Book Review: For a New Liberty

image 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.

Links

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.

Arcane Liberty

About six months ago I was in my local Starbucks, and by chance met a lawyer by the name of Richard Duke (website). Richard is leader in Asset Law, but our discussions centered around Economics and Libertarianism. In the past I held a more conservative viewpoint, but over the last few years my confidence in the Republican party and its conservatives has diminished. As I began to hear more about libertarianism, it made more and more sense to me. I began to identify myself as a Libertarian, to the extent I understood their platform.

Meeting Richard turned out to be a true stroke of luck. First, Richard has a love of books like I do, and recommended a series of books which I have been devouring. Authors such as Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard, Thomas Sowell, and Tom Woods. I’ll be posting book reviews of the books I’ve read as upcoming blog posts.

Second, Richard has strong ties to an organization called the Mises Institute, located just down the road from me in Auburn Alabama. (website) If you’ve not heard of them, they focus on the teachings of Ludwig von Mises. Mises was responsible for what is known as Austrian Economics. While Ludwig von Mises may not be a household name, you may have heard of one of its advocates, a former congressman, Presidential candidate, and gentleman by the name of Ron Paul. Doctor Paul is a lecturer and author with the Mises Institute.

Today the US, along with many countries, follows an economic strategy called Keynesian Economics. I’ll explain more about this in the future, but the gist of Keynesian Economics calls for government intervention to tightly control the economy. Tools such as regulations, subsidies, taxes, labor rules, and often used techniques like the infusion of money into the economy are used to control not only the flow of money but our free choices.

While I’m sure the people who founded this framework had the best of intentions, like the proverbial snowball rolling down hill we are now buried under an avalanche of government control. Virtually everything we do is controlled in some way, however minor, by the government.

As I read more, I become acutely aware of the negative impacts of these policies. That is what has attracted me to Libertarianism and Austrian Economics. Austrian Economics takes a hands off approach. The free market should be able to sort things out much more efficiently than government, while giving consumers freedom to pick and chose the best products and services for themselves.

So why a blog? Well, as I read various sites and blogs on the web, from both the left and the right, I see more and more abuses of our personal liberty. Unfortunately many are not aware of it, or see something presented to them as a positive, but if they really understood likely they would not be any happier about it than I am. Sadly the media of today skews its reporting toward one party or another, typically with some hidden (or not so hidden) agenda.

Second, I am seeking to learn more about personal finances, liberty, logic, economics, and history. They say the best way to learn is by teaching, so this blog will provide me a way to share what I learn, as well as serve as a personal journal on my quest for knowledge.

Finally, you may ask why the odd name for my blog. In part it is due to my professional efforts on the web. I run another blog called ArcaneCode (http://arcanecode.com | @ArcaneCode). In my day job I teach and consult about the Microsoft SQL Server Business Intelligence tools, in addition to coauthoring four books, training videos, and have been awarded the Microsoft MVP award for the last six years. I wanted to retain that blog for my technical outreach, and as these two efforts would have vastly different audiences decided a second blog was in order.

The name Arcane Liberty though, is also fitting in another way. The dictionary defines arcane as “understood by few, mysterious or secret”. In today’s society I believe the concept of Liberty is becoming less and less understood by more and more people. Perhaps my simple writings will help to clarify and educate, at least in some small way, as I seek to further understand liberty.

You can follow me on twitter at @ArcaneLiberty