For over 40 years, I have watched university economists attack Murray Rothbard in print. They never laid a glove on him.
They had certain things in common. They never published anything comparable to his book, Man, Economy, and State (1962). They never published anything comparable to America’s Great Depression (1963). They did not publish widely in any mainstream scholarly journals. Their existence was not acknowledged by Keynesians. But they knew Rothbard was a second rater, and some of them even said so.
Why was this? I offer this theory. He published in newsletters aimed at the general public. He published easy-to-read books on numerous topics. His theoretical works did not have equations. He did not rely on statistics, although he was aware of statistical trends. He was a skilled mathematician, but he did not rely on mathematics. Most of all, he took the message of Austrian School economics to young scholars and intelligent layman. He built Mises’s reputation, and he thereby built his own reputation.
I can think of one free-market economist of no particular reputation who has referred to Rothbard as a mediocre monetary theorist. He also has said that Rothbard spent his time developing a cult of himself. This man has never written a book that has had any impact, either in the economics profession or in the general public. His books are published mostly outside the country, and mostly for over $140. He has built his curriculum vitae by being published by a publisher that rakes in money by charging outrageous prices to tax-funded American university libraries. A lot of academicians use this approach. Then they grant tenure to each other, based on the fact that an academic publisher has published their books. The academic publisher is skilled at milking the taxpayers of America by means of university libraries. A book that can be published on demand and sold at a profit for $25 is instead sold in very limited quantities for $150. This is called academic publishing, and Rothbard was never part of this scam.
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If an economist really wants to get his ideas to the general public, he will publish his book in PDF for free, and create a supporting blog. If he wants to play academic games at taxpayers’ expense, he will seek out obscure, overpriced academic publishers.
These men are not major thinkers. They are at best technicians. The Keynesians ignored Rothbard, so the critics have come as camp followers to the Austrian School movement, or as camp followers to the Chicago School of economics. They don’t have their own independent reputations, and they are not part of a particular school of economics. Put simply, they have no connections, no leverage, and no legacy.