This Movement of His: Murray N. Rothbard, 1926–1995
By Samuel Edward Konkin III
In person, Murray Rothbard could be described as a Woody Allen who had studied economics; it was no accident that one of his all-time favourite directors was Mel Brooks. When confronted with accusations that former conservatives had become so ideological as libertarians that they were turning into humorless movement cogs, one had only to offer in rebuttal the contrast of Murray with Marx, Lenin, and, for that matter, Rand. Even the Conservative who purged him from National Review in the 1950s for high deviations (refusal to sanction the State for anti-Communist crusading), William F. Buckley, had to refer to his victims as “Murray Rothbard and his Merry Band of Anarchists.”
This personality stability and good humor have profound consequences for what he, oft described as the Godfather of the modern Libertarian Movement, called “This Movement of Ours.” First and foremost, it meant that no matter how much one disagreed with him, one was not cast into outer darkness (again, unlike Marx, Lenin, and Rand) never to be mentioned again. In 1977, at our most estranged over the Libertarian Party, I described him as Darth Vader in print. Three years later he was purged from the mighty Kochtopus by the device of taking away his token shares in the Cato Institute, which evoked his loudest cries of betrayal. I promptly sent him shares in New Libertarian magazine with the caveat that they could not be taken away from him under any circumstances. He responded immediately with customary wit.
Rothbard’s impact on libertarian (and agorist) intellectual and ideological development will easily fill our entire next number of AQ; personal tributes and discussion of his movement impact and the Post-Rothbard future, if any, of the Libertarian Movement will take up at least one, if not more, issues of NL.
Two points need to be made immediately: there would be no Libertarian Movement save for the thought and action (particularly in the 1960s) of Professor Murray Newton Rothbard, Ph.D., and, had he pursued the same sort of tactics he had experienced in his association with fellow students at Columbia, or with the Randists or the ex-Communist purgers around Buckley, the Movement that we know today would not have endured.
As one who finds himself more and more belonging to another, different movement of the future, I offer to all Movements, present and future, the example of one who disdained to retain his leadership by any means save superiority in intellectual combat and possession of sharper wit. I hope that the world shall see many more of his like.