Over the years those lucky enough to study under Rothbard and Hoppe at UNLV in the 80s/90s have given some talks about their experiences there, usually spearheaded by Doug French, former Mises Institute President. This includes a panel at the Mises Institute’s 35th Anniversary event in New York in 2017 (schedule; Youtube playlist), and a panel at the Property and Freedom Society Annual Meeting in 2015 (PFP129 | Memories: Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) as Mentor and Teacher, Hoppe, DiLorenzo, French, Iglody (PFS 2015)).
The most recent panel was at the Austrian Economics Research Conference in March 2023, entitled “Murray Rothbard as a Teacher: The UNLV Years—A Panel with Rothbard’s Former Students (AERC2023)”. The panelists were:
- Douglas E. French (Mises Institute), Chair
- Jeffrey F. Barr, Attorney, Las Vegas, NV
- Joseph F. Becker, Mises Institute
- Richard Tejidor, Los Angeles, CA
- James Yohe, Gadsden State Community College
Video below. Many thanks to Clay Barnett for video editing. (Audio file: mp3). Some photos from the event are appended below. Transcript below.
(to be released later as Property and Freedom Podcast, Episode 251, October 2023)
Murray Rothbard as a Teacher: The UNLV Years—A Panel with Rothbard’s Former Students
Austrian Economics Research Conference, Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama
March 17, 2023
Douglas E. French, Jeffrey F. Barr, Joseph F. Becker, Richard Tejidor, James Yohe
DOUG FRENCH: So my name is Doug French. I studied under Murray from roughly ’89 to ’92 or ’90 to ’92. Next to me is Joe Becker, and you studied under Murray what years?
JOE BECKER: ’91 to ’93.
DOUG FRENCH: ’91 to ’93. And next up is Rich.
JAMES YOHE: [indiscernible_00:00:20]
DOUG FRENCH: Don’t jump ahead. Rich, please introduce yourself and say what years you…
RICHARD TEJIDOR: Hi. I’m Rich Tejidor. I studied under Murray and Hans ’89 to ’94.
JAMES YOHE: James Yohe. I was there from ’91 until ’95.
JEFFREY BARR: I’m Jeff Barr. I was at UNLV with Hans and Murray from ’89 to ’95 and then took the very last class with Murray Rothbard [indiscernible_00:00:55].
DOUG FRENCH: All right, great. And you recognize this gentleman at the board. His name is Murray Rothbard, and as you’ve heard, we all had the pleasure of being struck by lightning, as I like to say. At this conference, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the publication of America’s Great Depression. And I like to tell the story that I didn’t have any idea who Murray Rothbard was when I came to UNLV.
And just to illustrate that point, Murray had—you got graded on three things. There was a midterm, there was a final, and there was a paper of 10 pages. You could write it on anything, but you had to get the topic approved by Murray. So I went in to talk to Murray, and I said, yeah, Murray—or Dr. Rothbard, I’d like to write on the Great Depression. And he goes, oh, that would be great. Why don’t—yeah, pull up—look up Lionel Robbins, and he mentioned this one and that one. And then he said, oh yeah, I wrote something about that. Yeah, he wrote something about that. It’s America’s Great Depression. But I had no idea.
But that shows you the kind of guy he was if he was—if Murray Rothbard—if that had been the only thing he did, he probably would have been a little miffed that I didn’t know about him. But he was very gracious, and I have since lost the paper somewhere between—I had it in Turkey a few years ago when we did something like this, and I have since lost the paper, but I did okay. But that is my—that’s my little anecdote about America’s Great Depression.
So this is the employee identification card. If you were thinking that—and this is courtesy of the archives here at the Mises Institute. You can see Murray’s signature, president’s signature, Robert Maxson who was eventually booted probably for no good reason other than getting sideways with the basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. So you could get sideways with pretty much anybody at UNLV but not Jerry Tarkanian, but this is when Murray started. He showed up in Vegas in 1986. I moved to Vegas in ’86. Hans Hoppe moved to Vegas in ’86. He starts January the 1st of ’87.
Now, this is a gradebook, and the only thing that I want to illustrate with this, and again, this is courtesy of the archives here at the Mises Institute, so I thank them for that. It’s not the fact that I got an A in the course. As you can tell, everybody got an A in the course almost. There is a B- and a C, and I have no idea how those people ended up getting that grade, but Murray was a notoriously easy grader. His tests were extraordinarily hard in some ways, but—and you’ll see one of his tests later in the program.
But you can see Murray, he—low-tech guy. He wasn’t putting anything on a computer. This was his gradebook. Now, when I went into talk about doing a thesis, I mentioned that I wanted to write on early speculative bubbles, and this is what Murray would hand you immediately. Whether you were writing a paper or whether you were writing a thesis, he would immediately give you—he would give you essentially a jumpstart in your research. And yes, that’s Murray’s handwriting, and no, I didn’t save any similar sorts of pieces of paper from other instructors I may have had at UNLV. But you can see John Carswell on the South Sea Bubble, Antoin Murphy, of course, on Richard Cantillon. And of course, Antoin Murphy is now the John Law expert. But this is what got me off the—this got me off the side of the dock in writing a thesis.
Now, the last time I saw Murray Rothbard was in December right before he died, in fact, about three weeks before he died. I happened to come back to Vegas from Reno. I went up to his office in Beam Hall. He wasn’t there. I waited patiently and waited and waited and waited. And of course, I was used to waiting and waiting. We all were. And he didn’t show up, so I took the elevator back down, and I opened the door, and there he was. And we went back up for a chat, and he was complaining about Chairman Thayer who was his new chair there.
And he handed me his employee evaluation. So you can see here that Professor Rothbard’s performance in the area of teaching has been satisfactory. No classroom materials, (syllabi, handouts, tests) have been provided. Evaluations indicate performance above the rest of the average. But again, he only did satisfactory. In professional growth, Rothbard’s performance was disappointing. During the ’81 calendar year, Rothbard was published in one article in a refereed journal. This work is in a lower-level journal, not indexed by the Journal of Economic Literature.
His performance in the area of service is disappointing. He seldom participates in the daily affairs of the department. So again, this is the way Murray was treated at UNLV. If anybody is under the delusion that he and Hans were somehow worshiped because they were the most well-known instructors at UNLV, they were not. He gets an overall grade of satisfactory. However, he has demonstrated only limited professional growth.
Murray was, as you can imagine, somewhat miffed, had asked him to teach or participate more in departmental affairs, teach more students, and be available as a role model to junior faculty. Now, this is the—his response to that evaluation, and it’s funny. It’s—his response is: Finally it is instructive to compare—or I must say that I am one of the best-known professors throughout the United States. He’s published two scholarly articles, published two smaller books during the year, but I’m—he does say that he wonders why Thayer states he would like me to teach more students, and yet he participated in the decision this year to abolish the MA program in theory and policy.
That’s what I took under my—when I went through. And I protest Chairman Thayer’s evaluation as an outrage. This is the first evaluation where I failed to attain satisfactory-to-excellent in every category, rates my work disappointing, demonstrated only limited professional growth. And I do not believe any unbiased person upon examining the record during ’91 could possibly conclude that.
