Monday, May 13, 2019

Is "Do You Hate the State?" the Big Question?

Murray Rothbard
By Robert Wenzel

Recently, I discussed the famous Murray Rothbard essay,"Do You Hate the State?" with Dr. Michael Edelstein.

Murray starts the essay off this way:

I have been ruminating recently on what are the crucial questions that divide libertarians. Some that have received a lot of attention in the last few years are: anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace. But I have concluded that as important as these questions are, they don't really cut to the nub of the issue, of the crucial dividing line between us.

Let us take, for example, two of the leading anarcho-capitalist works of the last few years: my own For a New Liberty and David Friedman's Machinery of Freedom. Superficially, the major differences between them are my own stand for natural rights and for a rational libertarian law code, in contrast to Friedman's amoralist utilitarianism and call for logrolling and trade-offs between nonlibertarian private police agencies. But the difference really cuts far deeper. There runs through For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind. In contrast, it is evident that David does not hate the State at all; that he has merely arrived at the conviction that anarchism and competing private police forces are a better social and economic system than any other alternative. Or, more fully, that anarchism would be better than laissez-faire, which in turn is better than the current system. Amidst the entire spectrum of political alternatives, David Friedman has decided that anarcho-capitalism is superior. But superior to an existing political structure which is pretty good too. In short, there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State — any State — is a predatory gang of criminals.
It is Michael's contention that "Do You Hate the State?" is not the most important question that issues, such as anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace, are.

My take is that Murray is correct with his view that "Do You Hate the State?" is the key issue but that the focus shouldn't have been on Friedman for his lack of anti-state passion. The real focus of objection should be libertarians who are not consistently anti-state, in that they believe there is room for a Federal Reserve, regulations on wedding cake baking, some foreign wars etc.

I'll take the cool suave anti-stater against the leakers any day. Though the passionate anti-staters are probably more fun and will have the great knee-jerk anti-state reaction on issues, which I think is what Muarry was getting at.




  2. Where is the article entitled “do you hate private property owners who create negative externalities?” This article will persuade you against libertarianism and toward propertarianism.

  3. You may or may not hate the State, but the State certainly hates you.