For a New Liberty
LvMI online e-book edition cover
|Author||Murray N. Rothbard|
|Published||1973 (Ludwig von Mises Institute)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback) & e-book, audio-CD|
|Pages||349 pp (Online e-book edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-945466-47-1 (Hardcover edition)|
For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto is a book by American economist and historian Murray N. Rothbard, first published in 1973, that helped launch the modern libertarian movement in the United States, and was the first modern free market anarchist manifesto (though both capitalistic and anti-capitalistic theories of free-market anarchism had been advanced by the 19th century individualist anarchists). The second edition was first published in 1978, while the third edition was first published in 1985. It is the only book for which Rothbard received a mainstream publishing contract. In Radicals for Capitalism, anarcho-capitalist journalist Brian Doherty opines, "This book strove to synthesize, in condensed form, the economic, historical, philosophical, and policy elements of Rothbard's vision...the book was meant as both a primer and a manifesto, so Rothbard crammed in as much of his overall theory of liberty as he could...Rothbard hits the harder anarcho-capitalist stuff, but slips it in so smoothly that many readers might not notice that this 'libertarian manifesto' promotes anarchism."
The book embraces anarcho-capitalism, a strain of stateless libertarianism, as opposed to the minarchism advocated by such 20th-century libertarians as Robert Nozick, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman. Rothbard traces the intellectual origins of libertarianism back to classical liberal philosophers John Locke and Adam Smith and the American Revolution. He argues that modern libertarianism originated not as a response to socialism or leftism, but to conservatism. The book views the right of self-ownership and the right to homestead as establishing the complete set of principles of the libertarian system.
The Non-Aggression Axiom
The core of libertarianism, writes Rothbard, is the non-aggression axiom: "that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else." He points out that while this principle is almost universally applied to private individuals and institutions, the government is considered above the general moral law, and therefore does not have to abide by this axiom. Herein lies the fundamental distinction of libertarians:
In contrast to all other thinkers, left, right, or in-between, the libertarian refuses to give the State the moral sanction to commit actions that almost everyone agrees would be immoral, illegal, and criminal if committed by any person or group in society...if we look at the State naked, as it were, we see that it is universally allowed, and even encouraged, to commit all the acts which even non-libertarians concede are reprehensible crimes...The libertarian, in short, is almost completely the child in the fable, pointing out insistently that the emperor has no clothes. (Ch. 2, "Property and Exchange")
The consistency of libertarianism
Rothbard attempts to dispel the notion that libertarianism constitutes a sect or off-shoot of liberalism or conservatism, or that its seemingly right-wing opinions on economic policy and left-wing opinions on social and foreign policy are contradictory:
But the libertarian sees no inconsistency in being "leftist" on some issues and "rightist" on others. On the contrary, he sees his own position as virtually the only consistent one, consistent on behalf of the liberty of every individual. For how can the leftist be opposed to the violence of war and conscription while at the same time supporting the violence of taxation and government control? And how can the rightist trumpet his devotion to private property and free enterprise while at the same time favoring war, conscription, and the outlawing of noninvasive activities and practices that he deems immoral? And how can the rightist favor a free market while seeing nothing amiss in the vast subsidies, distortions, and unproductive inefficiencies involved in the military-industrial complex? (Ch. 2, "Property and Exchange")
Rothbard on "The State"
Rothbard elaborates on the libertarian view of government in this passage:
The State! Always and ever the government and its rulers and operators have been considered above the general moral law. The "Pentagon Papers" are only one recent instance among innumerable instances in history of men, most of whom are perfectly honorable in their private lives, who lie in their teeth before the public. Why? For "reasons of State." Service to the State is supposed to excuse all actions that would be considered immoral or criminal if committed by "private" citizens. The distinctive feature of libertarians is that they coolly and uncompromisingly apply the general moral law to people acting in their roles as members of the State apparatus. Libertarians make no exceptions. For centuries, the State (or more strictly, individuals acting in their roles as "members of the government") has cloaked its criminal activity in high-sounding rhetoric. For centuries the State has committed mass murder and called it "war"; then ennobled the mass slaughter that "war" involves. For centuries the State has enslaved people into its armed battalions and called it "conscription" in the "national service." For centuries the State has robbed people at bayonet point and called it "taxation." In fact, if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place. (Ch. 3, "The State")
Chapter 1, "The Libertarian Heritage: The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism", mentions the then-recent successes in U.S. Libertarian electoral politics. Richard Randolph had been elected to the Alaska House of Representatives and the "Congressional Quarterly" listed the LP as the third-largest political party. It describes America as having been, above all countries, born in an explicitly libertarian revolution. It argues that libertarianism was crippled by utilitarianism, which was not radical or revolutionary enough because its desire for expediency was in contrast to radical abolitionism, which sought to eliminate wrong and injustice as rapidly as possible. The original chapter i, on "The New Libertarian Movement," being deemed irrelevant and outdated, was transformed into an appendix providing an annotated outline of the complex structure of the current movement.
Part I: The Libertarian Creed
Chapter 2, "Property and Exchange", introduces the nonaggression axiom, property rights, free exchange and free contract, and the inextricable connections between property rights and other human rights. It argues that the whether or not immoral practices are supported by the majority of the population is not germane to their nature. It states that one of the libertarian's prime educational tasks is to spread the demystification and desanctification of the state.
