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Egalitarianism: A Revolt Against Nature

October 5, 2000

The libertarian scholarly movement was in its infancy in 1974 when Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature first appeared. This treatise of applied libertarian political and economic theory, by Murray N. Rothbard, shaped a generation of intellectuals that went on to work within the radical vision of political and economic liberty he championed. This new intellectual force looked beyond the trappings of conventional left-right thinking, and hence laid the groundwork for the current intellectual revolt against the centralized social and economic management of the welfare-warfare state.

And yet the influence of this volume was all out of proportion to its circulation; because of limited outlets and means, its print run was limited. Today, the book is very difficult to find; people who own a copy report that the original bindings are crumbling. At last, then, the Mises Institute has brought this brilliant work back into print, reset in an edition of outstanding quality, with a new introduction by David Gordon, along with the old introduction by Roy A. Childs, Jr., as well as an additional essay not included in the original.

The book's title comes from the lead essay, which argues that egalitarian theory always results in a politics of statist control because it is founded on revolt against the ontological structure of reality itself. It is an attempt to replace what exists with a Romantic image of an idealized primitive state of nature, an ideal which cannot and should not be achieved. The implications of this point are worked out on topics such as market economics, child rights, environmentalism, feminism, foreign policy, redistribution-and a host of other issue that are driving public debate today.

All told, this volume collects some of the most sparkling examples of scholarship and polemics to ever appear within the libertarian tradition.

Contents

  • Introduction to the Second Edition (David Gordon)
  • Introduction to the First Edition by (Murray N. Rothbard)
  • Foreword to the 1974 Edition (R.A. Childs, Jr.)
  • Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature
  • Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty
  • The Anatomy of the
    State
  • Justice and Property
    Rights
  • War, Peace, and the
    State
  • The Fallacy of the Public
    Sector
  • Kid
    Lib
  • The Great Women's Liberation Issue: Setting it
    Straight
  • Conservation in the Free
    Market
  • The Meaning of
    Revolution
  • National
    Liberation
  • Anarcho-Communism
  • The Spooner-Tucker Doctrine: An Economist's View
  • Ludwig von Mises and the Paradigm for Our Age
  • Why Be
    Libertarian?
  • Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the
    Division of
    Labor
  • Index

Foreword by R.A. Childs, Jr.

Historians and anthologists of anarchist thought, in comparing the great
libertarian classics with other schools of political philosophy, have
always been eager to mention the fact that no anarchist theorist has ever
been on the level of a Marx or Hegel. What they have meant by this fact is
easy to pin down: traditionally, anarchist philosophers have not been
system-builders and have not been on as profound a level in analyzing ideas
and institutions as have the great ideologists. Marx is mentioned most
frequently, perhaps, as a contrast, because Marx was equally competent in
philosophy, economics, and history. Furthermore, Marx took a great variety
of strands of thought prevalent in the mid-nineteenth century and unified
them into a mighty system of socialism. Marx, moreover, was the father of a
powerful ideological movement which has had a profound historical impact.
And, whatever one may think of the fact, it is true that compared with
Marx, all of the anarchist theorists can be considered superficial. Not
that Warren, Tucker, Spooner, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy,
just to mention a few of the most famous anarchists, were in any way
ignorant. Few theorists of any camp, for instance, are as rigorous,
passionate, and systematic as Lysander Spooner. And few considered as many
issues and events as Tucker. Bakunin, too, was the founder of a movement
which, for a time at least, rivalled that of Marx. But after all of this is
said, it remains to be faced: no anarchist theorist has reached the
stature, intellectually speaking, of the great political philosophers in
Western Civilization.

Until now, that is. For within the last few years, libertarians have seen
the initial signs of widespread recognition of the youngest of the
libertarian "superstars": Murray N. Rothbard. Still in his mid-40s,
Rothbard's writings have begun to see the light of day in the New York
Times, Intellectual Digest, and many other prominent publications-left,
right, and center. He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows,
including the Today Show, and his ideas have been debated widely throughout
the country. He is stirring up more and more admirers with the publication
of his latest book, For A New Liberty. While Rothbard has yet to have the
impact of Rand, Friedman, or Hayek, his influence is rapidly growing.


