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Monday, March 30, 2009

Burton S. Blumert, 1929-2009

Picture 3 Eric Garris, the webmaster for LewRockwell.com and Antiwar.com reports some sad news about Burt Blumert,  proprietor of Camino Coins, publisher of LewRockwell.com, and a giant of the freedom movement:

A dear friend died this morning.

Burt Blumert was not only an old and close personal friend, he was an important friend to Antiwar.com.

In 1999, when Antiwar.com started really taking off, Burt took us under his wing by making us a part of the nonprofit Center for Libertarian Studies, giving us the ability to substantially expand. I don’t think we would be even a shadow of what we are today without Burt.

I met Burt in 1975, during my early involvement with the Libertarian Party. Burt was well-known as a successful businessman and and a very successful fund-raiser for libertarian causes. He was a good friend and early promoter of Murray Rothbard, forming the Center for Libertarian Studies to publish his works. He was a good friend and advisor to Congressman Ron Paul, and served as Ron’s national finance chair in his 1988 run for the White House. Burt was also a very close friend of Lew Rockwell, and was the publisher of LewRockwell.com. Burt was a radical, antiwar and anti-state to the core.

Over the next 34 years, Burt was always there, helping me with both my political endeavors and my personal problems. He always had great advice, just the right connections, and a loose wallet to help with seed money. And Justin Raimondo told me he doesn’t think he’d be alive without Burt’s help. [...]

Burt recently retired from his successful coin dealership, Camino Coins. Only months after he retired, Burt was diagnosed with cancer. He spent the next year battling the cancer while still keeping active to the end. Just last month, Burt cooked me a delicious feast. The way he waited on me, you would have thought I was the sick one. Burt turned 80 a few weeks ago.

In a review of Burt's recent book, a collection of essays, written in his characteristic comedic style called Bagels, Barry Bonds, and Rotten Politicians, Doug French wrote:

Burt Blumert has been fighting that good fight for decades, all the while poking fun at the government thugs, societal decay, political correctness, the medical-industrial complex, the persecution of Barry Bonds, and anything else that has slid under his skin. Burt's the kind of guy who seems like he was born wise. Thus, it's no surprise that, as David Gordon writes, "He knew almost everyone important in the libertarian movement, as well as in the hard money community of which he was a leading member." Up until Lew Rockwell persuaded Burt to put his views of the world on LewRockwell.com, only Burt's friends and customers benefited from his keen and funny insights.

Our thoughts today are with Burt's family, friends and community in Burlingame, California. Like them, his customers and the larger freedom movement have suffered a great loss; a man of immovable principle, incredible wit and generous spirit is no longer with us.

UPDATE 3: Brian Doherty, the documenter of the American libertarian movement adds:

Like many involved in the movement who were more backers than active contributors to writing and activism, he downplayed his own accomplishments and importance. But such sponsorship and patronage of intellectual movements are of course vital to the survival and spread of ideas.

UPDATE 2: From Mises.org, a life in pictures (and one reason why Ron Paul should be impeached):

UPDATE: Lew Rockwell has a beautiful tribute to Burt, excerpts below the fold.

[Picture: Burt Blumert with his close friend Texas Congressman Ron Paul]

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 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 benefited 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 that 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. [...]

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 ever pass when we are not inspired by his example. May his great soul rest in peace.

Read the rest.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on March 30, 2009 in Libertarianism | Permalink


Thank you for taking the time to remember this great man, Kalim.

His passing is indeed a loss for the libertarian movement.

It also makes me wonder if the solidly anti-statist, Rand/Rothbard-inspired libertarian movement is dying off, and being replaced by those CATO/Reason beltway types who reject a radical vision of liberty.

Who will replace Blumert? Not Koch. He's picked his team.

Who will replace Rockwell when that sad day comes, hopefully decades from now? Not Matt Welch.

Who will replace Paul when he is forced to slow down a bit?

I don't know.

I love the fact that moderate libertarianism is now a mainstream movement with think tanks and magazines, but we need a radical wing that Blumert represented.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-03-30 12:52:54 PM

Classical liberalism, civil libertarianism, traditional conservatism and moderate libertarianism can all serve as a gateway to a more deeply-rooted anti-state position. As Murray Rothbard often said, it is our role as state-haters to radicalize the freedom movement.

Although, as I noted, Blumert's passing is a blow to the struggle for liberty and the institutions which support it. I don't think your fears of a moderating of libertarianism in the US are well-founded My perception is that radical libertarianism, especially of the Rothbardian Austro-libertarian variety is on the march, and some credit for this must go to the campaign and efforts of Ron Paul. For example, in a recent appearance of his on Fox Business channel he spoke about Austrian economics, mentioned Rothbard and referred viewers to the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Eric Garris reports to me that hits to LewRockwell are way up over the past 2 years, Rand is on the Amazon Bestseller List, Thomas Woods' book on the financial crisis is on the NYTimes Bestseller List, the most recent Austrian Scholars' Conference and Mises University had the largest ever attendance and there are plenty of young Austro-libertarians getting teaching positions in universities across the US. I also predict that after the failure of the moderate libertarian LP presidential campaign of Bob Barr (in which he campaigned on a mere 10% cut to the size of the Federal Government), the LP will eschew moderates like Barr and Root and nominate a radical like Mary Ruwart.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-03-30 1:14:45 PM


Great response. I'm convinced: the future belongs to libertarians, and to radicals.

You're such a clever fellow, Kalim.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-03-30 1:33:02 PM

Burton who?

Posted by: epsilon | 2009-03-30 1:56:56 PM

It's Blumert, Epsi, not Burton -- and he was publisher of LewRockwell.com. It's like NRO, except it's libertarian and has more readers.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-03-30 2:23:07 PM

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