|Thanks to Dr. Sciabarra for his insightful and fascinating commentary on Ayn Rand's views on foreign policy, and on Murray Rothbard. His books are going on my reading list.|
Briefly, I question Bob Biddinotto's claim that Rothbard's axiomatic starting point for the deduction of economics, "Man acts.", is rationalism. As I vaguely understand this, rationalism is the belief that understanding is somehow restricted to ideas that are supposed to be void of the "corrupting" influence of sensory experience, which rationalists believe is unreliable. So rationalism leads to the building of intellectual sandcastles.
However, Rothbard's "axiom" is provable as to the fact of man's nature: man is a rational animal. As such, man is a being of volitional consciousness. Such a being makes choices and then acts; that is, he chooses means to achieve his ends. Rothbard's "axiom" makes no allowance for volitional consciousness, of course; nor did Mises. But in Rothbard's case, this ommission is not serious, because nothing implied by "Man acts" contradicts anything implied by "volitional consciousness".
Moreover, Rothbard's starting point is appropriate for deducing the laws of economics, which as you know, does not concern itself with the content of men's values, only with the fact that man uses means to achieve ends. Economics, of course, is the logical spinning out of the implications of this "axiom". But what is axiomatic about the observable, provable fact that man has a nature that enables him "to act"?
Finally, unlike the Kantian von Mises, Rothbard thought that some values can be proven to be objective, as opposed to Mises' view that all values are necessarily subjective. This difference is significant, because Mises' subjectivism suggests that volition is either non-existent or unimportant: if values (ends) are subjectively interchangeable, for what does man require volition? Further, Mises' positivism sees all of reality as reducible to matter-in-motion. Economic "science" can only investigate and understand man as another facet of physical nature void of the "spiritual" (pertaining to consciousness), including moral values and volitional consciousness. Perhaps my characterization of Mises is not fair, but it seems congruent with what I recall of his writing.
The point I am trying to make is that Rothbard's neo-Aristotlelian outlook, which included objective values and human volition, made his starting point of human action realistic, rather than rationalistic. It seems to me that Rothbard shares more with Objectivists, in terms of philosophical fundamentals, than does von Mises.
And yet, Rothbard is the Austrian that some Objectivists love to hate, just as Rand is the social critic and philosopher that some latter day Rothbardians depise. With respect, I think both camps are a little crazy in their heated, unreasoning denunciations of the other. I've posed similar arguments to Anthony Gregory, who declined to even respond to my unsolicited e-mail lecture on this subject. (But perhaps he has grown weary of my zealousness.)
By the way, Robert, I have not forgotten your comments about anarchism versus limited government. I am reading, and I have come across interesting historical accounts of governments that acceded to succession by its citizens. I'll try to summarize everything I learn about this subject in an article format. While I'm on the subject, you might be interested in knowing, if you don't already, that even von Mises, at the end of Human Action, states that every individual should be recognized the right of succession from government. It seems that Rothbard took Mises' ideas in this area one step further. I mention this, not to put Mises on your "enemies list", but to suggest that perhaps (from my perspective) your demonization of Rothbard is somewhat off base. Please recall that I'm not arguing for anarchism, although you think I am. I will argue that government can be shown to be consistent with the principle of voluntary association, which importantly includes the right of succession, in ways benevolent.