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Rothbard and “Social Darwinism”

In an article that appeared on the  “ThinkProgress” website, Ian Millhiser manages to pack a large number of distortions of Murray Rothbard’s thought into a short space. Millhiser argues in this way: Rothbard was heavily influenced by Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics. In that book, Spencer maintained that evolutionary progress required that the poor be left to die. Because Rothbard was influenced by Spencer, he too believed this. Rothbard, then, was a heartless despiser of the poor.

Every step in Millhiser’s argument is wrong. Although Rothbard did admire Spencer and sometimes quotes him, he was not at all a follower of Spencer’s evolutionary thought. Further, Spencer, far from opposing aid to the poor, supported private charity. As for “Social Darwinism,” Rothbard assailed it in a lengthy memo to the Volker Fund. In an article written in 2012, I discussed these topics in detail.

Milhiser would be well advised to read Rothbard before attacking him again; but I predict that he will not take this advice.

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8:05 pm on April 13, 2015