The Machinery of Freedom

David Friedman has now put up the full text of The Machinery of Freedom, 2nd Edition in PDF format. Or, I should say, he obtained permission from his publisher to host one of the “pirated” copies that had been floating around the web. Friedman’s book,originally published in 1973, along with Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto,” which was published around the same time, served to provide much of the intellectual framework that would launch the 2nd libertarian movement in the United States.

Whereas the first American libertarian movement, forged in the latter part of the 19th century, had been more “socialist” in incorporating some of the ideas of French Mutualism(i.e, the likes of Proudhon), the 2nd would be much more along the lines of the radical French Laissez Faire tradition. Both Friedman’s and Rothbard’s books inherited from a lineage that can directly be traced from Comte,Dunoyer,Thierry, Say, Bastiat and Molinari. But if you have read both books, you will know that they are are not exactly saying the same thing. Rothbard, operating from a framework of Austrian Economics and Natural Rights, deduces a anarcho-capitalist social order. Friedman, however, operating from a neoclassical and consequentialist framework, distinguishes between “anarcho-capitalism” and libertarianism, and devotes considerable space to argue that libertarian principles are not sufficient to deduce a libertarian social order. His case is that an anarcho-capitalist order, that is a free market order that provides law and public goods, as well as the usual capital goods and services associated with a capitalist economy, will approach a libertarian social order. Most of his book, then, addresses, from a neoclassical point of view, the market provision of goods usually associated with government, arguing against the problems of so-called “market failure” in the provision of such goods, or at least making the point that market failure is a smaller problem than government failure. The one provision of a public good that he cannot address satisfactorily is “National Defense,” which he calls the “hard problem.”

Of course, it bears pointing out that just a year later, Robert Nozick would publish “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” which was not only meant to counter Rawlsian liberal justice in academic circles, but to serve as a (supposedly) convincing rejoinder to libertarian anarchism. With Nozick and Ayn Rand, along the financial backing that would eventually align behind the formation of the Cato Institute, not to mention the rise of the Chicago School in government and academia, the anarchist element would subside and give way to a Statist version of libertarianism, primarily aligned more or less with the Republican Party. The disaster of the Bush Administration, which signaled to everyone that the era of “Big Government” was hardly over, that it was actually about to be ramped up exponentially, served not only to revive radical libertarianism but to revive it’s left-wing roots. With the awesome publishing power the internet, the historical works of the historical schools became widely available. Now radical libertarian wars would not be just limited to consequentialist vs deontological versions of Laissez Faire, but would begin to include a revival of debates over “What is Property?” There would emerge a movement of “left-libertarianism,” which is just an intellectual revival of sorts of the original American libertarian movement, with it’s growing “anti-capitalist” critique. Not to mention the Ron Paul movement, which has injected “Rothbardianism” into mainstream political discussion, but, in repeating the mistakes of the “paleo phase,” is working through the GOP that is recruiting candidates who combine this with Big Government Cultural Enforcement. Libertarianism has become a big political buzzword, but, as a movement, it is utterly intellectually disjointed and incoherent.

So, in this environment, within a larger social context of historic public recognition of government failure, Friedman is looking to publish a new edition of his book. I look forward to the contribution…


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