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Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard




As many have argued, libertarianism as idea and movement contains strands that often conflict, beg questions, or try our sensibilities. There are multiple libertarianisms. Two leading theorists of modern libertarianism are Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard. Both pupils of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and Rothbard provide dual libertarianisms that share a common precept but sustain that precept in inverse ways. Both Hayek and Rothbard maintain that, in societies like theirs, the desirable always concords with liberty (or maximal liberty). Rothbard achieved this concordance by molding his sensibilities about the desirable to fit his definition of liberty. Hayek achieved this concordance by molding his definition of liberty to fit his sensibilities about the desirable. These two libertarianisms represent a duality of worthy rhetorical tasks, namely, those of the “bargainer” (exemplified by Hayek) and the “challenger” (exemplified by Rothbard). But libertarians ought to reject the precept of concordance: the desirable does not always concord with liberty. I attempt a blending of Hayek and Rothbard that recognizes the several limitations of libertarianism, sustains Hayek’s sensibilities, yet maintains Rothbard’s cogent definition of liberty. The paper explores various ways in which the proposed blending makes for a reasonable and versatile “mere” libertarianism that successfully participates in mainstream discourse.

Suggested Citation

  • Klein, Daniel, 2003. "Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard," Ratio Working Papers 29, The Ratio Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0029

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Block Walter, 1998. "Roads, Bridges, Sunlight and Private Property: Reply to Tullock," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2-3), pages 1-12, June.
    2. Daniel Klein, 1997. "Convention, Social Order, and the Two Coordinations," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 319-335, December.
    3. Murray Rothbard, 1982. "Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 2(1), pages 55-99, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Hedengren & Daniel B. Klein & Carrie Milton, 2010. "Economist Petitions: Ideology Revealed," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 7(3), pages 288-319, September.
    2. Niclas Berggren, 2009. "Choosing one’s own informal institutions: on Hayek’s critique of Keynes’s immoralism," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 139-159, June.

    More about this item


    liberty; libertarianism; property; liberty maxim; ambiguity; incompleteness; undesirability; bargainer; challenger;

    JEL classification:

    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General

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