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The Machinery of Freedom

Guide to a Radical Capitalism


David D. Friedman (View Bio)
Online Edition: Chu Hartley Publishers, 2014.

The Machinery of Freedom

This is the Third Edition of this classic 1971 work of libertarianism by David D. Friedman, anarcho-capitalist, significantly revised and updated from 1989's Second Edition. It engagingly describes and celebrates a society based on individual private property rights and the right to consent to cooperative ventures free of coercion. From these basic principles it follows that that government is best which governs least. 

This book shows why and precisely how to privatize the State; how private property is the most basic of human rights and trade of one type or another the basis of all human cooperation; distinguishes anarchy from chaos; provides the clearest, simplest, and best brief on law and economics ever written; and sets out the deeply moral basis of libertarianism—claims to the contrary by those who mistake libertarianism for the creed of Dr. Pangloss or extreme Benthamism notwithstanding. Hailed by Nobel Prize winning economists and bestselling novelists alike (James M. Buchanan, Jerry Pournelle), The Machinery of Freedom is an essential read. 

On the superiority of capitalism provided services to State provided services: "In spite of popular myths about capitalism oppressing the poor, the poor are worse off in those things provided by government...There are more good cars in the ghetto than good schools." On the agency problem of economics: "Special interest politics is a simple game. A hundred people sit in a circle, each with his pocket full of pennies. A politician walks around the outside of the circle, taking a penny from each person. No one minds; who cares about a penny? When he as gotten all the way around the circle, the politician throws fifty cents down in front of one person, who is overjoyed at the windfall. The process is repeated, ending with a different person. After a hundred rounds, everyone is a hundred cents poorer, fifty cents richer, and happy." On making money the old fashioned way, earning it: "Greedy capitalists get money by trade. Good liberals steal it." On failures of accountability of complex systems: "A utopia that will work only if populated by saints is a perilous vision; there are not enough saints. Such a vision...we have followed; it has led us to where we now are." On higher ed: "It is time to begin the subversion of the American system of higher schooling, with the objective not destruction, but renaissance."

Chosen one of the Top Ten Best Libertarian Books: “Ten Great Books of Liberty”—The Editors, Liberty, September 2006

"David Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom, the anarcho-capitalist classic, turns 50 this year, and it's worth revisiting for both its spirit and substance. The book has a chaotic energy.... The most striking thing about The Machinery of Freedom is its cheerful, eclectic optimism. It weaves back and forth between history, politics, and speculative fiction in ways that are enlivening and energizing. Friedman was not the first to make market anarchist arguments, but in the decades that followed the book's publication, they grew in appeal as an alternative to the angry polarization gripping those who preferred to fight over state power." — Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason Magazine, November 2023  (Read the full review)

"Often thought-provoking and funny, never dull, and above all both intellectually honest and remarkably lucid.... Includes something for everyone with real intellectual curiosity.... His arguments, particularly those having to do with economic analysis of law, are interesting and provocative.... He has a touch of humor and a becoming eccentricity…. He knows how to identify a pungent historical problem, and he knows how to dramatize it." — Liam Vavasour, Liberty Magazine

"Deserves serious attention...informed by solid and sophisticated economic theory." — James M. Buchanan, Journal of Economic Literature; winner Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1986

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