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Anatomy of the State

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,183 ratings  ·  197 reviews
This gives a succinct account of Rothbard’s view of the state. Following Franz Oppenheimer and Albert Jay Nock, Rothbard regards the state as a predatory entity. It does not produce anything but rather steals resources from those engaged in production. In applying this view to American history, Rothbard makes use of the work of John C. Calhoun.

How can an organization of
Paperback, 60 pages
Published January 8th 2009 by Ludwig von Mises Institute (first published 1974)
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Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Strange things happen when I read Rothbard.

More than any other author, his writing voice seems to chat with me and gently "bring up" topics in a sort of conversation. His accessibility as a writer leads me to kid myself into thinking that many "aha" moments that happen while reading his work have actually happened in my brain in the past.

Many times, certain paragraphs, thoughts or entire chapters will keep dinging in my head, saying, "This can be connected to that one essay you read at such and
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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It's more of an essay than a book but once your done, you'll never look at the "State" the same again.
Douglass Gaking
Yesterday, I reviewed Frederick Bastiat's The Law, which is very similar to this text in its message, but Murray Rothbard's writing is, in my opinion, far superior to Bastiat's and many others in this genre. I mean no disrespect to those writers' excellent contributions, but when you read Rothbard after reading other libertarian and Austrian school texts, I think you will see what I mean. Rothbard is skilled at making concise points that are backed by intelligent thought and research. There are ...more
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Anatomy of the State probes into the structure and legitimacy of government where it exposes the true predatory nature of government. Preserving the government apparatus is paramount to the continuation of plunder in a colluded alliance of the rulers, operators and intellectuals.
Defining what the state is or not is critically important. The State is not us or the people, it doesn’t represent the majority, and when it does, it is a tyranny of the majority. The State is a organization whose only
Ryan Lackey
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wrongthink
This is a very concise statement of the world's foremost anarcho-capitalist, Murray Rothbard's, view of the state. It's pretty dense and not particularly suited to the audiobook format, although the argument doesn't rely on weird redefinitions or anything else -- more, that the impact of relatively simple statements takes some reflection to consider. Probably better as a print book, although the narration was technically fine.

Rothbard's beliefs are certainly extreme, but even if you don't agree
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The good, old and raw truth.
James Last
Jun 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
A review of Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard

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Ok I've read "the anatomy of the state". It's provocative and fails to address the good things a state does. I don't think the name is correct, it should be "a cynic's anatomy of the state". When it does get to the good things like a police force, the view is combative:

"For the State, to preserve its own monopoly of predation, did indeed see to it that private and unsystematic crime was kept
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the first books I read of this sort so can't really say much since I have nothing to compare it to. It's a long essay which makes for a short book. I expected it to be boring but it was surprisingly refreshing and eye opening.
Pedro Jorge
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
While it may be a little too extreme for most readers, this small book is an interesting essay on the organics and nature of the State, what is is, what it is not, and how it survives. Rothbard claims that all States begin with a bunch of thugs gaining control over a territory and then trying to find a way to make their subjects feed them without causing a revolution. He adds many quotations from previous authors and points to some historical facts that question our current idea that 'we are all ...more
Terrence Daugherty
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've never read a book and felt like I was cheering on a sporting event until I read this one. I guess because it's rare to read a book these days where someone actually understands and cogently describes the nature and history of the State without idolizing and lauding its paternal — or rather, authoritarian — attributes. This short work is something I wish my family and friends would take the time to read, especially those with such forthright opinions, but something tells me you won't. ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
There is certainly a place for essays and shorter works, but this is not one of Rothbard's better contributions.

Essentially a theory of the State as predator. While a useful theory, this pamphlet doesn't do it justice. I found that it presents minimal evidence, hefty speculation, and overall the idea is presented in spurts. Obviously in a short work an idea can't be thoroughly developed, but I find this essay unreasonably jarring and ill-conceived.
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're a messy lot

Rothbard writes, "Of all the numerous forms that governments have taken over the centuries, of all the concepts and institutions that have been tried, none has succeeded in keeping the State in check. The problem of the State is evidently as far from solution as ever."

The state has no real substance in itself. It is a collection of people, and people are basically self serving. To be other serving requires intentionality borne of discipline and love for fellow man, or at the
Shane Hawk
This is a succinct essay only expanding to about sixty pages. It can be read in 30-40 minutes easily. It’s offered for free on

The synopsis is already a letter-perfect summary of what Rothbard’s essay is on. All I can add is I quite enjoyed it because he explains the (USA) government’s predation over time and calls back a few different and interesting historical parallels to further his arguments. From other sources, I’ve seen this to be an introduction to the “anarcho-capitalist”
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
How does a predatory entity like the state sustain itself despite producing nothing? To gain popular support, it relies on propaganda masquerading as intellectualism. It exercises its monopoly on violence to coerce cooperation with its aims and places blame on the populace for state atrocities. At least, that is what Rothbard claims in this short treatise. Though it is easy to view Rothbard as an extremist, a brief glance at the sorry history of the state lends more support for his skepticism of ...more
Mehdi Saied
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of the best "books" I ever read about the "state". Murray N. Rothbard illustrates in this small but dense book the definition of the state and the correlation between its components. He showcases the structure, referred to as anatomy, and how governments gain legitimacy with the ultimate goal of preserving the government apparatus. The essay is definitely on the extreme side of the anarcho-capitalism and does not mention any positive aspects of the state.
Adam Calvert
Dec 19, 2018 added it
Shelves: economics
There is much good in such a short book. Rothbard does an excellent job of deconstructing the State and its unlawful coercive power to "bully" the citizens.

