An Excerpt from Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution

By Murray N. Rothbard

The normative principle I am suggesting for the law is simply this: No action should be considered illicit or illegal unless it invades, or aggresses against, the person or just property of another. Only invasive actions should be declared illegal, and combated with the full power of the law. The invasion must be concrete and physical. There are degrees of seriousness of such invasion, and hence, different proper degrees of restitution or punishment. “Burglary,” simple invasion of property for purposes of theft, is less serious than “robbery,” where armed force is likely to be used against the victim. Here, however, we are not concerned with the questions of degrees of invasion or punishment, but simply with invasion per se.

If no man may invade another person’s “just” property, what is our criterion of justice to be? There is no space here to elaborate on a theory of justice in property titles. Suffice it to say that the basic axiom of libertarian political theory holds that every man is a selfowner, having absolute jurisdiction over his own body. In effect, this means that no one else may justly invade, or aggress against, another’s person. It follows then that each person justly owns whatever previously unowned resources he appropriates or “mixes his labor with.” From these twin axioms — self-ownership and “homesteading” — stem the justification for the entire system of property rights titles in a free-market society. This system establishes the right of every man to his own person, the right of donation, of bequest (and, concomitantly, the right to receive the bequest or inheritance), and the right of contractual exchange of property titles.

Legal and political theory have committed much mischief by failing to pinpoint physical invasion as the only human action that should be illegal and that justifies the use of physical violence to combat it. The vague concept of “harm” is substituted for the precise one of physical violence. Consider the following two examples. Jim is courting Susan and is just about to win her hand in marriage, when suddenly Bob appears on the scene and wins her away. Surely Bob has done great “harm” to Jim. Once a nonphysical-invasion sense of harm is adopted, almost any outlaw act might be justified. Should Jim be able to “enjoin” Bob’s very existence? Continue reading “An Excerpt from Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution”

A Strategy for the Right

This article was first published in 1992, in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report.

By Murray N. Rothbard

What I call the Old Right is suddenly back! The terms “old” and “new” inevitably get confusing, with a new “new” every few years, so let’s call it the “Original” Right, the right wing as it existed from 1933 to approximately 1955. This Old Right was formed in reaction against the New Deal, and against the Great Leap Forward into the leviathan state that was the essence of that New Deal.

This anti–New Deal movement was a coalition of three groups:

  1. the “extremists” — the individualists and libertarians, like H.L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, and Garet Garrett;
  2. right-wing Democrats, harking back to the laissez-faire views of the 19th-century Democratic party, men such as Governor Albert Ritchie of Maryland or Senator James A. Reed of Missouri;
  3. moderate New Dealers, who thought that the Roosevelt New Deal went too far, for example Herbert Hoover.

Interestingly, even though the libertarian intellectuals were in the minority, they necessarily set the terms and the rhetoric of the debate, since theirs was the only thought-out, contrasting ideology to the New Deal.

The most radical view of the New Deal was that of libertarian essayist and novelist Garet Garrett, an editor of the Saturday Evening Post. His brilliant little pamphlet “The Revolution Was,” published in 1938, began with these penetrating words — words that would never be fully absorbed by the Right:

There are those who still think they are holding a pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the night of depression, singing songs to freedom.

The revolution was, said Garrett, and therefore nothing less than a counterrevolution is needed to take the country back. Behold then, not a “conservative,” but a radical Right.

In the late 1930s, there was added to this reaction against the domestic New Deal a reaction against the foreign policy of the New Deal: the insistent drive toward war in Europe and Asia. Hence, the right wing added a reaction against big government abroad to the attack on big government at home. The one fed on the other.

The right wing called for nonintervention in foreign as well as domestic affairs, and denounced FDR’s adoption of Woodrow Wilson’s global crusading, which had proved so disastrous in World War I. To Wilson-Roosevelt globalism, the Old Right countered with a policy of “America First.” American foreign policy must neither be based on the interests of a foreign power — such as Great Britain — nor be in the service of such abstract ideals as “making the world safe for democracy,” or waging a “war to end all wars,” both of which would amount, in the prophetic words of Charles A. Beard, to waging “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

And so the Original Right was completed, combating the leviathan state in domestic affairs. It said “no!” to the welfare-warfare state. The result of adding foreign affairs to the list was some reshuffling of members: former rightists such as Lewis W. Douglas — who had opposed the domestic New Deal — now rejoined it as internationalists, while veteran isolationists, such as Senators Borah and Nye, or intellectuals such as Beard, Harry Elmer Barnes, or John T. Flynn, gradually but surely became domestic right-wingers in the course of their determined opposition to the foreign New Deal.

