story is part of Walter
Block's Autobiography Archive.
Studying Under Murray
should have known Murray Rothbard was something special the first
night of class when I noticed a fellow student, James Philbin, following
behind Murray as he entered the classroom carrying a stool for Murray
to sit on as he lectured. Philbin, like others in the class, knew
who Murray was; he was their whole reason for being in the University
of Nevada Las Vegas economics masters program. This was the Fall
semester of 1990, and despite being in my early 30’s, I had never
heard of Libertarians, Austrian Economics, Anarcho-capitalists or
Murray Rothbard. I was just there working on a Masters degree in
economics. Serendipity had indeed smiled.
Murray immediately launched into his opening lecture for ECO 742
History of Economic Thought, I knew that this was economics
that way it should be taught. Forget the graphs, equations and other
nonsense that I’d endured my first two semesters; this was the good
guys vs. bad guys, human action stories told at the pace of a Robin
Williams monolog, punctuated with the occasional cackle and a dozen
or so reading references a night book title, author, year
published, and usually the publisher name.
semester was History with a monetary emphasis. Murray’s notes ultimately
became his two-volume work: Economic
Thought Before Adam Smith and Classical
Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought.
to think that one of my fellow students had advised me to not take
Murray, because he was, as this student described, "a kook."
This guy had suggested that I take the History of Thought course
independent study with one of the other, presumably wiser, professors.
I didn’t know any better, but it sounded like it would be a pain
to line up a professor for independent study, so I gave Murray a
shot, and the rest is history.
it wasn’t just Murray and Austrian economics that semester. I also
had Political Economy with professor Rick Tilman, who fed his class
a steady diet of his heroes, assigning C. Wright Mills’ The
Power Elite, Thorsten Veblen’s The
Theory of the Leisure Class, and Marx’s Communist
that semester, all I took was Murray, other than a forgettable Economic
Fluctuations class. I soon began my Masters thesis entitled Early
Speculative Bubbles and Increases in the Supply of Money with
Murray as my thesis committee chair. Murray was an incredible resource
and inspiration. He was literally a walking bibliography. I leaned
heavily on his work and that of Mises, in addition to economic historians,
Earl J. Hamilton, Charles P. Kindleberger, and Antoin Murphy. But,
perhaps Murray’s best advice was concerned my writing. My initial
drafts were very wordy, with long complicated sentences. Murray
told me, "If you want to learn how to write well, read H.L.
Mencken. Start with A
remember being quite apprehensive as the day for my thesis defense
approached, knowing that all graduate economics department faculty
were invited. Trying to quell my fears, Murray told me, "don’t
worry, you know more about bubbles than anyone in the room."
long-winded 90-minute defense proved effective in emptying the room
of any dissenters other than the guys who had to be there, my thesis
committee members. The only challenge came from committee member
Hans Hoppe. I’m sure I looked like a deer in the headlights upon
professor Hoppe’s questioning, but and I didn’t know a thesis
committee chair could do this Murray handled the challenge
smartly, and that was, as I remember, the end of it.
encouraged me to take the part of my thesis that dealt with Tulipmania
and submit it as an article for publication in various mainstream
economics journals. He felt that I had a good chance for publication,
believing that I had made, as he put it, "a contribution."
However, none of the seven or eight economics journals I tried (including
the Review of Austrian
Economics after Murray’s death) shared Murray’s view. Sharing
my frustration, Murray wrote in one of his letters, "Your experience
with the journals reminds me that every time I’ve been rejected
by a scholarly journal, I’ve been infuriated, not because of the
rejection, but because the referees all seemed to be a pack of morons
who missed the point of the article."
of Murray’s encouragement I’ve written articles and book reviews
from a libertarian and Austrian economics perspective, appearing
in Freedom Daily, The Freeman, The
Free Market, LewRockwell.com,
Liberty, Las Vegas Review Journal, Las Vegas Business
Press, and the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Viewpoint.
were not many students who had the privilege of studying and writing
a thesis under the direction of Murray Rothbard. I’m thankful every
day that I was one of those few. I became a libertarian relatively
late, but I had the best possible teacher.
French [send him mail],
a student of Murray N. Rothbard’s, is a banker in Henderson, NV.
© 2002 LewRockwell.com