Economic Theory

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Economic Theory

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The following is an excerpt from an article by Gary North, called Historiography and Destiny. The complete original article appears at this link:
...Murray Rothbard was one of the greatest economists of all time. He was also a gifted historian. He saw his task as a historian to provide evidence that the free market social order of the nineteenth century was not lost because of the failure of the market. It was lost because the statists were better politicians.

The cause was lost because the voters were not committed to the free society as a matter of principle. Thy thought they could vote themselves prosperity. Rothbard thought otherwise. So, in defending the free market as a source of liberty and therefore productivity -- he thought these were linked -- he also felt the need to write monographs on the multiple histories of the surrender. He always believed in the victory of liberty. He was a master revisionist historian because he was a master economist. But he was also optimistic about the future of liberty.

He saw the Establishment's historiography as fair game. He took the Establishment historians' narratives apart with the same facility and enthusiasm as he took the Keynesians' theories apart. He saw the Keynesians' theories and the Progressives' historiography as a package deal.

He died in 1995 while working on Volume 3 of his history of economic thought. No previous history of economic thought had combined economic theory and economists' biographies to the degree that his does. The reader can begin to understand why each economist adopted his views in terms of his life and his chronological setting. He understood the truth of Robert Nisbet's dictum: "Ideas do not beget ideas the way that butterflies beget butterflies." Ideas are not autonomous. They are products of the worldviews and experiences of specific thinkers.


History textbooks are written by victors. But they are also written by wanna-be victors.

If you expect your cause to win, you need textbooks that reflect and reinforce this expectation. You need to understand the way the world works in terms of your concept of cause and effect. You need evidence of the following: sovereignty, authority, law, historical sanctions, and time.

If you do not expect your cause to win, you will not read, let alone write, textbooks that reflect and reinforce your views. What is the use? The cost-benefit analysis comes down on the side of this dictum: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." This is the outlook of losers.

When the study of history is for amusement rather than conquest, it turns into narratives without significance: one thing after another. The stories can be well written, the way that the Durants wrote their stories. But when it came time to offer an explanation for the lessons of history, they had nothing much to say. No historian cites the Durants. I have never met any academic historian who has told me that has read even one volume, let alone all eleven volumes. But their books are a gold mine of incidents to liven up monographs and textbooks. These stories are for amusement, not transformation. They do not change people's minds regarding the way the world works. They do not lead to lifetime commitment.

I have offered lists of revisionist history books we need. But we will not get them until a hard core of self-disciplined, self-funded historians gain a sense of destiny.
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