For a New Liberty Book Summary - For a New Liberty Book explained in key points
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For a New Liberty summary

Murray N. Rothbard

The Libertarian Manifesto

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    For a New Liberty
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    Libertarianism evolved over the course of American history. 

    Today, libertarianism lies somewhere on the fringes of contemporary politics. But there was a time when libertarianism was mainstream. In fact, the United States was founded on it.

    In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, governments generally consisted of an all-powerful State headed by a king. The political order was one of absolute control, high taxes, and monopolies. Classical liberals – the people who eventually became known as libertarians – aimed to disrupt this order.

    Classical liberals wanted to free the markets and eliminate central control to improve the lives of the masses. They wanted an end to constant war and political oppression. And they wanted to stop kings from using religion to justify tyranny. 

    These principles were deeply important in America’s founding years – but they didn’t necessarily remain so. 

    The key message here is: Libertarianism evolved over the course of American history. 

    English philosopher John Locke was a classical liberal who laid the foundations for modern libertarianism in his treatises defining natural rights. One of his arguments was that if a government became tyrannical, citizens had a right to revolt. In the early 1720s, writers John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon took Locke’s ideas a step further. In their publication Cato’s Letters, Trenchard and Gordon argued that the State is always an agent of tyranny and coercion. 

    Avid readers of Locke’s treatises and Cato’s Letters, the American revolutionaries were inspired to embed the libertarian principles of limited government into America’s founding documents. But as time passed, these libertarian values began to erode, and the central government’s power expanded. 

    In the early eighteenth century, the Democratic Party was created specifically to recapture the spirit of liberty. But in the 1840s, the issue of slavery began tearing the party apart. Meanwhile, the abolitionist – yet overtly statist – Republican Party rose to power. Despite ending slavery, the Republican Party also granted subsidies to big businesses, established federal control of the banks, and instituted other big-government policies during and after the Civil War.

    At the same time, other ideologies started co-opting libertarian terminology. The biggest offender was socialism. Prior to socialism’s rise in the nineteenth century, libertarians were considered the radical, progressive party on the “extreme Left.” But before long, socialists had designated themselves the new progressives, pushing libertarianism to the fringes.

    Despite these roadblocks, the Libertarian Party has now become the third-largest political party in the United States. 

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    What is For a New Liberty about?

    For a New Liberty (1973) is a classic work that lays out the foundational principles of libertarianism. It refutes the necessity of a central State and argues against government involvement in all areas of life, from education to the police. The result is a scathing critique of the inefficiency, overreach, and moral crimes of the State.

    Best quote from For a New Liberty

    Anyone who truly believes in the voluntary nature of taxation is invited to refuse to pay taxes and to see what then happens to him.

    —Murray N. Rothbard
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    Who should read For a New Liberty?

    • Fans of political philosophy and theory
    • Disaffected conservatives and liberals
    • Libertarians or those with libertarian leanings

    About the Author

    Murray Rothbard was a political theorist, professor, economist of the Austrian school, and one of the founding fathers of modern anarcho-capitalism – a synthesis of classical liberalism and individualist anarchism. He was active in the Libertarian Party in the 1970s and ’80s and cofounded the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. His other major works include America’s Great Depression, The Ethics of Liberty, and Man, Economy, and State.

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