October 19, 2015

When I Like Gary North

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

[Murray] Rothbard’s Law: “People tend to specialize in what they are worst at. For example, Henry George is great on everything but land, so therefore he writes about land 90% of the time. [Milton] Friedman is great except on money, so he concentrates on money.”

Gary North is arguably the most important living Reconstructionist. Reconstructionists have several key points:

  1. Presuppositional approach to philosophy/apologetics (in the Van Tillian tradition)
  2. Calvinistic
  3. Theonomic
  4. Post-millennial

Of these, I am least of all 3 and 4 (as in I’m definitely not), and I kinda sorta agree with number 1 in the list (but the differences with my Presuppositionalistic approach are extremely important, as I am not a big fan of Van Til); I agree with 2, though my own Calvinism is a different flavor than most Reconstructionists.  I’m not a Recon, obviously.

maxresdefault-2At any rate, North, who married Recon founder RJ Rushdoony’s daughter, is the last of the “Big Three” Recons of the 20th century (the other two being Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen).  North is a movement genius. Without North, it’s difficult to tell where Reconstructionism would be today. His own son-in-law, Joel McDurmon, was recently named President of American Vision, an important Recon organization.

My point: Gary North is a specialist in the various pillars Reconstructionism. As such, I don’t cite him favorably on these things, and also related issues such as Covenant Theology and the epistemological foundations of economics (sometime I’ll have to share my thoughts regarding his new Christian Economics book).  Gary North, in my opinion, is worst at these topics.  Gary North proves Murray Rothbard right.

But I do have a soft spot for the guy, when I’m not reading him on Reconstructionist issues. My non-theonomic friends would likely be perplexed by such an admittance.  But whenever he talks about those things that are unrelated to Reconstructionism, I’m a fan of Gary North.

I write this because I received an email from a reader.

I’m confused about people like Gary North. Sometimes you cite him favorably and other times you seem annoyed at him. I see libertarians that don’t seem to be into religious themes excitedly promote some things he says, and at the same time I see libertarians that consider him the scariest thing that every happened to the Austrian movement. But your own disagreements with North are not alarmist like these libertarians. What gives?

What gives is that there are various aspects of the guy; some of which deserve praise, others criticism.  The areas which I would criticize include those things mentioned above. But Gary North, especially these daysspends most his pop-level writing efforts commenting of economic trends, general observations regarding the growth of the state, the collapse of conservatism in America, the fraud that is politics, the hilarious stupidity that is Keynesian economics, the greatness of David Stockman, the history of the liberty movement, the future of the liberty movement, the present bitcoin craze, gold, and so on and so forth.  He is a great writer, with entertaining prose (very characteristic of the Recon movement, which partially explains their online success). I appreciate these things (except the success of the Recon movement. Wink wink).

Gary North is a good read. I read what he puts out. I enjoy his exposition of Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises. I smile at his defenses of Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul. I’ve sat through his various Mises Institute lectures numerous times (out of my own volition). I pay him money via a subscription to Garynorth.com (yes, I therefore monetarily support the greater Recon movement– blame Gary’s great insights).

Some times I like him more than others. Sometimes he has a great article going and I am very enthralled. Then, halfway through, he brings up something that makes me roll my eyes. But I keep going. I eat the meat and toss the bones. I often like him.

But not on those things that he has specialized in.  Not what he is really known for.  He will be remembered as theonomist extraordinaire.  I’ll remember him as an insightful commentator in the greater liberty movement.  I’ll remember him as will many other Austro-libertarian proponents that aren’t at all into his theological claims.  Good on economics, good on the political movements in America, not so good on the ideal political theory, not so good on a handful of theological issues.  Interestingly then, I like him on those things which he would be favorably cited for by non-Christians (read non-Calvinists) and not so much on those things which he would be favorably cited for by Christians making a theonomic, eschatological, or epistemological point.

Sometimes I think he is dead wrong, and profoundly so. Sometimes I learn a great deal from him and enjoy the learning process.

Here is a Gary North lecture on Murray Rothbard.

 

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • Randy Biswell

    I am a big fan of Tom Woods and a fan on some level of the reconstruction movement. I am torn between the two philosophy’s. I’ve been intrigued by things I’ve heard from minarchists as well. I am attempting to sort out in my mind the most biblically accurate/informed librtarian philosophy . Can you share with me your views on the subject? I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    Randy

  • Walton

    I’m considering reading Honest Money by North. Have your read it or do you have any opinions on it?