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The Ethics of Liberty

25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814775592
ISBN-10: 0814775594
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Editorial Reviews


-D. R. Imig, "Choice Magazine"

About the Author

The author of numerous books, the late Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995) was the S. J. Hall Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Academic Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (February 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814775594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814775592
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on September 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Murray Newton Rothbard's classic hard-hitting defense of property-rights-based libertarianism is deservedly back in print, with a valuable new introduction by Hans-Hermann Hoppe that alone is worth the price of the book even for those who already own the original. Prof. Hoppe helpfully locates Rothbard in libertarian scholarly tradition, explains why Rothbard's work was unjustly ignored while unsystematic but "tolerant" thinkers like Robert Nozick were unfairly elevated, refutes the major criticisms that have been offered of Rothbard's work since the original publication of _The Ethics of Liberty_, and effectively argues that for natural-law theorist Rothbard, libertarianism was not "libertinism" but socially quite conservative. Also helpful is the new format, in which the book's former end-notes are arranged in footnote style rather than collected at the end of each chapter.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By David J. Heinrich on October 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Just about everything has been said about this book, so I'll simply answer some criticisms.
"let us imagine a murder victim who has no heir or whose legacy is repudiated. Is his death to go unpunished? And what if the heir is the murderer? I'm sure that Rothbard had a answer for that, but it is not in this book."
Well, Rothbard is no omniscient, nor is anyone else; furthermore, he can't answer every possible question in one book. In reality, no-one knows exactly how the free market would provide various services in the absence of any form of a State, but Rothbard makes likely predictions. In the case that a victim has no heirs, it is presumed that anyone who was close to the victim would be able to demand justice in a private court, on his behalf. Furthermore, the victim's insurance policy against crime might mandate that, should he be murdered, the murderer be found; his lawyer would be responsible for making sure that happens after his death. Finally, all crimes must occur in place. Rothbard says that various streets and buildings would have private police, employed by the owners. It would be in the owners best interest to see that crimes committed on his or her property go punished, so as to discourage that.
Furthermore, another reviewer has remarked that it is possible to have a government of minimal function that does not inflate the money supply. This displays extreme ignorance of history, and naivete. That's exactly what our founding father's tried to do: and it was a failure from the start. The past 300 years have shown us that any government at all, no matter how small it starts, no matter the "constitutional restrictions", will grow and grow and grow until all liberty is crushed under the boot of tyranny.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Scott A. Kjar on June 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I had the unique pleasure to be one of the typesetters on the 1998 edition of this book, and I must say that it was a POWERFUL book. Rothbard builds his entire world-view from some basic arguments, creating a step-by-step explanation for his positions. His initial exposition seems straight-forward, but when he starts applying his views to modern ethical questions, the weak of mind should exit. I found myself disagreeing with his positions, and then realizing that I could not disagree with his positions without disagreeing with his previous fundamental arguments--which I had already accepted. Rothbard's logic is powerful, and he is a master at its use. Anyone looking for an easy bed-time read is discouraged from this book. Anyone looking for a serious intellectual challenge--with the testicular fortitude to stand up to a world-class intellectual onslaught--may find this book to be a life-changer.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Steve Jackson on August 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Murray Rothbard was the leading libertarian thinker of the 20th century. In 1982, he published THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY, his central work on political theory and ethics. This work was republished recently with an excellent introduction by Hans-Hermann Hope (the endnotes have been converted into footnotes, a big improvement).
This work is probably the best discussion of libertarian philosophy from an anarcho-capitalist perspective. In addition, Rothbard develops a theory based on natural law, thus distancing himself from other strands of libertarian thought.
The book is particularly comprehensive. Starting with a discussion of natural law, Rothbard turns to practical issues such as voluntary exchange, contracts, and the rights of children. He then discusses the concept of the state. He ends the work with discussions of different approaches to rights and a strategy for advancing liberty. The comprehensive nature of the work is also its greatest weakness. Rothbard discusses too many subjects in too few pages. For example, the difficult question of the rights of children takes all of 15 pages. Yet there is no more difficult question for any theory of rights than that question.
Rothbard's discussion of the rights of children is emblematic of the weakness and at times superficial nature of this work. Take Rothbard's discussion of when the parents' "jurisdiction" over a child ends. He states: "Surely, any particular age (21, 18, or whatever) can only be completely arbitrary. The clue to the solution to this thorny question lies in the parental property rights in their home. For the child has his FULL rights of self-ownership WHEN HE DEMONSTRATES THAT HE HAS THEM IN NATURE-in short when he leaves or `runs away' from home." [p. 103; emphasis in the original.
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