January 7, 2005 2 Comments
I came to libertarianism through taking The World’s Shortest Political Quiz at a gun show in Richmond. (That’s one version of the story. Another is that 10 years earlier, my mother baptized me a libertarian when I told her she wasn’t being liberal and she told me I had the wrong L-word in mind.)
I had already quit the Democrats, but was still voting and calling myself “independent”. Now I joined the Libertarian Party and started handing out the business-card-sized version of the quiz and talking to people about the ethics of economic liberty.
It turns out that around the same time, Murray Rothbard died. I had no idea who he was.
My libertarian reading consisted first of Robert Anton Wilson and later of Wendy McElroy. I can’t remember how I discovered McElroy, but Wilson was one of those writers all the weirdos in college knew and loved — so, true to my established habits, I read his stuff several years after I no longer knew anyone who had heard of him.
Meanwhile, I was crossing the name Rothbard more and more. Never happily. Who was this “Mr. Libertarian” and how dare he (or his followers, rather) claim himself to be so central to this movement that now defined my life (but about whose history I apparently still knew nothing).
McElroy went so far as to claim that the modern libertarian movement was founded in Rothbard’s livingroom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — which is more or less where I grew up. The nerve of this man: I’d never heard of him!
MacLeod said that the anarchies in his novel were based on the writings of Murray Rothbard and David Friedman. He also talked in the novel about Ludwig von Mises, some dead old-world economist.
Economics didn’t interest me yet, but I had to read the Friedman and Rothbard books he’d referred to. And I did. And I like them both, but I was clearly a natural-law Rothbardian and not a utilitarian Friedmanite.
I added a Murray Rothbard page to BlackCrayon.com and looked into creating a Rothbard website. But now I learned there were these other websites — Mises.org and LewRockwell.com — seeming to represent the great man’s work. Again, I was put off. Who were these people I had never heard of claiming to represent the legacy of this other guy I had only recently heard of!? Such chutzpah!
(Yes, I know that all this outrage makes me sound like I was in my teens, but I was already in my thirties. Some of us develop slower than others.)
Today, January 7th, 2005, it’s the 10-year anniversary of Murray Rothbard’s death. I’m not positive how long I’ve been part of the movement, but I’ve decided to call it 10 years as well. Nice symmetry that way.
I know that the calendar marks arbitrary units and aggregates of time only roughly corresponding to some combination of our planet’s motion around itself and our star as counted in the number system of our evolved anatomy, but still: a 10-year anniversary has an emotional impact on me. It feels meaningful. I feel sad that he died before I’d heard of him, sad that I never got to meet him. I’m now in correspondence with plenty of people who did know him, and I’m unbelievably envious of them. (See emotional-maturity comment, above.)
On my Murray Rothbard page, I link to the two books I’d recommend starting with, for those of you fortunate and unfortunate souls who don’t know them yet. (They’re also available, gratis, in electronic format here, here, and more generally here.)
To mark the occassion, today’s Daily Article from the Ludwig von Mises Institute (and also the lead article at LewRockwell.com) is here: