Murray Sabrin is Professor of Finance at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He has a Ph.D. in economic geography from Rutgers University. Sabrin has worked in commercial real estate sales and marketing, personal portfolio management, and economic research. Sabrin’s essays have appeared in The Record (Hackensack, NJ), The Star Ledger, Trenton Times, the Asbury Park Press, NJBIZ. His essays have also appeared in Commerce Magazine, Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business, Privatization Review, and LewRockwell.com. He is the author of "Tax Free 2000: The Rebirth of American Liberty." Sabrin blogs at MurraySabrin.com, and is co-founder of Conger LH, the world's first lubrihibitor (www.congerlh.com).
Lara-Murphy Report: How did you discover Austrian economics?
Murray Sabrin: My journey to Austrian economics began in the 1960s reading Milton Friedman’s column in Newsweek extolling the virtues of free markets. In 1969 I picked up a copy of Ayn Rand’s Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal in an upstate New York bookstore. The arguments by numerous authors in favor of free enterprise and limited government were compelling. And in September 1971 I read Murray Rothbard’s New York Times op ed criticizing President Nixon’s wage-price controls and his decision to make the U.S. dollar a totally fiat currency. By 1973-1974 I began reading the books and essays by Rothbard, Mises, Hayek, and Hazlitt. I found my intellectual home, an economic school of thought that has a coherent and correct explanation of how a market economy works and the consequences of interventionism. In early 1974 I met Murray Rothbard and invited him to be an outside member of my dissertation committee at Rutgers University, where I developed a study (in the Geography Department) on the spread of inflation through urban America. Rothbard accepted my invitation without hesitation and served as a valuable advisor.
LMR: We understand you attended the famous 1974 South Royalton conference, which many point to as the pivotal event marking the reversal in the fortunes of Austrian economics. What can you share about the conference?
MS: Murray Rothbard forwarded my name to the organizers of the conference and I received an invitation soon after I met him in his office at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where he was teaching. I roomed with Joe Salerno who was a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Rutgers at the time, and I quickly realized he was going to be a productive scholar in the years ahead. By the time I attended the conference I had become a full-fledged “Austrian” even though I was not formally studying economics. At the conference there was bit of tension in the air because Milton Friedman attended the first night’s dinner and Rothbard had written a highly critical essay about his economic ideas in the Libertarian Forum a month earlier. At the dinner there were reminisces of Mises who died in October 1973. After the dinner Henry Hazlitt mentioned to me that some of Friedman’s remarks about Mises had been inaccurate. I was disappointed that Friedman made dubious statements at an event in the history of the Austrian School. Nevertheless, virtually everyone in the Austrian School at the time attended the event and many of the younger economists who are now leaders in today’s Austrian School movement were also in attendance. For me, the conference was an intellectual super feast listening to the insights of Rothbard, [Israel] Kirzner, [Ludwig] Lachmann, and [William] Hutt. And having the opportunity to meet and talk with Henry Hazlitt, one of the giants in the history of economic journalism and great economist in his own right, was magnificent.
LMR: Paul Krugman just this week had a blog post in which he claimed that there was “nothing Ponziesque at all” about Social Security. We imagine you—and the SEC—beg to differ.
MS: Social Security is a “Ponzi” scheme in the sense that the payroll tax is not in a segregated account for taxpayers but pooled to pay off earlier investors, and future Social Security recipients will only be able to receive retirement, disability and other benefits if workers are taxed to pay what the federal government has promised them. In other words, Social Security is a coerced intergenerational chain letter, and there is nothing Krugman and others can say that alters that fact. The book I am writing, “Ask Me About My Ponzi Scheme: Deceit and Deception From Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama,” will reveal how virtually every president for the past 100 years has created and/or perpetuated “Ponzi” schemes.
LMR: You recently had one of us (Murphy) participate in your documentary on the Federal Reserve. What can our readers look forward to?
MS: The Federal Reserve will be 100 years old in December 2013. In the documentary I hope to have as many different points of views as possible represented so viewers can be exposed to all the arguments--pro and con--about the Federal Reserve’s performance during the past 100 years. In the documentary we will integrate the interviews with tables and charts to reveal the impact of Fed policies on the economy. I hope to have all the on-camera interviews completed by early 2013 and then work on editing the raw footage into an informative story about the Federal Reserve during its ten decades of conducting monetary policy.
LMR: You’ve had a very eventful career, not only as an academic but also as a political candidate. Any stories or wisdom you’d like to share?