, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 143-154

The public choice theory of murray N. Rothbard, a modern anarchist

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Summary and Conclusions

The case against the State presented by Rothbard is very disquieting. His frustrating misunderstanding of the problems of monopoly and externalities weakens the argument, but one can easily reformulate it in a more elegant way: The costs of State action are so great that they outweigh any possible improvement of efficiency from reducing monpoly or internalizing externalities.

Clearly the mass murders and wars and enslavements which have been carried out throughout history by States exceed by a wide margin the ill effects of private enterprise crime. And if we look at government activities within a relatively civilized democracy like the U.S., we see that most government action benefits a small group at the expense of a larger group (e.g. tariffs, subsidies, occupational licensure). The assertion that the net benefits of many government activities are negative is not an easy one to reject, however radical it may sound. However, Rothbard has not demonstrated the possibility of a stateless society.

University of California, Los Angeles and the National Center for Health Services Research and Development, DHEW. Thanks are due to Paul B. Ginsburg, Michigan State University, for many helpful comments on earlier drafts. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of either affiliated institution.