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An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard Hardcover – July 1, 2000
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". . . accessible and engaging." -- Publishers Weekly, June 12, 2000
"...one of the most interesting and controversial social theorists of our time. If ideas interest you, this biography sure will as well." -- Bookviews, August, 2000
From the Inside Flap
Although libertarianism entered the American political vocabulary sometime in the 1970s, and is now one of the categories of political thought right up there with liberalism, conservatism, and all the other "isms," the story of the movement's founder has never been told--until now. This is the first biography of Murray N. Rothbard, the intellectual godfather of libertarianism and the author of twenty-eight books, hundreds of articles, and a social theorist whose writings encompass not only economics but philosophy, political economy, history, and virtually all the realms of social thought.
As an economist, he not only carved out a place for the insights of the "Austrian" (or pure free market) school on American shores, but also expanded and elaborated on the innovations of his mentor and teacher, Ludwig von Mises, the dean of the Austrian school.
As a political economist, he mapped out the contours of a truly free society, based on natural law and the concept of self-ownership. As a historian, he rescued the hidden history of liberty, and exposed the underbelly of the power elite. As a student of economic history, he traced the development of economic ideas and showed the way forward to a new way of looking at the evolution of thought - and of human society. As a teacher to a whole generation of libertarian scholars and activists, Rothbard was not only a source of ideas but of inspiration. He was an innovator who fought for his vision of the world, pioneering liberty at a time when they were neither popular nor understood. He dared to speak truth to power-- and never shied away from controversy.
AN ENEMY OF THE STATE charts the intellectual odyssey of a man who went from the Old Right to the New Left, traveling through Ayn Rand's circle as well as William F. Buckley's before winding up at a position that transcends the traditional categories of Left and Right -- and point in an entirely new direction. His life was an intellectual adventure -- and an important chapter in the history of ideas. To anyone with an interest in the history of ideas in our time, AN ENEMY OF THE STATE is a must.
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The author states in the Introduction to this 2000 book that "I hope, in what is little more than an extended biographical sketch, to capture the essential Rothbard, not only his ideas but also his personality and some sense of his historical significance. To those readers unfamiliar with the man and his works, this book is meant as a doorway to discovering the most important and interesting development in the modern history of ideas: the Rothbardian system or paradigm of pure liberty." (Pg. 19)
Rothbard was a "night owl" who never rose before noon; he was "4-F" in WWII (pg. 37), but entered the nascent free market movement through reading non-interventionist books (pg. 41, 46-47). A mixture of agnosticism and Reform Judaism (pg. 67), he married a Gentile (pg. 62), and was falsely said to have converted to Roman Catholicism at the end of his life (pg. 325-326).
He actually endorsed Adlai Stevenson for President, and worked for his campaign (pg. 80-81, 105). He was briefly associated with Buckley's National Review (pg. 99), and was for a time part of Ayn Rand's inner circle (pg. 109-113). He admitted that "Almost all of the young people drawn to libertarianism in the 1960s and early 1970s came through the Randian movement." (Pg. 131) He was the one who named the Cato Institute (pg. 218).
The book details at some length the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate squabbles during the Roger MacBride-Ed Clark-David Bergland-Ron Paul era, which "reduced the membership of the Libertarian Party by at least half and destroyed it as an effective political force." (Pg. 240) Ultimately, Rothbard resigned from the party (pg. 268), and devoted his attention to Lew Rockwell's Ludwig von Mises Institute (pg. 260).
This book is a marvelous history (not available anywhere else; at least in book form) of the Libertarian movement; Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement is another book that would be of great interest to those interested in Rothbard and Libertarianism.
Written in a very easy,casual pace you go through life with Murray and in the end that is what one looks for in a biography.
With this book I think further readings of Murray's works will become a little more personal as well as educational.
Regardless if you like his views or not ,one walks away with a sense of a man who truly loved life as well as liberty.
Raimondo is too modest.
I'll keep this brief since other reviews of this book are available online (and if you write to me I'll tell you where to find them). What Raimondo actually provides in this volume is a cradle-to-grave overview of Rothbard's entire life and career, together with insightful summaries of carefully selected portions of Rothbard's thought. No doubt there is a great deal that Raimondo must omit or curtail. Nevertheless he provides considerably more than a "sketch."
Not that Raimondo's skills as a sketch artist are negligible. But the word "sketch" is better applied to his accounts of the various _other_ persons who populate his account -- from Rothbard's father David to Mises Institute founder Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. His accounts of these others are masterful sketches. But he brings Rothbard himself to life in a well-realized portrait of this giant of libertarianism.
Raimondo provides more: a defense and a vindication. Rothbard was the subject of scurrilous charges from several quarters throughout much of his career and even after his death, including (at the time of this writing) some misrepresentations from the "Objectivist" camp regarding the period of Rothbard's involvement with the Randian inner circle. Raimondo's handling of this topic is typical of his overall approach: he delves into Rothbard's personal correspondence and reveals, deftly and vigorously, what was actually going on -- not at all flatteringly to Rand and the founders of her cult.
In fact Raimondo really ought to be better known than he is as a critic of the "Objectivist" movement in general and of Rand in particular. Not surprisingly, Rothbard's encounter with Rand occupies some twenty-five pages of the present work, and Raimondo's incisive discussion is as penetrating and devastating as his earlier destructive criticism of Rand in _Reclaiming the American Right_. I shall with difficulty resist the temptation to spoil some of Raimondo's surprises; but for these twenty-five pages alone this book should be of interest to anyone even remotely interested in the "Objectivist" movement.
William F. Buckley does not come off well either; nor do the numerous lesser critics who buzzed about Rothbard like gnats. And of course there are fine positive accounts of Rothbard's wife JoAnn ("Joey, the indispensible framework"), his various longtime friends and associates, the great Ludwig von Mises, and the numerous other persons whose paths intersected Rothbard's for good or ill.
Amazingly, Raimondo manages to integrate all of this with an exposition of Rothbard's key economic and political insights. Obviously a good deal has had to be left out, or the book would have become unmanageably long. Nevertheless all of Rothbard's central themes are here, and all of his major works are given at least capsule summaries in their proper biographical context. This is no small feat -- especially since standard economic textbooks have trouble getting straight the Rothbardian views that Raimondo summarizes with apparent ease.
All in all, then, an astonishingly fine book that will be of interest both to those who already know who Rothbard was, and to those who have never heard of him before. "If this modest volume does its part," Raimondo writes in his introduction, "to make [Rothbard's] thought more accessible and readily available to a wider audience, it will have accomplished its purpose."
To that purpose it is admirably suited. Read it at once, and share it with everyone you know. And congratulations to Raimondo for a daunting task surpassingly well done.
. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Libertarianism. How can one understand Libertarianism without a knowledge of Rothbard? Rothbard was so influential in the Libertarian movement. I am no longer a Libertarian, but I am always impressed with Rothbard's writings. Raimondo does a great job of summarizing potentially dry and complex economic ideas. Raimondo espouses the belief that Rothbard was as influential as Karl Mark. Mark was infinitely more influential than Rothbard. Marx influenced sociology, politics, as well as economics. If one is interested in Libertarianism and Austrian Economics, I would highly recommend this book.