on patents and copyright. The orthodox position is, oddly enough, the same position as Henry George, the only one I can find that has the same viewpoint: Mainly, copyrights, good; patents, bad. The reason for that is not, as you might think, because I'm a writer and, therefore, pro-copyrights. (LAUGHTER) The easy economic determinist argument. It's really because a copyright is a common-law device, which says, if you invent something or write something -- it really doesn't make a difference; you can copyright an industrial design, for example, right now. What it says is that if you put your stamp on it, whatever it is -- whether it's an invention or a book or whatever -- you stamp on a copyright, which means that you're selling it. You're selling the full ownership of it except you're keeping something, you're reserving something. You can chop up copyrights into different parts, of course. You're keeping to yourself the exclusive right to sell it, to re-sell it or anything identical to it. So that's the copyright, which is perfectly legitimate. The problem with a patent is the government steps in and says, you have the exclusive right to this invention and nobody can use it, even if he has invented something 3,000 miles away and completely independently of it. In other words, a patent is a monopoly privilege repressing people's right to do whatever they want to with their own property. And there are, of course, many -- in the history of inventions, there's lot of independent inventions where things are in the air. Like five or six people invented the telephone about the same time. And Bell out-raced them to the patent office, which was responsible for AT&T because Bell got the exclusive monopoly on any telephone. So this is really illegitimate. So for that reason -- in other words, for copyright, you have to prove the guy had access. If somebody has a similar telephone, let's say, a copyright of a telephone, somebody else comes up with a telephone 500 miles away, you have to prove the guy had access to your phone. With a patent, you don't have to do that. You have the thing and that's it. So that's the orthodox line on that. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Murray, when you were talking about the early New York years, you didn't mention the attack on Fort Dix. And I thought you might like to tell that story. (APPLAUSE) ROTHBARD: Yeah. That was at the 1969 convention, or whatever you want to call it. This thing was supposed to be very scholarly. We had planned this for a long time. It was going to be the first Libertarian Scholar's Conference basically. We now have the Libertarian Scholar's Conference every year, but that was the first planned one. We had papers and panels and all the rest of it. And what happened was, Saturday night -- we started, I guess Friday night. And Saturday night, we had a contingent which said -- actually, it was Karl Hess -- who is here this week -- said that, "The heck with this intellectual stuff, let's go and attack Fort Dix." (LAUGHTER) There was a movement on to invade Fort Dix. And I thought that was against the theory of it. (LAUGHTER) I thought it was premature. (LAUGHTER) And also, we had this scholar's thing planned, you see, and it wasn't on the agenda. But anyway, so we had a big split. (LAUGHTER) We had a big split in the movement that night. I guess about half the people marched on Fort Dix and the other half stayed with the scholar's conference. And what happened was, on Sunday, the march on Fort Dix occurred. The lady who was the head of the Michigan contingent, who, in the whole history of the Libertarian movement, she was probably the wackiest person I ever met. And that's saying a hell of a lot. (LAUGHTER) And her whole contingent came with the black armbands and so forth. So she came stomping back from Fort Dix, marching down the hall, seizing the microphone from the most genteel discussion of patents and copyrights there ever was, and started cursing us out on no uncertain terms. You SOBs, et cetera, et cetera. How dare you sit here while we're being gassed at Fort Dix! Of course, they were gassed obviously from the -- one might have expected. (LAUGHTER) So I guess that's about it. (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Murray? ROTHBARD: Yeah? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'd like to hear the origin of the Rothbardian penchant for bow ties. ROTHBARD: OK. It's very simple. I have to admit that, in my earlier days, I was wearing regular flunky ties. And when I got married, my wife decided I looked much better in bow ties, and that was it. That was the end of the -- (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: Over there. