Toward a Free America

As our country works its way through a period of turmoil, we must remember that there is another way than what those on the left and right propose. That way, the way of liberty, is the subject of For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, by Murray N. Rothbard. (The book is available to read online in pdf format here.)

From the book’s description at the Ludwig von Mises Institute: “In For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Rothbard proposes a once-and-for-all escape from the two major political parties, the ideologies they embrace, and their central plans for using state power against people. Libertarianism is Rothbard’s radical alternative that says state power is unworkable and immoral and ought to be curbed and finally overthrown. To make his case, Rothbard deploys his entire system of thought: natural law, natural rights, Austrian economics, American history, the theory of the state, and more.”

Here’s the final passage from this outstanding book:

Toward a Free America

The libertarian creed, finally, offers the fulfillment of the best of the American past along with the promise of a far better future. Even more than conservatives, who are often attached to the monarchical traditions of a happily obsolete European past, libertarians are squarely in the great classical liberal tradition that built the United States and bestowed on us the American heritage of individual liberty, a peaceful foreign policy, minimal government, and a free-market economy. Libertarians are the only genuine current heirs of Jefferson, Paine, Jackson, and the abolitionists.

And yet, while we are more truly traditional and more rootedly American than the conservatives, we are in some ways more radical than the radicals. Not in the sense that we have either the desire or the hope of remoulding human nature by the path of politics; but in the sense that only we provide the really sharp and genuine break with the encroaching statism of the twentieth century. The Old Left wants only more of what we are suffering from now; the New Left, in the last analysis, proposes only still more aggravated statism or compulsory egalitarianism and uniformity. Libertarianism is the logical culmination of the now forgotten “Old Right” (of the 1930s and ‘40s) opposition to the New Deal, war, centralization, and State intervention. Only we wish to break with all aspects of the liberal State: with its welfare and its warfare, its monopoly privileges and its egalitarianism, its repression of victimless crimes whether personal or economic. Only we offer technology without technocracy, growth without pollution, liberty without chaos, law without tyranny, the defense of property rights in one’s person and in one’s material possessions.

Strands and remnants of libertarian doctrines are, indeed, all around us, in large parts of our glorious past and in values and ideas in the confused present. But only libertarianism takes these strands and remnants and integrates them into a mighty, logical, and consistent system. The enormous success of Karl Marx and Marxism has been due not to the validity of his ideas — all of which, indeed, are fallacious — but to the fact that he dared to weave socialist theory into a mighty system. Liberty cannot succeed without an equivalent and contrasting systematic theory; and until the last few years, despite our great heritage of economic and political thought and practice, we have not had a fully integrated and consistent theory of liberty. We now have that systematic theory; we come, fully armed with our knowledge, prepared to bring our message and to capture the imagination of all groups and strands in the population. All other theories and systems have clearly failed: socialism is in retreat everywhere, and notably in Eastern Europe; liberalism has bogged us down in a host of insoluble problems; conservatism has nothing to offer but sterile defense of the status quo. Liberty has never been fully tried in the modern world; libertarians now propose to fulfill the American dream and the world dream of liberty and prosperity for all mankind.

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