Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Berlin Batman

My favorite item hanging on the Mises Institute walls is a framed display of The Batman Chronicles #11, showing the cover and a few excerpted panels.

It's a Batman comic book. So yeah, automatically awesome, but what else is there to say? I mean, it's the goddamn Batman!

Well, actually, that's from "All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder," and the Mises Institute's comic book is from a different Batman series, and on top of that is an "Elseworlds" story, which Wikipedia tells me was part of a series of comics putting superheroes out of their traditional settings.

This particular Batman story is about "Baruch Wane," a closeted upper-class Jew living in Nazi Germany. So what does Batman do in Nazi Germany? Well, he fights Nazis, obviously.

Well, the Mises Institute obviously doesn't like Nazis, what with the Nazis' general anti-freedom tilt, but that isn't why this particular issue is enshrined on the premises. You see, the comic book's dastardly Nazis are--among other misdeeds--planning to raid the library of a certain Economist and Austrian Jew. And now we see where this is going. If you'd like to see Batman try to save von Mises' library from falling into the hands of the Nazis, you can read an excerpt from The Batman Chronicles #11 here. has a brief review as well; it's a bit more in-depth than my treatment here.

The best part of this is that much of the story is true. The Nazis did seize von Mises' library, and it was subsequently taken by the Soviets before finally being recovered years later. Mises himself fled the country, making his way to America.

Incidentally, the Berlin Batman is Ron Paul's favorite superhero.

Lunch with David Gordon and Bob Murphy

I'm still down in Auburn at the Rothbard Graduate Seminar. I've been learning a lot about some of the finer points of the Austrian School, but I think those would be best held back for a capstone post at the end of the week. I played soccer with some of the other grad students last night, and oh man am I out of shape. It still felt great to get out on the field again though, and it's served as an inspiration for me to get back on the saddle in terms of fitness. I was pleased, however, to see that my touch on the ball isn't completely gone.

This morning we had a talk about the current direction of the Rothbardian research program and of Austro-libertarian academics in general. Dr. Gordon mentioned that there was opportunity to be had in giving John Rawls a good Austrian lambasting, which excited me because I had actually been thinking of just that as a possible direction I could go with my own academic endeavors. Rawls is one of the most influential of modern political philosophers and ethicists, and any attempt to establish an alternative system would likely be required to address the Rawlsian position first.

Dr. Gordon's primary work currently is in writing The Mises Review and says of his work, "I regard book reviewing as a blood sport." Needless to say, Dr. Gordon is a pretty funny guy.

At lunch today I sat at Dr. Gordon's table (as noted in the title, Bob Murphy was there too) with the intention of picking his brain on the prospects for an Austro-libertarian attack on Rawls. What happened instead was a discussion of professional wrestling.

Dr. Gordon was apparently a friend of the late Lou Thesz, and currently corresponds with Glenn Jacobs, noted blogger, member of the Free State Project, but known best as the WWE wrestler "Kane." Apparently Kane recently picked up some tips from a YouTube video of Thesz that Gordon had sent him. Thesz apparently used to half-jokingly give Gordon self defense advice (to avoid a fight, turn around and walk away--but if they follow you, surprise them with an elbow to the face). Either Gordon didn't mention how he met the wrestlers, or I've forgotten, but I imagine that would be another tale in itself. To round out the story, I should note that there is an autographed picture of Jacobs hung in the Institute, made out "to Lew and the Mises Institute, the heavyweight champions of liberty and freedom."

It is my second favorite item on the Institute's walls. For the first, you'll have to check my next blog post.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dinner with Tom Woods

This week I'm at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama for a program called the Rothbard Graduate Seminar. The program is a series of talks on Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State taught by the Institute's faculty.

Tonight was the welcome dinner, and Tom Woods recognized and sat next to me. Awesome. When I was here last summer (for the Mises University program), I tended to do more listening than talking during the meals, and tonight continued that trend mostly, but I did ask Dr. Woods about his new book, and I wanted to share that vignette because I thought it was pretty funny. I'm going to paraphrase as best as I can remember, although the payoff line is verbatim.

Grant: So I hear you've got a new book?
Dr. Woods: Yup.
Grant: On secession, right?
Dr. Woods: Nullification. What do you think I am, some kind of radical?

Dr. Woods' new book, Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, comes out on June 28th. He is scheduled to speak to the Iowa Republican State Convention on the 26th. Hopefully that will be posted somewhere--Dr. Woods is an insightful and entertaining speaker and with the talk being so close to the release of his book, it should make for some interesting listening.