Perhaps more than anyone else, Austrian economist Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) expressed the conscience of liberty. Again and again, he exposed evils of seemingly reasonable compromises which end up expanding government power. He told how private individuals can do what needs to be done without government intervention.
Rothbard`s natural rights vision for liberty inspired libertarians everywhere, so this collected work has been eagerly awaited. Included are 111 essays which, between 1982 and 1995, appeared in The Free Market, flagship publication of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. There aren`t any of the personal attacks which distracted from some other recent writings.
As Rothbard discusses a wide range of vital issues–from taxes to environmentalism, compulsory unionism, government schools, government-run health care, monetary crises and the history of freedom–he affirms his role as the leading moral taskmaster who insists that individuals be set free from government control.
With elegant simplicity, Rothbard challenges justifications for government intervention. For instance: “One standard argument is that the government `should only do what private firms or citizens cannot do.` But what can`t they do? Every good or service now supplied by government has, at one time or another, been successfully supplied by private enterprise. Another argument is that some activities are `too large` to be performed well by private enterprise. But the capital market is enormous, and has successfully financed far more expensive undertakings than most governmental activities. Besides, the government has no capital of its own; everything it has, it has taxed away from private producers.”
Rothbard`s legendary wit is on display in this book. For example, he hoots at Congressional corruption, calling it “petty argle-bargle.” He ridicules the succession of alleged “needs” which supposedly justify endless claims on taxpayers: “And what of next year? Are we to be confronted with a new category, the `unclothed,` or perhaps the `ill-shod`? And how about the `thirsty`? Or the `candy-deprived`? How many more millions are standing in line, waiting to be trotted out for consideration?”
“We forget that, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century until the beginning of World War II, prices generally went down, year after year. That`s because continually increasing productivity and output of goods generated by free markets caused prices to fall. There was no depression, however, because costs fell along with selling prices. Usually, wage rates remained constant while the cost of living fell, so that `real` wages, or everyone`s standard of living, rose steadily.”
Overall, delightful reading.