In the words of Chairman Thayer, it is disappointing and demonstrates only limited professional growth. Of course, he’s attended all the department meetings. He’s attended—he’s kept office hours. He attended department meetings. He asked what daily life am I supposed to be missing? The only clue in Chairman Thayer’s remarks is that I’m supposed to be available as a role model to junior faculty. Apart from wondering why Mr. Thayer would possibly want someone with limited professional growth to serve as a role model, I must say that the best way someone including myself can so serve is to be allowed to go about his business as a scholar and a teacher without being subject to harassment.
In the first year I taught at UNLV, I was happy that two of my colleagues audited my entire History of Thought course, and again, I’m always available to answer questions. Surely, no one can reasonably be expected to do more than that. And he goes on to mention he’s the best—one of the best-known professors in the United States and abroad that was teaching at UNLV.
Students have come from around the country, a few that are sitting here, to study under him, both in undergraduate and graduate levels. Some of the best economics students have been attracted here by virtue of Rothbard being there. It’s ironic that Chairman Thayer states that he would like me to teach more students, and yes, again, he got rid of the theory and policy track.
So anyway, I moved to Reno, so it’s not like Murray just let you go and never communicate with you ever again. I traded letters with him because he thought I had made a contribution in the Tulipmania area. And this was a response to some of my frustration with some of the feedback I was getting from scholarly journals. And—but what I wanted to mention about this is also he gets into a little gossip here, and he says I’m not teaching enough students otherwise.
On the other hand, Nasser, the chairman, is trying to be fair-minded. He’s done a few things to offset Tom Carroll, the evil Tom Carroll as we know, though he remains as a prisoner of the graduate economics as well. El Stupo, John Brown, that doesn’t mean anything to you guys, but I had John Brown for macroeconomics and other things. There was a bit of a student revolt. We were all going to walk out, but [indiscernible_00:13:27], who was one of our classmates, said, listen, I’m getting an A. I’m not walking out. You guys can walk out if you want to. And anyway, we all stuck it out, and we made it through.
But John Brown was–well, let’s just say he was a guy who would fill up the chalkboard with equations, get down to the end, and he was wrong, and he couldn’t figure it out, and [indiscernible_00:13:48] would go up and point the error in his ways. But—and he mentions the new—a new teacher, Helen Neal. Did any of you have Helen Neal? Yeah, and of course, she’s a pro-free market type choice or public choice, albeit in the dippy questionnaire, experimental economics variety. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that sort of description before.
But Murray was very good about trading letters, and rumor has it there is a, shall we say, file cabinet after file cabinet of letters, possibly somewhere in this building. Oh, he does mention Perot because I asked him a politics question, and, of course, he always enjoyed talking politics. And I had asked him about the debate. But what he says here I think that’s interesting is the typical self-made billionaire, Perot, refuses to take advice from media or debate consultants, and so he was clobbered. I think that’s probably the case with all self-made billionaires. They don’t take anybody’s advice.
But he was certainly into politics. He was in politics that year. Perot and Pat, and he was on Pat Buchanan’s Kitchen Cabinet for a while, and then he supported Bush for a while, and it was really something. So I want to go to the panelist Q&A. These guys all have a different perspective that they can give you on Murray and what it was like to study under Murray. But I want to talk to—nobody—Murray doesn’t get around to teach if it’s not—or go to the study groups that are going to be talked about except for Rich. Rich happened to drive Murray around. As many of you know, Murray didn’t drive, didn’t know how to drive, and so what was that like, Rich, toting Murray around?
RICHARD TEJIDOR: Well, after we’d have one of our classes, we’d have a study group every week. And I’d walk with him to my car in the parking lot, and we’d get in my car and drive across the street a few hundred feet to the Caro’s restaurant for our study group. And then after that, I would drive him home very slowly so I wouldn’t—I didn’t want to get in an accident with him in the car and have that on my conscience.
One time, we were in the car, and I had the club back in the ‘90s to protect your car from getting stolen. It’s like a rod, and he was like, what’s that? And I was like, well, it’s just a—to prevent my car from getting stolen. And he was like, someone would steal this car? I was like, yeah, it’s a 1965 Chevy Malibu classic. It’s a super sport. He was like, interesting. But—and then when I would drop him off at his house, well, I’d usually have a question pre-planned while we were doing the short drive, driving very slowly. Then he’d thank me for the ride, and he’d get out, and he was not very tall, but he’d slam my car door every time, and I would just prepare myself because it was just like, and he was like, bye, bye. But that was my experience driving.
DOUG FRENCH: So what was your impression of—you were in the Caro study group, so this is beyond the classroom. Murray would go with some of these gentlemen and others, and you would go through his books. You had the benefit of Murray Rothbard teaching Man, Economy, and State in Caro’s Restaurant after class, right?
JAMES YOHE: He would teach—we’d go through the books with him, and usually someone would set it up, and we would go over there. And you’d sit there and take classes from other professors, especially at UNLV, and you just realized you’re in the presence of brilliance. There’s nothing else like it. There’s no way that you’re going to ever be able to get something like this again. So you did cherish it. And there was a little fear factor involved too because you didn’t want to go there and not be prepared or say something.
Everything you ever said to Murray was probably stupid on your part but—Murray Rothbard, but it was just an amazing experience. I never experienced anything like it. I went through, got my PhD, and I never experienced anything close to being in a setting like that with Murray or Hans Hoppe or anything like that, I mean, nothing close, nothing that even compares.
JEFFREY BARR: So you have to understand. We had the books ahead of time. A lot of times we couldn’t afford the books. The books were hard to get. So we had another buddy who was a copy jockey over at the local copy shop, and he’d copy the books for us, and so we’d read the books ahead of time to try and prepare for these meetings, and I was terrified like James. I never said a word because I didn’t want anybody to think that I was a nut or didn’t know what he was talking about. But I mean it was just in the air. You lived and breathed Austrian economics. And yes, we all took classes, and the classes were fine. The classes were interesting. But this is where we learned Austrian economics. And both Rothbard and Hoppe had a sort of student seminar like this.
JAMES YOHE: I went on to get my PhD here, and I probably learned more in a coffee shop and a dive bar than I ever learned and paid for in a university. It was just—there’s nothing to compare with.
JOSEPH BECKER: Well, thanks to some help from Susie in the archives, we have a special little gift for Richard Tejidor, Rothbard’s chauffeur. What he may not have known is that Murray could drive. He had a driver’s license. So either he just abused Richard, or he just really liked spending time with him, or he loved that car. So that’s for you, Richard.
DOUG FRENCH: Now, Joe, you were not at Caro’s, but I understand you were at the stakeout, and Hans’ stakeout was kind of an offshoot of what Murray put together or somebody put together at Caro’s Restaurant.
JOSEPH BECKER: Yeah, and I don’t remember exactly. I remember going to one meeting somewhere on campus where we gathered around a table, and it seems to me it was even in a different building than Beam Hall, which is where the business, and hence, economics department was in this case but certainly the stakeout. And when I wasn’t playing video poker, I really enjoyed spending time with Hans, and he would stay until, what, midnight, 1 in the morning. As long as the beer lasted, Hans was there.
