The Rothbard Reader

Chapter 3: Murray Rothbard in The New Banner

Managing Editor’s Note: Having never met Murray Rothbard prior to this interview I was only aware of his scholarly side—through his writings; I had no conception of the type of personality which I was to encounter. Donald Stone, editor of the libertarian newsletter Pegasus and friend of The New Banner, who accompanied me and assisted in the interview, had only briefly met Murray Rothbard on one occasion a year before. We were both quite pleased, therefore, to discover that his esteemed reputation as a scholar was matched by his joviality and candor as a host and conversationalist. The New Banner is confident that with this interview, it has made available to its readers an up-to-date view of the libertarian struggle by the man who stands today as perhaps the foremost libertarian.


New Banner: In the no. 7 issue of the Ayn Rand Letter, Miss Rand admonishes her readers, “Do not join ... libertarian hippies who subordinate reason to whims and substitute anarchism for capitalism.” Do you think that this remark was directed at you and other advocates of free market alternatives to government institutions, and do you think this remark is in keeping with Miss Rand’s oft-stated principle of “defining your terms”?

Rothbard: Well, it’s hard to say, because you notice there are very few specific facts in her discussion. There is one sentence covering “libertarian hippies.” Who are they? Where are they?

The movement that I’m in favor of is a movement of libertarians who do not substitute whim for reason. Now some of them do, obviously, and I’m against that. I’m in favor of reason over whim. As far as I’m concerned, and I think the rest of the movement, too, we are anarcho-capitalists. In other words, we believe that capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism, and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism. Not only are they compatible, but you can’t really have one without the other. True anarchism will be capitalism, and true capitalism will be anarchism.

As for her remark being in keeping with the principle of defining one’s terms—well, obviously not. I don’t think she has ever defined the term “anarchism,” as a matter of fact.

New Banner: Do you see a possible future for libertarian retreatism or do you see it as a blow against an effective political development of the movement?

Rothbard: I don’t think it’s a blow, because there are not going to be many retreatists. How many people are going to retreat to their own island or their own atoll! Obviously, half a dozen people go out there, if they do, and it might be fine for them. I wish them well, but personally I wouldn’t do it. I’m not going to go off to some damn island or some damn atoll! Ha. I think that most libertarians or most Americans won’t do it either.

This might be a personal out for these individual people, but it is hardly a solution for the country. It’s not a solution for me or for anybody else that I know of. And so I just think that they are interesting to read about, but they’re irrelevant—to use a much clichéd term—to the current concerns of myself or the rest of the public.

Even if it were feasible—even if the government didn’t crack down on it as a “hazard to navigation” or whatever, which it undoubtedly would, even if they could get it off the ground, who is going to go there?

Some of the retreatists, by the way, are philosophically very bad. You might know of this fellow Tom Marshall who is the big retreatist and nomad leader. He has this view that in order to be free you have to be a nomad. In other words, any ties to a place or a career injures your freedom. I think this is an evil philosophical error—which all too many people have.

New Banner: The American people seem on the whole to be passively if not actively supporting Phase II [of Nixon’s price controls].1 Conservatives are more concerned with law and order than with economic freedom; liberals are calling for more restrictions after this recent taste of controls. The rest the country apparently will resign itself to any situation after so many years of Orwellian double-talk. Where does this leave the libertarian? Alone for the next generation?

Rothbard: Well, not necessarily, because I think what’s happened is that a vacuum of leadership has developed in the country about Phase I and Phase II. In other words, libertarians have been the only people who have been against Phase I and II from the beginning and on principle. Some of the labor union leaders are against it because they didn’t get enough share of the pie. They obviously were not against it on principle. Libertarians were the only ones from the very beginning to establish this record and to go out to the public and attack it. I know that I’ve spent an enormous amount of time attacking it, debating Herb Stein and so forth. But I think it’s useful also strategically, because Phase II is going to fall apart. It’s already beginning to crack-up. As it cracks-up libertarians will be the only ones who have established a record of opposition to it. I think in a sense we can fill the vacuum. This might be a very good thing for the libertarian movement. As the thing falls apart people will begin to turn to us for leadership. “Well, here are these guys who’ve been prophetic. When everybody else was going along with it they realized it wasn’t going to work.”

New Banner: Some libertarians have recommended anti-voting activities during the 1972 election. Do you agree with this tactic?