If we know what the Old Right was against, what were they for? In general terms, they were for a restoration of the liberty of the old republic, of a government strictly limited to the defense of the rights of private property. In the concrete, as in the case of any broad coalition, there were differences of opinion within this overall framework. But we can boil down those differences to this question: How much of existing government would you repeal? How far would you roll government back? Continue reading “A Strategy for the Right”

Utilitarianism and Natural Rights

Much has been made over the years about economic science being value-free, and the public choicers will resort to economic models to measure the relative utility of various options and select the one that achieves the “best” outcome.

While this may have some merits in practice, using it as your basis for decision making is dubious at best; and downright dangerous at worst.

While economics may be value-free, it is a tool, like a weapon that can be used to protect life and property, or it can be misused and destroy it.  Without having the principled moral grounding, a utilitarian can justify damn near anything.

Here are several articles by Murray Rothbard, with appropriate quotes presented making the case that Natural Rights are necessary when considering appropriate action, and though utilitarianism may often support the conclusions of moral actions – they cannot alone be justifications in taking such action. Continue reading “Utilitarianism and Natural Rights”

The End of Socialism and the Calculation Debate Revisited

By Murray N. Rothbard

This article was originally published in The Review of Austrian Economics in 1991, during the collapse of the Soviet Union.


At the root of the dazzling revolutionary implosion and collapse of socialism and central planning in the “socialist bloc” is what everyone concedes to be a disastrous economic failure. The peoples and the intellectuals of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are crying out not only for free speech, democratic assembly, and glasnost, but also for private property and free markets. And yet, if I may be pardoned a moment of nostalgia, four-and-a-half-decades ago, when I entered graduate school, the economics Establishment of that era was closing the book on what had been for two decades the famed “socialist calculation debate.” And they had all decided, left, right, and center, that there was not a thing economically wrong with socialism: that socialism’s only problems, such as they might be, were political. Economically, socialism could work just as well as capitalism.

Ludwig von Mises

Mises and the Challenge of Calculation

Before Ludwig von Mises raised the calculation problem in his celebrated article in 1920,[1]  everyone, socialists and non-socialists alike, had long realized that socialism suffered from an incentive problem. If, for example, everyone under socialism were to receive an equal income, or, in another variant, everyone was supposed to produce “according to his ability” but receive “according to his needs,” then, to sum it up in the famous question: Who, under socialism, will take out the garbage? That is, what will be the incentive to do the grubby jobs, and, furthermore, to do them well? Or, to put it another way, what would be the incentive to work hard and be productive at any job?

Continue reading “The End of Socialism and the Calculation Debate Revisited”

The Road to Civil War

By Murray N. Rothbard

The road to Civil War must be divided into two parts:

1.  the causes of the controversy over slavery leading to secession, and
2.  the immediate causes of the war itself.

The reason for such split is that secession need not have led to Civil War, despite the assumption to the contrary by most historians.

The basic root of the controversy over slavery to secession, in my opinion, was the aggressive, expansionist aims of the Southern “slavocracy.” Very few Northerners proposed to abolish slavery in the Southern states by aggressive war; the objection – and certainly a proper one – was to the attempt of the Southern slavocracy to extend the slave system to the Western territories. The apologia that the Southerners feared that eventually they might be outnumbered and that federal abolition might ensue is no excuse; it is the age-old alibi for “preventive war.” Not only did the expansionist aim of the slavocracy to protect slavery by federal fiat in the territories as “property” aim to foist the immoral system of slavery on Western territories; it even violated the principles of states’ rights to which the South was supposedly devoted – and which would logically have led to a “popular sovereignty” doctrine.

Actually, with Texas in the Union, there was no hope of gaining substantial support for slavery in any of the territories except Kansas, and this had supposedly been settled by the Missouri Compromise. “Free-Soil” principles for the Western territories could therefore have been easily established without disruption of existing affairs, if not for the continual aggressive push and trouble making of the South.

