Recently I had the privilege of reading “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto” by Murray N. Rothbard. Originally published in 1973, the second revision came in 1978 and the third and final revision in 1985. In his book Mr. Rothbard takes Libertarianism to its ultimate extreme, what scholars refer to as anarcho-capitalism.
In anarcho-capitalism, there are no more countries (what in the book are referred to as “states”). Instead everything is privately owned. Roads are built and operated by private companies, who can recoup their costs in a variety of ways. Toll roads being the obvious method, but they could also be built by the citizens of a neighborhood wishing new access to other locations, or as occurs even today by businesses wishing consumers to have easier access to their shops.
Because there are no states, no controlling governments, he postulates that the large scale wars of the past will remain in the past. Individuals will be too busy taking care of their own business and work to wish to engage in armed conflict. This focus on personal responsibility will result in an overall pacifist society.
But there will always be those who seek to do wrong. Mr. Rothbards take on the judicial system was the concept that intrigued me the most. When you are wronged, currently it is a government official, typically a District Attorney, who makes the decision whether or not to prosecute the person who wronged you. Indeed, this official can choose to prosecute even should the victim not wish that prosecution to go forward.
In a truly Libertarian society, people would subscribe to a court, much the same way we retain insurance today. As a victim, I could then make an accusation against the person who wronged me, and the trial would be held in my court. If the perpetrator is found guilty, they could appeal to the court in which they are subscribed to. Should he still be found guilty, the verdict stands. If however the person is found not guilty, I as the injured party could appeal that verdict. The court would not be one subscribed to by either the victim or the perpetrator, but a neutral one selected by the two courts. The judgment of this third court would stand. At that point, the process ends. Essentially best two out of three.
If you are wondering why courts wouldn’t always rule in the favor of their own clients, Mr. Rothbard explains that the reputation of the court for fairness which draws in customers. If a court was found to be unjust, clients would avoid it and the court would go out of business.
It is an interesting proposal which would relieve a lot of pressure on the current judicial system. Much quicker turn arounds could occur with legal actions, some of which now take years to resolve. I admit I’m a bit fuzzy though on how the judgments would be enforced, especially ones requiring incarceration. Still, it was a fascinating concept.
Of course the judiciary was just one area touched on. Mr. Rothbard takes on many topics such as personal liberty, education, welfare, business, and the problem with government.
Be aware if you are looking for a tome on how Libertarianism works in today’s world, in my opinion this isn’t it. In “For a New Liberty”, Mr. Rothbard takes Libertarianism to its ultimate conclusion, describing the ideal world for people who value personal liberty and responsibility to its fullest. I’ll be honest, I don’t fully agree with all of the positions taken in the book, perhaps I am still stuck in the mindset of the current political / governmental climate. But the book did cause me to think, and that alone made it valuable.
Below are links to obtain the reviewed book. I supplied links to both the Amazon and the Ludwig von Mises Institute sites. Be sure to compare prices, in some cases Mises is a bit cheaper, and the money goes to support the institute.