Nock, Nock. Albert Jay's Here.


Albert Jay Nock's The Book of Journeyman has been added to the Mises Institute's very impressive archive of full-text books of libertarian and/or Austrian economic interest. Also available in Nockiana: On Doing the Right Thing, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Jefferson, and Our Enemy, The State.

While Nock's patrician disregard for the trappings of modernity might mean he'd be unimpressed by these techno-miracles, I can only say it adds immensely to the humane enjoyment of any of our lives to be able to contemplate, pretty much costlessly and from anywhere, Nock's joyously supple prose and fascinating proto-libertarian insights. Paul Palmer, a post-Mencken (who also adored Nock) editor of the American Mercury, said that he was "the greatest stylist among American writers…no American ever wrote a purer prose."

Albert Jay Nock is one of the many characters who just absolutely come to life in my forthcoming book, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. Just sayin'.

NEXT: Wednesday Mini-Book Review: In The Studio

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  1. I’m seriously digging these little essays; Nock was definitely a wit. The closest author I can think of to his style and attitude in contemporary punditry is Derbyshire, which is rather sad, all things considered.

  2. Well, someone has to be the son of a bitch around here, and I guess I’m the only one with the balls big enough for the job. Albert J. wrote like a girl, pretty much, a Mt. Holyoke broad, I would say, from my experience. This is Big Al descanting on baseball versus golf, circa 1930:

    “One of my friends said with a delightful Yiddish intonation that “it [baseball] ain’t no
    longer got the class what golf got it”-and indeed the social and physical accessories of golf do make it in this sense a classy sport and part of the gogetter’s legitimate equipment, which baseball could not be. Still, there is one merit in this change. Golf is no game to watch-one must play it oneself to get anything out of it. The fact of baseball being such a great spectacle made its ommercialization easy. There is some commercialization of football and tennis, but it will never go any distance as it has in baseball; and golf, I think, will always remain a player’s game. How odd it would be, though, if a generation should grow up which knew not baseball! America would no longer seem like America.”

    First of all, there’s that adorable Episcopalian anti-semitism. Oh, those Jews! They do talk funny! If only they’d bathe! And then there’s the fatuous flaunting of social expertise–the sort of thing that one simply has to be born with. Folks, if you want style–Melville, Twain, and Faulkner. They’re the dudes who brought it back home.

  3. “Melville, Twain, and Faulkner.”

    They had style. They also take way too damn long to read.

  4. I love Faulkner and Twain, but I’d put Nock ahead of Melville in terms of readability. And of course the aforementioned Mencken knocks Nock out of the park. The spare snark from any given one of his short essays could fuel about 100 Hit and Run posts.

  5. This post kind of runs in parallel with the “No Nock, the Po-Po’s here!” that Radley’s been running.

    Anan V:

    I don’t know, unless you were able to produce a large amount of circumstantial evidence, or a small amount of direct evidence that Albert J. was anti-semetic, I’m not sure I’d classify that passage the way you did.

    I mean, can a writer not accurately characterize a way of speaking common amongst an ethnic group? Or is that something only commedians (ethnic) can do?

    If I write a passage about a conversation with a Rastafarian and convey his way of speech, is that racist? Albert J. even called the Yiddish intonation “delightful”.

  6. Kudos to the Mises institute for their archive and the Nock additions.

    Nock is one of my faves. I think that he was a stellar writer both in style and, overwhelmingly, in substance. The wisdom in “Our Enemy, The State” will always be well taken.

    While Nock’s patrician disregard for the trappings of modernity might mean he’d be unimpressed by these techno-miracles…

    Yet it’s exactly economic liberty-Nock advocated it in abundance, which produced this abundance of techno-wizardry.

  7. Brian’s book looks to be quite interesting, which is why I just ordered ir. I wanna give it to myself for Christmas. Will it be here by then? Brian?

  8. …Just kidding. It’s “soon to be released”.

  9. Alan Vanneman:

    I guess I’m the only one with the balls big enough for the job. Albert J. wrote like a girl

    Right, Alan says that he has big balls and Nock wrote like a girl. (albeit one from a good school) I think we might have a case for therapy here. 🙂

    First of all, there’s that adorable Episcopalian anti-Semitism.

    Oh come on. Nock did say: “One of my friends…” and of course ya gota do better than quoting mimicking to substantiate any racial discounting of individuality. (I propose that that’s what we libertarians should call/describe racism.

    BYW, If there was some omniscient power, I’m sure that it would inform us that. Oh, those Jews! They do talk funny! If only they’d bathe , or at least the same sentiment, was spoken by German Jews about their later emigrating eastern-European brethren. (Not that that is any better or worse)

  10. …was spoken by German Jews about their later emigrating eastern-European brethren.

    No kidding. It was quite an experience for me to hear what some of my parent’s friends (Jews from Norfolk, VA) said about “New York Jews”.

  11. Well, Alan’s comment has effectively inockulated me from Albert J.

    But Melville couldn’t carry Twain’s jockstrap (if that’s your idea of a good time).

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