But the most significant things to be said about Rothbard are intellectual.
For in Rothbard we have one of the only explicit system-builders writing
today. He has already published three volumes of a treatise on economic
principles, namely the two volumes of his Man, Economy, and State and its
sequel, Power and Market. Numerous works on economic history have been
published, and with the publication of For A New Liberty, there is the
first book-length statement of his political philosophy. Moreover, the best
is yet to come. Rothbard is working to complete his book on the ethics of
liberty and to bring the first several volumes of his multi-volume history
of the United States to publication in the near future. This last involves
one of the most ambitious undertakings of any contemporary historian.

But if Rothbard's intellectual scope and prolific nature come as surprises
to some, others have been eagerly following his writings for several years.
For scattered throughout dozens of journals and magazines are literally
scores of articles on everything under the sun, from the methodology of the
social sciences to detailed researches into the nature of World War I
collectivism, from the philosophy of ownership to the nature and fallacies
of egalitarianism. For some time now, the Rothbard boom has been proceeding
apace, yet relatively few of his pathbreaking essays have been seen outside
of obscure journals. Few people understand the Rothbardian ideology in its
full context.

It is our purpose, in publishing this little book of some of Rothbard's
greatest essays so closely on the heels of the publication of For A New
Liberty
, to pick up where that book left off. Thus here is Murray N.
Rothbard, system-builder. To students of anarchist thought there is
something else present here: the first anarchist social philosopher who not
only is on the level of Marx in terms of scope and originality, but who is
a libertarian as well. For Murray N. Rothbard was one of the first truly
free-market anarchists, and the only one so far to put forward an original
system of ideology. Whether one agrees with Rothbard or not, his ideas are
both original in important ways and also significant.

The contents of this book are from a wide variety of sources:
"Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature" was first delivered before an
international symposium on human inequality and is being reprinted from the
Fall, 1973, number of Modern Age. "Left and Right: The Prospects for
Liberty," is reprinted from the famous first issue of Left and Right.
"Justice and Property Rights" is drawn from yet another symposium. The
remainder of the essays are drawn from the "little" magazines, from The
Individualist
, Outlook, Modern Age, The Standard, Rampart Journal, New
Individualist Review
, Left and Right, and The Libertarian Forum.

All of these essays can speak for themselves, and it is not necessary to
introduce them individually. They deal with some of the most significant
issues of our time: with war, peace, human inequality, justice in property
rights, the rights of children, national liberation, and many others.

It would be nearly arbitrary to pick out a few as being most important, but
in my view, the essay "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty" is one of
the most important essays ever penned. Not only is it a virtuoso piece of
the highest order, but also the level of integration is simply astonishing. Here, in just a few short pages, Rothbard presents the closest thing in
print to a true libertarian manifesto comparable to The Communist Manifesto.
Here is the entire libertarian worldview, the unique way of viewing history
and world affairs that even now few libertarians fully grasp. In fact, I do
not recall anything in the literature of political thought fully comparable
to this essay. If nothing else, it is so tightly integrated and condensed
that Rothbard has packed more information here than most authors do in all
of the books that they might publish over the course of a lifetime. It is
in this essay that Rothbard outlines what can only be regarded as the
culmination of the entire worldview of both the Enlightenment and of the
entire natural-rights, natural-law classical liberal tradition. But the
reader can discover this for himself.

No collection of essays can fully represent the nature of an ideology as
comprehensive as that of Murray Rothbard, and this book is no different.
But it is our hope that this book will help add fuel to the growing
interest in Rothbard's thought and writings, and help to stimulate the
publication of many of the remainder of his essays in book form.
For until Rothbard's work is carefully studied by every advocate of
liberty, the value of his contributions to the libertarian system cannot be
fully appreciated and, moreover, the unity and true historical context of
libertarianism will not even be fully grasped. It is in order to help
achieve this end that we are making this book available at the present
time. If it helps to stimulate consideration and discussion of this
remarkable man's ideology, our end will have been achieved.

R.A. Childs, Jr.
Los Angeles, California
January, 1974

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