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Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits

Every once in a while I get this sudden urge to smash my fist into a nestfull of Rothbardian hornets, as I did with my last blog, causing a cloud of them from the hive to rush to the defense of the Queen Wasp. As the venom of vespa rothbardbro has a curious molecular struture that may interest students of economic entomology, I here offer some samples from among those I garnered by means of my brave sacrifice to the cause of science:

"George Selgin has the mind of a child. I am almost embarrassed for him. It comes from hiding in a University environment where you don't ever have to grow up and be an adult in the real world so you can spend your life as a freakish governemnt (aka, mommy-n-daddy) worshiper. It sometimes is appealing…Especially with the young coeds."

"Rothbard's writings are as popular as ever, and we can all learn from them. Friedman's book sales are pretty much limited to required readings that appear on reading lists of Keynesian [!] economics professors."

"Selgin is dealing in the never, never land where accurate price indexes and productivity levels can apparently be determined with the snap of a finger. In other words, Selgin's monetary policy prescription can't be executed in the real world. It is fairy tale stuff."

"Check out that blog of Selgin's. Fractional Banking. IP-socialism. Attacks on LRC "cult". Attacks on Rothbard and Rockwell. Koch economists."

"Here is Selgins's "sophisticated" and "non-naive" version of the "Austrian" credit cycle theory: 'many Keynesians might accept the framework of monetary equilibrium offered by me. Those who do not regard liquidity trap as important factual possibility would probably accept it as entirely adequate' (Theory of Free Banking, p. 59)."

"There are no "policies" in a free market. Readjust your premises."

"Your criticism of Rothbard is desperate and reeks of nothing but mindless antagonism."

"Did you know that your name is constantly used as a straw man by anti-Austrian Keynesians and other statists who say things like "Even George Selgin agrees with me."? It's people like you who are hampering change for the better. You compromising fools perpetuate the very systems you claim to be against, and you don't even know it, because you're too busy worrying about tenure and being accepted by the establishment."

"Someone who manages to tell you in line one that he was debating "Lord xyz…" and in his concluding lines disses you and the blog with the condescension befitting one who banters with the British upper-crust, should maybe know the difference between elicit and illicit?" (NB: I did indeed type "illicited" in my original post. You can't be too careful.)

Being only a field researcher I must leave it to others to determine the precise damage done to me by all this poison. But for whatever the amateur observation may be worth, I'm feeling perfectly chipper.

Addendum. I somehow overlooked the following barb, which deserves a place of honor among the others:

"I knew Selgin was a fruit loop when he denied Austrian methodology and epistemology by ignoring inevitable unintended consequences and the violation of subjective value theory with his central bank efficiency policy recommendations."

I'm not sure just how I violated subjective value theory, but if I did I hope that the right sort of counseling will help it to recover from the trauma.

  • It's always the wasps who are first to reply, and those of us who were generally in agreement tend to keep quiet.

    I know Man, Economy and State pretty well, having used it in graduate seminars. It is a remarkable work, but when Rothbard goes off the track, as is inevitable in such a sweeping work, the wreckage is spectacular. His opposition to fractional-reserve banking is perhaps the worst pile-up in the book.

    I thought George was a little too hard in calling MNR a "mediocre to bad" monetary economist but I mostly agree with the post. I admire George Selgin for his independence and integrity and for his substantial contributions to monetary theory.

    Warren Gibson
    San Jose State Univ.

  • So, it started with Rockwell attacking Milton Friedman. Then it continued with David Friedman defending his father. Then George Selgin came to David's aid. Then some Rothbardians I don't know flipped out at Selgin. Hey guys, I'm desperate, can we please please please stop all this libertarian in-fighting. It's so completely stupid! It's like the rebels in Monty Python's Life of Brian

    • George Selgin

      Depends how you look at it, Eitan. You imagine that if we all cease to disagree publically, it will forward the libertarian cause. I believe that the libertarian cause (or at least the cause of achieving monetary freedom) will go forward only once the Rothbardian loonies are generally recognized as a fringe group within the broader movement, and one that is deservedly scorned by the remainder.

      The last thing I want, in other words, is to allow anyone to assume that I share the views of the persons I've been criticizing, on account of the fact that those who hold or make them also claim to be advocates of monetary laissez faire.

      • I'm not quite sure what scorn adds to scholarly debate. Frankly, it turns me off, and it seems unnecessary; I am convinced by your logical arguments contra Rothbard, not the seeming school-yard retorts bouncing between the debaters.

        • George Selgin

          Well, Eitan, so far as I'm aware I offered substantive defenses of my positions both here and on EPJ. I don't hold punches, true enough. But I don't believe you can quote anything from me thatfits your "schoolyard" description–nothing, certainly, that even comes close to the sort of juvenile remarks I've posted above. When people turn to spouting such stuff, "scholarly debate" is out of the question, it, and scorn seems to me the only fit response.

          • PrometheeFeu

            Well, this particular post does seem a bit childish honestly. Not that I didn't get a good laugh, but it's not the most informative post I've read on this blog.

          • Martin Brock

            "Rothbardian loonies" seems to fit the description. I've written similar things, so I'm in no position to throw stones at your glass house. Just saying …

      • George Selgin

        Oh PrometheeFeu, why not just enjoy your laugh and allow me mine? I promise to get informative again in my next blog.

        • PrometheeFeu

          You did not disappoint with your next post.

  • D. Thomas

    Speak of Rothbard and MES, I've got both his book and Mises' Human Action, sitting on my desk unread.

    Can I ask which is considered the better book? The world ends next week and so I have only time to read one book. Do I choose Rothbard or Mises?

    Thanks in advance for anybody's opinion.

    • David Johnson

      Mises in my opinion. MES is the easier reading, but far more insights in Human Action.

      • D. Thomas

        Thank you David Johnson.

  • Othyem

    I actually think the case for a free market lives or dies by its monetary system. And free banking, in my opinion, offers the most respectable, realistic, and theoretically sound monetary framework from a free market perspective than any alternative. So the work that free market monetary economists, such as Selgin et al., are doing is VITALLY important. They are the tip of the spear.

  • I hope that by "Rothbardian loonies" you don't mean everyone who may agree with Rothbard. I don't think advancing the libertarian cause requires accepting monetary disequilibrium theory (and, on that token, I don't think that accepting your theory of free banking requires completely accepting monetary disequilibrium theory).

    • Othyem

      I'm pretty sure he just means those who are Rothbard enthusiasts…and nothing else. There's not one single Austrian economist (including Selgin) who I'm familiar with that has repudiated everything Rothbard has said. I think he deserves his place in the Austrian school Hall of Fame; but some of his ideas were flawed. Others may not agree but I think we should be able to discuss that without people getting butt-hurt.

      You're right. Advancing liberty does not necessarily require one to advance free banking ideas. I was merely expressing my opinion.

      • Well, fwiw, I think you're broadly right; but, I think there is consensus that there should be free banking (apart from that forced, legal 100% reserve nonsense). The argument is what this system would look like.

    • George Selgin

      No, Jon, I don't at all mean that everyone who agrees with Rothbard's views on this or that topic (even including fractional reserves) is looney. I mean only to refer to those of his fans who write the sort of things I've posted. Nor can Rothbard be held responsible for everything his fans write, supposedly in his defense.

      • Well, then I agree. The people who wrote those comments don't come off as serious thinkers.

  • Oooh – bantering with the British upper crust! Sounds fancy!