mises.org // July 29, 2017
[This talk was delivered at the 2017 Mises University.]
Greetings to everyone at the Corax 2017 conference, and greetings also to the audience here at our annual Mises University. As you can see both events are happening simultaneously, so I couldn’t be with you in person this evening. But I very much appreciate being invited by Sofia and Martin to speak, and I would indeed have joined you in Malta any other week. And I admire Sofia and Martin for having the courage to leave Sweden and start this new venture in Malta, which by their account is not only warmer but also far more reasonable!
What I’d like to talk about today is libertarians, more than libertarianism itself. And I’ll ask you to consider whether libertarians have lost their way.
The title “For a New Libertarian” is I hope an obvious play on the title of Murray Rothbard’s famous book For a New Liberty. It’s an underrated book, less well-known perhaps than The Ethics of Liberty. Lots of authors have the ego to call their books “a manifesto,” but few books actually live up to such an bold subtitle. This book does.
I love Murray’s line: “libertarianism, then, is a philosophy seeking a policy.” I wonder if he’d change that line today, if he could see where the “public policy” branch of libertarianism has become. Or maybe he should have written “libertarianism is a philosophy seeking better libertarians.”
I also chose the title to make the important point that we don’t need a “new libertarianism” or anything so grand. Thanks to the great thinkers who came before us, and still among us, we don’t have to do the hard work — which is good news, because not many of us are smart enough to come up with new theory! We can all very happily serve as second-hand dealers in ideas.