Rothbard: I’m interested to talk about that. This is the classical anarchist position, there is no doubt about that. The classical anarchist position is that nobody should vote, because if you vote you are participating in a state apparatus. Or if you do vote you should write in your own name, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this tactic in the sense that if there really were a nationwide movement—if five million people, let’s say, pledged not to vote, I think it would be very useful. On the other hand, I don’t think voting is a real problem. I don’t think it’s immoral to vote, in contrast to the anti-voting people.

Lysander Spooner, the patron saint of individualist anarchism, had a very effective attack on this idea. The thing is, if you really believe that by voting you are giving your sanction to the state, then you see you are really adopting the democratic theorist’s position. You would be adopting the position of the democratic enemy, so to speak, who says that the state is really voluntary because the masses are supporting it by participating in elections. In other words, you’re really the other side of the coin of supporting the policy of democracy—that the public is really behind it and that it is all voluntary. And so the anti-voting people are really saying the same thing.

I don’t think this is true, because as Spooner said, people are being placed in a coercive position. They are surrounded by a coercive system; they are surrounded by the state. The state, however, allows you a limited choice—there’s no question about the fact that the choice is limited. Since you are in this coercive situation, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try to make use of it if you think it will make a difference to your liberty or possessions. So by voting you can’t say that this is a moral choice, a fully voluntary choice, on the part of the public. It’s not a fully voluntary situation. It’s a situation where you are surrounded by the whole state which you can’t vote out of existence. For example, we can’t vote the Presidency out of existence—unfortunately, it would be great if we could—but since we can’t why not make use of the vote if there is a difference at all between the two people. And it is almost inevitable that there will be a difference, incidentally, because just praxeologically or in a natural law sense, every two persons or every two groups of people will be slightly different, at least. So in that case why not make use of it. I don’t see that it’s immoral to participate in the election provided that you go into it with your eyes open —provided that you don’t think that either Nixon or Muskie is the greatest libertarian since Richard Cobden!—which many people, of course, talk themselves into before they go out and vote.

The second part of my answer is that I don’t think that voting is really the question. I really don’t care about whether people vote or not. To me the important thing is, who do you support. Who do you hope will win the election? You can be a non-voter and say “I don’t want to sanction the state” and not vote, but on election night who do you hope the rest of the voters, the rest of the suckers out there who are voting, who do you hope they’ll elect. And it’s important, because I think that there is a difference. The Presidency, unfortunately, is of extreme importance. It will be running or directing our lives greatly for four years. So, I see no reason why we shouldn’t endorse, or support, or attack one candidate more than the other candidate. I really don’t agree at all with the non-voting position in that sense, because the non-voter is not only saying we shouldn’t vote: he is also saying that we shouldn’t endorse anybody. Will Robert LeFevre, one of the spokesmen of the non-voting approach, will he deep in his heart on election night have any kind of preference at all as the votes come in. Will he cheer slightly or groan more as whoever wins? I don’t see how anybody could fail to have a preference, because it will affect all of us.

New Banner: What other activities would you consider appropriate for libertarians during the election?

Rothbard: Well, as I tried to indicate—supporting candidates. I think there will be two main groups of libertarians this year. One group will be the non-voting group. The other group will be the Dump Nixon group of which I am an enthusiastic member. I almost take the position—anybody but Nixon. Dump him! Punish him! Smash him! Retire him to the private life which he so richly deserves. Get him out! I think there are all sorts of reasons why, if you want to pursue it, why Nixon should be dumped.

I do not support Ashbrook, but I think it is a very interesting development, because there is a possibility that the extremists in the conservative camp are hoping that Ashbrook will run on a fifth party ticket in the general election, which is the important thing. Because, if he runs in Ohio, California, etc., he can break Nixon by just getting 10 percent of the conservative vote. That is, if he has the guts to run in a general election.

New Banner: At the outset, your newsletter, Libertarian Forum, was co-edited by Karl Hess. He has since departed. What ideological differences led to this split?

Rothbard: First of all, he wasn’t the editor, he was the Washington editor, which meant that he wrote a column. He did not have anything to do with the editorial policy of the paper. The concrete split came when I made a very tangential attack on the Black Panthers. He got very upset about this. He thought, one, it was a terrible thing to attack the Panthers, and two, since his name was on the masthead, the Panthers might think he was a part of the party which was attacking them. He felt at that time that it was very important to work with the Panthers. I consider the Panthers a bunch of hooligans and I don’t see any reason for supporting them—either in regard to whatever criminal activities they participate in or their free breakfast program. You know the Salvation Army has been giving away breakfast for many years, and I don’t see anything particularly revolutionary in that. At any rate, at that time he was very committed to the Panthers and that was really the split.