DOUG FRENCH: This is where we’re supposed to move on. So who headed up these Caro’s meetings? Was there a student that kind of took charge of these and then either Murray or Hans would sit back and be the grand master? How did that work?
JOSEPH BECKER: Well, probably we owe Bud Bennamin [phonetic] a special thanks. I think we all know Bud. He operated a body shop—I mean in the traditional sense—in Las Vegas. And he somehow sidled his way into student government and procedure for us some sort of funding for this economics club, which, of course, kept the stakeout activities funded.
DOUG FRENCH: But it was a little bit different for Caro’s.
JAMES YOHE: That was a little bit different. Scott Keyarr [phonetic] was involved a lot. I think Jim Philbin early on. I’m the baby of the group, so I kind of got there last, but I think Philbin was involved, Jim Philbin, Scott Keyarr, and then Lee Clouti was very instrumental. He’d make sure we’d get the copies and things that we needed, but those were kind of the main students. The way that the whole thing worked was there was kind of a hierarchy, especially at the stakeout.
Dr. Hoppe would sit at kind of the head of the table, and then Joe and Jim Philbin and a couple of the other students. Scott Keyarr and graduate students would be kind of closest to him. And then it would kind of go back, and so I was always at this other end of the table and just trying to hear. But you’d move up. You’d kind of get to move up a little bit. You talked to someone, and he’d say, oh, read this, this, and this. So you’d go and you’d read that. You’d come back the next week. You’d talk about it, and then maybe you’d move up a little further on the table.
Okay, read this, this, and this. Have you read this? No. I’ve never read that. You’ve got to read this. You can’t—and then you kind of moved your way up as you got more experience, been there longer. And there was—I think it was an informal system to it all. You walk in. I mean, everybody has seen Hans Hoppe and met him. He can be kind of scary at the beginning, but he really wasn’t. He was probably one of the sweetest men I ever met, he and Dr. Rothbard. But you just kind of get your confidence up a little bit, and you move up a little bit down the table, and Richard here was very instrumental to me and Joseph here. I was the puppy, so I got to kind of learn from them, and they would give me things to read, and things like that.
DOUG FRENCH: By the way, there was no grades given out for this. This was something you did all voluntarily just to absorb the knowledge of these guys. By the way, Jim Philbin, if you’re out there, [indiscernible_00:25:36] if you’re out there, we want to hear from you because these people have vanished. And the first time I saw Jim Philbin was carrying Murray’s stool the first night of class that I had Murray, so I knew the guy carrying his stool must be kind of important. I mean, he was in my class. So anyway, these people have vanished off the face of the Earth. They’re known around the Mises Institute, and we would love to hear from you.
JAMES YOHE: Bill Curl too. Bill Curl was very helpful too.
DOUG FRENCH: Okay, all right. Jeff, did you have anything in this? So I wanted to go to Joe on—you wrote a thesis under Murray, as did I. But let’s hear your experience.
JOSEPH BECKER: Well, I did a law and economics thesis. I used the Austrian school to analyze a US Supreme Court regulatory takings case. I regret a little bit that I hadn’t gone to law school first, but I guess I would describe Murray was insightful into almost everything including law and economics more so than just pure economics in my case. He was directive but not overly so. Like most graduate students, as we see in our graduate program, people start out trying to explain the world. So he properly narrowed my focus on things that should have been narrowed to.
I never felt like—I mean, we went through a number of iterations as is usually the case I think, maybe more in my case. I’m not sure. But I never found him to be impatient or unwilling to take a look at subsequent iterations of what I’d done as I discovered my way through the process of analyzing this regulatory takings case out of South Carolina.
DOUG FRENCH: So I wanted to mention we all had the experience of waiting for Murray or Hans at Beam Hall at UNLV, fourth floor. They were both on the east end, correct? You’d get off the elevator. You’d take a right and then a quick left. You look down there. You see if someone is sitting on the floor waiting for Murray. And eventually a chair would appear, and you would see if somebody was in the chair. That would give you an indication of how long you were going to have to wait.
And Murray wasn’t going to rush anybody off. I think Hans had his office hours in the morning, Murray in the evening, and—but there’s no reason to go to Beam Hall anymore. They have scrubbed any remnants of the existence of Rothbard or of Hoppe at UNLV. The only Beam Hall is right here, and I might make the suggestion that maybe something might be renamed Beam Hall in this wonderful building, but that’s just maybe a silly notion of mine.
But I think we all had that experience waiting to talk to Murray, and as you say, he—at least with me, he’d ask as many questions as he answered. But the condition of his office obviously as someone who is somewhat disorganized in my affair, Murray was of the same caliber. So anybody spend enough time in Murray’s office to describe it?
JOSEPH BECKER: Well, I don’t know that it was altogether unlike what you sort of imagine is a typical professor’s office, a little clutter, stacks of books and papers, works in progress. But I always had the impression that however much that was the case in his office, I never visited his home. I never drove him there. But I still had the suspicion that most of the work that he did was not out of the university office. That was just for the stuff that he needed for students at the university. But rather, most of his work was done at home.
And story has it that that would sometimes be from—I mean, his classes at UNLV were always in the evening. I mean, I think the earliest you would ever get to the university is maybe 3:30, 4 o’clock in the afternoon. So my understanding is most of his work was done until 3, 4 5 in the morning, get a few hours’ sleep before he came in at the crack of 3 or 4 in the afternoon.
DOUG FRENCH: Crack of 3 or 4. So we’re going to—you’ll get an idea about lectures and so on, but just—and I open this up to anybody. Was it difficult to take notes in a Murray Rothbard lecture?
JOSEPH BECKER: Since I have the mic, I know I’ll be passing it down, but to describe what Murray’s classes were like, I’d say they were entertaining because it’s kind of like a stand-up comedy routine oftentimes. But the problem is you were required to memorize, or you were going to have to get the material down so you could memorize it for the exams. I don’t remember the exams ever being open book. So while it was entertaining, it was also a little bit stressful. I think you already mentioned, Doug, that there were no—there were books that typically—the books typically assigned were probably required of the university for the program. But that’s not what he taught. He taught from sort of a stack of loosely organized, yellow legal pages. And so very entertaining, but it was sometimes difficult to make sure you got everything down that needed to be gotten down.
RICHARD TEJIDOR: Like when I first took his—took my first class with Murray, I realized that there was no way I could take notes without a tape recorder because he would go on tangent after tangent and just—it was just too much information for a human to consume with a pen and paper. But so I would transcribe the tapes. Then I would have notes. Otherwise, it would be impossible.
JAMES YOHE: I never worked so hard in a class in my life. I mean, I just wanted to write down every word he said. It was—some people have commented on his lecturing style, which I really loved. He would lecture on something like he might be starting talking about some Chinese philosopher. And then he would go off on this tangent, and he’d get all the way to Hillary Clinton. But he’d go right back to where he left off.
