Our Favorite Murray Rothbard Quotes

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Murray Newton Rothbard (2 March 1926 – 7 January 1995) was an American economist and political theorist best known for his libertarian writings. He was a prominent advocate of the Austrian School of Economics and had a strong impact on the American libertarian movement and classical liberal thought.

His theory of free-market anarchism – which he termed anarcho capitalism – and was skeptical of central planning in the government. He also advocated the abolition of government coercive control over the government and society. Ultimately, he considered the monopoly force of the government to be the greatest danger to the well-being and liberty of the population. Rothbard believed that services provided by monopoly governments could be provided more efficiently by the private section. And he also viewed many regulatory efforts advocated for the “public interest” were actually power grabs by self interested politicians.

Rothbard left behind a long history of his writing and speaking and the more than 20 books he authored. In honor of his recent birthday, we have assembled our favorite collection of his quotes to honor his legacy. If you want to read more about his philosophy, we recommend checking out the Rothbard Reader.

Murray Rothbard Quotes

“Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of others through prices voluntarily arrived at.”
— Murray Rothbard

“There can be no truly moral choice unless that choice is made in freedom; similarly, there can be no really firmly grounded and consistent defense of freedom unless that defense is rooted in moral principle. In concentrating on the ends of choice, the conservative, by neglecting the conditions of choice, loses that very morality of conduct with which he is so concerned. And the libertarian, by concentrating only on the means, or conditions, of choice and ignoring the ends, throws away an essential moral defense of his own position.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Since leaving office in 1977, Dr. Kissinger has continued to play a highly influential role in U.S. politics, in the U.S. media, and in the Rockefeller world empire. It was Kissinger, along with David Rockefeller, who was decisive in the disastrous decision of President Carter to admit the recently toppled Shah of Iran, old friend and ally of the Rockefellers into the United States, a decision that led directly to the Iranian hostage crisis and to Carter’s downfall.”
— Murray Rothbard

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”
― Murray N. Rothbard

“It is clearly absurd to limit the term ‘education’ to a person’s formal schooling.”
― Murray N. Rothbard, Education, Free & Compulsory

“Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal”
― Murray N. Rothbard

“It’s true: greed has had a very bad press. I frankly don’t see anything wrong with greed. I think that the people who are always attacking greed would be more consistent with their position if they refused their next salary increase. I don’t see even the most Left-Wing scholar in this country scornfully burning his salary check. In other words, “greed” simply means that you are trying to relieve the nature given scarcity that man was born with. Greed will continue until the Garden of Eden arrives, when everything is superabundant, and we don’t have to worry about economics at all. We haven’t of course reached that point yet; we haven’t reached the point where everybody is burning his salary increases, or salary checks in general.”
― Murray N. Rothbard

“There is one good thing about Marx: he was not a Keynesian.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism”
— Murray Rothbard

“If a man has the right to self-ownership, to the control of his life, then in the real world he must also have the right to sustain his life by grappling with and transforming resources; he must be able to own the ground and the resources on which he stands and which he must use. In short, to sustain his human right.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called “taxation” and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty.”
— Murray Rothbard

“We must, therefore, emphasize that ‘we’ are not the government; the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people. But, even if it did, even if 70 percent of the people decided to murder the remaining 30 percent, this would still be murder and would not be voluntary suicide on the part of the slaughtered minority. No organicist metaphor, no irrelevant bromide that ‘we are all part of one another,’ must be permitted to obscure this basic fact.”
— Murray Rothbard

“You don’t need a treaty to have free trade.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The General Theory was not truly revolutionary at all but merely old and oft-refuted mercantilist and inflationist fallacies dressed up in shiny new garb, replete with newly constructed and largely incomprehensible jargon.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The State is a gang of thieves writ large – the most immoral, grasping and unscrupulous individuals in any society.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.”
— Murray Rothbard

“It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The more the government intervenes to delay the market’s adjustment, the longer and more grueling the depression will be, and the more difficult will be the road to complete recovery.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The libertarian must never advocate or prefer a gradual, as opposed to an immediate and rapid, approach to his goal. For by doing so, he undercuts the overriding importance of his own goals and principles. And if he himself values his own goals so lightly, how highly will others value them.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Remember that the minimum wage law provides no jobs; it only outlaws them; and outlawed jobs are the inevitable result.”
— Murray Rothbard

“There can be no such thing as ‘fairness in taxation.’ Taxation is nothing but organized theft, and the concept of a ‘fair tax’ is therefore every bit as absurd as that of ‘fair theft.’”
— Murray Rothbard

“The man who puts all the guns and all the decision-making power into the hands of the central government and then says, ‘Limit yourself’; it is he who is truly the impractical utopian.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The libertarian creed…offers the fulfillment of the best of the American past along with the promise of a far better future. 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.”
— Murray Rothbard

