May 13, 2013 12:28PM

Rothbard in the New Yorker

Here’s something you don’t see every day: A discussion of Murray Rothbard’s anarcho‐​capitalism in the New Yorker, in a broader review of books on “anarchism” emerging from the Occupy movement. Author Kelefa Sanneh writes:

In fact, there is one anarchist who could be considered influential in Washington, but he wasn’t among the activists who participated in the Occupy movement — he died nearly twenty years ago. His name is Murray Rothbard, and, among small‐​government Republicans, he is something of a cult hero. He was Ron Paul’s intellectual mentor, which makes him the godfather of the godfather of the Tea Party. Justin Amash, a young Republican congressman from Michigan and a rising star in the Party, hangs a framed portrait of him on his office wall.


Rothbard was an anarchist, but also a capitalist. “True anarchism will be capitalism, and true capitalism will be anarchism,” he once said, and he sometimes referred to himself by means of a seven‐​syllable honorific: “anarcho‐​capitalist.” Graeber thinks that governments treat their citizens “like children,” and that, when governments disappear, people will behave differently. Anarcho‐​capitalists, on the contrary, believe that, without government, people will behave more or less the same: we will be just as creative or greedy or competent as we are now, only freer. Instead of imagining a world without drastic inequality, anarcho‐​capitalists imagine a world where people and their property are secured by private defense agencies, which are paid to keep the peace. Graeber doesn’t consider anarcho‐​capitalists to be true anarchists; no doubt the feeling is mutual.

“Cult hero … among small‐​government Republicans” seems a real stretch. But maybe among Ron Paul and Justin Amash, which is more congressional fans than most economist‐​philosophers have. Author Sanneh no doubt learned about Rothbard when he wrote a long and fairly sympathetic profile of Ron Paul on the campaign trail.


At Lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org Aaron Powell examines the New Yorker’s examination of anarchism, both capitalist and anti‐​capitalist. Also at Lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org find out more about Murray Rothbard, including some exclusive videos.