Hazlitt Critiques Rothbard’s Legal Thought

Conservatism at its best:

Hazlitt on Rothbard

Here’s an original of the review. Here’s the quote in context:

[ . . . ] In discussing a book of such importance, with so much in it to praise, and with an instructive challenge on nearly every page to some “orthodox” or “unorthodox” doctrine, it seems ungrateful to call attention to flaws. Yet in a structure of thought of which the foundations are so carefully laid, and in the midst of an otherwise brilliant and penetrating discussion, Rothbard will suddenly announce some extraordinary conclusion based on a fragment of abstract doctrinaire logic. Examples are his sharp contrast between copyrights and patents, and his implication that the former might well be granted in perpetuity and the latter not at all; his conclusion that repudiation of government debt is no great evil; that it even has a “social utility,” and the added advantage of making future government borrowing more difficult; his opinion that libel and slander ought not to be illegalized, and that even blackmail “would not be illegal in the free society. For blackmail is the receipt of money in exchange for the service of not publicizing certain information about the other person. No violence or threat of violence to person
or property is involved.”

It is hard to explain these aberrations. They are in such sharp contrast to the rest of the book that they seem almost as if stuck in by another hand. But they are practically all in the legal and political, rather than in the economic, field. The nearest I can come to a rational explanation of them is to assume that when Rothbard wanders out of the strictly economic realm, in which his scholarship is so rich and his reasoning so rigorous, he is misled by his epistemological doctrine of “extreme apriorism” into trying to substitute his own instant jurisprudence for the common law principles built up through generations of human experience.


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