Chapter 3, "The State", defines the state as an aggressor and decries its efforts to cloak its criminal activity in high-sounding rhetoric. It dismisses constitutional restrictions as ineffective. It describes taxation as theft and government as a band of robbers.
Part II: Libertarian Applications to Current Problems
Chapter 4, "The Problems", identifies government as the red thread marking and uniting the major problems of the day. It cites the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, stagflation, and other 1970s-era issues in addition to such perennial bugaboos as high taxes and traffic congestion. It faults government for poorly managing that which is in the public domain.
Chapter 5, "Involuntary Servitude", cites conscription, anti-strike laws, the tax system, the court system, and compulsory commitment as vectors of involuntary servitude. It notes that the court system forces people to give testimony and to serve on juries. It also decries the concept of contempt of court, which allows a judge to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury in accusing, convicting and sentencing the culprit.
Chapter 6, "Personal Liberty", deals with freedom of speech, freedom of radio and television, pornography, sex laws, wiretapping, gambling, narcotics and other drugs, police corruption, and gun laws. Abortion is dealt with from an evictionist perspective, stating that no human has the right to exist, unbidden, as a parasite within another human being's body. Thus, the female has a right to cause the fetus to be ejected from her body if she wishes; which includes changing her mind if she had earlier decided she wanted to have a child.
Chapter 7, "Education", voices opposition to government involvement in education. He argues that the very nature of the public school requires the imposition of uniformity and the stamping out of diversity. Social conflict is unnecessarily generated by the school system having to choose between traditional or progressive, segregated or integrated, rather than letting each school and each customer choose individually what is best for them.
Chapter 8, "Welfare and the Welfare State", argues that welfare should be completely privately provided. It cites welfare checks as promoting present-mindedness, unwillingness to work, and irresponsibility. Thus, ultimately welfare actually hurts the poor.
Chapter 9, "Inflation and the Business Cycle: The Collapse of the Keynesian Paradigm", argues that government has found ways of inflating money that are more subtle than simply printing more bills. The Federal Reserve determines the total amount of reserves. It lends money out at an artificially cheap rate (the rediscount rate) and conducts open market purchases.
Chapter 10, "The Public Sector, I: Government in Business", argues that people tend to fall into habits and unquestioned ruts, especially in the field of government. Thus, they blindly assume that government must provide certain services or else they would not be provided. It argues that the question of how the poor will pay for defense, fire protection, and so on, is answered by the counter-question, how do the poor pay for "anything" they now obtain on the market?
Chapter 11, "The Public Sector, II: Streets and Roads", argues that streets will be safer when they are privately owned, and the owners have the ability and incentive to get rid of crime. It states that people would ensure their own ability to enter and exit their land by obtaining easements giving them the right to access rights-of-way through neighboring property. It cites the railroad police as an example of a successful private police force.
Chapter 12, "The Public Sector, III: Police, Law, and the Courts", states that police protection is not a single, absolute entity but a product that can exist in degrees. For instance, the police can provide personal bodyguards, detectives, uniformed officers, patrols, cars, etc. The chapter argues that allocation of these funds will be made in response to market signals if the police services are privatized, promoting better use of resources.
Chapter 13, "Conservation, Ecology, and Growth", states that property rights are the solution to pollution. It argues that the emanation of noise, polluted air, and so on, onto others' property should be considered an aggressive act for which one may be held civilly liable. It holds that the current pollution problem is caused by government deciding that some pollution is needed for the common good.
Chapter 14, "War and Foreign Policy", notes two basic problems with war. First, innocent civilians are killed who had nothing to do with the offense caused by their government. Second, war is financed by coercive taxes. Thus, libertarians oppose war. It also notes that collective security has the potential to draw otherwise uninterested parties into what could have limited to a local skirmish. It calls for the U.S. to dismantle its bases, withdraw its troops, stop its political meddling, and abolish the Central Intelligence Agency.
Part III: Epilogue
Chapter 15, "A Strategy for Liberty", discusses the possible avenues for reform. It argues that libertarians should advocate radical change and hold to the ultimate ideal of abolition of all invasions of liberty. It also notes that the state will not be converted out of power; means will need to be found to remove the State from power. Libertarians will need to find ways of applying pressure. This could include massive failure to cooperate with the state.
- Ludwig von Mises Institute. 2006. Hardcover. ISBN 0-945466-47-1
- Fox & Wilkes. 1989. Paperback. ISBN 0-930073-02-9
- University Press of America. Paperback. 1986. ISBN 0-8191-4981-0
- Libertarian Review Foundation, New York, 1985, 1989 2nd Printing. ISBN 0-930073-02-9
- Revised edition, Collier Books, 1978. Paperback
- Collier Macmillan. 1973. Hardcover. ISBN 0-02-605300-4
- Hacia una Nueva Libertad: El Manifiesto Libertario. Grito Sagrado. 2006. Paperback. ISBN 987-1239-01-7
- 2004 Per una nuova libertà. Liberilibri, Macerata. 2004. Paperback. ISBN 88-85140-27-0
- 1996 Per una nuova libertà. Liberilibri, Macerata. 1996. Paperback.
- PDF of the 1978 edition (complete)
- Review of the 2006 edition
- Mises Institute edition, published in 2006
- Online text of 1978 edition
- Online Audio book