Rothbard vs. The Philosophers: Quote List

Rothbard vs. The Philosophers
Edited by Roberta A. Modungo

The following is a list of quotes I found worth keeping, sharing, processing, writing about, or in general just enjoy.  As is typical, I will attempt to write about these quotes.  Either how they personally effected me, or just a couple interesting observations on it.


Individual human beings are not born or fashioned with fully formed knowledge, values, goals, or personalities; they must each form their own values and goals, develop their personalities, and learn about themselves and the world around them. Every man must have freedom, must have the scope to form, test, and act upon his own choices, for any sort of development of his own personality to take place. He must, in short, be free in order that he may be fully human. – Murray N. Rothbard, The Logic of Action II: Applications and Criticism from the Austrian School (Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar, 1997), pp. 3–4. Originally prepared for the Symposium on Human Differentiation, for the  Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, 1970, and sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
Pg 19-20

… Hayek beings very well in the first chapter by defining freedom as meaning “absence of coercion,” but fails badly in defining “coercion.” For Hayek, “coercion” is defined a arbitrary, specifically harmful acts; the term is thus used much more broadly and yet more narrowly that its proper definition: “the use of violence.”
Pg 72

The question as to whether a code of social living is revealed and established as fixed as a series of Divine Commandments given to men or discovered as absolutes of social law by human trial and error may turn out to be different ways of viewing the same set of rules. . . . Both the ideas of the revelation and of the discovery of social and esthetic values are opposed to the notion that all such concepts are merely relativistic and changeable and have no fixed sanction of any kind.
Pg 119
Leonard Carmichael, “Absolutes, Relativism, and the Scientific Psychology of Human Nature,” in Schoeck and Wiggins, eds., Relativism

There are several things to be said about this worship of the primitive. First, it is absolutely illegitimate to infer, as Polanyi does, the history of pre-Western civilization from analysis of existing primitive tribes. Let us never forget that the existing primitive tribes are precisely the ones that didn’t progress—that remained in their primitive state. To infer from observing them that this is the way our ancestors behaved is nonsense—and apt to be the reverse of the truth, for our ancestors presumably behaved in ways that quickly advanced them beyond the primitive stage thousands of years ago.
Pg 122

Another basic flaw in any caste society—and ignored by Polanyi—is the problem of population growth. The witch doctor, the custom of tribe, the chief or king, and Professor Polanyi can all decree that X and the son of X be a baker, Y and the son of Y be a farmer, etc., but what happens when population increases, as it almost inevitably tends to do? What does the younger son do? Polanyi sneers at Malthus but the Malthusian problem is always supremely evident in the caste society. What happens when the “natural checks” of famine and disease do not work sufficiently? This is why the caste-communal society of Sparta put their babies out in the woods for an “exposure test,” not because the Spartans were inherently a cruel people but because they were faced with what was, in the context of their social structure, an insoluble problem: what to do with their population increase. It was population growth, further, that was wrecking mercantilist Europe. Population growth was the reason for the rise of able-bodied beggars and thieves in eighteenth-century England. There was no work for them to do. It was the rise of capitalism—the advance of capital to provide them with jobs, the expansion of the market to produce cheap goods for the masses—that not only enormously increased the standard of living of the masses but also provided jobs for these increasingly “excess” people
Pg 127


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