Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Murray Rothbard

Murray Rothbard (1926 - 1995)
If he was still with us, Murray Rothbard would have been 85 years old today.  Rothbard was arguably Mises' brightest American student, who built upon the edifice of Mises' Human Action end went on to erect a grand structure of the economics of liberty. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, his comrade in arms while at the University of Las Vegas wrote an excellent chapter in Great Austrian Economists on the life and work of Rothbard. The chapter is aptly entitled, "Murray N. Rothbard: Economics, Science, and Liberty." A festshrift published in his honor, Man, Economy, and Liberty, contains a fun and valuable article by Gary North in which he explains "Why Rothbard Will Never Win the Nobel Prize." He begins with Rothbard's unpardonable professional sin: he writes so people can understand him. Writing while Rothbard was still living, North points out that Rothbard's professional work had a quality
which categorically bars an economist from ever winning the Nobel Prize in economics: clarity. Murray Rothbard has an addiction: clear, forthright writing. He says what he thinks, and he explains why he thinks it, in easily followed logic. He does not use equations, statistics, and the other paraphernalia of the economics priesthood. He simply takes his readers step by step through economic reasoning, selecting the relevant facts—relevant in terms of the economic logic he sets forth—and drawing conclusions. He gives readers his operating presuppositions; he then marshals the evidence and reaches conclusions. It is an old-fashioned procedure, and decidedly out of favor these days. If you doubt me, pick up a copy of American Economic Review (let alone Econometrica), turn to any page randomly, read it three times to yourself, and offer a brief summary to your wife. Understand, this can be done with Rothbard's books.

North continues, documenting what puts Rothbard's work absolutely beyond the professional pale:
Furthermore, Rothbard does something which is absolutely unacceptable in academia in general and the economics profession in particular. He uses italics. Yes, when he thinks that something is important, he underlines it. How gauche! How utterly unscientific! One is supposed to allow the reader the option of missing the whole point—an option which reputable scholars exercise frequently, if not continually.

His ability to explain uncountable profound economic insights with such clarity is why I have his photo hanging in my office.

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