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Objectivists Close to Rothbardians??

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Tags Other Schools of ThoughtPolitical Theory

Most of us are familiar with the feud between Rothbard and Rand, and of other aspects of Rand's personal life that make great fodder for jokes. There are also plenty of self-described Objectivists who advance (what Rothbardians consider to be) silly arguments on the necessity of government. But after discussing these issues with two Objectivists (on separate occasions), I have found that younger followers of Rand are actually quite similar in what they envision as an ideal legal system.

The first thing I asked (in both cases) was, "Suppose I'm a pacifist and I don't think violence is ever justified. Can your government extract funds from me to finance its activities?" They both responded with a firm no, and said that taxation was immoral.

Then I moved on to the next defining characteristic of government: a claimed rightful monopoly of the use of force. Here the matter was a bit hazy, but at least one of my Objectivist critics agreed that people could set whatever rules they wanted on their private property, and that the "government" could not send its agents onto private property to enforce "laws" in defiance of the owner's wishes. I informed this young gentleman that in my book, he was an anarcho-capitalist.

Don't get me wrong, the arguments and values that these Objectivists would use when describing their ideal world would not sound like The Ethics of Liberty. But what I'm pointing out is that, when it comes to practical issues and identifying which practices would seem legitimate and which unjust, I don't think there need be such a huge gulf between self-described Objectivists and Rothbardians.

Robert P. Murphy is a Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute. He is the author of many books. His latest is Contra Krugman: Smashing the Errors of America's Most Famous KeynesianHis other works include Chaos Theory, Lessons for the Young Economist, and Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action (Independent Institute, 2015) which is a modern distillation of the essentials of Mises's thought for the layperson. Murphy is co-host, with Tom Woods, of the popular podcast Contra Krugman, which is a weekly refutation of Paul Krugman's New York Times column. He is also host of The Bob Murphy Show.

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