Murray Newton Rothbard (March 2, 1926 – January 7, 1995) was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, historian, and a political theorist whose writings and personal influence played a seminal role in the development of modern libertarianism. Rothbard was the founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism and a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics, and other subjects.
Rothbard asserted that all services provided by the “monopoly system of the corporate state” could be provided more efficiently by the private sector and wrote that the state is “the organization of robbery systematized and writ large”. He called fractional-reserve banking a form of fraud and opposed central banking. He categorically opposed all military, political, and economic interventionism in the affairs of other nations. According to his protégé Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “there would be no anarcho-capitalist movement to speak of without Rothbard”.
Economist Jeffrey Herbener, who calls Rothbard his friend and “intellectual mentor”, wrote that Rothbard received “only ostracism” from mainstream academia. Rothbard rejected mainstream economic methodologies and instead embraced the praxeology of his most important intellectual precursor, Ludwig von Mises. To promote his economic and political ideas, Rothbard joined Lew Rockwell and Burton Blumert in 1982 to establish the Mises Institute in Alabama.
Man, Economy, and State: A Treatise on Economic Principles, first published in 1962, is a book on economics by Murray Rothbard, and is one of the most important books in the Austrian School of economics (others are Ludwig von Mises’ The Theory of Money and Credit and Human Action). Economist Walter Block has described this volume as “excruciatingly brilliant.” Wendy McElroy credits the book as being “solely responsible for turning [her] from the advocacy of limited government to a lifetime of work within the individualist-anarchist tradition.”
When originally published in 1962, the final eight chapters were removed for political reasons; these were finally published as Power and Market in 1970. The 2004 edition published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute combines both books in a single volume. This book provides a discussion of both microeconomics and macroeconomics.
The Panic of 1819: Reactions and Policies
The panic of 1819 was America’s first great economic crisis. And this is Murray Rothbard’s masterful account, the first full scholarly book on the topic and still the most definitive. It was his dissertation, published in 1962 but nearly impossible to get until this new edition, the first with the high production values associated with Mises Institute publications.
This book applies the Austrian business cycle theory to understanding the onset of the 1929 Great Depression. Rothbard first summarizes the Austrian theory and offers a criticism of competing theories, including the views of Keynes.
Rothbard then considers Federal Reserve policy in the 1920s, showing its inflationary character. The influence of Benjamin Strong, the Governor of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, was especially important. In part, his expansionary policy was motivated by his desire to help Britain sustain the pound. Strong was close friends with Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England.
After the 1929 crash, Herbert Hoover followed an interventionist policy that prefigured the New Deal. He favored keeping wage rates high and thus contributed to rising unemployment. Against the popular stereotype, Rothbard shows that Hoover was not a partisan of laissez-faire.
In For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Rothbard proposes a once-and-for-all escape from the two major political parties, the ideologies they embrace, and their central plans for using state power against people. Libertarianism is Rothbard’s radical alternative that says state power is unworkable and immoral and ought to be curbed and finally abolished.
A year following the death of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard wrote the book designed to inspire a new generation to take up the Misesian cause in economic theory and political action. His task was to provide an overview of Mises’s writings and place in the social sciences. The essay achieved extraordinary fame. We might even say that “The Essential von Mises,” distributed in the form of a mini-book, was more responsible for immortalizing Mises than any other essay ever written.
All evidence points to the superiority of the libertarian ideal—private property, capitalism, international trade, laissez-faire—but something is keeping the world from embracing it. That something is wrong-headed ideology, some philosophical error grown into a massive system of thought, an agenda that if unleashed would mutilate and crush civilization as we know it.
There’s never been a better time to remember the revolutionary and even libertarian roots of the American founding, and there’s no better guide to what this means in the narrative of the Colonial period than Murray Rothbard.
Murray Rothbard’s greatest contribution to the politics of freedom is back in print. Following up on Mises’s demonstration that a society without private property degenerates into economic chaos, Rothbard shows that every interference with property represents a violent and unethical invasion that diminishes liberty and prosperity.
Readers of The Mystery of Banking will find that money and banking are, contrary to what the book’s title might suggest, no longer a mystery to them. Textbooks on money and banking are often prolix, dull, and confusing, but Murray Rothbard explains the essential issues in a step-by-step fashion.
Rothbard provides a succinct account of the origins of money, showing how money must originate from a commodity. Banking originated from goldsmiths, who issued warehouse receipts for gold deposited with them. From this, a fractional reserve system developed, inherently prone to monetary expansion and panic.
An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought is two-volume non-fiction work written by Murray N. Rothbard. Rothbard said he originally intended to write a “standard Adam Smith-to-the-present moderately sized book”; but expanded the scope of the project to include economists who preceded Smith and to comprise a multi-volume series. Rothbard completed only the first two volumes, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith and Classical Economics.
Rothbard identifies a movement he calls the “Old Right.” This was a libertarian movement that included Albert Jay Nock, H. L. Mencken, and John T. Flynn. It was in part a reaction to American entry into World War I, and this group joined with revisionist historians like Harry Elmer Barnes in challenging the Versailles war guilt thesis that placed exclusive blame on Germany for the war.