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A Rothbard Reader
on April 30, 2002
Murray Rothbard was one of the most important thinkers in recent memory. He made substantial contributions to economics, political theory, social theory, history and cultural criticism. Unfortunately, there is no "Rothbard Reader" that gives the reader an overview of his contributions to all these fields.
Nonetheless, this collection of Rothbard's essays - which came out in 1974 - is probably the best place to start if you want to get an overview of Rothbard's contributions, at least in the areas of political theory, social theory, and (some) cultural criticism. (The second edition appears to be identical to the first edition, except that it contains a brief 1991 "postscript" by Rothbard and a useful introduction by Dr. David Gordon.)
The title essay - Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature - is a seminal essay. Politicians love to lecture us on the supposed equality of men; however, as Rothbard shows, it is inequality that is fundamental. The leftist drive for equality is contrary to human nature. Rothbard picks up this theme again in Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the Division of Labor. He shows that the drive for equality is a direct attack on the division of labor. As such, it will only serve to impoverish everyone (rich and poor alike).
This collection also contains two outstanding essays on the state: The Anatomy of the State; and War, Peace, and the State. In the second, Rothbard makes a strong case for peace and against weapons of mass destruction.
There are at least three other collections of Rothbard's works available. The first -- Making Economic Sense -- is a collection of short essays on economics. The second -- The Irrepressible Rothbard -- is a collection of his essays in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report which focus on cultural criticism. So, if you combine these works with Egalitarianism, you get a "reader" that contains 1190 pages - and you still haven't hit Rothbard the historian! That shows the tremendous breadth of his scholarship. The third is The Logic of Action I and II. These were published after his death and contain two or three of the essays in Egalitariansm and some of his later essays. In addition, they are more focused on Rothbard the economist.
But the best advice is that of Dr. Gordon: get everything you can get your hands on by Rothbard and von Mises.