So I liked it, and I miss—I’d love to sit there and listen to him lecture again today. But I liked his lectures. A lot of people didn’t, but I thought—I always thought if you kind of realized that he’s going to get to some point, and he’s going to go off on a tangent, but the tangent would all follow. I took it for his history of thought. He was writing his treatise on it, and he followed the whole class.
Usually there was one main thread that was involved in it when I took it and then when I sat in on other’s people’s classes—another class later. Mine, it was utility. He went through the history of mankind and everything anybody could have thought about utility and would just bring it all the way to Hillary Clinton or somebody like that and then just go back and, okay, next guy and bring it off into some other thing. Here’s how what this guy said relates to Adam Smith or something like that and work his way back and just keep going on the straight line.
JEFFREY BARR: The only thing I’ll say about lectures is—and I’ll talk more about this in my remarks, but there were people that would take the class once, and then there would be people that would take the class again and again and again. They would just sit in the class. It’s sort of like a river. It’s never the same river twice. You’ve heard that old proverb. Rothbard’s classes were never the same class twice.
DOUG FRENCH: Anybody who’s read A History of Economic Thought or—his History of Economic Thought were essentially follow—they essentially follow his notes in class. And you said it was utility. For me, the year I took it, it was financial, financial history. And so it’s no wonder that I write a thesis on early speculative bubbles. That makes sense. But as Jeff said, every class was different, and depending on what he was going to focus on.
And remember, of course, that’s a two-volume work, and we kind of raced through that letter that he had written me very quickly. But he said in that letter I’ve already written a third volume. It’s just still in my head. So—and that’s the way it was. But—so we talked about Joe and Murray’s help with his thesis. Rich, you started a thesis with him, or how did that work?
RICHARD TEJIDOR: I finished it, yes, started and finished it.
DOUG FRENCH: Oh okay. I didn’t catch that finished part, good. And now you got the license.
RICHARD TEJIDOR: Now I got—this is better than the diploma, more valuable too.
DOUG FRENCH: Make a deal for that later.
RICHARD TEJIDOR: I finished the thesis, and then I—it was in December of ’94, December ’94, and then I brought him a big bottle of liquor. I can’t remember what it was. It was his favorite. And he was like, what are you doing? I go, I’m going to go to South America for a few months. He’s like, don’t get killed. Don’t get killed. Be careful. I said don’t worry. I’m going to the civilized part. Anyway, but in January, that was his last year.
DOUG FRENCH: So Joe, you had said something that you thought he did most of his work at home. Were any of you at his house on Weatherford? Okay, so I would be the only one who was there. And for whatever reason, again, I’m the guy that showed up who had no idea who he was. But he invited me to a faculty dinner that he and Joey put on. And so Joey’s in the kitchen cooking, and we had various professors there, and they’re asking me questions that I don’t know the answer to. And of course, I was there by myself, so it was somewhat uncomfortable. But again, it just shows you how magnanimous that Murray was to include a student in a faculty dinner, the letters we traded over a couple-year span.
He is never—I don’t think he ever forgot any of us. That’s the sense I get. I don’t know about you guys. But I think that he was always there. If you were working on something, he was encouraging and just beyond any instructor that I can think of ever having. And again, I think the word brilliant gets thrown around probably way too much, but I think the five of us have seen brilliant. And it’s extraordinary when you get to live it over and over. So anything else from the classroom, the—before we get to kind of the main event? We’re working up to something here, folks. So don’t anybody go anywhere because you’re going to get a kick out of what we’re going to do. But we’re running way ahead because we’re all anxious, and we’re all talking fast. And so, James?
JAMES YOHE: Just a couple of things. One of the things, what you’re talking about, how supportive he was, I didn’t deserve to wash his feet, so I was just blessed to be able to be around him. But he was always very encouraging. I mean, if you’re writing a paper or if you were—I had a newspaper column for the college paper. And he would read it. Was Murray Rothbard reading my little article? He would come in, and he would say get ‘em, get ‘em. He’d do this because I guess I was a muckraker.
But he was always very encouraging, very friendly. He knew what you were doing. And when I met Joey Rothbard, it was after Murray had passed. I walked up, and I didn’t think he mentioned me anywhere. I walked up, and I said hi, Mrs. Rothbard. I was a student of your husband’s. And she said, oh, you’re James. Yeah. And it was like she kind of knew me. And I’m sitting there. Why would Murray Rothbard be telling his wife about me?
And then the last thing I wanted to do was talk about just kind of the overall atmosphere. We left out—we’re leaving out a big part of UNLV and being Austrian at UNLV, and that’s having Dr. Hoppe around. The two of them together—there was nothing to compare to, nothing, nothing. Dr. Hoppe was—everybody says what they think of him. But he was actually probably the most considerate and just he would do anything for you.
He did anything for us. He met with us once a week. He—we would have—we all were part of something called Political Economy Club. And to justify our $500 in drinking money, we had to—we did more than drink with it. We made—well, Lee got us free photocopies, but we would put on events, and we’d have speakers. And I remember one time we had a speaker drop out, and we went to Dr. Hoppe, and he had a speech he was preparing to give. He says, oh yeah, yeah, and he pulls his speech out of the drawer, and he gives it for us, not something he had canned, something that was brand new.
But I never even heard of anyone spending that much time away from class, outside of class with a professor. I never heard of it. Maybe some older professors have done it, or maybe I just didn’t go to the right places, but not only had I never heard of it, I never even—I might make some people mad—I never even met a professor that I wanted to spend that much time around. And we were just all blessed to do it. In case you can’t tell, we’re all kind of close-knit. I haven’t seen Richard since he abandoned me here 20—was it 120 years ago, Tim? I was here with Tim too.
RICHARD TEJIDOR: I was kicked out.
JAMES YOHE: That was their fault. But we all keep in touch. We’d love to hear from Jim Philbin and those guys we just mentioned. But it was—we just—we had fun. I mean, we learned more than we would have ever learned anywhere else.
When I originally—I’m from Las Vegas, and I was—when I got out of high school, I went and I talked to the econ department guys because I knew I wanted to be an economist before Rothbard and Hoppe were there. And I thought they were silly. I thought that they were—they weren’t serious people. They just didn’t seem like serious people to me. I’m trying to be nice. And I said there’s no way on God’s green Earth I’m going to go there. And I left. I joined the Navy, and I was a nuclear power plant operator, and I got out.
And I wanted to go to UCLA, and I was like—I was getting out, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get out on time. So I said I’ll go to UNLV for a semester just—and then go to UCLA. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be like David Gordon, which I had no chance of being like. But—and I just happened to take Hoppe’s class just random, just that’s the time. And once I heard the first two days of lectures where he talked about what economics was, how it was done, I was hooked. And I had never met Rothbard, but I read him first because Hoppe had—Dr. Hoppe had made us read it.
And I thought he was just this giant man. I thought he was like Tom DiLorenzo on steroids. And I thought that he could just crush you mentally, physically, intellectually. And I was scared to death of him. And then I meet him. He’s a short, nice, little Jewish guy, comes waddling in, and he was super friendly and supportive, and it was just—the whole environment was kind of—I don’t think it will ever be duplicated.
