From the page Liberty's Benefactor - Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - Mises
Mises Daily by
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Posted on 3/30/2009 12:00:00 AM
Burt Blumert, 1929-2009
In every age, the idea of liberty needs benefactors, far-seeing people
willing to make personal sacrifices so that each new generation is taught
not to take freedom for granted, but rather to fight for it in every field
of life. That is necessary because the idea of liberty isn't really a
product that can be provided either by private enterprise or, of course, its
enemy the state. It must be provided as a gift to civilization.
These are points taught to me by the life and work of Burton Samuel Blumert,
one of liberty's great benefactors. He died at age 80 on the morning of
March 30, 2009, after a long battle with cancer. He would deny it, but his
name deserves to go down in history as a person who served as a champion of
freedom during his long life.
He was founder and manager of Camino Coins and president of the Center for
Libertarian Studies. He served faithfully as chairman of the Mises
Institute, succeeding Margit von Mises in that post. He was a dear friend of
Murray Rothbard's, and stuck steadfastly by him when others bailed out on
grounds that Murray was too radical or too independent as an intellectual.
Blumert saw that this genius needed support, and he provided it in every
way. Indeed, in the darkest days, he made the difference.
Rothbard was only one of many who benefitted from his generosity and care.
Burt never wavered in his support, through thick and thin, providing
excellent counsel and guidance at every step. I know that I had come to
depend on his unfailing friendship and judgment in a host of areas.
His support was more than financial; he also offered his time and energy
with great generosity. He provided offices, the safekeeping of books, and
personal encouragement to many libertarian scholars; he linked up scholars
with benefactors and publishers and employers, and even drove people to
events big and small. And he played an important role as proprietor of
Camino, in turning customers into benefactors of libertarian and Austrian
He had a quiet way about him that was always utterly and completely
sincere.. It was this feature of Burt that made him a good "salesman," and
he was legendary in that respect. He loved helping people achieve financial
independence. But it was about more than just business to him. He had the
vision to see that ideas are more important than all the world's goods. It
was this that he sought to give to the world. His gifts for friendship and
hospitality were also essential.
For many years, he served as master of ceremonies for Mises Institute
events. He was extremely comfortable, and successful, in asking for people's
support of this cause, because he was also a supporter himself. In 2003 he
was awarded the first Murray N. Rothbard Prize in celebration of his amazing
contribution in a host of areas. He believed he didn't deserve it, of
course.. But we all sensed that Murray cheered as he accepted it: Attaboy,
Burt, he often said.
Many people commented on Burt's sense of humor. It was pervasive, and
unfailing in good times and bad. Have a look at his wonderful collection of
observations in his book Bagels, Bonds, and Rotten Politicians. He used
humor as a way of cutting through the ideological thicket created by the
political moment, as a means to help people see and understand what truly
It was something that many of us counted on for years. The news would be
filled with reports of ominous events and threats to life and property. But
Burt had a way of maintaining a refreshing distance, remembering what is
important, and bringing humor to lighten the moment so that others could
discern what really matters.
His political outlook was decidedly Rothbardian. He saw politicians as
predictable in their scammery and racketeering. He saw the state as no more
than a massive drain on society, something we could do well without. War he
regarded as a massive and destructive diversion of social resources. Welfare
he saw as a perverse system for rewarding bad behavior and punishing
virtue.. Regulations on business he saw as interventions that benefitted the
well-connected at the expense of the true heroes of society, who were
pursuing enterprise with an eye to independence and profitability.
His main enemy was the inflationary state, and one reason he got into the
business of precious metals was to battle paper money. As a lifetime
observer of the business cycle, he knew that paper-money and
artificial-credit creation lead to illusions that would eventually
dissipate. So it was no surprise that he saw the latest bust coming early
on. As a resident of the Bay Area in Northern California, he was surrounded
by illusions, but his knowledge of Austrian business-cycle theory permitted
him to see through the fog.
There was a wonderful realism about his way of looking at society. He hated
the state for its sheer phoniness. The paper dollar was just the beginning
of it all, the most obvious symbol. To Burt, all of the state's glorious
activities were an illusion, creating false booms with every action. It was
the sheer hypocrisy of statecraft that struck him the most.
Private markets too have their share of crooks, but at least they didn't
sail under the cover of legal legitimacy. Here is what he wrote about his
favorite sport, boxing:
There is a refreshing quality about the world of boxing and the
commissions that govern it: corruption is pure and unadulterated. The road
to ascendancy in the world of boxing has no moral detours. For those who
rise to the top, a stretch at Sing Sing is more valued than an Ivy League
degree (and the alumni connections more useful). A murder indictment is
equivalent to a graduate degree (see the bio of impresario Don King). There
is no waste of resources in locating members for the athletic commission.
The marketplace assigns a dollar value on each appointment and the only
concern is that the bills are unmarked.
Burt was a wonderful friend to have, a man of extraordinary generosity and
sound judgment. He was a living saint to libertarian intellectuals and a
dear friend to the remnant that loves freedom. He was self-effacing to the
extreme, always sincerely and quickly giving credit to others and refusing
it himself. He was also a cook and host of great ability and generosity, and
his home was a salon of liberty.
Burt Blumert with Lew Rockwell, David Gordon, and Murray
So in his death, let us say what is true about him, simply because he would
never let anyone say it about him in life. Through his daily life and good
works, his loyalty and indefatigability, he showed us a path forward, the
very model of how a successful businessman can achieve greatness in a
lifetime. His legacy can be found in many of the books you read and in the
massive growth of libertarianism in our times. Signs of his works are all
around us. These were his gift to the world. And for those of us who knew
him, Burt's wonderful life and outlook are gifts to us of inestimable value.
We will miss him every day, but no day will every pass when we are not
inspired by his example. May his great soul rest in peace.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises
Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell. com, and author of The
Left, the Right, and the State. Send him mail. See his article archives.
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