Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market

By Murray N. Rothbard

Synopsis: This massive book (over 1,300 pages) about economics is actually the compilation of two separate written works. Man, Economy, and State was originally meant to be published together with Power and Market, but because of publisher's decisions they were separated. This volume compiles them together as was originally intended. Man, Economy, and State is universally considered to be Rothbard's magnum opus, and represents the vast bulk of this volume. It began as a commentary on his mentor Ludwig von Mises' Human Action, which Rothbard admired greatly, but the work eventually became Rothbard's own treatise on economics. It starts out simple for the reader, laying the groundwork with fundamental principles, and becomes increasingly complex as the reader progresses. It offers an exhaustive analysis of the market economy, contributes unique and ground-breaking thoughts on monopoly and other ideas, and acts as a large repository of many profound ideas in economics. Power and Market is much shorter (about 300 pages), and analyzes government intervention in the free market as well as criticisms of free market capitalism. Together in this volume these works comprise a fundamental part of the intellectual basis of Austrian economics.

Strong Points: This book is a powerful advocate for free market capitalism. In lucid writing, Rothbard lays out clearly the benefits of a free market as opposed to the problems of government intervention. It is done very well, and any honest seeker who was to read his analysis would be constrained to re-think any animosity they may have had toward capitalism. The book is teeming with powerful ideas, razor-sharp analyses, and excellent reasoning.

Weak Points: The main drawback of this book is simply its sheer size. It takes tremendous commitment to even have a desire to start reading it, let alone to finish it. It takes a strong will to take on this reading project, and it is therefore definitely not for the casual reader. Therefore, the book will provide little benefit to any except those intensely interested in Austrian economics (aside from quoting passages from it to others). Some portions become fairly complex for the layman, and others are somewhat less interesting. Also, the entire work, but Power and Market especially, was decidedly anarchist, promoting a stateless society. While the author builds an excellent case for that, I'm constrained by scripture to accept the necessity or desirability of limited government (D&C 134:1-2).

Interesting: 3/5

Must Read: 2/5

Overall: 3.8/5

Selected Quote: “One of the conclusions of this analysis is that the purely free market maximizes social utility [i.e. satisfaction], because every participant in the market benefits from his voluntary participation. On the free market, every man gains; one man’s gain, in fact, is precisely the consequence of his bringing about the gain of others. When an exchange is coerced, on the other hand—when criminals or governments intervene—one group gains at the expense of others. On the free market, everyone earns according to his productive value in satisfying consumer desires. Under statist distribution, everyone earns in proportion to the amount he can plunder from the producers. The market is an interpersonal relation of peace and harmony; statism is a relation of war and caste conflict.” (p. 1363).


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