JOSEPH BECKER: One of the things you asked us to think about when inviting on this panel, Doug, is whether Rothbard was successful at UNLV and how esteemed Rothbard was at UNLV. So let me talk about those things briefly. As far as successful, I mean, great with respect to the students and then bringing Hoppe in who were drawn to him there. I mean, he was great for that. He was arguably less successful in winning over the fellow econ profs in the department as—I mean, one only need look at that evaluation that you read from to see whether they regarded him as a success.
This experience served me well. I had a graduate assistantship in the Center for Business and Economic Research with Dr. Schwerr [phonetic] who’s—the late Dr. Schwerr. He died of throat cancer shortly after 9/11 because he was in the towers across the street and managed to walk his way out of there, and we think that probably had something to do with it. But the advantage for me was they didn’t talk to one another, so—and I apologize if you’ve heard this story before. But because they didn’t talk to one another, I became the conduit through which they exchanged ideas, which served me especially well.
So we would learn something from Murray or Hans, and then I would confront the traditional economists with that principle. And, of course, they would say, no, that’s wrong because of this. So I would, of course, go immediately back to Murray and say, but they said this. And he, of course, always had a good response for them. So I mean, this all served me very, very well.
As far as whether he was successful, I mean, one only need look at the members of the panel. We have a successful libertarian-minded attorney. We have a professor of economics. We have a successful entrepreneur. You were the former president of the Mises Institute. I mean, that’s success the way I would certainly measure it for the students.
As far as esteem, I think he was held in high esteem, especially outside of the department and the university, for that matter. My outside committee member—we had to have one for the thesis—was someone from the Ethics and Policy Studies Department. I took a—because I was doing law and economics stuff, I took some sort of a course with them, and he wanted—being my outside member.
Some of you, probably most of you, know Francis Beckwith who was in the philosophy department at the time that we were all at UNLV. He had nothing but esteem for Dr. Rothbard as well, so outside of the department certainly yes. And then outside of the university setting—I’m going to get you to hold the mic for me for a second.
Outside of the university setting, I mean, I was only there for a couple years, but this is the newspapers, right? Quiet Revolution. We could have been the Runnin’ Rebels of economics. There’s Murray. This stuff will be up here for you to look at after if you want. We have—this was during the Milken days. There’s a nice caricature of Milken.
And Murray wrote Milken was a free-market genius. What I especially like about this is you know how they don’t get it all on the same page, so Milken was far from a solo act, Milken a free-market genius. But you know how they shorten the headlines so you can find it on the next page. Greed, Genius. Milken was a genius, no, greed, bad. So that’s really good stuff.
And then I actually found an article about this article on a Mises website. “Government as Self-Therapy.” This is when Clinton came out and said—and there’s a—and Murray said he didn’t—he loved the article, but he didn’t particularly like the caricature of him. But this was when Clinton came out and said it doesn’t matter if it works or not. Government has to do something. And so he said, ah, it’s psychotic. And so anyway, I mean, it’s hard to say that he wasn’t esteemed and successful even if not amongst his own midwits, the midwits of the department. So that’s, I guess, what I would say about that.
DOUG FRENCH: The point is well-taken. I would say that Tom Carroll who was chairman when I was there and then Thayer immediately after did Murray and Hans no favors. And I remember I had taken a couple classes and was deciding what to take next, and I saw History of Economic Thought 742, Rothbard, and I didn’t know who Rothbard was. So I asked a fellow classmate. Joel Volpe is his name. And he said, oh, don’t take Rothbard. He’s a kook. Go ahead and take [indiscernible_00:50:31], independent study, and you can get that out of the way. But you don’t want to take Rothbard. Tom Carroll did all he could to destroy the Theory and Policy track along with Thayer. Did you get through on Theory and Policy? So you and I are the last two, I believe, that got through on Theory/Policy.
JOSEPH BECKER: I did.
JAMES YOHE: I was an undergrad, and I wanted to get the BA in economics, and I would go for advisement to the advisor, and he told me there wasn’t one. And the BA in economics had all the economics classes, and that would be the ones that Murray Rothbard taught. And I was told there wasn’t one. I kept saying I know there is one. It’s in the catalog. I looked at it, and it’s right here. No, no, no, no. And I didn’t—so I was on the BS track, which was aptly named.
And I found out from these guys through being in the Political Economy Club, no, no, there is one. Just do it. Don’t go to them for advising. They were trying to—they would literally try to steer people away, both at the graduate level and undergraduate level away from him so they could study under people who had written seminal articles on pet health insurance and the economics of suntan lotion. Those are important works. That’s not funny.
DOUG FRENCH: One of the reasons that was Thayer’s, by the way, claim to fame was the suntan lotion. But one of the reasons you guys met was the university was not going to give Hans Hoppe tenure, and Dr. Yohe made it his case to pursue that cause and lead a student revolt, which put him together with Mr. Barr and Lee Galoti [phonetic] who’s not here, and so on. I didn’t know any of these guys at the time. I was a little bit in front, and so we were all kind of, in a way, ships passing in the night.
But now we’re—as the point was made, we’re very close because we were in the same—I guess the saying we were in the same foxhole together isn’t probably appropriate. But we have an experience that not many people have had. So speaking of that experience, I’d like to bring up Jeffrey Barr, and he has got the close and a little surprise.
JEFFREY BARR: Thank you again to the Mises Institute for all of this. I want to say that I am in a very, very exclusive club. In the entire world, there are about ten of us. I took the very last class that Murray Rothbard ever taught in his life. It was the History of Thought class, and I want you to imagine sitting in a classroom. Imagine you’re a 20-something-year-old grad student sitting in a classroom in the fall of 1994. The Berlin Wall had just fallen five years previously. The Soviet Union had dissolved without a shot. Mises had been vindicated. Bill Clinton was president. Newt Gingrich had just taken over the Congress. And you’ve studied Austrian economic with Hans Hoppe and Murray Rothbard for years. You’ve attended their classes and their study groups, and I signed up for Rothbard’s History of Thought. This was my first official time taking it.
Now, Rothbard walks in. He’s a very diminutive man as you can tell by the cutout downstairs in the lobby, not very tall at all. He wore this shirt always with the short sleeves, and he had these khaki slacks on always, and he kind of shuffled in. And he’d sit on a stool in the middle of a classroom with a raised desk in the middle of this seminar room. And you’re presented with this syllabus. Now, I’m going to show you this in a little more detail.
This is the actual syllabus from the fall of 1994. And let’s start with a couple things. First, note the time of the class, 5:30 to 6:45. As we stated earlier, Rothbard was a notorious night owl, which was terrible for people like me who were larks, but Rothbard was absolutely a notorious night owl.
Next, I want you to pay attention to the font. And you say, Jeff, what’s so crazy about the font? Rothbard used a typewriter until the day he died. There were word processors. There were beta word processing programs, but this is typewritten.
