Tribute to George Resch
have done as much as George Resch to advance libertarian scholarship.
He was a protégé of the outstanding libertarian thinker
F. A. "Baldy" Harper and worked with Harper at the William
Volker Fund. While working there, he helped Harper establish the
Institute for Humane Studies and became part of Murray Rothbard's
inner circle. He became an authority on education and wrote a seminal
paper that dissected the concept of equality of opportunity.
enough to have met George will be struck immediately by his incisive
mind. His intellectual gifts immediately impressed Harper, who lectured
at the advanced session of the Freedom School in Colorado that George
attended in 1958. (The Freedom School was a program of lectures
and seminars run by Robert LeFevre that helped to popularize libertarian
ideas. George became aware of the Freedom School through reading
an advertisement in National Review.) Harper and George engaged
in intense discussions during the weeklong sessions and found they
held many ideas in common. Harper, a retired economics professor
at Cornell University, did not confine his advocacy of the free
market to economic arguments. He embraced a comprehensive philosophy
of freedom and rejected the need for government altogether. (Murray
Rothbard, who met Harper at the Foundation for Economic Education,
later said that Harper was one of the first individualist anarchists
he had met.)
to Harper, George mentioned that there were two persons he especially
wanted to meet: Murray Rothbard and Aubrey Herbert, a writer for
the libertarian magazine Faith and Freedom. Harper informed
him that the two people were one and the same: "Aubrey Herbert"
was a pen name that Rothbard sometimes used
One issue was
particularly important to Harper, and here he found himself in entire
accord with George. War was the principal means by which the power
of the state has grown: libertarians must, then, oppose a bellicose
policy, whatever its ostensible rationale. As Harper noted in In
Search of Peace (1951): "It is frequently argued these
days that force must be use to stop aggression before it starts.
This is an untenable position. . . Such use of force is never justified,
and in engaging in it there has been opened a floodgate of mayhem,
which, in its release, can be followed logically to the ultimate
obliteration of the human race."
a story — he has anecdotes about nearly everybody —
that perfectly illustrates Harper's point. Frank S. Meyer, an ex-Communist
who later became a Senior Editor of National Review, claimed
to be a classical liberal. But he saw no inconsistency between defending
a minimal state and calling for a preventive nuclear war against
Soviet Russia. George protested, and he and Meyer argued. The great
Richard Weaver, the author of Ideas
Have Consequences, listened to the dispute and said, "I
agree with Mr. Resch."
wanted George to become further involved with the libertarian movement,
and he was in an excellent position to bring this about. Harper
worked for the William Volker Fund, the principal organization at
that time that discovered and supported classical liberal scholars.
(The Fund, e.g., helped to pay the university salaries of Mises
and Hayek.) George accordingly received an invitation to attend
a conference, sponsored by the Fund, at Claremont Men's College
in 1959. Arthur Kemp directed the conference, and the principal
speakers were Armen Alchian, John Jewkes, and Felix Morley. (Ralph
Raico also attended the conference.)
One of Alchian's
lecture topics was monopoly, but George had heard that another economist
held more radically free market views on the subject. This was of
course Murray Rothbard, and George telephoned him to ask what he
had written about the topic. Rothbard had not yet published his
views, but he outlined his main arguments in a long conversation.
From this initial contact, a lifelong friendship developed. Rothbard
became George's intellectual mentor, constantly suggesting books
and articles for George to read and discussing them with him.
To return to
Claremont, George's intellect and remarkable knowledge again attracted
attention. G. Warren Nutter, the noted University of Virginia economist,
attended the conference and wrote a very favorable report on George.
Results quickly followed. Harper offered George a part-time position
with the Foundation for Voluntary Welfare, an organization with
close ties to the Volker Fund; and after a short time, he became
a researcher and liaison officer with the Fund.
George graduated from Lawrence College, Wisconsin, in 1960. Here
he studied with Herbert Spiegelberg, a philosopher and historian
of the phenomenological movement, and Mandell Morton Bober, the
author of Karl
Marx's Interpretation of History, a standard critical work.
