Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rothbard, Murray (1973): For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto

What is it about?

In this true classic on libertarian economic and political philosophy, Rothbard outlines both in principle and to an admirable degree in practice a society based on the natural law tradition.

In essence, Rothbard starts from two basic principles, prohibition of aggression against person and property, and carefully explores and argues into existence the society which logically follows from these principles.

Moreover, the very beginning and end of the book are devoted to discussing the libertarian stance as a creed, and outlining a 'strategy' for spreading the ideology. In this sense, the book is a pamphlet, though a very, very extensive one, running for more than 300 pages.

Was it good?

The book, I believe, must be evaluated on two levels: (1) the subject matter and especially the conclusions and (2) argumentative rigor and style. With regard to the latter, the book is stellar - Rohbard's deep and broad knowledge of several scholarly traditions and disciplines is remarkable and his argumentation is in most cases compelling and air tight. The former aspect, the subject matter and conclusions is more - one might say eminently more - up to one's subjective world view, as often is case in economic and political philosophy. Suffice it to say that the society Rothbard paints has very few resemblances to the Scandinavian welfare society.

In any event, I believe that no matter what one's fundamental stance towards basic societal principles, the book is bound to raise forceful reactions and really compel one to consider his or her own convictions very, very carefully. No sloppy logic or vague feelings suffice for Rothbard.

If Rothbard still was alive, I would be extremely eager to read or hear his take on the Scandinavian welfare state, which has landed Finland, for example, in the first place in such rankings as the press freedom index, and Newsweek's the best countries in the World, with Scandinavian countries ranking usually in top positions in such rankings. How would he consider this empirical evidence?

The main take-away for me?

Well, one of the pragmatic take-aways from the book is the argumentative style: the book is a lengthy case example of "how one argues carefully, consistently and compellingly". Moreover, and more substantially, the book certainly provides a sounding board against the Scandinavian system - in order to put things into a broad perspective, the book provides one with excellent means to exercise "what Rothbard would say" kind of a critical stance, regardless of one's 'true' convictions.

Who should read the book?

I think that everyone should read the book - though perhaps the general audience would prefer an abridged version especially without the very beginning and end where libertarianism is discussed from a 'creed' and 'ideology' standpoints.

The book at Ludwig von Mises Institute (freely available): For a New Liberty

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