“If you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.”
— Murray Rothbard

“I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual.”
— Murray Rothbard

“It is curious that people tend to regard government as a quasi-divine, selfless, Santa Claus organization. Government was constructed neither for ability nor for the exercise of loving care; government was built for the use of force and for necessarily demagogic appeals for votes. If individuals do not know their own interests in many cases, they are free to turn to private experts for guidance. It is absurd to say that they will be served better by a coercive, demagogic apparatus.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Just as no one is morally required to answer a robber truthfully when he asks if there are any valuables in one’s house, so no one can be morally required to answer truthfully similar questions asked by the State, e.g., when filling out income tax returns.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Since the State necessarily lives by the compulsory confiscation of private capital, and since its expansion necessarily involves ever-greater incursions on private individuals and private enterprise, we must assert that the state is profoundly and inherently anti-capitalist .”
— Murray Rothbard

“Money … is the nerve center of the economic system. If, therefore, the state is able to gain unquestioned control over the unit of all accounts, the state will then be in a position to dominate the entire economic system, and the whole society.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Governmental subsidy systems promote inefficiency in production and efficiency in coercion and subservience, while penalizing efficiency in production and inefficiency in predation.”
— Murray Rothbard’

“This, by the way, is the welfare state in action: Its a whole bunch of special interest groups screwing consumers and taxpayers, and making them think they’re really benefiting.”
— Murray Rothbard

“All of the services commonly thought to require the State-from the coining of money to police protection to the development of law in defense of the rights of person and property-can be and have been supplied far more efficiently and certainly more morally by private persons. The State is in no sense required by the nature of man; quite the contrary.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Equality is not in the natural order of things, and the crusade to make everyone equal in every respect (except before the law) is certain to have disastrous consequences.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Once one concedes that a single world government is not necessary, then where does one logically stop at the permissibility of separate states? If Canada and the United States can be separate nations without being denounced as in a state of impermissible ‘anarchy’, why may not the South secede from the United States? New York State from the Union? New York City from the state? Why may not Manhattan secede? Each neighbourhood? Each block? Each house? Each person?”
— Murray Rothbard

“I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual. Anarchists oppose the State because it has its very being in such aggression, namely, the expropriation of private property through taxation, the coercive exclusion of other providers of defense service from its territory, and all of the other depredations and coercions that are built upon these twin foci of invasions of individual rights.”
— Murray Rothbard

“[T]he crucial question is not, as so many believe, whether property rights should be private or governmental, but rather whether the necessarily ‘private’ owners are legitimate owners or criminals. For ultimately, there is no entity called ‘government’; there are only people forming themselves into groups called ‘governments’ and acting in a ‘governmental’ manner. All property is therefore always ‘private’; the only and critical question is whether it should reside in the hands of criminals or of the proper and legitimate owners.”
— Murray Rothbard

“In short, the early receivers of the new money in this market chain of events gain at the expense of those who receive the money toward the end of the chain, and still worse losers are the people (e.g., those on fixed incomes such as annuities, interest, or pensions) who never receive the new money.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The greatest danger to the State is independent intellectual criticism.”
— Murray Rothbard

“Behind the honeyed but patently absurd pleas for equality is a ruthless drive for placing themselves (the elites) at the top of a new hierarchy of power.”
— Murray Rothbard

“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 Rothbard

“It would be an instructive exercise for the skeptical reader to try to frame a definition of taxation which does not also include theft. Like the robber, the State demands money at the equivalent of gunpoint; if the taxpayer refuses to pay, his assets are seized by force, and if he should resist such depredation, he will be arrested or shot if he should continue to resist.”
— Murray Rothbard

“The concept of life and perfection is incompatible. BUT so is death and perfection”
— Murray Rothbard

“We libertarians are not the spokesmen for any ethnic or economic class; we are the spokesmen for all classes, for all of the public; we strive to see all of these groups united, hand-in-hand, in opposition to the plundering and privileged minority that constitutes the rulers of the State.” 
– Murray Rothbard

“I see no other conceivable strategy for the achievement of liberty than political action. Religious or philosophical conversion of each man and woman is simply not going to work; that strategy ignores the problem of power, the fact that millions of people have a vested interest in statism and are not likely to give it up…. Education in liberty is of course vital, but it is not enough; action must also be taken to roll back the State…” 
– Murray Rothbard

“The State is, and always has been, the great single enemy of the human race, its liberty, happiness, and progress.” 
 Murray Rothbard

“States have always needed intellectuals to con the public into believing that its rule is wise, good, and inevitable”
Murray Rothbard

“If a man has the right to self-ownership, to the control of his life, then in the real world he must also have the right to sustain his life.”

“On the free market, it is a happy fact that the maximization of the wealth of one person or group redounds to the benefit of all; but in the political realm, the realm of the State, a maximization of income and wealth can only accrue parasitically to the State and its rulers at the expense of the rest of society.”

