The Rothbardian Analysis of the State

PP10 — with Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Dates: September 17, 2012 - November 9, 2012
Status: Closed

Murray Rothbard was a brilliant Austrian School economist and the most famous libertarian scholar of the twentieth century. Deeply educated in history, political philosophy and science, as well as economics, he was known for his extraordinarily astute analyses of the state and all of its activities. This eight-week online course under the auspices of the Mises Academy will explore such topics as Rothbard’s theories about the nature of the state, libertarian class theory, bureaucracy, the economic analysis of government spending and taxing, interventionism and socialism, central banking, and war. The goal of the course is to begin to equip students with the kind of economic, historical, and philosophical knowledge that Rothbard himself employed so well in analyzing the effects of the state on society.

The recent explosion of interest in the writings of Rothbard (and of Austrian economics in general) has focused on Rothbard’s work on money, banking, and business-cycle theory. The reason for this is the increasingly widespread understanding that it was the Greenspan Fed — and other government policies — that created the housing bubble and, subsequently, the “Great Recession.” Only the Austrians recognized the bubble and predicted its bursting. “Mainstream” economists such as Paul Krugman were totally in the dark about it, and remain so.

But Murray Rothbard was much more than a student of money, banking, and business-cycle theory. He was deeply educated in history and political philosophy (among other disciplines) as well as economics, and h developed a body of literature that Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls “Austrian social theory.” Austrian social theory is an indispensable tool for understanding the nature of the state and all of its activities, a subject that occupied Murray Rothbard’s mind for his entire adult life. That is why I am offering an eight-week online course called The State: The Rothbardian Analysis under the auspices of the Mises Academy, beginning on Tuesday, September 6.

Rothbard’s work challenges the notion of the “public-choice” school that the state is somehow a voluntary organization (the main theme of the work of Nobel laureates James M. Buchanan and George Stigler). His work also demolishes the theory held by mainstream economists that taxation, too, is somehow voluntary. Relying on more than just narrow economic theory, Rothbard’s work explains such phenomena as the role of the state’s “ideological minions” (i.e., the Paul Krugmans and Doris Kearns-Goodwins of the world), the role of ideology, the role of intellectuals, the nature of state coercion, and much more.

We will study libertarian class theory as it has developed over the past several hundred years, which was an important element of Rothbard’s analysis of the state. Rothbard also had a much richer understanding of the role of government bureaucracy than the public-choice school (or any other school of thought), and that will be another subject of study.

Murray Rothbard was a top-flight economist and one of the few Austrians to contribute a substantial body of literature to the subdiscipline of public finance. Consequently, several classes will be devoted to the Rothbardian analysis of government taxing and spending, and all of its consequences. The political economy of interventionism, socialism, central banking, and war are other topics that will be studied, utilizing the writings of Rothbard and various Rothbardians (such as Robert Higgs on war, for instance). The week-by-week topical outline will be as follows.

Weekly Topics

  1. Rothbard’s “Anatomy of the State”
  2. John C. Calhoun and Libertarian Class Theory
  3. Rothbardian Analysis of Bureaucracy
  4. Rothbardian Analysis of Government Spending
  5. Rothbardian Analysis of Taxation
  6. Interventionism and Socialism
  7. Central Banking and the State
  8. War and the State

What I hope students will get out of this class is a solid understanding of how to analyze the behavior of the state, based on sound principles of Austrian economics, supplemented by some aspects of Murray Rothbard’s lifelong study of history and political philosophy.


The video lectures are online.  Lectures will be Monday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm Eastern time. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.


All readings for the course will be free and available online.

Grades and Certificates

The final grade will depend on quizzes.  Taking the course for a grade is optional.  The Mises Academy is currently not accredited, but this course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system.  Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits.  You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.

Refund Policy

If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee.  If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund.  No refunds will be granted following the second week.

Thomas DiLorenzo

Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Author of The Real LincolnLincoln Unmasked, and Hamilton’s Curse. Dr. DiLorenzo is today’s foremost critic of “Lincoln hagiography”.

DiLorenzo is a professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Barron’s, and many other publications.  He is widely published in the academic journals, including the American Economic Review, Economic Inquiry, International Review of Law and Economics, Public Choice, Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, and many others. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech.

Click here to read an interview with Professor DiLorenzo.

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