But more deep than that is the fact that Karl after having been an anarcho-capitalist for some time shifted over to become an anarcho-communist or anarcho-syndicalist. I don’t really see any basis for collaboration between the two groups, because even if we are both against the existing state, they would very quickly come up with another state. I don’t think you can be an anarcho-communist or an anarcho-syndicalist. You know if the commune runs everything, and decides for everything, whether it is a neighborhood commune or a mass country commune—it really does not matter in this case, somebody’s got to make the communal decision. You can’t tell me that you’ll have participatory democracy and that everybody is going to equally participate. There is obviously going to be a small group, the officiating board or the statistical administrative board or whatever they want to call it, whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be the same damn group making decisions for everybody. In other words, it’s going to be a coercive decision for the collective property. It will be another state again, as far as I can see. So I really can’t see any basis for collaboration. That is really part of a broader analysis of the communist versus the individualist position.

You see, I was one of the people who originated the idea of an alliance with the New Left. But I didn’t think of it in these terms. I didn’t think of an alliance with the New Left as living in communes with the Black Panthers. I thought of it as participating with the New Left in anti-draft actions or in opposition to the war. I conceived of a political rather than an ideological alliance. While we are both against the draft, let’s have joint rallies to attack it, or something like that. This is a completely different sort of thing.

This incidentally has been a problem with libertarians for a long time. Both in the old days when they were always allied with the right-wing and now when they tend to be allied with the left. You start allying yourself with a group and pretty soon you find yourself as one of the group. In other words, the alliance slips away. Start with the idea that we are going to work with either conservatives or radicals for specific goals and somehow they start spending all their time with these people and they wind up as either conservatives or radicals. The libertarian goal drops away and the means become the ends. This is a very difficult problem because you don’t want to be sectarian and have nothing to do with anybody. Then you’re never going to succeed at all. I think that one of the answers to it is to have a libertarian group which is strong enough to keep reinforcing the libertarianism of our members.

New Banner: David Nolan is forming a Libertarian Party. Its membership has indicated an interest in nominating you for its Presidential candidate in 1972. What is your response to this overture?

Rothbard: Ha, ha, ha (prolonged laughter). I really don’t think, as lovable as third parties are, that a libertarian party at this stage of our development is anything but foolhardy. There are just not that many libertarians yet. There’s no finances, there’s no people, there’s nothing. Maybe eventually we will have a libertarian political party.

New Banner: What would be the purpose of a libertarian party?

Rothbard: I think if there were a libertarian party—and I don’t want to make it seem as if this is a realistic thing at this time—if there ever were a strong libertarian party it could do several things. Tactically, we could have a balance of power. Even better as an educational weapon. If we had ten guys in Congress, let’s say, each of whom are constantly agitating for libertarian purposes—voting against the budget, etc., I think it would be very useful.

Also, we have a long-range problem which none of us has ever really grappled with to any extent. That is, how do we finally establish a libertarian society? Obviously ideas are a key thing. First off you have to persuade a lot of people to be anarchists—anarcho-capitalists. But then what? What is the next step? You certainly don’t have to convince the majority of the public, because most of the public will follow anything that happens. You obviously have to have a large minority. How do we then implement this? This is the power problem. As I’ve expressed this in other places, the government is not going to resign. We are not going to have a situation where Nixon reads Human Action, Atlas Shrugged, or Man, Economy and State and says “By God, they’re right. I’m quitting!” I’m not denying the philosophical possibility that this might happen, but strategically it’s very low on the probability scale. As the Marxists put it, no ruling class has ever voluntarily surrendered its power. There has to be an effort to deal with the problem of how to get these guys off our backs. So, if you really have a dedicated group in Congress or the Senate, you can start voting measures down or whatever. But I don’t think this is the only way. I think maybe there will be civil disobedience where the public will start not paying taxes or something like that. If you look at it, there are several possible alternatives in dismantling the state. There is violent revolution, there is non-violent civil disobedience and there is the political action method. I don’t know which of these will be successful. It’s really a tactical question which you can’t really predict in advance, it seems to me that it would be foolhardy to give up any particular arm of this.

It’s incumbent upon people to come up with some sort of strategic perspective to dismantle the state. For example, Bob LeFevre somehow works it out that it’s almost impossible to get rid of the state—from his own point of view. He is against violent revolution—okay, now that is a very respectable position; he’s also against voting; he’s against political parties—it becomes very difficult to really see how one can get to the state at all with this kind of procedure. I don’t see why we should give up something like political parties. It might be a route eventually to dismantling the state or helping to dismantle it.

