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Anatomy of the State [Paperback]

Murray Rothbard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

28 Jan 2013
Murray Rothbard was known as the state's greatest living enemy, and this book is his most succinct and powerful statement on the topic. He explains what a state is and what it is not. He shows how it is an institution that violates all that we hold as honest and moral, and how it operates under a false cover. He shows how the state wrecks freedom, destroys civilization, and threatens all lives and property and social well being, all under the veneer of "good intentions."

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Product details

  • Paperback: 58 pages
  • Publisher: (28 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 130068240X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1300682400
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.7 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 154,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, sweet and interesting 3 May 2013
By Alex
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For a profanity filled youtube parallel search for a video called "Animirus: About Authority (Ep #4)" by a user called 1A4STUDIO.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, sweet and perfect 13 Jun 2009
By Peter G. Lawless - Published on
This short book is a great introduction into the insidious nature of the state. Rothbard explains clearly and concisely exactly what the government's purpose is and how it effects our life. He demonstrates how throughout history, the powerful few control the productive many.

As the US marches closer and closer to fascism and socialism, this book is more important than ever. Read it and pass it on to a friend. This is it important stuff!

This book is also available for free from the Ludwig von Mises Institute under a creative commons license: [...]
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An apologetic for anarcho-capitalism by way of negation 8 April 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Anatomy of the State is a small (60 pages) but helpful book from the late economist, Murray Rothbard. The book occupies itself with a less than flattering depiction of the state.

Rothbard begins by defining the state negatively in terms of what it is not. The state and its citizenry are not interchangeable but two very distinct entities. According to Rothbard, the state does not represent the majority of its citizenry (p. 11). Even in representative democracies as here in Canada, this is quite obvious. To give but one example, the provincial government of Ontario will force a tax increase (under the guise of "tax reform" no less), a harmonized sales tax, on the province this summer. This is a tax which virtually no one in Ontario asked for nor supports.

What this example demonstrates is that although the machinery of representative democracy is present (elected representatives, votes, etc.), representative democracy itself is often missing in action.

Having defined the state negatively, Rothbard defines the state positively in terms of what it is:

"...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." (p. 11)

There are two means to the acquisition of wealth in society: the economic means via production and free exchange, and the political means via seizure and confiscation. The state, Rothbard insists, is involved in the latter activity only. It is the organization of the political means (p. 15). It is a predator and a parasite on the productive citizenry.

Since the state's role is to confiscate the surplus of its productive citizenry, the state must necessarily be a relatively small ruling class, else the parasite will consume entirely its host. The challenge then becomes one of persuading the mass of people to either actively endorse the state's rule or be passively resigned to the fact of its existence and heavy hand (p. 19). Rothbard outlines the different ways in which the state succeeds in this persuasion via ideology, appeasement of special interest groups, instilling of fear, identification of the state with the land (patriotism), minimization of individualism and promotion of collectivism, inducement of guilt (e.g., the private sector is greedy and materialistic), science, etc.

Next, Rothbard addresses the methods that have been used to try and limit government (e.g., parliamentary democracy, constitutionalism) and shows them to fail in their intended design. In the United States, for example, the government through its appointment of judges has a de facto monopoly on interpretation of the constitution, thus enabling it to be judge of itself on constitutional matters.

Rothbard ends by viewing history as a struggle between social power (man's power over nature) and state power (power over man); peaceful cooperation contra coercive exploitation.

In reading this book, the reader must surely feel as though the veil has temporarily been lifted and the dark side of government seen for all that it is. But what is the answer? What is the state supposed to look like? Or should it even exist? Rothbard does not address these questions here. His purpose is only to present the anatomy of the state in its unflattering form, an objective he has accomplished quite easily.

This book undoubtedly serves as an apologetic for anarcho-capitalism, by way of negation, which is an expression of free-market anarchism developed by Rothbard.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradigm-shifting, Concise, Intellectual Primer 27 Mar 2011
By Spontaneous Order - Published on
This little book changed my life. I cannot put into words the beauty of this work of intellectual art. This was an excellent primer to an entire new field of study, including Rothbard's massive textbook-style work, Man, Economy and State (with accompanied study guide by Robert P. Murphy).

This is an introduction to the wonderful world of anarcho-capitalism, also known as market anarchy or just capitalism (though, the latter has been stained by association with government privilege and intervention). From the very first chapter, "What the State is Not" and the most important notion being "the state is not you," I was fascinated.

This book is a must-read. Seriously. For everyone.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and powerful essay on State power. 16 Aug 2012
By Jonathan Salmon - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is not a book on the organizations of government and who does what. It is a concise and cutting analysis of State power, and the governed that watch it grow more massive with each passing day.

Rothbard begins quickly and builds on his premise that the State gains at the expense of the individual. He finds excellent examples to make a fine point. Here are two of my favorites:

1. "Since most men tend to love their homeland, the identification of that land and its people with the State was a means of making natural patriotism work to the State's advantage."

Consider how you might think about citizens of a country based on it's head of state. When the government identifies a "regime" that is opposed to it's well-being, we - the collective people - typically show our patriotism by supporting our government and policies that must be implemented to protect us.

2. "We may test the hypothesis that the State is largely interested in protecting itself rather than its subjects by asking: which category of crimes does the State pursue and punish most intensely - those against private citizens or those against itself?"

This got right to the point: the government looks out for itself, just like you look out for you and your family and property. The difference between the two is that the government has the ability to punish and expand its resources as it feels necessary. You, as an individual, do not.

To sum up: if you are reading this, chances are you are looking to know more about political history and power, economics, or libertarian viewpoints in general. For any of these purposes, I think you would be wise to consider this 60 page book. It is a fast, intelligent read that will likely help you critically analyze other policies and political ideologies from the standpoint of the State vs. the people. This book is an overview and highlights the big picture; no background in economics or political science is necessary.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read. 3 Oct 2012
By DJ - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An enlightening read. Short, to the point, and full of powerful arguments. I've found pamphlet style books like this are the some of the most fun to read. Rothbard starts out strong and just keeps going - couldn't put it down. Some interesting ideas on the nature of government are brought forth and he presents them with his signature irrefutable rationale that leaves you smiling and the end of each chapter. It took about 45 minutes to read and left me hungry for more... it's kind of like a tasty little appetizer of Rothbard's other works. Quite satisfied with the purchase.
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