He later did graduate work in history at Indiana University, studying
with the Pulitzer Prize winner R. Carlyle Buley. George assisted
Buley in a seminar on the historiography of Pearl Harbor. Buley,
like George, was a resolute revisionist.
At the Volker
Fund, George continued his close ties to Murray Rothbard, and many
of Rothbard's detailed reports on books and articles are addressed
as letters to him. The Fund's primary purpose was to promote the
work of classical liberal scholars, and George became an expert
talent spotter. He was not easily impressed. I well remember that
his enthusiasm for John Gray, an Oxford political theorist for a
while much in favor with libertarian groups, was under firm control.
Rothbard later said that George had been "prematurely sound
on the John Gray question."
supported an extension of the Volker Fund's mission. He thought
there should be a center where classical liberal scholars would
be able to conduct research. He and George drew up organization
plans, and the center was established with Volker financing. Second
only to Harper, George thus ranks as a principal founder of the
center in question, the Institute for Humane Studies.
At the Volker
Fund and the IHS, George specialized in education; and his work
in this area is of fundamental importance for libertarian theory.
His essay, "Human Variations and Individuality," a chapter
in William F. Rickenbacker, ed., The
Twelve-Year Sentence (Open Court, 1974), challenges the
underlying basis of state-controlled education. (He also contributed
an annotated bibliography on compulsory education to the volume.)
state schools argue that it is unfair that children from poor families
might, in the free market, be denied an equal opportunity for education.
This accusation has often put defenders of the market on the defensive:
while many challenge "equality of result," is not "equality
of opportunity" a slogan that nearly everyone accepts?
with Rothbard, sharply dissents. Because people differ extensively
in their abilities and interests, equality of opportunity cannot
be achieved. If so, it must be abandoned as a goal. "So long
as individuals, largely as a result of their biological inheritances,
vary so greatly, equality of opportunity is simply not possible.
What equality can there be, for example, between two young people,
one brilliantly intelligent and in vigorous good health and the
other a mental dullard with a sickly constitution? Is it not obvious
that they are marked for different roles in life and that what they
need is unequal opportunities in accord with their
unequal endowments?" (Rickenbacker, p.43)
equality might counter by claiming that, even if the goal cannot
be fully attained, schools should do as much as possible to produce
equality. George relentlessly pursues his case: "Even by subjecting
all children to the same curriculum, however, we would still be
unable to achieve the desired equality. The inborn differences among
individuals are too fundamental a part of their natures to be obliterated
even by a decade or more of scholastic engineering. Compulsory education
not only fails to achieve its egalitarian goal, but by subjecting
all to the same studies in lockstep fashion effectively denies them
any real opportunity at all." (Rickenbacker, pp.4546)
views, it is hardly surprising that he found congenial Rothbard's
analysis of the same issue in Power
and Market. In a review of this volume, George recognized
its stature: "The market, in harmony with man's nature, involves
man exercising his power over nature to the benefit of all. . .
State interventionism, in contrast, inherently involves coercion
and the exploitation of some men by others, the disruption of want
satisfaction and an incessant war of all against all as people struggle
to capture control of the state apparatus for their own purposes.
. .This brilliant work is certain to spark a spirited debate and
is destined to be one of the classics of the rapidly growing literature
of a free society."(Modern Age, Spring 1971, pp. 21011).
George early established himself as a foremost Rothbardian and together
with Rothbard founded the journal Left and Right in 1965.
George pursued a career in business, apart from a brief return to
the IHS in 1970. He has worked at Camino Coins with Burt Blumert,
another of Rothbard's closest friends and a key supporter of the
Mises Institute, for many years. I have known George since 1979
and have spoken to him nearly every day since then. His remarkable
range of knowledge, which ranges from the works of W. H. Mallock
to the mysteries of herpetology, his analytic mind, and his devotion
to a free society are an inspiration. He is a great person and a
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