The memory of Murray Rothbard seems to have taken a lot heat over the past couple of years. In part this is a reflection of how the blogosphere has treated him: remember the debates comparing Rothbard to Milton Friedman. Although not specifically Rothbardian, Misesian economic method has been recently attacked from various angles, and Rothbard was probably the strongest defender ofa priori methodological individualism after the death of Ludwig von Mises. Of course, Murray’s political views — anarcho-capitalism — are probably the most unacceptable of all to the majority of people.
On the other hand, “the memory of Rothbard” is subjective, in that my own personal journey has seen a fluctuation in my intellectual sentiments regarding Rothbard’s work. I differ in important areas: while I’m no monetary disequilibrium theorist, I advocate free banking of the Selgin–White variety; I don’t believe there exists an objective morality; concerning method, I’m flexible and a limited skeptic; et cetera. It’s all these partings that have dissuaded me from reading more of Rothbard’s work, prioritizing other things instead — something, by the way, that I’ve long considered unfortunate.
Amidst all of this, Robert Murphy (“Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State at 50“) and Joseph Salerno (“Murphy on Man, Economy, and State“) show exactly why Rothbard shouldn’t be marginalized, providing us with a glimpse of what he accomplished. Murphy writes on the synthesis of Austrian capital theory — Mises, Hayek, and Eugene von Böhm-Bawerk — and the rethinking of monopoly theory. Salerno points out the synthesis and improvement of the neoclassical theory of distribution. It’s no small detail that Salerno considers Man, Economy, and State “possibly the greatest economics treatise of the twentieth century” — note, perhaps more so than Mises’ Human Action (?).
Both Murphy’s Freeman piece and Salerno’s blog post, which also states some brief quibbles with the former, are well worth reading. Maybe afterwards, if you haven’t already, you should consider getting yourself a copy of Rothbard’s magnum opus.
[This semester requires a lot of reading, so I’m not sure how much recreational reading I can get done. But, I think it’s time to start on Man, Economy, and State.]