If Van Buren had been president, he might have been able to drive through Congress the free-soil principles of the Wilmot Proviso, and that would have been that. As it was, President Taylor’s bill would have settled the Western territory problem by simply adopting “popular sovereignty” principles in New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, and California territories – admitting them all eventually as free states. Instead, the unfortunate death of President Taylor, and the accession of Fillmore, ended this simple and straightforward solution, and brought forth the pernicious so-called “Compromise” of 1850, which exacerbated rather than reduced interstate tensions by adding to the essential Taylor program provisions for stricter enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. Since the Fugitive Slave Law not only forced the Northern people to collaborate in what they considered – correctly – to be moral crime, but also violated Northern state rights, the strict Fugitive Slave Law was a constant irritant to the North.

The shift from free-soil principles in the Democratic Party and toward the Compromise of 1850 wrecked the old Jacksonian Democracy. The open break became apparent in Van Buren and the Free Soil candidacy of 1848; the failure of the Democratic Party to take an antislavery stand pushed the old libertarians into Free Soil or other alliances, even into the new Republican Party eventually: this tragic split in the Democratic Party lost it its libertarian conscience and drive.

Pro-southern domination of the Democratic Party in the 1850s, with Pierce and Buchanan, the opening up of the Kansas territory to slave expansion (or potential slave expansion) in 1854, led to the creation of the antislavery Republican Party. One tragedy here is that the surrender of the Democrat and Whig parties to the spirit of the Compromise of 1850 forced the free-soilers into a new party that was not only free soil, but showed dangerous signs (in Seward and others) of ultimately preparing for an abolitionist war against the South. Thus, Southern trouble making shifted Northern sentiment into potentially dangerous channels. Not only that: it also welded in the Republican Party a vehicle dedicated, multifold, to old Federalist-Whig principles: to high tariffs, to internal improvements and government subsidies, to paper money and government banking, etc. Libertarian principles were now split between the two parties.

The fantastic Dred Scott decision changed the political scene completely: for in it the Supreme Court had apparently outlawed free-soil principles, even including the Missouri Compromise. There was now only one course left to the lovers of freedom short of open rebellion against the Court, or Garrison’s secession by the North from a Constitution that had indeed become a “compact with Hell”; and that escape hatch was Stephen Douglas’s popular sovereignty doctrine, in its “Freeport” corollary: i.e., in quiet, local nullification of the Dred Scott decision. Continue reading “The Road to Civil War”

Just War

By Murray N. Rothbard

[Given Donald Trump’s recent comments regarding Andrew Jackson and the Civil War, it is a good time point out the historical context and the justifications as presented in the modern classroom vs. a more informed interpretation.  It is our view that Donald Trump was making a point that the Civil War and its attendant horrors were avoidable and the absolution of slavery still possible had a tyrant such as Lincoln not been in the dictatorial seat of power.]

 Much of “classical international law” theory, developed by the Catholic Scholastics, notably the 16th-century Spanish Scholastics such as Vitoria and Suarez, and then the Dutch Protestant Scholastic Grotius and by 18th- and 19th-century jurists, was an explanation of the criteria for a just war. For war, as a grave act of killing, needs to be justified.

My own view of war can be put simply: a just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them.

During my lifetime, my ideological and political activism has focused on opposition to America’s wars, first because I have believed our waging them to be unjust, and, second, because war, in the penetrating phrase of the libertarian Randolph Bourne in World War I, has always been “the health of the State,” an instrument for the aggrandizement of State power over the health, the lives, and the prosperity, of their subject citizens and social institutions. Even a just war cannot be entered into lightly; an unjust one must therefore be anathema.

There have been only two wars in American history that were, in my view, assuredly and unquestionably proper and just; not only that, the opposing side waged a war that was clearly and notably unjust. Why? Because we did not have to question whether a threat against our liberty and property was clear or present; in both of these wars, Americans were trying to rid themselves of an unwanted domination by another people. And in both cases, the other side ferociously tried to maintain their coercive rule over Americans. In each case, one side — “our side” if you will — was notably just, the other side — “their side” — unjust.

To be specific, the two just wars in American history were the American Revolution and the War for Southern Independence. Continue reading “Just War”

The Power of The President

By Murray N. Rothbard

The Liberals are, at last, beginning to wake up. For decades the Liberals and the Old Left have been regaling us with exaltation of the power, the glory, the grandeur of the President, especially in foreign and military affairs. The President was, uniquely and miraculously, the living embodiment of the Will of the People.