Next, I want you to note the room, BEH 219. Now, that’s Beam Hall that Doug mentioned. The room was a fairly standard seminar room with stadium seating that probably accommodated 25, 30 students, and only 5 or 10 of us were actually registered for the class. People would just kind of come and go. It was that kind of popular. Now, let’s take a look at the outline of topics. Look how broad this is. You’re going to go in one semester from the Scholastic tradition all the way to Keynes. Note how broad this is. This was going to be quite the survey.
Now, I want you to note the textbook he says, and we’ve talked about this, right? Note the phrase. There is no fully satisfactory textbook in the history of economic thought. There was no satisfactory economic thought textbook. So what did he do? He wrote his own. And I know now—I didn’t know it at the time—that Rothbard was lecturing from his notes for what would be published posthumously as the History of Economic Thought. And he’d walk in with this little manila folder, and he’d set it down on the desk, and he’d flip through the notes and read. And his tests, as we’ve discussed, were comprehensive. That’s what I would say. His tests were comprehensive. There was a term paper and two exams.
Let’s take a look at one of these tests. Here are some of the questions, and you had to pick five of the ten questions, so I just put up a couple here to give you some flavor for the—and you had to handwrite—those were the days of handwriting. You didn’t have a word processor. So what was Irving—this is my favorite. What was—you didn’t have any—what was Irving Fisher’s theory of money and of business cycles and his policy prescriptions based upon them? Rothbard had nothing good to say about Irving Fisher, absolutely nothing. So it was phenomenal, again, that he would include such things.
Now, I want to take you back to the lectures. There’s been a lot of discussion about the lectures because Murray said that the class lectures are central to the material for the course. The reading served merely as a background material for the lectures, and he meant that. The readings were just background. Attendance was not required but it was strongly recommended.
It is my contention, and I think that Hoppe shares this, that Rothbard was a terrible lecturer, awful lecturer in the normal sense of the word. In other words, if you expected a professor to digest material and then regurgitate it back to you, that was not Rothbard. Rothbard’s lectures were something magnificent. They were loosely based on a topic, and then they would wander, as I said, magnificently. The margins of my notes would be filled with the illusions or citations that he would cite to.
And they’d also be filled with—oops, let’s go back on that—anecdotes and musings, and as I say in a word, they were wonderful. And we have a sample for you. As Rich said, many students used to tape record him on these tiny little microcassettes. And what you’re going to hear is from the fall of 1994, November 21, 1994, hasn’t been heard since. I was in this class. You’re going to hear an excerpt from that. Now, unfortunately, those of you that remember tiny microcassettes, they’re not that great sound quality, so we’ve digitized it, and we’ve tried to bring up the levels a little bit so you can hear it. But to aid in your listening, I’ve got a transcription up here on the board. So let’s take a listen. You’re in Murray Rothbard’s class, fall of 1994, November 21, and we’re going to start talking about the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment.
MURRAY ROTHBARD: University system, power structure, religious system, church itself, mostly born around 1720. There’s a whole group… a whole generation… of Scottish Enlightenment… and Smith is a very puzzling character… Smith… many aspects of that… and the problem is there hasn’t been explored much because of Smith, Smithian hagiography.
JEFFREY BARR: I want to stop there. We are starting with Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment. I want you to keep track of how many thinkers, how many philosophers, economists, just keep track, account of how many philosophers, economists, thinkers, historians, that kind of thing that Rothbard mentions in the next five to ten minutes.
ROTHBARD EXCERPT, CONTINUED
MURRAY ROTHBARD: …by historians of thought. Hagiography, if you don’t know… lives of the saints written by “saint worshippers… you know, pretty much how wonderful those people are. So these are the state of Adam Smith “worshipers” endemic to economics and some of the stuff on Adam Smith over the years has been great… Edwin Cannan wrote the…he was a great guy… a professor at the London School of Economics… free-market, hard-money type for many years.
And he… most of the free-market people in England were students of Cannan’s… like Lionel Robbins, William Hutt, and Arnold Plant… who’s still around… I think he’s retired… Some of these guys are still around… great generation of “Cannan-ites.” And he was the… he didn’t write much during his life… He wrote a great little book on money… and some journal articles… And then he wrote a… the definitive edition, in those days, of The Wealth of Nations and Adam Smith. Plus he wrote a History of… Classical Economic Thought… or something like that… dealing with Smith, Ricard, and Malthus.
And the thing is… he was a great guy, very witty and very penetrating… unfortunately… oh, and very critical of Smith [indiscernible_01:01:55]. The problem is there was this book on the history of theory. I think it’s called History of Production and Distribution. And… I wouldn’t say it’s unreadable; the problem is he lumps everybody together, not the sort of style I like… and a lot of historians of thought wrote that way… probably still do…
Those of that period… they jumble everything together. They include… Meyers did something similar… In other words… they might have had a topic, value theory or monetary theory… and they include all these guys as if they’re the same… You have to… instead of having, okay, this is Smith… chapter on Smith… they didn’t do it that way; they just jumble everything; so it’s very difficult to figure out what’s going on… Okay… you can’t get a clear position from any one of these guys, and very critical… but it was sort of very old, traditional… sort of style… you know… with the addition of the Wealth of Nations…
And then this book I’d recommend on [indiscernible_01:02:46] by Clark and others great [indiscernible_01:02:48], great on Smith’s theory of value distribution, and then Schumpeter and we still have the dominant Smith hagiography, Smith, Ricardo, and all that… Schumpeter’s book…was basically his… he died before he could finish it…was basically…the whole book is this, sort of, bitter attack on Smith and Ricardo…
And the theme… if you look up “Smith” and “Ricardo” in the index and read the passages, you get a full picture, especially the position I take, which Smith shoved… first of all he had nothing original, and his original stuff was bad, and shoved economics onto a bad path… A path which took a hundred years to get out of, and really hasn’t gotten out of fully…
And then Kauder and other people have continued this… I think we were doing pretty well on this… Kauder was very… about this… really convinced the profession… “Revisionism” is what it’s called… really simply taking the orthodox line and bringing the facts to bear on… And… we were doing pretty well until the mid-‘70s when the damn Bicentennial came out…the Smith bicentennial as well… a flood of subsidized Smith hagiography… just a flood of crap:
How wonderful Smith was, biographies, letters, the Blasko edition, all that sort of stuff. That set us back many years… I mean, I hate all anniversaries. There’s sort of this anniversary-mania in American culture; they keep finding phony anniversaries. I heard some people I never heard of say, “Hey, this is the 38th anniversary of blah, blah, blah…” T.V. spends a whole week on it. And… who cares?!!! That’s part of the… that’s part… I finally concluded that that was not an accident. It’s all really part of a plan to change American symbols and who we think are great guys and stuff like that…
[Class Question about Milton Friedman] Yeah, yeah… He’s speaking for Hayek! Yeah… it’s very strange… Yeah, well, Hayek wrote the Rode to Serfdom… well, I mean…, it’s being used to, you know, as a P.R. device to push certain things… Hayek’s Road to Serfdom came out in 1944, and it’s a very good book, anyway. Pathbreaking book in American ideology. He was originally published by the University of Chicago Press.
