That Loony Lefty Rothbard

In a 1966 letter which has not yet been published (Peter Klein quotes from it here), Rothbard writes:

Murray RothbardFor some time I have come to the conclusion that the grave deficiency in the current output and thinking of our libertarians and “classical liberals” is an enormous blind spot when it comes to big business. There is a tendency to worship Big Business per se … and a corollary tendency to fail to realize that while big business would indeed merit praise if they won that bigness on the purely free market, that in the contemporary world of total neo-mercantilism and what is essentially a neo-fascist “corporate state,” bigness is a priori highly suspect, because Big Business most likely got that way through an intricate and decisive network of subsidies, privileges, and direct and indirect grants of monopoly protection.

Seems like a useful passage to quote to our right-Rothbardian comrades whenever they accuse us of unlibertarianly treating bigness as automatically suspect or exaggerating the neofascist nature of contemporary kapitalism.


16 Responses to That Loony Lefty Rothbard

  1. Brandon August 2, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    If you don’t start using the image system built into WordPress, as per the email I sent you weeks ago, I’ll tell the IRS that you’re hiding millions of dollars in drug money overseas.

    • Roderick August 2, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

      While this is somewhat orthogonal to your comment, I’m reminded of my view that most of the places we call “overseas” really aren’t, since Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America can all be reached from North America by crossing one or more narrow straits and/or canals.

      • Roderick August 2, 2009 at 3:13 pm #

        And while Australia and Antarctica are a lot farther, they are still reachable (from Asia and South America respectively) by a series of surprisingly short water journeys — Australia especially. It’s a small world after all ….

  2. Mike Gogulski August 2, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Gak, who is this guy? He sounds like that thieving mutualist, Kevin Carson!

    • Anon73 August 3, 2009 at 11:09 pm #

      I believe he is a “lying, thieving” mutualist, not just a “thieving” mutualist. 🙂

  3. Juan Fernando C. August 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    Suspect yes, but guilty in no conclusive way.

    Now let me posit two questions:

    Should I stop growing only because I live in an interventionist country?

    Should my friend Arturo’s family company stop building roads because the only customer in Ecuador is the State?

    LL’s need to define the privileges they speak of, otherwise it amounts to a shallow critique, more anti “success” than anything.

    • Roderick August 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

      Should my friend Arturo’s family company stop building roads because the only customer in Ecuador is the State?


      LL’s need to define the privileges they speak of, otherwise it amounts to a shallow critique, more anti “success” than anything.

      You mean beyond the hundreds of pages we’ve already spent explaining in detail precisely which privileges we mean and how they work? What would be the exact number of pages you’d like?

  4. Brandon August 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Oh, here we go.

    • Stephan Kinsella August 2, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

      I tend to agree with most of this, Roderick. They are suspect, not automatically guilty, however. But this is a reasonable position easily derived from basic libertarian insights. The left-libertarian positions the standard libertarians critique go far beyond these fairly innocuous, obvious insights.

      • Roderick August 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

        I’m talking about the kind of stuff one sees in things like the comments section here.

        • Bob Kaercher August 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

          It is rather ironic that a pro-free market economist would write that “the consumer can thumb his nose at General Motors and GM can do nothing but try harder to please him in the future if it wants his business” in March 2008.

          GM had, of course, already been in bed with the state well before then:

          And they had long been neck deep into the warfare state as well:

          Um, what was that about the consumer being able to “thumb his nose” at GM, and GM having to “try harder to please him”…?

        • Zach Bibeault August 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

          I think the left-libertarians and the other people posting on there (right-libertarians I guess) both have the exact same views regarding the great evil and wrongdoing of corporations harnessing the State to its benefit, but the left-libertarians are more suspect and the right-libertarians more “benefit of the doubt”. I tend to be more suspect, which seems to make the most sense given our extremely statist state-capitalist system and world.

  5. Steven Shaw August 3, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Quite probably big business funds some of the libertarian think-tanks. This would be sure to add bias. Other commenters might have a right-wing background. Either way there’s a bias.

  6. bile August 3, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    It’s a good observation, criticism and quote (not unlike his comment on libertarians and contracts)… one that I don’t disagree with… however I’m not seeing why a quote by Rothbard has any more weight (which seems implied) then anyone else mentioning the same thing. It is hardly unique and does not go into detail. It would seem to be an argument from authority. Unless of course the person you are presenting it to is a Rothbard worshiper and has been making arguments from authority in which case it would be an appropriate counterpoint.

    • Roderick August 3, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

      Well, the people I want to use it against aren’t necessarily making arguments from authority, but they do tend to hold that a) those who takes this position are kinda nutty and only dubiously libertarian, and b) Rothbard was not nutty and was definitely libertarian. Of course it’s up to them to decide whether to reject (a) or (b) once they learn that they’re incompatible.

  7. Sheldon Richman August 10, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    Ah, the Murray I knew and loved.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes