From Whose Togas I Dangle
Murray Newton Rothbard
March 2, 1926-January 7, 1995
Murray N. Rothbard and James A. Sadowsky, S.J., ages 41 and 43
respectively, friends of each other long before they were my friends,
relaxing at the Scottish Games, Stamford, Connecticut, July 4, 1967.
Scanned from a snapshot given me by the late JoAnn Rothbard in 1998. --
I may be described as (among other things) road-kill along the way to
the definitive biography of Murray Rothbard. In 1997 (two years after
his passing) I sought and gained the cooperation of his widow, Joann,
and Lew Rockwell to organize that project. All I managed to accomplish,
however, was to fulfill the prediction, made more than once in my
hearing, that this effort would overwhelm me. My enthusiasm for the
idea of telling Murray’s story and expounding his ideas blinded me to
the fact, obvious to everyone but me and perhaps my mother, that I was
simply not up to the task. The life of Rothbard awaits its Hülsmann.
And if the interval between the death of Ludwig von Mises and the birth
Mises: Last Knight of Liberalism
is any guide, the wait is far from even half over.
Links to drafts of two unfinished essays of mine dating from 1998 are
(1) One consists of barely refined ore mined from secondary sources but,
more importantly, from interviews conducted with people who knew Murray,
in the first place JoAnn Rothbard, but also Leonard Liggio, Ralph Raico,
George Resch, John McCarthy, and James Sadowsky. Readers who have
profited from Justin Raimondo’s
An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N.
Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost
Legacy of the Conservative Movement as well as Murray’s
The Betrayal of the American Right
will discover a minor fact or two not related in those indispensable
works, which I highly recommend to everyone else.
(2) The other opus interruptus is the bare beginning of an
exposition of Murray’s philosophy of liberty.
Posted July 1, 2008
(1) Murray Newton
Notes toward a Biography
An Introduction to His Thought
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The State is almost universally considered
an institution of social service. Some theorists venerate the State as
the apotheosis of society. Others regard it as an amiable, though often
inefficient, organiza-tion for achieving social ends. But almost all
regard it as a necessary means for achieving the goals of mankind, a means
to be ranged against the “private sector” and often winning in this
competition of resources.
With the rise of democracy, the identification
of the State with society has been redoubled, until it is common to hear
sentiments expressed which violate virtually every tenet of reason and
common sense such as, “we are the government.”
The useful collective term “we” has enabled
an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life.
If “we are the government,” then anything a government
does to an individual is not only just and untyrannical but also
“voluntary” on the part of the individual concerned.
If the government has incurred a huge
public debt which must be paid by taxing one group for the benefit of
another, this reality of burden is obscured by saying that “we owe it to
If the government conscripts a man, or
throws him into jail for dissident opinion, then he is “doing it to
himself” and, therefore, nothing untoward has occurred.
Under this reasoning, any Jews murdered by
the Nazi government were not murdered; instead, they must have “committed
suicide,” since they were the government (which was democratically
chosen), and, therefore, anything the government did to them was voluntary
on their part. . .
then, the State is not “us,” if it is not “the human family” getting
together to decide mutual problems, if it is not a lodge meeting or
country club, what is it?
Briefly, the State is that
organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use
of force and violence in a given territorial area.
In particular, it is
the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary
contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion.
While other individuals or
institutions obtain their income by production of goods and services and
by the peaceful and voluntary sale of these goods and services to others,
the State obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion; that is, by the
use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet.
Having used force and violence to
obtain its revenue, the State generally goes on to regulate and dictate
the other actions of its individual subjects.
One would think that simple
observation of all States through history and over the globe would be
proof enough of this assertion; but the miasma of myth has lain so long
over State activity that elaboration is necessary.
Anatomy of the State,”
Ramparts, Summer 1965, reprinted in Egalitarianism as a Revolt
against Nature, and Other Essays, Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises
June 30, 2006]
“Tony, you’re a great fellow, but there are two
kinds of intellectuals in this world, the Seekers and the Finders, and I
am afraid that you are an unregen-erate Seeker.”
Murray Rothbard, letter
to Anthony Flood, August 11, 1984.