The System Builder

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Foreword
to the 1974 edition of Egalitarianism
as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays
.

Historians and anthologists of anarchist thought, in comparing
the great libertarian classics with other schools of political philosophy,
have always been eager to mention the fact that no anarchist theorist
has ever been on the level of a Marx or Hegel. What they have meant
by this fact is easy to pin down: traditionally, anarchist philosophers
have not been system builders and have not been on as profound a
level in analyzing ideas and institutions as have the great ideologists.

Marx
is mentioned most frequently, perhaps, as a contrast, because Marx
was equally competent in philosophy, economics, and history. Furthermore,
Marx took a great variety of strands of thought prevalent in the
mid-nineteenth century and unified them into a mighty system of
socialism. Marx, moreover, was the father of a powerful ideological
movement that has had a profound historical impact. And, whatever
one may think of the fact, it is true that compared with Marx, all
of the anarchist theorists can be considered superficial. Not that
Warren, Tucker, Spooner, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy,
just to mention a few of the most famous anarchists, were in any
way ignorant. Few theorists of any camp, for instance, are as rigorous,
passionate, and systematic as Lysander Spooner. And few considered
as many issues and events as Tucker. Bakunin, too, was the founder
of a movement that, for a time at least, rivaled that of Marx. But
after all of this is said, it remains to be faced: no anarchist
theorist has reached the stature, intellectually speaking, of the
great political philosophers in Western Civilization.

Until
now, that is. For within the last few years, libertarians have seen
the initial signs of widespread recognition of the youngest of the
libertarian "superstars": Murray N. Rothbard. Still in
his mid-40s, Rothbard’s writings have begun to see the light of
day in the New York Times, Intellectual Digest, and many
other prominent publications – left, right, and center. He
has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including the
Today Show, and his ideas have been debated widely throughout the
country. He is stirring up more and more admirers with the publication
of his latest book, For
A New Liberty
. While Rothbard has yet to have the impact
of Rand, Friedman, or Hayek, his influence is rapidly growing.

But the most significant things to be said about Rothbard are intellectual.
For in Rothbard we have one of the only explicit system builders
writing today. He has already published three volumes of a treatise
on economic principles, namely the two volumes of his Man,
Economy, and State
and its sequel, Power
and Market
. Numerous works on economic history have been
published, and with the publication of For
A New Liberty
, there is the first book-length statement of his
political philosophy. Moreover, the best is yet to come. Rothbard
is working to complete his
book on the ethics of liberty
and to bring the first several
volumes of his
multi-volume history of the United States
to publication in
the near future. This last involves one of the most ambitious undertakings
of any contemporary historian.

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