Separating the Men from the Boys
I have stumbled across a book review written by Lester Hunt. He is reviewing The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray Rothbard. The review was written in 1983, just after Rothbard’s book was published. Hunt begins by putting Rothbard’s libertarianism in context:
Though he is an economist by training, the ultimate basis for the form of anarchism Rothbard defends is not economic but moral.
Rothbard’s anarchism is based on natural law, not on some concept of economic efficiency or other basis. In this book, Rothbard connects the natural law as found in medieval philosophers/theologians such as Thomas Aquinas to his ideas of all rights being grounded in property rights.
I do not recall if Rothbard makes the distinction between natural law and natural rights in this book or elsewhere; it has been a while since I read the book cover to cover, and the last time I did, I would say that my understanding of natural law and natural rights was not very well developed. Suffice it to say, I have come to the conclusion of agreeing with Rothbard: all rights are grounded in property rights. And, as a brief aside, I will unpack this.
Natural law offers guidance as to how one should behave and act – toward himself and toward others; it is an ethical standard, not a legal standard. For example, one should be charitable toward others, but one must not be forced by law to be charitable toward others.
In distinction, natural rights offers guidance as to what one can demand from others: one cannot demand charity from others; one can merely demand that others respect his property rights – including, of course, the physical property of the body. (This distinction is further examined here.)
Returning to the review, Hunt suggests that readers will likely disagree with Rothbard’s anarchism as it is based on natur
Article from LewRockwell