New Banner: In the February, 1971, Libertarian Forum you stated that the movement was “taking off.” In the perspective of the last year would you change your opinion?

Rothbard: No, I think it’s taking off. It’s growing very rapidly, and it’s getting a lot of publicity which is important. The recent New York Conference was very successful in many ways. We are still in pretty good shape. I don’t know where to go from here, particularly. I’d like to see more strategic thinking on the part of the movement as to what to do next. For instance, should there be any organizational effort, if so, what? This sort of thing.

New Banner: Do you see any wisdom in anarcho-capitalists allying with today’s New Left?

Rothbard: There is no New Left now. The New Left is really finished—there isn’t any such animal anymore. One of the reasons that I liked the New Left in the old days, in the middle-60s, was that there were a lot of libertarian elements in the New Left. Not only was there opposition to the war and the draft, but also opposition to bureaucracy, central government, and so forth. But all that seems to have dropped out. There is really nothing going on in the New Left now at all.

New Banner: Why do you think the New Left has never strongly supported the anti-draft movement? They seemed to have been more anti-war, but not concerned with anti-draft.

Rothbard: They were against the draft, but as you say, they didn’t really have their heart in it. They really weren’t against the draft. They are in favor of the People’s Republic draft, when the People’s Republic gets established. I remember when Castro first got in power in 1959. A lot of the more sincere Castro followers said that one of the great things about Castro was that he had abolished the draft. Of course, he had, but a couple years later it was back. So you see, they’re against a draft by a reactionary government, but not by a people’s government. Ha, ha.

New Banner: Do you agree with the proposal that libertarians overlook their philosophical differences in order to provide a unified front?

Rothbard: I don’t think that question can really be answered flatly. I don’t agree with the sectarian idea that you have to agree on everything before you can act on anything. In other words, that you have to agree on A is A, free will, modern art, or whatever. I don’t buy that, I think it’s unrealistic. On the other hand, simply saying that you will unite on anything if you agree on “Smash the State,” on a couple of slogans, is very dangerous, too. It depends upon the goal of your action or activity. If you are engaging in an ad hoc sort of thing like an anti-draft rally, then I don’t see anything wrong with having speakers or common activity with all anti-draft people regardless of their original premises. If you are going to have a libertarian organization carrying on all sorts of activities, conferences, journals, and things like that, you will want to have much more full agreement.

Of course, in the libertarian movement you have a pretty wide spectrum, which I think however, fortunately is narrowing. I think we are getting a situation in which the extreme left and the extreme right, so-called, are sort of mellowing into a central position, which gives us more basis for cooperation. The “rip off Amerika” group is beginning to calm down, and the Randians are beginning to get more wary about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and American foreign policy. So, I think that there is more agreement now than there was a year ago.

New Banner: In regard to the ongoing debate between you and the Friedmanites, David Friedman has made an accusation. He has accused you of having not read what his father Milton Friedman has written, misquoting or quoting out of context what you have read, and further has accused you of being a mediocre economist who is jealous of all the attention accorded Milton. Any comments?

Rothbard: Ha, ha, ha. As for misquoting, of course, you can always say that nobody has fully read the works of other people.
I don’t think Milton, for example, knows anything about the Austrian school. Obviously, Milton is more of an expert on his own writings than anyone else. As for being jealous of attention, that’s like saying that I am jealous of Keynes or Galbraith. Let me put it this way, I think that they are getting over-deserved attention. It seems to me that Galbraith is getting a lot more attention than he deserves, and I think the same is true of Milton.

But I think it is also very clear that you don’t have to be an expert on Friedman’s writings to realize that Milton is in favor of the absolute control of the money supply by the state, that he is in favor of a 3 or 4 percent increase in the money supply (the numbers keep changing all the time) by the state every year, that he favors a negative income tax which is essentially a guaranteed annual income by the state, and that he favors a voucher plan which would leave the state solidly in control of the educational system. These things are quite blatant; there is no secret about it. I think it is pretty clear that Friedman is a statist. I mean, if you are in favor of the state having control of the money supply, control of the education system, and a guaranteed annual income, that’s it. There is not much more that can be said. The fact that the Friedmanites are against price control is all very well, and I hail that, but the fundamental aspects of the state remain. The state still commands the highposts of the economy.