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, Murray, how do you feel that the founding of the Libertarian International is going to affect the future of international Libertarianism? ROTHBARD: I don't know. There is a Libertarian International being founded. It's meeting for the first time next summer at Interlaken in Switzerland. And it should be great. It's hard to know. I'm not really in touch with the European movements, but there are -- I know there are -- I just met a few Norwegian Libertarians I had never heard of before, very good people. And there's a whole Icelandic Libertarian movement. Apparently, there's -- a Misesian Austrian professor of economics -- imagine how you're isolated in Iceland, right? To be isolated in New York is one thing. To be isolated in Iceland is something else. And have been carrying on the torch for 25 years or so. And there is now an Icelandic movement. Unfortunately, most of us can't read Icelandic. We're cut off from this. So the Libertarian International group will give us an opportunity to meet these people, for one thing, and find and interchange views and so forth. I think it should be great. I don't know how many people will show up at the first meeting. I guess you have to try and find out. The first -- the beginning of a Libertern. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: Yes? PHIL PROSSER: (INAUDIBLE). ROTHBARD: Another present for me? Oh, thank you. ANNOUNCER: Would you like to say something about this present? ROTHBARD: Yeah. ANNOUNCER: This is a present from the people in Park County. This is Phil Prosser. PHIL PROSSER: The people of the Park County Libertarian Party have published a free enterprise calendar honoring those people who have made the industrial and political revolution in the last 300 years, rather than politicians and generals. And we would like to present this copy to Murray Rothbard for his pioneering efforts on behalf of Libertarianism. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: Oh, Murray's getting all these new toys. ROTHBARD: Yeah. ANNOUNCER: Who else has a question, a comment, more presents? (LAUGHTER) Over there. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I was just wondering how you would feel about, when we finally get elected and get to disband this government as much as we like to, would you favor keeping some of NASA as a defense measure, strictly not to put nuclear weapons in orbit, but as surveillance satellites and an early warning system, or would you rather see NASA totally disbanded and allow free enterprise to just take over space and --- ROTHBARD: Free enterprise taking over space the whole way. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) That was an easy one. ANNOUNCER: That seems like it's the best mic over there. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, OK. ANNOUNCER: I hope I'm not missing somebody over there but the lights are kind of obscuring my vision, so you might have to speak up. Is there somebody behind that mic? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: This mic? (LAUGHTER) ANNOUNCER: OK. (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I understand that Murray has still not related the story of the free-market lighthouse at the Columbia conference in 1971. And I think that is a story that bears repeating. ROTHBARD: Yes. Let me see. (APPLAUSE) That was the Columbia University one, right? The conference? Yeah, there was a whole thing -- I've had a series of jousts with Bill Buckley over the years. Usually, what happens is, if he thinks we're getting stronger at all or getting any publicity, then he attacks me. And then, 10 years later, the same sort of thing happens, and he attacks me again. So it's the degree of effectiveness is dependent on the degree of attack. At any rate, one time, he said that, wow, these Libertarians, they can sit around in their busy little seminars worrying about denationalizing lighthouses, whereas, we conservatives are out there defending America from the Communist hordes. So I answered him that I was more interested in foreign policy than I was in denationalizing lighthouses actually, strange as it might seem. And, of course, I was opposing his view of it. As my friend, Ronald Hamowy, wrote, "He refuses to thank Mr. Buckley for saving his life." So at any rate, at the Columbia University conference, a very sweet gesture, I was presented with a lighthouse as a symbol of so-called impractical purist Libertarianism. That's, I think, as I remember it. Fill me in more on it. The lighthouse was sort of the symbol. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Murray, you weren't initially a supporter of the L.P. What got you to join? What turned you positive on it? ROTHBARD: Well, it wasn't that I was against it. Look, what happened, I'll tell you very frankly what happened. You have to remember, nobody ever heard of a Libertarian Party, right? As far as I knew, there were still only about eight Libertarians in the country. And I suddenly get a call one night from somebody from Colorado saying, we'd like to offer you the nomination for president of the United States. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) So I figured it was another Libertarian nut and hung up. (LAUGHTER) So I just didn't take the idea seriously at all. I thought there were so few people, how could you talk about running for president. And I was wrong. And obviously, the idea caught on. It was a tremendous tactical, strategic success. And so about a year later, I joined the party. I joined the party after my first attendance of the New York L.P. convention. I was so impressed with the people there, and that was it. So I've been here ever since. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: He obviously believes in it now since he's accepted the title of Mr. Libertarianism. Jack, were you there? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes. Murray, you could probably clear up an area of doctrine that's been bothering me. ROTHBARD: Yeah. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I was told at one time, and I don't know if this is apocalyptical or not, that you were in favor of the U.S. and Russia negotiating to get rid of nuclear arms. ROTHBARD: Yeah, sure. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: And I thought, well, that's nice. The two governments get rid of nuclear arms but maybe private people will still continue to own them because, as Libertarians, I don't think we take them away. ROTHBARD: Yeah. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: And then I was thinking of Leonid Brezhnev with his nuclear arms, and I wasn't feeling very safe. And I thought of Exxon with theirs, and I wasn't feeling very safe. And I wondered what the position really is on this. ROTHBARD: There's no canonical position on that yet. (LAUGHTER) It's a tricky area within the spectrum of Libertarian movements, as far as I know, every view on it. Some friends of mine believe that nuclear weapons should be illegal because they're, per se, aggressive. In other words, the very holding of them means you're threatening somebody. Others, some of the science people, believe every man or woman should have his own laser beam and a nuclear missile. I'm sort of middle of the road on that, as I am on almost everything else. (LAUGHTER) My view is that it should be legal, but I would sort of be very wary of anyone who had one. (LAUGHTER) Organize a boycott. You know, don't trade with this guy that's building a nuclear missile or something like that. (LAUGHTER) I don't think -- that really needs a lot of discussion. It really does. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Are you in favor of the two governments negotiating for them, as governments, to take away their nuclear weapons -- ROTHBARD: Oh, yeah. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: -- whether or not other people do? ROTHBARD: Oh, sure. Oh, sure. Absolutely. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) ROTHBARD: Yeah. The question is that the Reagan administration seems to be paranoid about the Russian threat for invading the United States, and would I comment on the Russians' economic ability to wage war. I don't really think they believe the Russians will invade the United States. I don't think even they believe that. I think what they want to do is keep American hegemony over all of the rest of the world so that what they're worried about is a possible Russian invasion of West Europe or Persian Gulf or Afghanistan or whatever. It's too bizarre to think they'd actually invade the United States. Their ability is pretty miserable and getting worse all the time. They can't even handle Poland, for heaven's sake. I mean, the Communist empire is cracking up. It's one of the great, in a sense, under-sold stories of the 20th century. The fact you had a Russian empire, a Communistic empire, which was monolithic in the days of Stalin, where the Kremlin gave the orders and everybody jumped from New York to China, and we now have a situation where most of the Communist Parties have split off, where China and Russia are almost at war. As a matter of fact, Russia is much more paranoid about China than they are about the United States. They are scared stiff of China. And they can't even keep Poland. Poland is extremely important to them because Poland is the gateway to Eastern Europe. And it's between them and East Germany. And so the fact that they didn't feel they had the guts to invade Poland, I think shows they're really in bad shape. And the peculiar thing, the ironic part of this whole thing is that, in the last 40 years, Russia is now at its weakest position -- economically, militarily, geographically, whatever -- and yet, now we revive the whole Cold War nonsense about an imminent Russian threat and the bomb shelters and missiles are coming and all the rest of it. ANNOUNCER: There's somebody hiding behind the lights over there. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Murray, I'd like to ask you what you think is the best book for a comprehensive introduction to Austrian economics. ROTHBARD: What sort of level? Introductory level, primer level? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Something appropriate to college study. ROTHBARD: The trouble is there's really no one book that you can say is a textbook introduction to Austrian economics. There's some good elementary stuff, like Ballve's Essentials of Economics, but it's really at a much lower level. And there's some very good books, you know, monographs on different topics. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) ROTHBARD: Yeah. That's not really a textbook type though. I would recommend Man, Economy, and State in a pinch. (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: In other words -- ROTHBARD: It's difficult. Maybe O'Driscoll's book on Hayek might be a good introduction. Unfortunately, nothing's really hit the -- you see, the trouble is there's no incentive to write a college textbook on Austrian economics because nobody would adopt it. Very few colleges would adopt it, and so very few publishers would publish something if it only gets three adoptions, and very few writers would bother doing it. So you have to break through that vicious circle, which will happen in time, because Austrian economics is growing all the time. Eventually, it will get to the point where somebody will sit down and write a textbook, and that would be it. But I can recommend things in specific areas, but -- UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: OK. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Murray, did you have any involvement with the anti-war and peace movement of the '60s? Did you or any of the people and your friends have any involvement with that? ROTHBARD: Yeah. Yeah, I was involved to some extent. Let's see, the question was, was I involved in the anti-war movement of the '60s. I was with the Free University of New York, which opened up about that period, the first couple of years, which was quite good, very good lecturers, top experts, all anti-war, many of them Marxists. And that was pretty enjoyable, you know, some of the speakers there and so forth. As far as activism goes, not too much. I did write stuff. I did write inflammatory literature, which caused my biggest success at that point. There were two student groups, I think, two Libertarian groups in the country. One was at Fordham, which I mentioned already. The other was at the University of Kansas. The University of Kansas had a YAF chapter, which was Libertarian. After reading Libertarian Forum, they all shifted and joined Students for a Democratic Society, the whole chapter. Kind of a shockaroo for them. (LAUGHTER) So that happened. I wasn't really more involved. I got to know a lot of the New Left revisionist historians, like Ron Radosh and James Weinstein. But other people were much more involved. Leonard Liggio was much more active at that point in the actual organizational stuff than I was. ANNOUNCER: Toni? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: I've just been asked, before I give my question, if you'd make a request to the people in the back of the room to keep it down. We're having a hard time listening. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: If they could have heard you that would have been enough. Would the people in the back of the room try to keep their voices low or move into other areas that aren't going to interfere with the people here hearing Murray? Did you hear me? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) ANNOUNCER: Thanks. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) ANNOUNCER: Emerling is telling me I'm a pushy broad. (LAUGHTER) OK, Toni, it's all quiet for you. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Murray, I just wondered if you thought that the Gold Commission was going to recommend a return to the Gold Standard. And, if so, would you tell me what you think the price of gold will be? (LAUGHTER) ROTHBARD: No, they're not going to recommend a Gold Standard. The Gold Commission was mandated by the Congress in the last days of the Carter administration by some writer to some bill, appropriations bill. The president was, therefore, mandated legally to appoint a commission to investigate the return of the Gold Standard. Reagan finally did it after about six months of tremendous pressure. After all, it's legal; you have to do it, right? It's illegal not to. So he finally appointed one, I think, about June. There are 17 or 18 members of the commission of which 14 or 15 are dedicated -- or maybe slightly less -- are dedicated fanatical anti-gold people. Most of them are Monetarists. Most of them are either from the Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve Board. There are, however, a couple of very good gold people on it, Ron Paul, particularly, who is on the Gold Commission, a representative, a Republican of Texas; and Lew Lehrman, of the Lehrman Institute. So what they're planning to do, I think, is write a minority report. The majority report will be the usual Friedmanite baloney, OK? The minority report should be, I hope, a scholarly, bang-up, historical, theoretical and political justification for the Gold Standard, which I hope will get a lot of publicity and influence. So that's basically what's going to happen. A Gold Commission, for example, mandated -- the original Gold Commission plan was that a report would be in by October, although, they only got set up in July and they have only three meetings. So I think we got it extended to January, but that's basically it. There will be just about time enough to write a minority report. What the price of gold would be if we really had a good set up, if we really had a good Gold Commission, I'm not sure. It would have to be studied. It would be something like $1500 or $2000 an ounce, something like that. That would need a lot of work, but around that. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: What are your views on abortion and children's rights? ROTHBARD: We just passed a very good platform, two platform planks on the topic, which I agree with 100%. To sum up, on abortion, I'm 1000% in favor of everybody's right to own his or her own body, which implies the right of terminating pregnancy. So I'm very much in favor of the right to have an abortion. I'm obviously not pro-abortion, like I think everybody should have an abortion, OK? (LAUGHTER) I don't think there's anybody in that camp. I'm pro-choice, pro-ownership of one's body. On children's rights, I'm in favor of basically children might not to be molested, attacked, mutilated, et cetera, and have the right to get out. I think that's the key, a right to run away or to contract out with some other foster parent. That, I think, would solve a lot of the whole problem. But I recommend the two planks, the two platform planks on that. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: Over on this mic. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, Murray, you mentioned in passing that it appeared to you the Soviet hegemony was breaking up. ROTHBARD: Right. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: But some might hold that makes them all the more dangerous and that they're going to have to resort to more drastic measures to defend the Soviet regime. So I'd like to know how you stand on that in the light of an Anarchist stand on how armed forces ought to be organized, and also how you stand on the question of unilateral disarmament. ROTHBARD: Well, I don't understand the argument. I don't understand the argument that the weaker you are, the more likely you are to attack. I think that's just bonkers. A variant of that, by the way, which has now fortunately dropped out of discussion, is the so-called Thirsty Bear Theory, which was very popular around the spring of this year, winter and spring, which has now fortunately died out. The Thirsty Bear theory was that Russia is short of oil and, therefore, since they haven't got as much oil, they'll have to invade the Persian Gulf to get it. There are many things wrong with this theory, namely, one, they could buy the oil. They don't have to invade for it. They don't have to invade the Persian Gulf. And secondly, then it turns out the CIA just recently came out with a report saying, shucks, I guess they're not short of oil; they've got plenty of oil in Russia. So the Thirsty Bear Theory is now shot. I just don't understand that argument. I think it's bonkers. I don't know of any state in the history of the world which acted on that kind of basis. And on -- now, what was the other parts to your question? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) ROTHBARD: Yeah. There was something before that -- Russia and something. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE) ROTHBARD: Yeah. No. That, I think, I've answered. Anyway, on disarmament, we've passed the pro-unilateralist disarmament plank today. (APPLAUSE) I think it's a very intelligent plank. What is says is we're in favor of unilateral disarmament. Pending that, not being able to get that, we favor the following thing, joint mutual disarmament, no first-nuclear-strike pledges, et cetera, et cetera. So it's a little bit like the taxation plank in its sort of structure. The reason why I haven't been advocating unilateral disarmament fiercely for many years is I'm convinced that we could get joint disarmament very easily. In other words, there's not much point of having unilateral disarmament when you can easily get mutual joint disarmament. It's kind of, you know -- (APPLAUSE) So that's the only reason I've not advocated this thoroughly for a long time. But I think the basic problem is, the bottom line is that nuclear weapons are "the" big threat to the survival of the human race. It's just as simple as all that. That's mass slaughter. And mass slaughter is the big thing which we're supposed to be against. So, to me, that's the bottom line of the question. ANNOUNCER: Mark, did you have a question? UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes. Your reminiscences called to mind George Nash's excellent book The Conservative Intellectual Movement in the U.S. Since 1945 -- ROTHBARD: Right. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: -- where he discusses the tri-party composition of the conservative movement as consisting of the Libertarian, Anti-Communist and Traditional elements. Do you foresee a combination of circumstances arising in the next 10 to 25 years that would result in the re-emergence of that Libertarian element and the right wing returning to its Libertarian heritage? ROTHBARD: Well, I'd love to see it but I don't see it. I don't think it's going to happen. The right wing's gotten worse on most questions. On non-economic questions, it's probably gotten worse since then. Nuclear policy is just as bad. Yeah, nuclear war policy is just as bad. Plus, they've got all this terrorism nonsense, which they're -- you know, everybody under every bed is a KGB agent. Plus, the Moral Majority, which has shifted a lot of right-wing opinion. You see, in the old days, in the 1950s and '60s, nobody talked about reestablishing theocracy or outlawing abortion or anything like that or -- the only thing they were worried about was prayer in the public schools, which seems pretty innocuous now, looking back on it. So the whole Moral Majority thing, I think, has shifted the position to a much more compulsory morality viewpoint than it was in those days. So it looks like it's swinging the other direction, except on economics, where it's not that great anyway. See, the problem with the right wing in economics is that they're not really that interested in it. When I was going to right-wing rallies back in the '50s, I was distressed to find that nobody would ever cheer -- there would be no standing ovation for the free market, for liberty or something. The only standing ovation was all power to Chiang Kai-shek. (LAUGHTER) There was no real -- essentially conservatives, except for a few economists, who are interested in economics obviously, essentially, they give lip service to the free market. Their hearts are really elsewhere. Their hearts are on compulsory theocracy and nuking all of the Russians. So I mean, I'm not ruling it out. Obviously, it's not logically impossible that could happen. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: How do you account for the Old Right's antipathy towards interventionist foreign policy and why was there a lack of theoretical connection between the free market and a non-interventionist foreign policy? ROTHBARD: Yeah. There was; there has been. The 19th century liberals, Classical Liberals were totally all-out anti-interventionists. They were not Anarchists, by the way. In those days, you didn't have to be an Anarchist in order to be against foreign intervention. Richard Cobden, Bright, all these people, all the Classical Liberals were very anti-foreign intervention. They were so-called Little Englanders. They were very, quote, "Isolationists," unquote, and very anti-militarists. Thomas Jefferson, for example, was really in favor of disbanding the entire Army and Navy, not just against the draft, against the whole Army and Navy. (APPLAUSE) Unfortunately, what happened was we lost -- as the Classical Liberal tradition died out, we lost these moorings. We lost the remembrance of them, or the whole tradition. Then, the modern right wing was essentially created by the New Deal, in the 1930s and '40s, in reaction against the excesses, against the leap into statism and the New Deal. So the right wing was essentially a reactionary movement in the sense of acting against this new leap. So it was a coalition of everybody that was against the New Deal, which was a very broad coalition. And most of these people weren't philosophically oriented at all. They weren't much, really, even free market, particularly. But they were against the further leap into statism and they were against, then, World War II. So you wound up, after World War II, with a right wing which was semi-Libertarian, Isolationist, anti-war, anti-draft, free market, but it didn't have much of a philosophical -- it didn't have any theorists much. They didn't have any readings. It was really a mass movement without a theory. It used to be called the Dumb Right. That was sort of the expression in those days. There was almost no intellectual content. So what happened was, in the middle of the 1950s, Senator Taft died. Colonel McCormick was the editor of The Chicago Tribune, which was, in those days, an all-out anti-war publication. When these people died out and just retired, it left a power vacuum, intellectual vacuum, which National Review then could fill very well. National Review was a brilliantly edited magazine. So it cut through the right wing like a knife through butter. That's -- UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: The third part of my question was, earlier this year, when you visited us at the University of Colorado, you said that you were coming out with a new book on the rise of statism in the 19th century. Could you tell us the status of that? ROTHBARD: The status is I'm in the middle of it. In other words, this is a book I'm working on, on the Progressive Era, on the origins of modern statism in the Progressive Era. What happened with this, as happens with all my books, they get longer as I get into it. The way I got started with my history book was that I got a small grant to write a two-volume history of the United States. Somebody came to me and said, Murray, we want you to write a two-volume history of the United States. Take the usual facts that everybody agrees on, like Lincoln was elected president, something like that, and write the Libertarian interpretation of it, right? It should be a lead-pipe cinch. OK, great, could get it done in a year and a half. What happened was, unfortunately, I found out that two-volume textbooks leave everything out. You can't just take the facts and put a new interpretation on them, because the facts were all left out. So I started bringing in the facts. I'd find tax rebellions in Colonial New Jersey. I can't leave that out, right? So the thing starts getting longer and longer, and I wind up with a five-volume book on the Colonial Period and the rest of it dropping out. (LAUGHTER) And the Progressive Era is a fascinating era, because I find out that -- you can't imagine the horrors that went on in the Progressive period. You just can't imagine it, at every front, every conceivable front, not just economic and foreign policy, everything. This is the era that the psychiatrists take over and try to wreck everybody; doctors, social workers, you name it, they're all in it together. So the topic got bigger. I'm in the middle of it. I will, however, finish it. Anyway, that's the status of it. It's not imminent. My next imminent book is my The Ethics of Liberty book, which is coming out this fall at Humanities Press. Which I'm quite proud of, because I think it's sort of like the scholarly counterpart of For a New Liberty. It goes into advance problems like blackmail theory, children's rights and things like that. So I get a little plug for that. ANNOUNCER: Yes, you've had your hand up for a while. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) ROTHBARD: OK, the gentleman asked, do I think there's a conspiracy for one-world government and, if so, is the Trilateral Commission part of it. I don't think there's a conspiracy for one-world government. There's an establishment that's in favor of an international political, economic admixture. The basic objective, on the monetary front, for example, what they really want is a one-world bank, like a one-world reserve system, issuing world paper money so that the whole world can inflate together. And so you wouldn't have to worry about gold or exchange rates. Everybody would be happily inflating together. That's one of the programs of the Trilateral-Commission-sort of people. I think, in general, though, we have to be sophisticated about conspiracy analysis because many conspiracy theorists tend to think there's one group of bad guys sitting somewhere in some room pushing all the buttons. You know, like saying, OK, Russia and China, now fight and pretend that you're enemies, and things like that. Well, it doesn't work that way. In other words, what there are, are a whole bunch of competing power structures or power-oriented people who are trying to get control of the state apparatus and run it. And you have, say, four, five or six of these groups. Sometimes they're in coalition; sometimes they're fighting each other and whatever. I think that's the essence of it. And I think, looking at it that way, a lot of this stuff is very important. Obviously, the Trilateral Commission was obviously running the Carter administration, for example. Even the establishment media conceded that. ANNOUNCER: We only have time for about one or two more questions. And there are a couple of people over at this mic here. So if you go ahead. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Dr. Rothbard, what do you see as the future of the acceptance of the Austrian school of economics? And when do expect to win the Nobel Prize for economics? (APPLAUSE) ROTHBARD: The answer to the second question very easy -- absolutely not. Austrian, I think the future is very good. The Austrian school started with zip in the 1940s or whatever. It started really only with Mises and Hayek and that was about it. It has now grown tremendously since 1971 or '73, about, coincidentally, with the rise of the Libertarian Party, by the way. And we now have conferences and seminars. We have two or three universities. We have several, like a foco, they used to call it, of Austrian professors. We still haven't broken though yet. What we have to do is to capture, so to speak, a graduate department. We have to be able to get a graduate school we can turn out Austrian doctorates. We haven't gotten that yet, but we're getting close to that sort of thing. So I think the future is very bright. See, one of the problems is, one of the reasons for that is that the Keynesian establishment is finished and they can't solve any of these problems, and they know it. They can't understand, why is it an inflationary recession all the time; why is it prices keep going up all the time, even though we have recessions. There's no way to explain it. The Friedmanites can't explain it either, by the way. Only the Austrians have a solution to that kind of problem. So I think the future is very good. I think it's a rapidly growing movement. It's still, I guess, the way the Libertarian Party was six years ago or something. You know, that sort of parallel. ANNOUNCER: All right, the last question, same mic. UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thanks, Amile. Murray, I've got a little gift to commemorate a special occasion in Toronto a while back. But I wondered if you could just tell the audience whether it's an Anarchist principle to enter strange women's bedrooms in the middle of the night? (LAUGHTER) ROTHBARD: Of course. (LAUGHTER) OK. I want to get in a final plug. Starting at this moment, at the Estonia, at this moment, there's a Center for Libertarian Studies hospitality suite, rooms 1217-18. The Center for Libertarian Studies is an outfit that I'm intimately associated with. I edited the Journal of Libertarian Studies. They're holding a scholar's conference this fall, their fifth of sixth annual one. And we're kicking off the Ludwig von Mises fellowships, which are fairly munificent post-doctorate or pre-doctorate graduate fellowships in any discipline, any discipline related to Libertarianism. So anyway, I invite you all to attend rooms 1217-18. I'll be there myself for a while so we can continue this more informally. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: There are a couple of announcements. (APPLAUSE) NARRATOR: That was Murray Rothbard in 1981, sharing how he became a Libertarian and his subsequent intellectual journey. For more on the philosophy and history of liberty, including more content featuring Rothbard, visit us on the web at www.libertarianism.org.