The wonderful and prolific Gary North (see his excellent speeches and articles on career versus calling, and his great M.I.T. Calls Academia’s Bluff, for example) has a great piece: How Lew Rockwell Copied Leonard E. Read and Took Over the Libertarian Movement. North explains how Rockwell built up the Mises Institute, then, with Jeff Tucker, Mises.org, the most amazing resource for liberty and sound economics in the world. (See also Tucker’s speech Dissident Publishing: Then and Now, which is appended below.)
Rockwell’s dominance of principled, economically-literate libertarianism is obvious. He runs the incredibly popular and influential LewRockwell.com, not to mention being the founder of the Mises Institute. He has been anti-war on principle, from the beginning, and has never wavered, unlike various DC sellouts and unprincipled, flighty utilitarian types. His speaking appearances yield standing room only crowds, thousands of people cheering, and ovations. His books sell well, as do those of the Mises Institute (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of books downloaded for free from Mises.org) and affiliates like Ron Paul and Judge Napolitano.
A friend who attended the Mises Circle in Seattle recently told me:
The Mises Circle meeting was brilliant. All the speakers were good–Bob Murphy’s speech was funny and entertaining. But the real highlight was seeing Lew get two standing ovations. That is how we DO in the Evergreen state …
Another friend who attended added,
It was great. Lew’s talk was fantastic and deserving of more than just two standing ovations. Everyone there only wished they were even half as heroic as Lew.
I’ve personally known Lew since about 1988 or so. I was visiting my friend Jack Criss, then a libertarian AM radio talk show host in Jackson, MS, and was in the studio while Jack interviewed Lew; during a commercial, I talked to Lew and told him how much I admired his superb The Free Market Reader and other work (we had already corresponded, I believe). I met him in person for the first time in 1994, as I noted I here:
When Hoppe’s second English-language book, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, came out in 1993, I decided to do a review essay for a law review; the review was published in 1994 in the St. Mary’s Law Journal. I promptly sent it to Hoppe, who sent back a warm thank you note.
By mid-1994 I had moved to Philadelphia (I was there for three years, until I returned to Houston in 1997, where I reside today), and resolved to attend the John Randolph Club meeting in October 1994, near Washington, D.C. My primary goal was to meet Hoppe, Rothbard, and Rockwell. I was thrilled to meet them, and was able to get Murray to autograph my copy of Man, Economy & State, which he inscribed “To Stephan: For Man & Economy, and against the state –Best regards, Murray Rothbard.” Well, I know the nicer one-volume edition is out now, but just try to get me to part with my musty two-volume copy. Rothbard unfortunately passed away on January 1995, but I shall be forever grateful that I was able to meet him.
So I’d say for over 20 years I’ve admired Lew Rockwell–it’s always amazed me that he is so consistently correct and perspicacious, so principled, so productive–and so nice, sincere, and humble in person. My personal view has long been that the main social problem is economic illiteracy, and thus our chief hope is economic education–and therefore, the Mises Institute. I literally believe the Mises Institute to be just about the most important institution in the world, by far the most deserving of my donations, and Lew Rockwell therefore to be one of the greatest libertarians ever.
As an example of Rockwell’s insightfulness, he had a great post the other day, No More Marches on DC, in which he points out how disgusting DC is: from its
“National Mall,” the government grass that extends from Lincoln’s Roman temple — where he sits enthroned like Jupiter, fasces and all — to George Washington’s obelisk, an Eqyptian monument to the god Amun-Ra. In the distance is the capitol, whose dome copies the Roman pantheon, temple to all the gods. In the top of the dome is a painting of Washington being assumed, like the divinized Julius Caesar, into Heaven upon his death. Even Jefferson is portrayed as a god in a Roman temple. Not far away is the the Greek temple where the nine supremes hand down the “law.” Then there is the vast executive apparatus, headed by a living god, and dedicated to killing, spying, taxing, redistributing, inflating, and controlling, symbolized by the Pentagram. Really, DC is one nasty place.
Thus, Rockwell rightly concludes, “why would anyone concerned about the state and its power ‘march on Washington’? Such events only dissipate energy, and fool people into thinking that their time and money have accomplished something, as the regime laughs up its sleeve. Indeed, that is the purpose. So stay home. Read, write, work, organize, and avoid DC like the plague it is.” Bob Higgs, another hero of liberty, is also skeptical of the value of the demonstration.
Amen, brother. I have heard that some DC libertarian types think such comments critical of DC must be motivated by “jealousy.” Yep: they think those not in DC are jealous of those who are (I kid you not). Such views are a symptom of the very problem with being in DC: those there get sucked into the desire to be “relevant” and the false idea that DC is the most important thing in the world. They simply cannot understand the derision and contempt real libertarians have for that “nasty place.”
I can appreciate Rockwell’s comments–I personally detest DC. My brother lived there for years, and I visited many times, especially when I lived in Philadelphia for a few years. All the DC denizens have this smug, condescending attitude, and think DC is the center of the universe; all they talk about are politics and Senators’ wives and cocktail parties and blah blah blah. What I hate about it is the underlying presumption that this is all legitimate and fine. And that all those poor benighted taxpaying saps in the hinterlands who are not privy to the gossip and talk about what bills are “on the hill” etc. are just unsophisticated rubes who don’t matter. It would take a DC mentality distortion field to think real people are “jealous” of DC.
[LRC cross-post, and FYLR!]