[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Today is Murray Rothbard’s birthday; and tomorrow, as Dan D’Amico reminds me, is Gustave de Molinari’s. Seems to me this conjunction deserves commemoration, a sort of market anarchists’ equivalent of Presidents’ Day – without Massa George or Emperor Abe. (Murrlinari Day? Perhaps it’s appropriate that it falls roughly between Presidents’ Day and the Ides of March.)
The parallels between Molinari, “the law of supply and demand made into man,” and Rothbard, “Mr. Libertarian,” are interesting. Both were leading representatives of the major free-market traditions of their day (the French Liberal and the Austrian respectively) who dismayed their mentors by pushing the logic of market principles to the point of replacing the full range of government services entirely. Both were extremely prolific writers who had broad interests in, and made important contributions to, economics, philosophy, history, sociology, and political theory. Both sought to bridge traditional left/right divides. Both were fierce critics of imperialism and war. Both wrote with engaging clarity. Molinari pioneered market anarchism in the 19th century, while Rothbard was its foremost proponent in the 20th.
The differences in their reception are somewhat puzzling: Molinari gained mainstream recognition and respect (while an obscure figure in our day, he was quite celebrated in his own), but won very few converts to his free-market version of anarchism (Benjamin Tucker’s version seems to have been developed independently); Rothbard gained relatively little mainstream recognition or respect – but many more converts. Go figure.
Anyway – happy birthday, Gustave and Murray!