While reading biographical accounts of Murray Rothbard, one thing becomes clear to me: He was very true to himself, more than most thinkers I have ever read of. Murray Rothbard was an honorable exception in a profession where even blind idealists find themselves being tempted to play by the rules. There was of course, a terrible price for being the greatest entertainer in the history of economic thought. Because, Manu Joseph’s take on Delhi is all the more true of the Economics profession: “Delhi, often, confuses seriousness with intelligence and humour with flippancy. People will not be taken seriously here if they are not, well, serious.”
If you have to be taken seriously by fellow academics, you have to be as dry, boring and confused. Rothbard’s lectures on the contrary, as Bryan Caplan opined, might as well have been named “The joy of Econ”. One of Bryan’s blog posts had an apt title, “History + Comedy = Rothbard”, because he was “Haha funny”. Then, as someone had said, he’d rather have a good laugh than a Nobel Prize.
Rothbard believed that an individualist born in this world “marked by fraud, folly and tyranny” has three ways to deal with it: Retire into one’s own cocoon, set out to reform the world or take immense delight in the nonsense he sees around. Rothbard , it seems, was among the very few who had a driving desire to reform the world and take delight in the spectacle of folly at the same time. He lacked the pessimism of H.L. Mencken who was not too much of a reformer. Mencken knew that his barbaric fellow beings were hopeless and beyond repair and reform. Even when Rothbard writes about the worst of tyrannies, it appeared that like H.L. Mencken, he felt far more delight than indignation. As readers, we feel nothing but amusement even when he cheerfully quotes the listing of monstrosities in the diary of a slave owner who imagined himself to be a kind taskmaster. Continue reading “The H. L. Mencken of Economics”