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About the Author
- File Size : 4177 KB
- Publication Date : December 1, 2014
- Publisher : Editorial Bubok Publishing (December 1, 2014)
- Print Length : 1315 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- ASIN : B075ZWX4GM
- Language: : English
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #291,740 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is truly one of the most important works of economic theory ever written. Indeed, it covers _everything_, and Rothbard's clear, tempered prose is unrivaled in either philosophy or economics. Anyone who is alive should read this book. If you're dead and you can read, well...that's amazing, but still the book won't be much used to you.
For those knowing Mises's Human Action, this isn't a mere copy-paste of it. It developes it (although you don't need to read Human Action for understanding Man, Economy, and State) but adds Rothbard's own contribution.
For those knowing the Austrian School, I think Rothbard's book is surprisingly more neoclassic in its analysis than, for example, Human Action. An example is the use of supply-demand graphics.
In sum, the book has a lot of pages (1,441) but I think you'll find the basics of a sound economics science in any of them. It's worth the effort is worth.
That said, "Man, Economy and State" is a lousy read and an imperfect introduction to economics. Apart from being more than 1,000 pages long, the book is abstract, repetitive, and tedious. It dismisses economic history and empirical data with sneers and pseudo-logic worthy of a hack lawyer. Thousands of words are wasted explaining concepts that could be illustrated with a single graph; hundreds of pages could be cut without diminishing the book's pedagogical value. Even worse, the book fails to engage with rival schools of thought such as neo-classical or Marxist economics. Austrianism has a rich intellectual tradition, but, like all schools of thought, it has axes to grind, and a beginner would get a skewed view of economics if he relied on "Man, Economy and State" for his education. He would learn next to nothing about national income accounting, market failure, growth and development, or the behavioral psychology of markets. Austrians shy way from these subjects for various reasons (mostly dogmatic), but they are essential parts of any well-rounded economic education.
The book is also undermined by Rothbard's bizarre riffs on law and politics. He believed that legal systems should not protect intellectual property or enforce promises to perform services in the future. (The modern technological economy could not exist in Rothbard's legal universe.) He would have criminalized the non-payment of debt, thus re-establishing debtors' prisons. (The impact on modern credit markets would have been interesting). Rothbard also had an absolutist, super-Lockean view of property rights. He claimed, for example, that the first fisherman to dip his net into the ocean would be entitled not just to own any fish he caught, but to own the ocean itself!
Coming across these dicta is like finding astrology in a physics textbook. At first, I laughed, but as the weirdness piled up, I began to wonder about the book and its author. The sheer monomaniacal bulk of "Man, Economy and State" makes it easy to caricature Rothbard as a genius/crank, who scribbled away over the 1950s to write a mammoth book -- an Austrian Summa -- that would be the last word on economics. He submitted his masterwork to mainstream publishers and university presses, but none would publish it, for reasons that become obvious by, oh, page 750. In the end, the book was published by an obscure right-wing publisher who did not edit the text (beyond tossing out a 300-page postscript that was published as a separate book by a different right-wing publisher). After giving birth to "Man, Economy and State," Rothbard was ignored by the economics profession. He taught at minor colleges, preached anarchism to the lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement, and published articles in journals edited by himself. He died in 1995. It's unfair to depict him as the Kilgore Trout of 20th century economics -- but since he believed that defamation laws violated free market metaphysics, he really couldn't complain.
Bottomline: The Mises Institute would do Austrian economics (and Rothbard's reputation) a favor by publishing an abridged version of "Man, Economy and State." Readers coming to economics for the first time should read an introductory mainstream text (Samuelson is still pretty good) and then sample modern Austrian authors like Israel Kirzner or Roger Garrison to see what the Austrian alternative is all about. After that, they can tackle old, quasi-philosophical Austrian texts like "Man, Economy and State" or works by Carl Menger or Ludwig von Mises.