However, there didn't seem to be a solution provided. So in that regard (and its clear lack of a foundation in the Lord for its criticisms), I'm finding it hard to know how to rate it.
Filipe Rubini-Castano
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A didactic and direct introduction to the perspective of the State as a coercive entity. This book should be part of high school curricula around the world, to be taught alongside Marx, Smith, and all other major thinkers for comparison and discussion. Its brevity and simplicity are perfect for this purpose.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really clear text on what the state can or cannot do. Rothbard delves into the aspects of coercion and plundering off the surplus of others.

The biggest takeaway is that no government EVER has managed to keep the state in check.

I'll be listening to this again soon for taking better notes. Quoting John C. Calhoun always gets my attention as well.
ros williamson
Dec 22, 2019 marked it as stricken
ancaps are literally the funniest political group of all time. talk about the libertarian right wing
Paul Taske
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I view this book as similar to Machiavelli’s “The Prince” but worse. Where Machiavelli examines political power of a ruler, Rothbard presents his examination of what a state is and hints at his answer to whether a state is legitimate or not.

The reason I view this as worse than “The Prince” is because this book is, in my view, fundamentally dishonest. Rothbard incorrectly identifies several key aspects of government in his book. Notably, these include the formation of the state (his omission of
Al Lock
May 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have a number of problems with this book.
First of all, Rothbard defines the state in a manner that is inaccurate - but rather in a manner that allows him to make his arguments. He says "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". Now, that is true of many states, but the existence, anywhere in history, of any state that is not true of makes the statement false - not part of the
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The essay was very good, and the source material was well thought out. Rothbard does a great job highlighting the extremes of the state. I will enjoy going back to this for points of reference in the future.
Daniel Mendoza
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Mr. Rothbard’s argument discusses some interesting ethical questions, but its argument is ultimately undercut by his rampant speculation regarding key suppositions referred to in this text (supposition that are presented as given fact and not supported by any information he provides here). Given the brief nature of this book, I would have happily accepted - at a minimum - references to other texts that ground these fundamental suppositions in theory and illuminate their real-world viability ...more
Ryan Phung
Oct 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
The author presented a passionate argument against governments. The biggest problem I have with this argument is that it's entirely one-sided, without even considering the benefits of government. A non-trivial portion of the arguments are also not supported by facts and there are many leaps to conclusion.

Nevertheless, the book gives me interesting insights about how "parasitic" governments may work.
Richard E Rochelle
Short but sweet

I love these ideas, so it is a bit like preaching to the choir, but I enjoyed Rothbard's analysis of state power nonetheless. His references to other works gives me a few more items to add to the reading list. Thanks to LvMI for making this one available digitally!
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first foray into heavier Libertarian reading. It was a very good, succinct (possibly too succinct) read. A great overview of general Libertarian thought.
Daniel Buenrostro
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
No matter if you agree or not with Rothbard, this short book is definitely a must read to every social science student
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clear, logical, concise. Logically valid and sound.
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A short and very to-the-point critic of the State. A must read, for everyone! Why everyone? Because we are all ruled by the State, but really shouldn't have to be.
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book/essay needs an expansion and bit more details.
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Murray Newton Rothbard was an influential American historian, natural law theorist and economist of the Austrian School who helped define modern libertarianism. Rothbard took the Austrian School's emphasis on spontaneous order and condemnation of central planning to an individualist anarchist conclusion, which he termed "anarcho-capitalism".

“A robber who justified his theft by saying that he really helped his victims, by his spending giving a boost to retail trade, would find few converts; but when this theory is clothed in Keynesian equations and impressive references to the “multiplier effect,” it unfortunately carries more conviction.” 22 likes
“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?

The gravest crimes in the State’s lexicon are almost invariably not invasions of private person or property, but dangers to its own contentment, for example, treason, desertion of a soldier to the enemy, failure to register for the draft, subversion and subversive conspiracy, assassination of rulers and such economic crimes against the State as counterfeiting its money or evasion of its income tax.

Or compare the degree of zeal devoted to pursuing the man who assaults a policeman, with the attention that the State pays to the assault of an ordinary citizen. Yet, curiously, the State’s openly assigned priority to its own defense against the public strikes few people as inconsistent with its presumed raison d’etre.”
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