Information about Dwight D. Murphey

 

               There were two major formative influences in Dwight D. Murphey's intellectual life. The first was the three years he lived in Mexico starting when he was eight years old; his yearning to be home gave him a life-long love of the United States and of the ideals he identified with it. The second was when, soon out of high school, he came to realize that many of the ideas people hold are products of ideology and creed, slavishly repeated and poorly supported by facts. He became devoted to honest inquiry and a willingness to question the shibboleths of his time.  This questioning has been considerable in light of the ideals that he has held up against the shibboleths, the latter of which have come primarily (but not exclusively) from the Left..

               Murphey was born in Tucson, Arizona, on June 14, 1934. He lived in Miami, Florida, before the three years in Mexico, and then lived in Denver, Colorado, for the rest of his childhood. He took his pre-law in political science at the University of Colorado between 1951 and 1954, served on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for two years between 1954 and 1956, then was a special student under Ludwig von Mises in the Graduate School of Business at New York University during the 1956-7 school year before attending the University of Denver College of Law. After he graduated from law school in 1959, he practiced with a large firm in Denver for six years and then went to work for a small firm in Colorado Springs for two years to run for District Judge.  He lost the 1966 race for the judgeship in Colorado Springs and joined the faculty at Wichita State University in 1967, teaching business law.  He retired from the faculty after 36 years at the end of June, 2003.  By the turn of the century, he had written classical liberal (or, as he prefers, "neo-classical liberal") philosophy and historical analysis for more than fifty years. That work predominates in what is reproduced here.

                The review of Murphey's book Liberalism in Contemporary America presents a capsule summary of what was involved in his four-book project that started with Understanding the Modern Predicament, and anyone wanting to know his intellectual development during the 1970s and '80s will be well advised to read that review.  It appears here as item O5, or can be reached by this link

                During the 1990s and since, he has found it necessary to redirect many of his conclusions about social and economic issues, not because his principles or values have changed, but because circumstances have become so radically transformed.  Here is what he said in an e-mail to a friend in early 2007: 

            I imagine you and I are pretty much what we've always been in our fundamental principles, but I know that at least in my case I see that the world has changed so much that I have had to apply those principles to the new circumstances, arriving at surprisingly different results.

             Twenty years ago, the defense of free civilization required standing up to the spread of Communism.  This entailed a great deal of international involvement.  With the fall of the Soviet Union, though, I wasn't able to carry this over into a continued belief in the efficacy of American worldwide intervention in the name of correcting the great many perceived ills of the world.  The idea that our security requires 'making the world right' is very different from the pre-1991 need to defeat Communism.

             Even the free market looks very different to me, in the context of globalism, than it did earlier.  The free market that I so strongly advocated sustained a broad middle class, which in turn served as the foundation for a decent society and an acceptable political system.  But when enhanced communication, inexpensive transportation and global finance put American workers into direct competition with the world's subsistence-level billions, and at the same time hollowed-out American manufacturing, the much-changed 'market' became the enemy of those of us who, as part of our conservatism, care deeply about the fate of our own country and people.  There was always a contradiction between free-market universalism (as found in Ricardo's law of comparative costs) and national loyalties, but the two contradictories were able to get along well together so long as the market served the American people well.

             On the immigration issue, I had no difficulty, years ago, adopting a libertarian (in my case, classical liberal) position, since I perceived no threat from it.  It has only been since 1965, with the demographic invasion from the Third World, that I see the potential that that immigration holds for the destruction of the America (and Europe) I've known.  Here again, the classical liberal philosophical position and my love of country seemed compatible under one set of circumstances, but came to be divergent. 

            It may seem that I have moved away from my earlier classical liberalism and toward a less enlightened nationalism.  But I don't see it that way.  I see no contradiction between the continued existence of the United States (even in its present far-from-perfect form) and the long-term influence of classically liberal ideals.  If the United States is transformed into something very different from what it has been historically, the world will have lost its leading light.

            It is probably worthwhile to add a word about the many myth-penetrating essays that appear in the writings.  Those who have read the essays that make up the monograph "The Dispossession of the American Indian...." will be inclined to think that Murphey uniformly defends the United States against charges of atrocious behavior, since all of those essays do precisely that.  Such an impression is countered, however, if a number of his other writings are considered.  He has been severely critical of the United States on a number of subjects, such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the starvation of prisoners of war after World War II, the war against the Philippine independence movement at the very beginning of the twentieth century, and others.  The key is to understand that he is very much focused on a search for truth.  Since he is not alienated against the United States as so much of the world's intellectual community has been for almost two centuries, that search may well lead him to defend American actions where he thinks they deserve defending.  Just as much, it will lead him to be critical where his study causes him to conclude that that is deserved.  

              Murphey married Virginia Stewart on September 14, 1963, and they have two children: Victoria Lee Piercey and Bradley Allen Murphey.  Victoria is married to William Piercey and they have two children: Conor William Piercey and Logan Michael Piercey.   Virginia and Dwight celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary on September 14, 2010.