George Reisman, PhD, the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, and professor emeritus of economics at Pepperdine University, is one of the greatest living defenders of capitalism. I caught up with him recently for a wide-ranging discussion on his early intellectual growth, how he was influenced by Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand, his books and lectures, and some economic theory.
Jim Brown: Professor George Reisman, welcome. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
George Reisman: Thank you for inviting me.
Brown: I’d like to start with your early intellectual development. After reading your biography in the preface of your book Capitalism, one might think you were born a capitalist. As a young person, how did you decide that you wanted to be a defender of free markets and individual rights?
Reisman: When I was about five, in the middle of World War II, I asked my father why the United States deserved to win. He said it’s because the U.S.A. is the best country, and that’s because we have our Constitution. I must have grasped that something about a constitution determines whether a government is good or bad. I also understood that the government could not properly tell you what to do. I remember that when I was about six, I got into an argument with some other kids because I was sticking to my constitutional right to free speech to say that the president stinks. That was Franklin Roosevelt, and I didn’t know anything about him, but I knew that I had the right to say it.
By the time I was eleven, I had become a Republican, I guess mainly because I valued property rights. I would sometimes take a basketball or football down to the schoolyard. And there were these tough kids who would grab my ball and wouldn’t let me in the game. I was outraged, and I identified that that was exactly what the tenants and city government of New York were doing to the landlords. So, I was immediately against rent control. . . .
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1. For research, I find the Kindle version of Capitalism to be very useful. In addition to its extensive index, it allows the reader to search for any specific term or topic.
2. To view Reisman’s 2004-05 lectures, go to https://bit.ly/2Zf1hrY.