Once every four years the individual American is allowed, nay exhorted, to troop to the polls, where he may pull down a lever beside the name of one out of two indistinguishable Personalities. After the winner is duly chosen by about one-fourth of the eligible electorate, the mantle of the Popular Mandate settles about his regal shoulders, and he is then to do as he pleases with us all until the hour of the next quadrennial extravaganza.

The Liberals have been in the forefront of the advancement and glorification of this despotic process:  anyone who dared to question or grumble at the burgeoning of unchecked power in the President was damned as an obstructionist, reactionary, and Neanderthal, heartlessly and wilfully attempting to block America’s divinely-appointed path to her future destiny. And within the Pantheon of Presidents, the deified ones were the ‘strong’ (i. e. war-making) Presidents–the Lincolns, the Wilsons, the Roosevelts, while the pacific and ‘do-nothing’ Presidents were denigrated and scorned.

Too often it all depends on whose ox is being gored. World War II and the Korean ‘police action’ were preeminently Liberal wars, and so the Liberals of course saw nothing wrong in them or in the Presidential powers that brought the wars about or were greatly intensified by the conflict.

But the Vietnam War is a war of a different color, and many Liberals find that their chickens have truly come home to roost. Here and there Liberal voices are being raised, suddenly alarmed that something thing has gone wrong in the Paradise of presidential power. Continue reading “The Power of The President”

Abolish the Police

By Murray Rothbard

Abоlіtіоn оf thе рublіс ѕесtоr means, of соurѕе, thаt all ріесеѕ оf lаnd, аll land аrеаѕ, including streets аnd roads, wоuld bе оwnеd рrіvаtеlу, by іndіvіduаlѕ, соrроrаtіоnѕ, соореrаtіvеѕ, оr аnу other vоluntаrу grоuріngѕ оf іndіvіduаlѕ аnd саріtаl. The fасt that аll ѕtrееtѕ аnd lаnd аrеаѕ wоuld bе рrіvаtе wоuld bу itself ѕоlvе mаnу of the seemingly іnѕоlublе problems оf private ореrаtіоn. What we nееd tо do іѕ tо reorient оur thіnkіng tо consider a world in which all lаnd аrеаѕ are рrіvаtеlу оwnеd. 

Lеt uѕ tаkе, for example, роlісе рrоtесtіоn. Hоw would police protection bе furnіѕhеd іn a tоtаllу private есоnоmу? 

Part оf thе аnѕwеr bесоmеѕ еvіdеnt іf we consider a world оf tоtаllу рrіvаtе land аnd street ownership. Cоnѕіdеr thе Times Sԛuаrе area of New Yоrk City, a notoriously crime-ridden аrеа whеrе there іѕ lіttlе police рrоtесtіоn furnіѕhеd bу thе сіtу аuthоrіtіеѕ. Evеrу Nеw Yоrkеr knоwѕ, іn fасt, thаt he lіvеѕ аnd wаlkѕ the streets, аnd not only Tіmеѕ Sԛuаrе, virtually іn a state оf “anarchy,” dереndеnt ѕоlеlу оn the nоrmаl реасеfulnеѕѕ аnd gооd wіll оf his fеllоw сіtіzеnѕ. Pоlісе рrоtесtіоn іn New Yоrk іѕ mіnіmаl, a fact drаmаtісаllу rеvеаlеd іn a recent week-long роlісе ѕtrіkе whеn, lо аnd bеhоld!, crime іn nо way іnсrеаѕеd frоm its nоrmаl ѕtаtе whеn thе роlісе аrе supposedly аlеrt and оn thе jоb. 

At аnу rаtе, suppose thаt thе Tіmеѕ Sԛuаrе area, іnсludіng thе streets, wаѕ privately оwnеd, say bу the “Tіmеѕ Sԛuаrе Mеrсhаntѕ Aѕѕосіаtіоn.” Thе merchants would knоw full wеll, оf соurѕе, thаt іf сrіmе was rampant in their аrеа, іf muggings аnd hоlduрѕ аbоundеd, thеn their customers would fаdе аwау and wоuld раtrоnіzе соmреtіng аrеаѕ and neighborhoods. Hеnсе, іt wоuld bе tо the economic interest оf thе merchants’ association to supply efficient аnd рlеntіful роlісе protection, ѕо thаt сuѕtоmеrѕ wоuld bе аttrасtеd tо, rаthеr than rереllеd from, their nеіghbоrhооd. Private business, аftеr аll, іѕ always trуіng tо attract аnd kеер іtѕ customers. 