[Question: What was the book] Road to Serfdom. It was the first free-market book, first anti-socialist book in the United States since the mid-‘30s, at least… the whole culture had been socialist by that point during World War II. This was a big thing. We read it in college. I was going to college during World War II, and we read it as the other side of the viewpoint. In other words, everybody else was socialist or communist. Here’s one guy against the whole thing.
And in those days in academia, they felt it important to tell all sides of the picture; they don’t do that anymore. You know, part of objective scholarship! Have to hid your own views; but not the other guy’s! And so we all read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. And it was great stuff. It convinced a lot of—converted a lot of people. Converted a lot of socialists and communists.
My old friend, Frank Meyer, who, actually, at that time, was one of the top member of the Communist Party of the United States, one of the really top members, I mean, head of the worker’s school of Chicago, the second-biggest training school in the country. He was essentially converted by this; I mean other things converted him, but he read the Road to Serfdom and wrote a positive review of it in the New Masses, one of the top Communist Party organs at the time… and got away with it and shortly thereafter left the party or was kicked out or whatever.
So it’s… most favorable… one of the most favorable reviews of the book was in one of the most communist in the nation! So it converted a number of people… and it was pushed by J. Howard Pew, the billionaire, the billionaire right-winger, a brilliant, sort of intellectual type. So anyway, Reader’s Digest, you know, excerpted it and all that. So anyway, it’s coming out with the 50th anniversary edition which Friedman writes the introduction for… Friedman, of course, is the big guy in Chicago.
All right… why is Friedman pushing it? It’s like having somebody in a Scottish burgh coming out on behalf of Adam Smith and publish, you know Wealth of Nations again. Some guy comes up, “I represent Adam Smith.’ So… one it’s pretty outrageous. Two, he actually pushes his own rotten… his own rotten plan for the negative income tax. I mean, it’s outrageous! Hayek is against the negative income tax. Yeah! Monstrous! I mean… What?! I mean… Negative income tax, by the way, is being pushed by Charles Murray and Hernstein in the Bell Curve book, something not… not talked about.
And… I think… I think, Gingrich is muttering about that too. The negative income tax… it’s… it’s not like it’s a voucher plan. A voucher plan is supposed to eliminate government control of… of… government public, public school bureaucracy by allowing people… allowing people freedom of choice, allowing parents’ free choice to apply to schools.
And the NEW, of course, is against it ‘cause they’re losing money, okay, but that’s not the key thing. You’re… you’re taking people’s eye off the ball. The real point is that it increases the welfare state, and it increases taxation… and increases… and creates government control of the private schools. And… government control of the public school is sort of a given anyway…
The voucher plan would mean that the government then would totally run the private school system because… Why? Because if you… if you… if you get… if you accept a federal voucher, a state voucher, a government voucher, if a private school accepts it, it means that they have to… you know… they have to be… accept the money and they get control. Okay, you can’t teach this, and you have to teach that and you have to… you have to honor Martin Luther King… whatever it happens to be… You’re going to have a government totally dictate to the private school system at public expense paid for by the taxpayers.
So this is the voucher plan… and this is the… and it’s supposed to be… supposed to eliminate the welfare bureaucracy… the public school bureaucracy. Well, in a sense it cuts it down, but, on the other hand, you have another bureaucracy running the private schools! It’s the old shell game. And… one of the plans… I’ll tell you about the negative income tax. This is the history of thought, not of income tax…
JEFFREY BARR: So remember that big, broad outline of topics? Now, remember, this is November 21st. There’s probably three weeks left in the semester. The Scottish Enlightenment is right in the middle. So you can see why we didn’t get through to Keynes by the end because this was nine minutes. How many thinkers did you count? I counted about a dozen. 22? Yeah. That’s what these lectures were like. Rothbard died about 60 days after this lecture. I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to have attended this class, and I’m very happy to have shared this small snippet of that with you. Thank you.
DOUG FRENCH: Imagine taking notes with that. And I remember the first night, and again, I didn’t know who he was, and people just furiously writing notes. And I gave up immediately, but again, my life changed forever the first night that he walked in the room, and he changed all of our lives and probably a few lives in this room too. We got about 15 minutes for questions if you have any, and yeah, go ahead.
M: I remember you saying at one time that that first class session, he began his lecture outside in the hallway.
DOUG FRENCH: Thank you for bringing that up. So you got nine minutes of what would be an hour and 15 minutes because he would immediately be talking. He would be talking when he hit the door, and when the time ran out, he might stop. He might not. There—somebody got a question in there edgewise, I guess, during that nine minutes, but for the most part, he talked; we listened.
So—but there was no him coming in, him getting settled, him—the first day I had of class, it was the first Gulf War was on, and he was talking about the politicians, how stupid they were, about rationing gas or whatever it was. And it just started immediately when he hit the door, so yeah. It was an hour and 15 of what you just heard. Mark?
MARK SKOUSEN: So most of you probably know, Mark Skousen is my name. Most of you know, I commissioned Murray to write his History of Thought. That was in—around 1980. Initially, I said, listen, what I want is an alternative [indiscernible_01:12:17].
DOUG FRENCH: [indiscernible_01:12:23]
MARK SKOUSEN: 12 chapters.
DOUG FRENCH: Yes.
MARK SKOUSEN: Start with Adam Smith. End with ‘80s, bring it up to date with Keynes and Marx and so forth. And he readily agreed. I paid him $20,000 advance. That was a lot of money that got his attention. He said, oh, this is what I want to do. Fifteen years later, he got through half of it. The big joke was always, “Have you reached Marx yet?” Or even, “Have you reached Adam Smith?” That was the initial one.
It turned out the first chapter is not Adam Smith. It was Greek philosophers, Aristotle and stuff like that. So this turned out to be a [indiscernible_01:13:06]. And I must say that I was pretty shocked at his views on Adam Smith. And I have my own story about that that I won’t get into, but tomorrow, my lecture is on the 300th anniversary of Adam Smith’s birth.
So I know he didn’t like anniversaries, but that’s my topic. It’s going to be on Adam Smith, a libertarian view, which is very different as we will hear from Murray’s views. He’s created—I was talking to [indiscernible_01:13:45] Butler at the Adam Smith Institute, and they’re pretty upset with Murray on his views on that subject, but I think it’s important to hear different views. I mean, that’s what it’s all about, right?
DOUG FRENCH: Well, that’s right. And I had heard that story from Murray himself, and it will probably not surprise you that he said, ah, poor Skousen.
MARK SKOUSEN: He felt bad that he had not followed my requirements, but yet, look what we got. He ran with it, and that’s fine.
DOUG FRENCH: He’s a guy that couldn’t help himself.
JEFFREY BARR: Hey, Doug. Hey, Doug. So Rothbard used to joke. He actually used to—you heard about—you read—heard about talking about Schumpeter, and Schumpeter didn’t finish his volumes. Rothbard used to joke about the three-volume curse. In other words, these people would get through two volumes of something, and then they would die, and they wouldn’t let their third volume get published. And so, of course, I mean, it’s ironic that he finished two volumes of the History of Economic Thought and then unfortunately died before finishing the third. So again, a member of the curse of the three-volume set.
