The Ethics of Liberty

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The Ethics of Liberty
Paperback cover
AuthorMurray N. Rothbard
CountryUnited States
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback) & e-book, audio-CD
Pages336 (Online e–book edition)
ISBN0391023713 (Paperback edition)
323.44/01 19
LC ClassJC585 .R69 1982

The Ethics of Liberty is a 1982 book by American philosopher and economist Murray N. Rothbard,[1] in which the author expounds a libertarian political position.[2] Rothbard's argument is based on a form of natural law ethics,[3] and makes a case for anarcho-capitalism.[4]

Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Introduction to the 1998 edition of the book says that it "explains the integration of economics and ethics via the joint concept of property; and based on the concept of property, and in conjunction with a few general empirical (biological and physical) observations or assumptions, Rothbard deduces the corpus of libertarian law, from the law of appropriation to that of contracts and punishment."[5]


The Ethics of Liberty is divided into five parts,[6] although a previous edition lacked the fifth.[4] Part I is an introduction, which explains the outlines of natural law theory in general and defends it briefly against some objections. Part II is the substance of the work itself, setting forth Rothbard's ethics regarding the use of force. Part III applies his ethical theories to the State, which he viewed as "the inherent enemy of liberty and, indeed, of genuine law". Part IV offers brief reviews of alternative political theories developed by Mises, Hayek, Berlin, and Nozick.[4] Part V attempts to set forth a theory of strategy of how to move from the present system to a libertarian anarcho-capitalist society.[6]

In an introduction, Hoppe writes that The Ethics of Liberty was Rothbard's second magnum opus, the other being Man, Economy, and State (1962).[7]


Reception of the book has been positive in libertarian circles. Many praise the book for its incisive analysis of natural law and its practical applications.[third-party source needed] Libertarian commentator Sheldon Richman says: "The Ethics of Liberty is a great book that deserves the attention of anyone interested in the good society and human flourishing."[8]

The philosopher Matt Zwolinski criticized the book, writing that "Rothbard's discussion of self-ownership in chapter six rests on a fundamental confusion between descriptive and normative claims."[9]

Release history[edit]


  1. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (1982). The ethics of liberty. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press. ISBN 0-391-02371-3. OCLC 7813705.
  2. ^ Richman, Sheldon (1998-12-01). "The Ethics of Liberty | Sheldon Richman". Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  3. ^ Richman, Sheldon (2014-05-11). "Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty: Still Worthy After All These Years". Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  4. ^ a b c "Classic Book Review | The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray N. Rothbard". The Independent Institute. Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  5. ^ Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2006-12-18). "Introduction to The Ethics of Liberty". Mises Institute. Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  6. ^ a b Rothbard, Murray N. (1998). The ethics of liberty. New York. ISBN 0-8147-7506-3. OCLC 38249400.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ kanopiadmin (2014-08-18). "The Ethics of Liberty | Murray N. Rothbard". Mises Institute. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  8. ^ "TGIF: Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty: Still Worthy after All These Years – The Future of Freedom Foundation". 9 May 2014. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  9. ^ Zwolinski, Matt (4 October 2012). "rothbards-second-argument-for-self-ownership". Retrieved 26 August 2013.