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Remembering Mr. Libertarian on his birthday

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March 2 marks the birth of Murray Rothbard. Given his importance to the cause of liberty (The Libertarianism.org website said he “mounted the most comprehensive intellectual challenge ever attempted against the legitimacy of government. During a career that spanned more than 40 years, he explained why private individuals, private companies and other voluntary associations can do whatever needs to be done”), it is worth marking the occasion by remembering a few of Mr. Libertarian’s words.

There can be no truly moral choice unless that choice is made in freedom; similarly, there can be no really firmly grounded and consistent defense of freedom unless that defense is rooted in moral principle.

The State, by its very nature, must violate the generally accepted moral laws to which most people adhere.

[The] essential activities of the State necessarily constitute criminal aggression and depredation of the just rights of private property of its subjects.

I define anarchist [society] as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual. Anarchists oppose the State because it has its very being in such aggression…

Of all the numerous forms that governments have taken over the centuries, of all the concepts and institutions that have been tried, none has succeeded in keeping the State in check.

Since the State necessarily lives by the compulsory confiscation of private capital, and since its expansion necessarily involves ever-greater incursions on private individuals and private enterprise…the state is profoundly and inherently anti-capitalist.

All of the services commonly thought to require the State—from the coining of money to police protection to the development of law in defense of the rights of person and property—can be and have been supplied far more efficiently and certainly more morally by private persons. The State is in no sense required by the nature of man; quite the contrary.

In a truly free society, a society where individual rights of person and property are maintained, the State, then, would necessarily cease to exist. Its myriad of invasive and aggressive activities, its vast depredations on the rights of person and property, would then disappear. At the same time, those genuine services which it does manage badly to perform would be thrown open to free competition, and to voluntarily chosen payments by individual consumers.

The libertarian creed, finally, offers the fulfillment of the best of the American past along with the promise of a far better future… libertarians are squarely in the great classical liberal tradition that built the United States and bestowed on us the American heritage of individual liberty, a peaceful foreign policy, minimal government, and a free-market economy.

Murray Rothbard’s New York Times obituary called him “an economist and social philosopher who fiercely defended individual freedom against government intervention.” At times like his birthday, it is worth remembering the power of his ideas.


Gary Galles

Gary M. Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University and an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is also a research fellow at the Independent Institute, a member of the Foundation for Economic Education faculty network, and a member of the Heartland Institute Board of Policy Advisors.