By David Henderson
Following a few of links in Bryan Caplan’s latest post, I came across this book (zero-price as a pdf) edited by Walter Block. Titled I Chose Liberty, it’s a series of essays on how various libertarians or close-to libertarians came to their views. I confess that it’s the kind of book I love, if done right. My favorite kind of book has always been autobiographical. In 1967, when I had just finished my summer job and was about to start going to college, I read Sammy Davis Jr.s Yes I Can, and it made a big impression on me. In the late 1970s, after I finished my dissertation and used the Ph.D. to help me become a resident alien,
I took time to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and liked it way more than Bryan Caplan did. Admittedly, at the age of 27, I read it less carefully than Bryan did also.
Block’s book is not the kind of thing that I would recommend reading cover to cover. Instead, dip in and read about someone you’re interested in, and then someone else, etc. The one I read this morning that I found fascinating was by Dominick T. Armentano.
It’s not long and so I’ll give only a few quotes here:
I was reading Friedman and Hayek and especially Hazlitt by that time and frequently asking “outrageous” questions in class. There were never any serious answers, of course, only smirks and ridicule. I would often make appointments to meet professors after class to pursue issues, but few ever showed. Indeed, what I remember most about those undergraduate years is the almost complete “liberty blackout” in economics classes.
This rings a bell with my experience in my one undergrad econ class during my last year of college, 1969-70.
How he got excited about digging into antitrust cases:
Wilcox, et al. simply assumed that government antitrust policy promoted the “public interest” and that the firms convicted under the Sherman Act had actually raised prices and reduced outputs as standard monopoly theory predicted. Certainly the students who studied the Wilcox text had no way of knowing what actually transpired from an economic perspective in the classic antitrust cases since the author chose not to tell them. At the end of my first year of teaching, I decided to write an antitrust book to fill in the story that Wilcox and other textbook authors had omitted. The Myths of Antitrust: Economic Theory and Legal Cases (1972) was an attempt to do a major “revisionist” history of antitrust theory and policy. The State of Connecticut had an excellent law library in Hartford and so I buried myself in legal decisions and trial record material for almost four years. (We had no “research assistants” at the time; I did ALL of the research for Myths myself and wrote every word of text. If there are errors or omissions, blame me.) My intention was to discover what actually happened in the classic antitrust cases from an economic perspective. Did the firms abuse consumers and was antitrust a legitimate response to monopolization? Additionally, I wanted to tell the story of the classic antitrust cases in the context of the actual historical development of the industry.
And don’t miss the well-deserved parental pride about his son, Paul Armentano. I had always wondered if there was a connection between the two. That acorn didn’t fall far from the tree.