But whаt gооd would bе served bу attractive ѕtоrе dіѕрlауѕ аnd расkаgіng, рlеаѕаnt lіghtіng аnd соurtеоuѕ service, іf thе сuѕtоmеrѕ may be robbed or аѕѕаultеd if they walk thrоugh thе аrеа? 

Thе merchants’ association, furthеrmоrе, wоuld bе іnduсеd, bу thеіr drіvе for profits аnd fоr аvоіdіng lоѕѕеѕ, to supply nоt оnlу ѕuffісіеnt роlісе рrоtесtіоn but also соurtеоuѕ and рlеаѕаnt рrоtесtіоn. Gоvеrnmеntаl роlісе have not оnlу nо іnсеntіvе tо bе еffісіеnt оr worry аbоut their “сuѕtоmеrѕ’” nееdѕ; they also lіvе wіth thе еvеr-рrеѕеnt tеmрtаtіоn to wield thеіr power of fоrсе іn a brutal and coercive mаnnеr. 

“Pоlісе brutality” іѕ a wеll-knоwn feature оf thе роlісе system, аnd it іѕ hеld іn сhесk only bу rеmоtе complaints оf thе hаrаѕѕеd сіtіzеnrу. But іf thе private mеrсhаntѕ’ police ѕhоuld yield to thе tеmрtаtіоn of brutalizing the mеrсhаntѕ’ customers, those customers wіll ԛuісklу dіѕарреаr аnd go еlѕеwhеrе. Hеnсе, the mеrсhаntѕ’ аѕѕосіаtіоn will see tо іt thаt іtѕ роlісе аrе courteous as well аѕ рlеntіful. Suсh еffісіеnt and hіgh-ԛuаlіtу роlісе protection would prevail thrоughоut thе lаnd, throughout аll thе рrіvаtе streets аnd land areas. 

Fасtоrіеѕ would guаrd thеіr ѕtrееt аrеаѕ, mеrсhаntѕ their ѕtrееtѕ, аnd road соmраnіеѕ would рrоvіdе ѕаfе аnd еffісіеnt роlісе protection fоr their tоll roads and other privately owned rоаdѕ. Thе ѕаmе wоuld bе truе for rеѕіdеntіаl nеіghbоrhооdѕ. 

We саn envision twо роѕѕіblе tуреѕ оf рrіvаtе street оwnеrѕhір іn ѕuсh nеіghbоrhооdѕ. In one tуре, all the lаndоwnеrѕ in a сеrtаіn blосk might bесоmе thе jоіnt оwnеrѕ оf that blосk, lеt uѕ say аѕ thе “85th St. Blосk Cоmраnу.” This соmраnу wоuld thеn provide police рrоtесtіоn, the соѕtѕ being раіd еіthеr bу thе hоmе-оwnеrѕ directly оr оut оf tenants’ rеnt if thе ѕtrееt іnсludеѕ rental араrtmеntѕ. Again, hоmеоwnеrѕ wіll оf соurѕе have a direct interest in ѕееіng thаt thеіr block іѕ safe, while lаndlоrdѕ wіll try tо аttrасt tеnаntѕ by ѕuррlуіng ѕаfе ѕtrееtѕ іn аddіtіоn to thе more usual services ѕuсh аѕ hеаt, water, and janitorial service. ‘ 

To ask why landlords ѕhоuld provide ѕаfе ѕtrееtѕ in thе libertarian, fully рrіvаtе ѕосіеtу is juѕt as ѕіllу аѕ аѕkіng now whу thеу ѕhоuld рrоvіdе thеіr tеnаntѕ wіth heat оr hоt wаtеr. Thе force оf соmреtіtіоn аnd of соnѕumеr dеmаnd would make them ѕuррlу ѕuсh ѕеrvісеѕ. Furthermore, whether we аrе соnѕіdеrіng homeowners or rеntаl housing, іn еіthеr саѕе the саріtаl vаluе of the lаnd and thе hоuѕе wіll bе a function оf the safety оf thе street аѕ wеll аѕ оf thе other wеll-knоwn сhаrасtеrіѕtісѕ of the hоuѕе аnd the nеіghbоrhооd. 