This is one of the problems with Friedmanites—they have no political theory of the nature of the state. They think of the state, and this is true of Milton and the whole gang as far as I can see, as another social instrument. In other words, there is the market out here and then there is the state, which is another friendly neighborhood organization. You decide on which thing, which activity, should be private and which should be state on the basis of an ad hoc, utilitarian kind of approach. “Well, let’s see, we’ll feed the thing through the computer. We find that the market usually wins out, that the market is usually better.” So, most of the time they come out in favor of the market on things like price control or government regulations, but they really think of the state as just another social instrument. And so when they come out in favor of the state, they go all out. In other words, there is no limitation. Well, they say, the state will do this. The state will run the educational system or whatever the cop-out happens to be. So, they feed the thing in—we’ll have controls for a while and then they will die out—it’s not very important anyway. You see, they really think they can put through Friedmanism, let’s say, just by educating Nixon. The sort of thing I said before jocularly, about Nixon reading Atlas Shrugged and being converted. That is really the sort of theory of social change the Friedmanites have. You see the President once in a while, you talk to him and you convince him that there shouldn’t be price controls, the ICC should be eliminated, or whatever—and then he goes ahead and does it. But it just doesn’t work that way. They have no realization that the state is essentially a gang of thieves and looters. That they are exploiting the public, that they have a whole bureaucratic apparatus of exploitation, and that they are not just going to give it up. In other words, there is the whole problem of power involved which the Friedmanites refuse to face. They don’t realize that the state is not a social instrument. It’s an inimical organization which is hostile to society, plundering it, which has to be confined, whittled away, reduced and hopefully ultimately abolished. They have no conception of that at all. They just think of it as another friendly, corner grocer kind of thing which you either use or don’t use.

New Banner: Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns said recently that he would expand the money supply at a rate that would insure a “vigorous” expansion of the US economy. At the same lime, the Price Commission will be permitting only limited price increases. What do you think the net result of these policies will be?

Rothbard: The net result will be further inflation, with black markets and with people losing out. Those people who haven’t got the political muscle at the Price Commission or Pay Board won’t get their increases, while those who do have that muscle will get it.
All sorts of monstrous situations will occur. Decline in quality, for example. We will find that there will be more air in the Baby Ruth—you can’t find the Baby Ruth anymore anyway. There will be less chocolate in the chocolate. There is no way the state can police this, of course. And it’s very harmful to the public.

And the real root of inflation, which is the money supply, well, the tap is being turned on. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of people including conservatives and libertarians even, have been great fans of Arthur F. Burns. I’ve never been able to see that. He’s always been an inflationist, a statist, and a pragmatist.

New Banner: Nixon is supposed to push for a value-added tax (VAT), a move which he will probably reveal soon. What might be the results of such a tax?

Rothbard: Well, it’s a national sales tax. It is one thing that has not been tapped yet. I think Chodorov said that the principle of taxation that the government always uses is the same principle as the highwayman: Grab them where they are—if it moves, tax it! If you can find something that hasn’t been taxed yet, well, tax it. VAT is a new gimmick which hasn’t been imposed yet in the United States.

Income tax is obviously reaching a critical limit. It would be difficult for them to increase that. The property tax is fortunately going by the board. And with the whole education question—well, they need a new tax to finance it. It’s a sales tax, so it will tax the poor more than the wealthy. Also, it’s a hidden tax, so the public wouldn’t realize it. It’s a value added tax which is paid by each manufacturer as they go down the list.

It also injures turnovers. If a product is made eight times, if it turns over eight times before it gets to the consumer, it is going to be taxed twice as much as if it turns over four times. This will restrict what the Austrians call “the longer process of production” which will injure capital investment a great deal. Incidentally, only the Austrians have dealt with this whole question of the period of production. It will also bring about vertical integration—mergers—which the government claims are monopolistic. If the thing turns over it means that you pay an extra tax, but if the two firms merge they won’t have to pay any tax on that phase of it. So, it will encourage mergers.

New Banner: In the light of your past record of accurate predictions, what will be the nature of Phase III?

Rothbard: I don’t claim to be a great predictor or forecaster. It is in the nature, incidentally, of Austrian economic theory that the economist can’t really forecast perfectly at all. I’m not sure about Phase III. A lot depends upon whether Nixon gets reelected or not. As in all cases of government intervention you are presented with two alternatives as the sun sinks in the west—as Phase II begins to crack up as it already is.

