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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hazlitt Reviews Rothbard

Murray N. Rothbard’s treatise on economics, Man, Economy, and State, is one of the most important books to come out of the Austrian economics tradition. In today’s document, a review of Man, Economy of State in National Review, Henry Hazlitt states, “He [Rothbard] has given us a work in the tradition of Taussig, Wicksteed, Fetter, Knight and Mises….” To be listed among such illustrious names is not only an honor but also illustrates how important reading and grasping Man, Economy, and State is for anyone hoping to understand Austrian economics and economics in general.

Rothbard articulates the economic way of thinking in a clear and straightforward way, making economic theory accessible to a wide variety of individuals. His discussion on price formation (not determination) is significant for understanding Austrian price theory. His elaborations on capital, production and entrepreneurship, money’s role in the business cycle, monopoly and competition, the role of the State, and political economy are all indispensable for economists to better understand the world outside our windows. Peter Boettke and Christopher Coyne have also pointed out the vital insights Rothbard contributed to the socialist calculation issue in Man, Economy, and State.

The bottom line is, despite being a principles text, Man, Economy, and State made important analytical contributions to economics. It also is taken for granted just how knowledgeable Rothbard was of mainstream economics of the time, which is illustrated by his footnotes. These footnotes deserve as much attention by scholars as the main text.

“It is in fact the most important general treatise on economic principles since Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action in 1949.” These closing words of Hazlitt’s review help to clearly illustrate my point. Hazlitt was not one to make such a statement lightly. Human Action was of earth-shattering importance for individuals like Hazlitt. Just as in 1962, both books are still as important today, along with F. A. Hayek’s

  • Nicholas Snow is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kenyon College in the Department of Economics, and previously a Senior Lecturer at The Ohio State University Economics Department. His research focuses on the political economy of prohibition.