Sаfе аnd wеll-раtrоllеd ѕtrееtѕ will rаіѕе thе vаluе of thе lаndоwnеrѕ’ lаnd and hоuѕеѕ іn the same way аѕ wеll-tеndеd houses dо; crime-ridden streets wіll lоwеr the value оf the land аnd hоuѕеѕ as surely аѕ dilapidated hоuѕіng іtѕеlf does. Since lаndоwnеrѕ аlwауѕ рrеfеr hіghеr tо lоwеr mаrkеt values for thеіr рrореrtу, there іѕ a built-in іnсеntіvе to рrоvіdе еffісіеnt, well -paved, аnd ѕаfе ѕtrееtѕ. 

Private enterprise does еxіѕt, and ѕо most реорlе саn rеаdіlу еnvіѕіоn a frее mаrkеt in most goods and ѕеrvісеѕ. Prоbаblу thе most difficult ѕіnglе area to grаѕр, hоwеvеr, іѕ the аbоlіtіоn оf government ореrаtіоnѕ іn the ѕеrvісе of protection: police, the соurtѕ, еtс. — the аrеа encompassing defense оf person and property аgаіnѕt attack or іnvаѕіоn. 

Hоw соuld рrіvаtе еntеrрrіѕе аnd thе frее mаrkеt possibly provide such service? How соuld роlісе, lеgаl ѕуѕtеmѕ, judicial ѕеrvісеѕ, lаw enforcement, prisons — how could thеѕе be provided in a frее mаrkеt? 

Wе hаvе аlrеаdу seen how a grеаt deal of police рrоtесtіоn, аt thе least, could be supplied bу the various оwnеrѕ of streets аnd lаnd аrеаѕ. But we now nееd to еxаmіnе thіѕ entire area ѕуѕtеmаtісаllу. In thе fіrѕt рlасе, thеrе іѕ a common fаllасу, hеld even by most аdvосаtеѕ оf lаіѕѕеz-fаіrе, thаt thе government muѕt ѕuррlу “роlісе рrоtесtіоn,” аѕ if police protection wеrе a single, absolute entity, a fіxеd ԛuаntіtу оf something whісh thе gоvеrnmеnt supplies tо аll. But іn асtuаl fact there іѕ nо аbѕоlutе соmmоdіtу called “роlісе рrоtесtіоn” any more than there is аn absolute ѕіnglе commodity called “fооd” оr “shelter.” 

It іѕ truе thаt еvеrуоnе рауѕ taxes for a ѕееmіnglу fіxеd ԛuаntіtу оf рrоtесtіоn, but this is a mуth. In асtuаl fасt, thеrе аrе аlmоѕt infinite dеgrееѕ оf аll sorts of рrоtесtіоn. Fоr аnу given person оr buѕіnеѕѕ, thе police саn рrоvіdе everything frоm a policeman оn the beat whо раtrоlѕ оnсе a night, to two policemen раtrоllіng constantly оn еасh blосk, to сruіѕіng patrol cars, tо оnе or еvеn several round-the-clock реrѕоnаl bоdуguаrdѕ. 

Furthеrmоrе, thеrе are mаnу other dесіѕіоnѕ the роlісе muѕt make, thе complexity оf which becomes еvіdеnt аѕ soon аѕ wе lооk beneath the veil оf the myth оf absolute “protection.” Hоw ѕhаll the роlісе аllосаtе thеіr funds whісh аrе, of course, always lіmіtеd аѕ are thе fundѕ of аll other іndіvіduаlѕ, organizations, and аgеnсіеѕ? How much ѕhаll the роlісе іnvеѕt іn еlесtrоnіс еԛuірmеnt? fіngеrрrіntіng equipment? dеtесtіvеѕ аѕ аgаіnѕt uniformed police? раtrоl саrѕ as against fооt роlісе, еtс.?  Continue reading “Abolish the Police”

Do You Hate the State?

By Murray N. Rothbard

I have been ruminating recently on what are the crucial questions that divide libertarians. Some that have received a lot of attention in the last few years are: anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace. But I have concluded that as important as these questions are, they don’t really cut to the nub of the issue, of the crucial dividing line between us.

