Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard

47 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2003

See all articles by Daniel B. Klein

Daniel B. Klein

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2001


As many have argued, libertarianism as idea and movement contains strands that often conflict, beg questions, or try our sensibilities. There are in fact 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 Abargainer@ (exemplified by Hayek) and the Achallenger@ (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 Amere@ libertarianism that successfully participates in mainstream discourse.

Keywords: liberty, maxim, ambiguity, incompleteness, undesirability, bargainer, challenger

Suggested Citation

Klein, Daniel B., Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard (March 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel B. Klein (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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