Memories of Murray on His Ninety-Fifth Birthday
I first met Murray Rothbard when, as treasurer of the New Jersey Libertarian Party, I invited him to give the keynote address at our inaugural convention. He graciously agreed to do it for the paltry sum of $75 plus a puny chicken dinner. Prior to his talk, I introduced myself to him, and we spoke for a while about the state of the libertarian movement before I mentioned that I was a graduate student in economics and was reading some of the books and articles that he had cited in his treatise Man, Economy, and State. I never expected his reaction to my casual remark. His eyes immediately lit up and he could barely contain his enthusiasm. He feverishly searched his pockets for a pen to no avail and, when I offered him one, he asked me for my contact information and told me that he would pass it on to some people in New Jersey who had formed an Austrian economics reading group.
The following Monday I received a call from a student member of the group who invited me to join the reading circle, which was codirected by another one of my libertarian heroes, Walter Block. Soon after, I was invited to the inner sanctum of Murray’s apartment in Manhattan for a personal meeting with him. I was escorted to his apartment by a veteran member of the reading group. I was very nervous on the way, because I was anticipating a somewhat formal interview, in which Murray would grill me and easily expose the staggering inadequacies in my knowledge of libertarianism and Austrian economics. But my apprehension instantly dissipated when Murray excitedly greeted me at the door with a merry “Joe, my boy, it’s great to see you again.”
It was a memorable evening. The other student and I sat on the living room rug while Murray regaled us from his couch with jokes, anecdotes, and his observations on current affairs. The conversation was light but interspersed with questions to me about my views on economic and political matters. At one point, the question of what methods were justified in recovering one’s property from looters came up. Murray opined that a store owner was justified in using defensive violence—including deadly force if necessary—in defending his property from looters. But he believed that if the looter had already seized the property and was running away, the owner could not employ deadly force to retrieve his stolen property and had to call the police. I timidly suggested that the store owner would be justified in using deadly force if necessary to retain control of his property whether it involved defending or recovering it. Murray thought for a moment and then said: “Ahh, now THAT’S a conversation I’m willing to have.”
I also recall discussing the question of how state-owned property should be disposed of after the libertarian revolution. Murray was lukewarm on my suggestion that it should be auctioned off and the proceeds divided up among taxpayers. He
Article from Mises Wire