Foreword to Bagels, Barry Bonds, and Rotten Politicians

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Since the hyper-statist Progressive Era especially, American intellectuals have tended to disrespect and even hate business people. Instead of troubling themselves to learn about the real world of commerce, and the entrepreneurs who are responsible for the material well-being of the world, intellectuals have tended to promote everything evil, from Communism to perpetual neocon wars. Business people in turn have rightly suspected that anything smacking of scholarship might pose a mortal threat. But this split is not inevitable. As Murray N. Rothbard noted, it was Ludwig von Mises who saw that the free society had no future without an alliance between capitalist intellectuals and the far-seeing business leaders who could make their work possible.

Burton S. Blumert is an example of what Mises and Rothbard hoped for, an entrepreneur dedicated to the intellectual cause of freedom and free enterprise. That cause started to become clear for Burt when he enlisted in the Air Force to avoid being drafted into Truman’s slave army during his war on North Korea. As a member of a socialist organization, Burt saw that a society organized in that fashion would be catastrophic for humanity.

After the war and NYU, Burt began his private-sector experience, and learned that this sector is the one and only key to social progress. It was also in this period that Burt was exposed to the writings of Ayn Rand, Mises, and Rothbard. In fact, he knew Mises, and was later Murray’s closest friend.

After managing a chain of millinery shops in the South — he has loved the region ever since for its manners and traditions — Burt was transferred to California, and then entered the coin and precious metals business, eventually establishing the Camino Coin Company and running it for almost fifty years. Burt always felt blessed to be dealing in collector coins, a hobby he had enjoyed his whole life. Camino, while always important, was central to monetary affairs in the 1960s and 1970s, decades of dramatic changes in the precious metals market.

The US had abandoned the domestic gold standard and then the coinage of silver. Ever since FDR, it had been illegal for Americans to own gold. That finally changed, and people needed a reliable business to make that ownership real. Camino became the most respected name in the industry. Burt’s buy-sell spreads consistently beat the competition, his attention to the consumer was famous — his long-term customers became his friends — and he fought against unethical practices, as recognized by various industry groups. Burt was also a Silicon Valley pioneer: in 1970, he founded the first computerized price and news network that knit together dealers all over country, and made the coin market more efficient. Xerox recognized Burt’s entrepreneurial achievement when it bought the network.

As a collector, Burt would use real examples of hard money and depreciated paper money for the most engaging lessons in monetary history and theory I’ve ever heard. He especially enjoyed teaching young people about inflation, and the direct connection between monetary deprecation and tyranny. Among his tools were zero-filled Yugoslavian notes, and paper currency printed and used in Nazi concentration camps.

Burt helped Murray Rothbard found the Center for Libertarian Studies in 1976, later becoming its president. In this role, he was publisher of the Journal of Libertarian Studies and the Austrian Economics Newsletter, and the benefactor — materially and in friendship — to many libertarian intellectuals. His offices were a kind of home base for thinkers in the movement. He also became the chairman of the Mises Institute, succeeding Margit von Mises, and then the publisher of the Rothbard-Rockwell Report and its successor, LewRockwell.com, where these funny and profound essays first appeared.

Burt Blumert has been charitable, far-seeing, and steadfast in his role as Misesian-Rothbardian entrepreneur. As a man, he is funny, charming, decent, and generous. As a writer, as you will see from this book, he is a talented satirist who can teach the truths of liberty and life while making you laugh out loud. Most of all, he has shown how the Mises-Rothbard dream of drawing together commerce and ideas can be achieved.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail] is founder and president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com, and author of Speaking of Liberty.

Lew Rockwell Archives

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