Murray Rothbard: Anatomy of the State | Book Review

Dissecting the idea of Government to show us the “Anatomy of the State” and presenting it in under 60 pages of text is an impressive task Murray Rothbard has set out to do. Did he succeed? 

Anatomy of the state

Mr. Rothbard is one of the iconic writers and thinkers that gets recommended all the time in my circle of online friends so for me it was just a matter of time before I would dig in on some of his written material.

“Anatomy of the State” was published in 1962 and is a very light reading, both in content and in the style it is written. As this is the only book Rothbard has authored that I’ve read so far, I don’t know if the very conversational tone in this work is typical for his penmanship – If it is, I am certainly looking forward to reading more of his work!

With chapter names like “What the State is Not”, “What the State is” and “How states relate to one another” there is no risk in getting lost in the book’s pages.

“Briefly, the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion” – Murray Rothbard

Murray sprinkles the book with a hefty dose of references and footnotes to other authors and books – Oppenheimer, Nef, and Calhoun get cited for example.

As a starting point of a literal journey into anarchism paired with capitalism, “Anatomy of the State” isn’t particularly serviceable – It touches the subjects at hand only on a surface level and relies on you as a reader to fill in the blanks yourself through prerequired knowledge instead of holding your hand through every step.

“A robber who justified his theft by saying that he really helped his victims, by his spending giving a boost to retail trade, would find few converts; but when this theory is clothed in Keynesian equations and impressive references to the ‘multiplier effect,’ it unfortunately carries more conviction.” – Murray Rothbard

As a way of reinforcement of the philosophy, on the other hand, it is excellent.  Mr. Rothbard and the “guest artists” he cites in the book is extremely quotable and straighten out a few ideas in an elegant, to-the-point way.

“the State obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet” – Murray Rothbard

If you are interested in the philosophy of anti-government and free market, this is a good book to pick up and read after you have some semblance of foundation to stand on – The material within “Anatomy of the State” is for card-carrying club members to sharpen their knives against mainly, in my opinion.

Murray Rothbard doesn’t give a complete rundown of the anatomy, but its a fair effort to illustrate overall functions, that you can apply and compare to your own Government to see how close to reality the book is in its claims. The Ludwig Von Mises Institute version has a handy index for whenever you want to trace up a concept from the book in the future. That is at least one bonus point!

Anatomy of the state


Amazon (Physical and Kindle)

Mises.Org (Free .PDF)

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