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A Radical Libertarian in the British Parliament

When Murray Rothbard was a young student, he wrote under the pen name Aubrey Herbert. I thought he made it up. Not so. There really was a man named Auberon Edward William Molyneux Herbert. He was a member of the British Parliament. He lived from 1838 to 1906. He was a disciple of Herbert Spencer who kept Spencer’s youthful idealism long after his mentor lost it. He was the author of “The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State.”

That much I’ve known for a while, but I never bothered to read Auberon Herbert’s work. I did that recently, and I think I’ve found my muse. This man was incredible. I can’t say I’ve ever read more luxurious and erudite prose in defense of human liberty. And it’s not like the work of many people writing at the time, good on some stuff and bad on other stuff. Herbert’s writing is awesome on all subjects: property, markets, slavery, empire and colonialism, civil liberties, universal rights, and the state. He spoke about rights and the social consequences of violating rights with equal passion.

He wrote and spoke at a time of rising socialism in Europe. Britain resisted for a while, and Herbert was part of the reason. He presented one of the last clarion calls for pure liberty that occurred in the old world before World War I. He applied every effort to stopping the rise of the total state.

He penned his most famous writings in the 1870s, and they represented the best and most elaborate of the classical liberal school. He held the torch of liberty high and spoke out, consistently and constantly, for the principle of voluntarism. He viewed every state action that contradicted the principle of liberty to be a violation of rights.

Herbert presented one of the last clarion calls for pure liberty that occurred in the old world before World War I.</p…

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