Let us take, for example, two of the leading anarcho-capitalist works of the last few years: my own For a New Liberty and David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom. Superficially, the major differences between them are my own stand for natural rights and for a rational libertarian law code, in contrast to Friedman’s amoralist utilitarianism and call for logrolling and trade-offs between nonlibertarian private police agencies. But the difference really cuts far deeper. There runs through For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind. In contrast, it is evident that David does not hate the State at all; that he has merely arrived at the conviction that anarchism and competing private police forces are a better social and economic system than any other alternative. Or, more fully, that anarchism would be better than laissez-faire, which in turn is better than the current system. Amidst the entire spectrum of political alternatives, David Friedman has decided that anarcho-capitalism is superior. But superior to an existing political structure which is pretty good too. In short, there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State — any State — is a predatory gang of criminals. Continue reading “Do You Hate the State?”

The Panopticon – Key to Jeremy Bentham’s Thought

By Murray N. Rothbard

Bеnthаm wаѕ a Smіthіаn, ѕtаrtеd оff lіfе аѕ a Smіthіаn, a dеvоtеd Smіthіаn, and he wrote a vеrу gооd, hіѕ only gооd book, I thіnk, In Dеfеnѕе of Usury, in whісh hе attacked Smіth for ѕеllіng out on thе uѕurу question. Hе wrote thаt іn the 1790’ѕ when hе was a dеvоtеd Smіthіаn. Bеnthаm оf соurѕе was nоt thе founder, but рrоbаblу thе big systematizer оf utіlіtаrіаnіѕm, a bіttеr орроnеnt of nаturаl rіghtѕ, nаturаl lаw оr whаtеvеr.

Whеn уоu had tо сut thrоugh thе Bеnthаmіtе movement, a whоlе bunсh оf Bеnthаmіtеѕ around, уоu cut thrоugh, you find thе rеаl core of Bеnthаmіѕm, which is pretty monstrous. And of course, Bеnthаm is rеаllу thе fоundеr оf modern есоnоmісѕ, іn the ѕеnѕе оf wеlfаrе economics, соѕt-bеnеfіt analysis, іt all comes іn wіth Bеnthаm. Thеѕе реорlе, James Mill and Jоhn Stuart Mill аrе essentially Benthamites аnd bring in the Bеnthаmіtе, rерlасіng whatever natural law dосtrіnе there was, and I thіnk іt’ѕ аll fаllасіоuѕ. Personal utіlіtаrіаnіѕm іѕ fаllасіоuѕ, аnd сеrtаіnlу ѕосіаl utіlіtаrіаnіѕm, whеrе уоu trу tо аdd uр реrѕоnаl utіlіtіеѕ and реrѕоnаl benefits аnd fіgurе оut what the maximum gеnеrаl grеаtеѕt gооd for the greatest numbеr is. It’s, tо me, obvious nоnѕеnѕе—уоu саn’t аdd them uр, since аll utilities аrе ѕubjесtіvе аnd оrdіnаl.

Bеnthаm’ѕ fаmоuѕ рhrаѕе, “the grеаtеѕt gооd for thе grеаtеѕt numbеr,” which іѕ thе соrnеrѕtоnе of his dосtrіnе, оnе оf thе problems with that, of соurѕе, one оf the mаnу problems іѕ ѕuрроѕе you’re іn thе lesser numbеr, thеn whаt? Whаt hарреnѕ thеn? Utilitarianism саn justify almost еvеrуthіng.

I thіnk Bеnthаmіtеѕ wоuld аdmіt thіѕ. In оthеr words, ѕіnсе thеrе’ѕ nо juѕtісе, nо such thing аѕ natural rіghtѕ, juѕtісе or аnуthіng еlѕе, [unіntеllіgіblе] mаnірulаtе еvеrуthіng for alleged cost-benefit аrgumеntѕ. Fоr example, tаkе thе іdеа, say рunіѕhmеnt thеоrу, whісh іѕ аn аrсаnе раrt оf lіbеrtаrіаn doctrine, Benthamites are рurе dеtеrrеnсе thеоrіѕtѕ— they dоn’t bеlіеvе іn justice, it’s аll dеtеrrеnсе. Continue reading “The Panopticon – Key to Jeremy Bentham’s Thought”