DOUG FRENCH: Absolutely. It was all in his head and never got to paper. So anybody else? Anybody want to know…
M: Did he finish—how did the course end? You say he never got to Keynes, or what actually happened?
DOUG FRENCH: I remember him because he used to call Keynes, Maynard, all the time. That’s how he used to refer to Keynes is, oh, Maynard this and Maynard that. So yeah, he got to—at least in the financial telling of the story, he did get to Keynes.
M: So he didn’t get to the Chicago stuff.
DOUG FRENCH: No, no, so—but we got plenty. So…
JAMES YOHE: We did get it in a tangent though. A lot of the things that he might not have covered, he got to in a tangent.
DOUG FRENCH: Yeah.
JOSEPH BECKER: You know, Doug, one of the things you asked us to research a little bit if we could find out, and there’s probably people who know this a lot better than I. But why did Murray wind up at UNLV? Do you know the—I mean, I found a few things, but…
DOUG FRENCH: I don’t. He took the SJ Hall chair. We talked a little bit about it last night, and again, this is ’86, ’87. I think it was an increase in pay and so on, but I don’t. Does anybody really know? I mean, he loved New York.
JOSEPH BECKER: That’s true.
DOUG FRENCH: He was crazy about New York.
JOSEPH BECKER: Beloved Manhattan. The backdrop I saw was, for 20 years, he had that part-time instructor position at Brooklyn Polytechnic. This is going to sound a little bit like a plug for our own graduate school, and it probably is, but he and Mises always envisioned that there would be a graduate school of Austrian economics. And there wasn’t even an economics department at Brooklyn Polytechnic. There was no major, no department. And my understanding is he thought that even the social science department there was decidedly Marxist. So it’s not surprising when he got the opportunity for the SJ Hall, he departed Manhattan, although he was there summers and Christmases and things, and he didn’t get fired, Richard.
DOUG FRENCH: He took the red eye the night of his last final.
JOSEPH BECKER: But it definitely was a step up. It was an opportunity to have something like that. And then I was thinking about that, and I saw this article, which we can read. I’m not going to read it now. But it’s here. It said—it was an article that said we could have been the Runnin’ Rebels of economics. And for those of you who aren’t basketball fans, that was the mascot of the national championship team, and I was there for Tark’s last year and Massimino’s first year.
So it was a very successful basketball program. So that was a compliment to say we could have been I think what he might have thought when he went there, and then bringing Hoppe out that he might have thought, hey, this is an opportunity to do something that they had talked about for years and years about creating. And one of their problems in getting the thing started elsewhere was you could find a donor to create the program, but the universities always wanted to control who took the place after.
DOUG FRENCH: After.
JOSEPH BECKER: Right. And so I thought, well, I wonder who’s got this SJ Hall physician now. And you may know because you live in Vegas. But I found it sort of telling when I looked it up. It’s some character who figured out—this is profound—get ready, folks—that residential demand for water went up during the lockdown period in Las Vegas.
DOUG FRENCH: It’s stunning insight. But—and in the letter that he had sent me, he and I had talked, and he mentioned it in the letter. He wanted to even—he and Hans wanted to break away from the business school and go to the liberal arts college and try to set this up. And so he called it the jailbreak. And so he was very intent on doing it, but he—there was this provost and that provost that was always getting in the way of these sorts of things. Murray was, by the way, as far as just being friendly and other faculty members liking him, they liked him. He was well-liked, but just as far as the senior management, not so much. David?
DAVID: [indiscernible_01:20:10]. Their attitude was that he was a very famous professor, and he should have brought research money to them. Instead, their attitude was if you’re so smart, why aren’t we rich?
DOUG FRENCH: Yeah, I can—we can see students and research money flowing into Brooklyn Polytech. But…
JOSEPH BECKER: They could have fixed the elevators.
DOUG FRENCH: Yeah, exactly. Anybody else? Yes, sir.
M: He died of a heart attack. Was there any indications before that that his health was poor?
DOUG FRENCH: Well, listen, Murray was—can we say he was anti-exercise? Can we say that every calorie says ah, to life? Yes, he said that.
JOSEPH BECKER: [indiscernible_01:21:23] Wonder Bread.
DOUG FRENCH: He liked the Wonder Bread and Stolichnaya vodka and—but, again, as today’s standards go, certainly, what, he died at 66 I believe, right? 65, 66?
DOUG FRENCH: 68?
JOSEPH BECKER: I think that’s—it was either 68 or 69.
DOUG FRENCH: Oh, okay. Well…
JOSEPH BECKER: Because he was 60 when—he came to Vegas in ’86.
DOUG FRENCH: All right, well, fair enough. A couple of us on the panel are nearing that age, and so that’s another reason why, frankly, we’re out doing this because a lot of people in this building have read Murray’s work. They’ve heard of Murray’s work, but very few have heard the story of him as a professor. And as I hope it has come across is that it—he was a profound one and an extraordinary one. Anybody else? Yes, sir.
M: This is a question for Richard. What was the content of driving Mr. Murray, driving him home. And just for some context, once I had the privilege to drive Professor David Gordon home one time. And I was just laughing the whole time, the jokes he makes.
RICHARD TEJIDOR: I would just ask him just a question. It would just be a short question, and I was just mostly focused on not running into anything because it’s a little nerve-wracking when you’ve got him sitting next to you, and you’re like, if he dies in my car, I’ll have to leave the state or something. But it was—it just mostly was I would ask him a question about economics or something, and he might make a joke or something and then slam the door on the way out, say thank you.
DOUG FRENCH: By the way, Murray had plenty to say about riding coast to coast with David Gordon. And maybe a few jokes were told during that coast-to-coast trip. So that’s what I remember most hearing from Murray about those trips and David keeping him entertained.
JAMES YOHE: David Gordon stayed in my apartment once. Maybe you and I need to get together and compare notes.
MARK SKOUSEN: I have one more comment. When Murray died on January 7, 1995, I was doing a tour with the new Cato Institute building that Ed Crane had commissioned, and we were going through it. And that’s when we were told that Murray had died. Let me tell you something. Ed Crane turned white. I have never in my life seen somebody react in such shock. They had huge differences of opinion, but Murray Rothbard—the Cato Institute may not have gotten started without Murray Rothbard, and they had their falling out and stuff. But you could tell from his reaction how an icon, the giant, had died.
DOUG FRENCH: I don’t doubt it, and I—as we close, I’m going to take the chairman’s prerogative and say that we hear a lot about Murray’s breaks with Cato, with Laissez Faire Books, with Liberty Fund, with this one, with that one. That is not the Murray I know. Murray was the nicest guy, and it is hard. I can imagine they, whether it be war or something like that, but the idea that Murray Rothbard—some people will get the idea that he had so many breaks, that he was a guy running around trying to pick a fight. And he was not. He was just the sweetest gentleman I ever knew. And if you guys disagree, say you now or forever hold your peace.
With that, it is 3 o’clock in the—it is 4 o’clock. We have exhausted the time. Hopefully we didn’t exhaust your attention. Thanks so much. As you can tell, it was a time that meant a lot to us, and hopefully that was conveyed to you. Thank you.
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