Who Was Murray N. Rothbard?

Murray N. Rothbard was an economist, author, and libertarian. He was a proponent of Austrian economics, founded the Center for Libertarian Studies in 1976, and co-founded the Mises Institute in 1982.

Rothbard is the author of several books, including Man, Economy, and State. Murray N. Rothbard died on Jan. 7, 1995.

Ket Takeaways

• Murray N. Rothbard is considered the father of “anarcho-capitalism.”

• He co-founded the Mises Institute in 1982.

• Rothbard is the founder of the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Journal for Libertarian Studies.

Murray N. Rothbard

Investopedia / Julie Bang

Early Life and Education

Murray N. Rothbard was born on March 2, 1926, in New York City. He attended Columbia University where he earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1945 and a Ph.D. in economics in 1956. Rothbard taught economics at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute for 20 years and in 1986, joined the faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he remained until the time of his death in 1995.

Austrian Economics

Murray N. Rothbard was a libertarian and ardent proponent of Austrian economics, often considered an unorthodox view of economic principles within the United States. With the publication of Carl Menger’s Principles of Economics, the Austrian school of economics was founded in 1871. Murray N. Rothbard embraced the school's philosophy that only individuals make choices and collective entities should not.

Considered the father of anarcho-capitalism, Rothbard espoused individual responsibility and self-ownership over state control. He followed the Austrian school that argued that private property gives rise to profit and loss, allows producers to evaluate the consequences of their investment decisions, and provides an incentive for entrepreneurship.

Murray N. Rothbard was a controversial figure for his belief that the free market should provide all services that are traditionally considered functions of a limited government, including roads, infrastructure, and police protection. He opposed taxation and rejected all involvement of the state in personal economic matters.

Center for Libertarian Studies

Murray N. Rothbard would emerge as a prominent and influential figure in the libertarianism movement in America in the 20th century. He aligned with right-libertarianism, known for strong political ideologies such as self-ownership, minimal state involvement, and the elimination of a welfare state approach. Rothbard was the founder of both the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Journal of Libertarian Studies.

Ludwig von Mises Institute

Influenced by Ludwig von Mises and his 1940 book, Human Action, Rothbard was an active member of Mises' seminars at New York University in the early 1950s. Known for his consistent adherence to the principles of laissez-faire and strong resistance to government intervention in economic matters, Ludwig von Mises would become Murray Rothbard's mentor. In 1982, Rothbard co-founded the Ludwig von Mises Institute at Auburn University. The Mises Institute promotes teaching and research in the Austrian school of economics in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard.

What Was Murray N. Rothgard's View of the Federal Reserve?

In his book, The Origins of the Federal Reserve, Rothbard argues that the Fed was founded by two groups of elites which included government officials and large financial and banking interests, and did not originate as a policy response to the national need.

What Were Murray N. Rothbard's Concerns Regarding Taxation?

Rothbard once noted in his book, The Ethics of Liberty, that "taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects."

How Did Murray N. Rothbard View Welfare Economics?

Rothbard surmised that the free market, the network of voluntary interactions between individuals, always produces the greatest degree of social welfare possible and government intervention is never justified in terms of welfare.

The Bottom Line

Murray N. Rothbard challenged traditional U.S. economic thought with theories derived from the Austrian school of economics. Known as a libertarian and protege of Ludwig von Mises, Rothbard authored several books, including For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto in 2010.

Article Sources
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  1. CATO Institute. "Murray Rothbard."

  2. The Library of Economics and Liberty. "Austrian School of Economics."

  3. The Library of Economics and Liberty. "150 Years of the Austrian School of Economics."

  4. Mises Institute. "What Is the Mises Institute?"

  5. Mises Institute. "Rothbardian Welfare Economics."