Already the Pay Board has granted increases to some groups and shut off increases to other groups. So, as this thing becomes increasingly unworkable, then the government will be faced with the question—either we scrap the thing altogether and go back to the free market or we tighten the controls, get people who really believe in it, get Galbraith instead of Stein, and we have a rigorous program. It could go either way. Who knows how Nixon is going to go? You can’t tell from one day to the next what Nixon is going to do anyway. The summer of last year, Nixon would have been equally likely a priori to either drop a bomb on China or else form an agreement with it. There is no way of predicting which path he is going to take.

You have the curious situation now where the economists in charge of the Phase II program almost exclusively are against it. They all say, “Well of course we’re against control and are in favor of the free market, but we have to do this anyway.” In this kind of self-contradictory situation, who knows what they’re going to do?

New Banner: In February, 1971, Senator Mark Hatfield made some interesting but vague comments in praise of your book Power and Market. Have you had any contact with the senator concerning his ostensible sympathy with libertarianism?

Rothbard: I’ve only met the senator personally once—in the summer of 1969. At that time he was very friendly toward libertarianism and said he had committed himself to the cause of libertarianism. Now, I’ve had a couple of contacts with him since then by mail. But, obviously his voting record is not particularly libertarian. It’s very good on foreign policy and the draft, but it’s not too great on other things.

What the reason for this is I really don’t know. However, he has been very good in introducing legislation for tax credits and for the right to own gold. I really don’t have that much contact with the Hatfield staff. In the abstract, at least, he is very favorable to libertarianism.

He seems to understand it. I also understand that one member of the Hatfield staff is an anarchist who was converted by the Tannehill book—this is the rumor I get.

New Banner: I understand that you have written two other major manuscripts that have yet to be published; The Ethics of Liberty and The Betrayal of the American Right.

Rothbard: The Betrayal of the American Right is not really a major manuscript. It is a pleasant enough thing. It’s fairly short. It’s sort of a combination personal and general history of the right-wing from Mencken and Nock in the Twenties and going into the World War II period and then up to the present. That’s not going to be published so far, because Ramparts Press, which was originally supposed to publish it, didn’t like it, and it has now been turned into a reader. Right now the idea is that they are going to come out with a reader of Old Right stuff like Mencken and Nock, and I’ll be picking the readings and doing the introduction. So, as for that manuscript, after the reader comes out, I guess I’ll look around for a publisher for the original Betrayal of the American Right.

The ethics book has only been partially finished, so that’s the problem with that.

Right now I’m working on a libertarianism book for Macmillan. The tentative title is For a New Liberty. It will be sort of a general book. It is a rather difficult book to write, because I can’t be as scholarly as I’d like to be, and yet on the other hand I can’t be too mass oriented. So, I have to pick my spots. I’ve started off with a description of the movement discussing who is in it, the spectrum in it, and then I go into the philosophy of the movement—the central core of libertarian philosophy. Then I go on to the applications of that philosophy. I just finished the chapter on education and next I’ll go on to welfare. After I finish that I’ll start working on the ethics book, which is really my favorite. So far I have written in Power and Market, etc., on the “value free,” praxeological aspects of liberty and I have not really tackled the ethical position in print. One thing which I find exciting in it is that I’m going to try to deduce the ethics like I do the economics from a Robinson Crusoe and Friday situation—a Crusoe political philosophy. I’ll show what happens when Crusoe and Friday engage in voluntary trade and exchange as opposed to coercion and then bring in the whole coercion versus liberty issue. Then work from there on up.

I also have another manuscript which is a very long-term thing—that being a history of the United States. In that I have written up to the Constitution. It will be a history of the United States from a libertarian point of view. It is very difficult to write that, because the thing is we don’t know what has happened—a lot of the facts have been buried. Orthodox histories don’t give many facts; a lot of facts are just left out.

New Banner: Is it intended to be a textbook?

Rothbard: No, not really. It’s just a libertarian history of the United States. It could be used as a textbook, I hope. You know, Man, Economy, and State was originally supposed to be a textbook and wound up as a giant treatise. I think this might be the same thing.

New Banner: Dr. Rothbard, on behalf of our readers and our staff, I would like to thank you for this most informative interview.

Rothbard: You are quite welcome.

[Reprinted from The New Banner: A Fortnightly Libertarian Journal, 25 February 1972.]


  • 1Editor’s note: Rothbard is referring to the phases of the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970, which, among other things, imposed wage and price controls on the US economy from 1971 to April 1974.