“The essential activities of the State necessarily constitute criminal aggression and depredation of the just rights of private property of its subjects (including self-ownership).”

“The State, by its very nature, must violate the generally accepted moral laws to which most people adhere.”

“The State says that citizens may not take from another by force and against his will that which belongs to another. And yet the State…does just that.”

“To go beyond one’s right of self-defense would be to aggress on the rights of others, a violation of one’s legal duty. And yet the State by its claimed monopoly forcibly imposes its jurisdiction on persons who may have done nothing wrong. By doing so it aggresses against the rights of its citizens, something which its rules say citizens may not do.”

“The State is an inherently illegitimate institution of organized aggression, of organized and regularized crime against the persons and properties of its subjects… a profoundly antisocial institution which lives parasitically off of the productive activities of private citizens.”

“Since the State necessarily lives by the compulsory confiscation of private capital, and since its expansion necessarily involves ever-greater incursions on private individuals and private enterprise, we must assert that the state is profoundly and inherently anti-capitalist.”

“We must, therefore, emphasize that ‘we’ are not the government; the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people.”

“The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State…is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.”

“All of the services commonly thought to require the State…can be and have been supplied far more efficiently and certainly more morally by private persons. The State is in no sense required by the nature of man; quite the contrary.”

“Libertarians regard the state as the Supreme, the eternal, the best organized aggressor against the persons and property of the mass of the public.”

“If you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.”

“The State uses its coerced revenue, not merely to monopolize and provide genuine services inefficiently to the public, but also to build up its own power at the expense of its exploited and harassed subjects.”

“The State is a coercive criminal organization that subsists by a regularized large-scale system of taxation-theft.”

“The wry coupling of the twin certainties in the popular motto ‘death and taxes’ demonstrates that the public has resigned itself to the existence of the State as an evil but inescapable force of nature to which there is no alternative.”

“There is no reason to assume that a compulsory monopoly of violence, once acquired…by any State rulers, will remain ‘limited’ to protection of person and property. Certainly, historically no government has long remained ‘limited’ in this way.”

“The more the coercive powers of the State are expanded beyond the cherished limits of the laissez-faire theorists, the greater the power and pelf accruing to the ruling caste operating the State apparatus.”

“Advocates of a limited government often hold up the ideal of a government…’umpire’ arbitrating impartially between contending factions in society. Yet why should the government do so? …the State and its rulers will act to maximize their power and wealth, and hence inexorably expand beyond the supposed ‘limits.’”

“Government was constructed neither for ability nor for the exercise of loving care; government was built for the use of force and for necessarily demagogic appeals for votes.”

“Of all the numerous forms that governments have taken over the centuries, of all the concepts and institutions that have been tried, none has succeeded in keeping the State in check.”

“In the case of taxation, a man’s surrender to the threat of coercion demonstrates no voluntary preference whatsoever for any alleged benefits he receives. …Neither does voting establish any sort of voluntary consent…to the government.”

“The fact that a majority might support or condone an act of theft does not diminish the criminal essence of the act or its grave injustice.”

“If, then, taxation is compulsory, and is therefore indistinguishable from theft, it follows that the State, which subsists on taxation, is a vast criminal organization…according to the common apprehension of mankind, which always considers theft to be a crime.”

“Only the State obtains its revenue by coercion…That coercion is known as ‘taxation,’ although in less regularized epochs it was often known as ‘tribute.’ Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects.”

“The necessary result…of the unequal fiscal action of the government is to divide the community into two great classes…tax-payers and tax-consumers.”

“It is easy to be conspicuously ‘compassionate’ if others are being forced to pay the cost.”

“If mankind is diverse and individuated, then how can anyone propose equality as an ideal?…But what justification can equality find in the nature of man? If each individual is unique, how else can he be made ‘equal’ to others than by destroying most of what is human in him and reducing human society to the mindless uniformity of the ant heap?”

“It is not the business of the law to make anyone good or reverent or moral or clean or upright.”

Also see John Locke Quotes and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Quotes – have a considerable overlap in terms of libertarian philosophy.

Related: Milton Friedman’s Best Quotes

Video: Murray N. Rothbard – The TRUTH About Taxes

In this brief video, Murray discusses different perspectives on taxes.  

Summary

After reading these quotes with a very strong libertarian bent, it is easy to understand why Murry Rothbard was called “Mr. Libertarian. And his New York Times obituary referred to Rothbard as “an economist and social philosopher who fiercely defended individual freedom against government intervention.”

Rothbard remains a central figure in the 20th century American libertarian movement. During his life he wrote more than 20 books on political theory, economics, and other topics.

If you want to read more about his philosophy, we recommend checking out the Rothbard Reader.

Image Credit: Ludwig von Mises Institute, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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