books by Murray N. Rothbard
reviewed by T. Nelson
ompromise and utilitarianism, says Murray Rothbard, led Americans to abandon our early ideals and principles, and killed the libertarianism of Jefferson and Jackson on which America was founded. In this unflinching defense of modern libertarianism, Rothbard calls for its resurgence and advocates an uncompromising rejection of all but the most minimal functions of the state. He challenges both conservatives and liberals to re-think their positions on taxation, property rights, and military strength. War, says Rothbard, is mass murder. Taxation is theft. Both violate the principle that aggression against another person or another person's property, whether by an individual or by the state, is morally wrong.
But what can liberty offer against a system that provides boatloads of free stuff, paid for with money stolen from somebody else, while assuaging the normal feelings of guilt by whipping up class resentment and claims of “inequality”? A great deal, it turns out; for what good is stuff if you're not free to use it?
Not all of the pure, idealized libertarianism Rothbard advocates is practical. Some of his proposals, such as privatizing the police and the highways and eliminating national defense, would be risky. Unless the country were composed of intelligent, sensible people <INSERT SNIDE REMARK HERE>, the police could become corrupt, causing the pure libertarian state Rothbard advocates to collapse into a patchwork of territories of competing warlords or be taken over by Chicago-style gangsters (sort of like what just happened in 2008, only worse).
Another criticism in Rothbard's utopia can be made from his isolationism. This book was written in the early 70s, at the height of the Cold War. The people in Eastern Europe who looked up every day hoping to see American planes coming to liberate them from totalitarianism would not have understood a Rothbardian America; they would have considered his posture no different from that of Neville Chamberlain.
Some people will also be dismayed by Rothbard's ambivalent stance on abortion. But keep in mind that for libertarians, freedom is paramount; one need not accept the entire platform of the Libertarian Party to legitimately call oneself a libertarian. In my opinion, libertarians should be opposed to abortion: they believe the right to control one's own body ends where another's body begins. That means, in this case, the body of the unborn baby that has been entrusted to your care.
For a New Liberty represents one man's vision of how a society could be built on the idea of absolute personal liberty and individual rights. Regardless of whether every detail in this book is feasible, Rothbard would probably argue--and many would agree--that we need individual freedom today more than ever. Individual freedom can only be obtained by following libertarian principles. Without it, we are not humans, but mindless sheep with no thoughts or beliefs except those the government and its schools and its newspapers provide for us. We have no will of our own, except the will to consume as much as possible. As they say in New Hampshire, better off dead, ayuh.
Created oct 24, 2009; updated nov 17, 2009
reviewed by T. Nelson
he biggest beneficiary of the Great Depression was John Maynard Keynes, whose advocacy of massive state regulation struck a chord with power-hungry politicians. But the years have worn heavily on Keynesianism, which never gave a fully satisfactory explanation to the Depression. For those of us who think Keynes's theory of aggregate demand is a load of rubbish, but can't afford to spend weeks reading Rothbard's 1438-page magnum opus Man, Economy, and State, this book is a good substitute, with many of the same ideas, and more readable.
Rothbard was the first to show that the Depression was not caused by the excesses of unreconstructed capitalism and laissez-faire, but by government interference. Just as in the 2008 crash, the government under Herbert Hoover was panic-stricken and tried to prop up the bubble, only to turn it into a worldwide catastrophe. FDR made things even worse, and it was not until Hitler invaded Czechoslavakia that things started to return to normal. (Sorry, old joke).
Most of this is widely accepted today, even by many Keynesianistas. But in 1930 it wasn't. The wrong conclusions they drew led directly to today's out-of-control government. Unless the true cause is understood the people will turn to socialism after the next crash, destroying the American dream forever. That's why this book is so important.
Rothbard says conventional economic theory is bankrupt. Inflation is not caused by greed and speculation, but by the government counterfeiting money, a.k.a. quantitative easing, as it habitually does to prevent deflation. Printing money causes a boom which invariably results in a recession. The only way to stop the cycle is to take away its power to print money. Despite what the Keynesians say, deflation, where everything gets cheaper and cheaper, is nothing to be feared. It is essential to the health of the economy. What makes it dangerous is when the government steps in and tries, like Moses, to hold back the wall of collapsing liquidity.
Therefore, he says, business cycles are not inherent in capitalism, but are caused by government invention. The Depression was caused by the expansion of bank credit to business that occurred in the Roaring Twenties. When the expansion ended, the depression began. Every action the government took—inflating, attempting to maintain wages and prices, and stimulating consumption—only made it worse.
Politicians like Ron Paul have argued for the abolition of the Fed, the return to the gold standard, and even perhaps outlawing fractional reserve banking. These ideas may sound reactionary to the typical voter, who hears the drone of nattering Keynesians day in and day out, but their source is Murray Rothbard and Rothbard shows in this book that the logic for these changes is solid, elegant, and compelling.
jan 01 2014
reviewed by T. Nelson
he state is the systematization of the predatory process over a given territory, says Murray Rothbard in this 21-page pamphlet. The State is created by conquer, not by social contract. The role of intellectuals is to invent an ideology that supports the State. They perpetuate the fear that chaos would ensue in the event of the State's downfall. In return, they are supported by it and given prestige. One of the State's basic doctrines is to identify itself and the ruling class with the territory, thus benefiting from natural patriotism and group identity.
To Rothbard, the State exists in permanent opposition to genuinely private capital. This pamphlet, which is free to download at www.mises.org, is a brief elaboration of the principles of Rothbard's libertarianism. It's short and to the point.
jan 01 2014