Mises and Rothbard On War Finance


  • Gabriel Calzada Álvarez Profesor Asociado de Economía Aplicada, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.




Inside the «economics of war» field of study, very few economists have tried to build a systematic theory of the consequences of the different methods of financing wars. Even fewer economists have ever attempted to elaborate a theory that meets both efficiency and ethical criteria. The first studies in this field can be traced back to the late scholastics. Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) and Francisco de Vitoria (1486-1546) are well known as founders of international law studies. The latter, using his characteristic juridical approach to ethical problems, concludes that the prince can use no neutral person or private property in order to wage a war1.

But it was Juan de Mariana (1536-1623) who first tried to unite the ethical and the economic dimension of war finance. Mariana started by analyzing the question of the resources the prince is allowed to use for waging a war. His answer could be described as a libertarian answer; the king is not the owner of the properties of his subjects, and thus, he cannot dispose of them at his whim but only after having gained the acceptance of the owner. Then he turned to the different financial tools, and he described the economic consequences of their use. After dealing with the effects of taxation, inflation and the king’s credit, he recommended that both the king and the citizens be aware of the ethical and practical point of views2.

After Mariana, very few thinkers have worked on war finance combining both approaches. In this last century the Austrian School of Economics has contributed to the development of the war finance theory by the hand of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. The first, concentrated his analysis on the possible use of the means to wage a war, and their consequences. On the contrary Rothbard´s approach is known for its focus on the ethical approach to war finance.


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How to Cite

Álvarez, G. C. . (2005). Mises and Rothbard On War Finance. REVISTA PROCESOS DE MERCADO, 2(1), 147–170. https://doi.org/10.52195/pm.v2i1.365