This article is excerpted from the title essay and the introduction to the first edition of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays.
Introduction to First Edition
Probably the most common question that has been hurled at me in some exasperation over the years is, "Why don’t you stick to economics?"
For different reasons, this question has been thrown at me by fellow economists and by political thinkers and activists of many different persuasions: conservatives, liberals, and libertarians who have disagreed with me over political doctrine and are annoyed that an economist should venture "outside of his discipline."
Among economists, such a question is a sad reflection of the hyperspecialization among intellectuals of the present age. I think it manifestly true that very few of even the most dedicated economic technicians began their interest in economics because they were fascinated by cost curves, indifference classes, and the rest of the paraphernalia of modern economic theory. Almost to a man, they became interested in economics because they were interested in social and political problems and because they realized that the really hard political problems cannot be solved without an understanding of economics. After all, if they were really interested mainly in equations and tangencies on graphs, they would have become professional mathematicians and not have devoted their energies to an economic theory that is, at best, a third-rate application of mathematics.
Unfortunately, what usually happens to these people is that as they learn the often imposing structure and apparatus of economic theory, they become so fascinated by the minutiae of technique that they lose sight of the political and social problems that sparked their interest in the first place. This fascination is also reinforced by the economic structure of the economics profession (and all other academic professions) itself: namely, that prestige, rewards, and brownie points are garnered not by pondering the larger problems but by sticking to one’s narrow last and becoming a leading expert on a picayune technical problem.
Among some economists, this syndrome has been carried so far that they scorn any attention to politico-economic problems as a demeaning and unclean impurity, even when such attention is given by economists who have made their mark in the world of specialized technique. And even among those economists who do deal with political problems, any consideration devoted to such larger extra-economic matters as property rights, the nature of government, or the importance of justice is scorned as hopelessly "metaphysical" and beyond the pale.
Murray N. Rothbard (19261995) was the author of Man, Economy, and State, Conceived in Liberty, What Has Government Done to Our Money, For a New Liberty, The Case Against the Fed, and many other books and articles. He was also the editor with Lew Rockwell of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and academic vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.