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Murray Rothbard, R.I.P.

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Tags BiographiesAustrian Economics Overview

03/01/1995Hans-Hermann Hoppe

The Free Market 13, no. ( 1995)

 

The intellectual achievements of Murray Newton Rothbard (1926-1995)—eminent scholar and friend—are monumental. He is the author of 25 books and thousands of article in scholarly and popular journals. His work covers the entire spectrum of the social sciences: pure economic theory, history, sociology, philosophy, religion, languages, and politics.

His main work in economics, Man, Economy, and State, appeared in 1962, when Murray was only 36. It elucidated the entire body of economic theory, in a step-by-step fashion, beginning with incontestable axioms and proceeding to the most intricate problems of business cycle theory and monopoly theory. It ranks alongside Ludwig von Mises's Human Action as a towering achievement within the Austrian School tradition.

Power and Market analyzed the economic consequences of government interference. Several books, among them What Has Government Done to Our Money?, deal with the theory and history of money and banking. America's Great Depression applied business-cycle theory to show that the downturn resulted from the failures of central banking. His four-volume history of colonial America, Conceived in Liberty, was an ambitious attempt to restore narrative history to the economic literature. In philosophy and methodology, Rothbard dealt with logical problems in the social sciences, the theory of measurement, and the foundations of probability theory.

His last years were his most productive. In addition to teaching economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and serving as head of academic affairs for the Mises Institute, he wrote articles for the Free Market, the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Chronicles, and notes, articles, and reviews in academic journals, including the Mises Institute's Review of Austrian Economics. And he completed two volumes of a full-scale history of economic thought, published by Edward Elgar. It is the biggest event in the field in more than 40 years.

Despite these mind-boggling achievements, Murray, like his revered mentor Ludwig von Mises, remained an outsider in academia, and died before he received the Nobel Prize he deserved. A brilliant stylist, equipped with razor-sharp logic and unrivaled polemical talent, he fought against the statism that defines this century's economic and political order. He opposed the politics of welfarism, empire, inflationism, taxation, regulation, ethical and epistemological relativism, and never sought power, prestige, or media approval for himself.

I was a Rothbardian long before I met the joyous warrior-scholar, and it was the grace of my life to work with him for the last ten years. His infectious, cackling laughter is unforgettable. He was a night person, working until four or five in the morning, and decidedly low-tech. He never used a computer, and possessed enormous mental quickness and an encyclopedic breadth of knowledge. His interests and hobbies were just as vast: from movies to early jazz, from Baroque church architecture to basketball, from ancient music to soap operas.

His classes were always packed, partly because students took them a second and third time without credit, and adults visited as well. And at seminars and conferences around the world, he touched the intellectual and personal lives of thousands. I loved him as a son loves his father, a father whose name and work will never be forgotten as long as man seeks liberty.

Cite This Article

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "Murray N. Rothbard, R.I.P." The Free Market 13, no. 3 (March 1995).

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