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The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority 3rd Edition

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0930073008
ISBN-10: 0930073002
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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

"There's a book you should read," Ruth Dazey, my secretary, said one day.

Preoccupied, I nodded. Pencil and pad at hand I said, "Title and author, please."

"Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane."

I scribbled the information. "Fine. Thanks."

It took awhile to locate a copy. Discovery of Freedom wasn't available in book stores, but a worn volume was finally found in a used book emporium and the purchase was made. I took the book home with me and began to read it that very evening.

I was captivated, enthralled, caught up in the grandeur of the concepts which marched one after another across the pages.

Here is an epic depicting the story of humanity. It provided a backdrop and spotlighted performances by its stars. It is philosophy and history at the same time. But it is a record of human history, not a story of generals or politicians, preening and strutting before the masses. It is about the people who build the bridges, cut down the trees, plant the crops, sail the seas, who mine and manufacture, who have children and who suffer and survive and somehow manage to make life possible and even pleasant.

It is a story which contains wry humor, satire, and much wisdom. And there is a thread of wisdom which can shake a person to the roots. I couldn't put the book down. I absorbed everything in it. Or, perhaps more accurately, the book absorbed me. It is one of the great books of the twentieth century.


The impact of Discovery creeps up on you. It begins with sentiments that seem simple and even self-evident. But as you proceed, you find yourself simply understanding so much about the world we live in that you should have known, but didn't. That is the power of the novelist at work: Lane makes you see the truth, and comprehend it, too.--Roy A. Childs, Jr. in Laissez Faire Review -- Roy A. Childs, Jr. in Laissez Faire Review

[This is] a work that is so powerful it may well have launched the modern freedom movement. Originally published in 1943, Discovery had the impact of a lightening bolt, setting intellectual fires that burn brighter than ever among the modern intellectuals who are leading the growing assault on government control of our lives.

This is a book of timeless importance. It must be read by anyone who is seriously interested in the heritage of liberty--not just in America, but the world over. And reading it is a joy. Lane, who is said to have written the book 'at white heat,' was at once a brilliant thinker and a gifted storyteller.

This book is a withering attack on statism, nationalism, and what Nobel Laureate F. A. Hayek calls the 'fatal conceit' of national economic planning. It is an intellectual tour de force that stood up to the collectivist paradigm of its time and pointed the way to rediscovering the principles of the American Revolution--a true revolution unlike those of the Old World that 'are revolutions only in the sense that a wheel's turning is a revolution.' Her exciting description of the revolutionary period (you can tell she wishes she'd been there to lend a hand to Paine, Mason, Jefferson and the gang) is the best of a brilliant book.

Rose Wilder Lane was a truly remarkable woman. Like Jefferson, she attacked life, living it to the fullest, as adventurer, journalist, world traveller, iconoclast, and just prior to her death, war corespondent in Vietnam. Not surprisingly, the clear-eyed determination and supercharged energy she brings to attacking the enemies of liberty in Discovery is unique among prominent proliberty writers. -- Ed Crane, president, Cato Institute


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Fox & Wilkes; 3rd edition (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930073002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930073008
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on April 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
This philosophical history of freedom is not flawless but provides extraordinary insights as it traces the stages in the discovery of individual liberty from the earliest times. The work reveals salient discernment, uncovers forgotten history and shows unintended prescience. Explaining how the human mind works with standards of value, Lane identifies three crucial factors: the nature of human energy, the recognition of the human race as one & the quest for the ideal method for individuals to combine their energies.

Part One (The Old World) contains discussions of antiquity when life was viewed as cyclical and authority was absolute; Plato's dictatorship of the intellectuals & Spengler's theory of the rise & fall of civilizations; Communism, including the early collectivist experiments in the American colonies, and planned economies. The author points out that many revolutions just represent the turning of a wheel around a motionless center; a new gang replaces the old but individual freedom never materializes. Enormous waste occurs when authority is enforced in the production & distribution of material goods.

Part Two (The Old World) explores the steps that led to a free society in the USA. First there was Abraham who embraced the concept that God created human beings as free agents. Later there was Moses, the Ten Commandments and Israel under the Judges which was a libertarian society. Lane emphasizes the significance of Samuel's warning to the Israelites when they demanded a king. Her
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is not only the clearest, most concise book of the worth, and means of achieving, individual freedom, but it reads like a well written novel. Insights from her travels; whether having dinner with the King of Albania, or visiting the centuries old cave dwellings in the same country or dealing with the mindless red tape in Paris, Ms Lane sifts through the socialist failures past and present in a thorough, yet entertaining fashion. Anyone with even a passing interest in the philosophy of freedom will benefit from this book. And libertarian book addicts will also learn something from the Timeliness of this 50 year old book, re-published this year.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
History does not lie (unless liberals re-write it), and Lane uses it most effectivly to illuminate the folly and fraud of the perceived need for government interference in the affairs of economics and the lives of citizens. The book opens with an eloquent statement of the human condition that is a rudimentary prerequisite to any discussion of political philosophy, but commonly ignored. Lane then proceedes to expose one governmental failure after another, in chronological order, plagued by monarchy, collectivism, religion and the peoples own ingrained belief that they must be governed.

This book will make you thirsty for more history!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been recommending this book for years. I keep several extras on my shelf to give away.
And, by the way...I'm a professional author, and I'm 'frugal'.
Enough said.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David M. Zuniga on July 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I was recently challenged by an anarchist Facebook friend to read The Discovery of Freedom, so I found a free PDF edition. Having read it, I will now buy the Kindle edition. Having taken me about four hours to read and highlight, it is a magnificent little work, though stilted -- even naïve -- in a few areas.

First, the author's almost comical representation of WWII, which was raging at the time, is propaganda of the first order. She was apparently (and understandably, of course) ignorant of the economic and geopolitical motives behind the U.S. entry into that conflagration.

Second, Lane's fatuous description of "the Saracens" ironically employs an Occidentalist epithet to conflate many tribes of more or less Mohammedan bent into a cohesive whole. Someone should have told all of those societies and tribal groups that they were actually 'Saracens', you see! Lane represents these 'Saracens' as having been the light of the world for 800 years; the saviors of learning from the ham-fisted bufoonery of the West. Of course, Persian and Arabic scholars revolutionized many areas of learning. But the author whitewashes the Mohammedan biography and extrapolates 'Saracen' reality into a fatuous metanarrative that even Bernard Lewis would not attempt for the Western cause.

Third, the author's description of 'Christian' marauding adopts the common misrepresentation that the Roman Catholic empire -- 'Christendom', it called itself -- was Christianity. The truth is that actual followers of Christ have always been peacemakers who stand foursquare against plunder in Jesus' name.

Those three lacunae aside, this Libertarian cult classic is an excellent read, especially for those who feel attracted to the principles of anarchy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Edward Tsai on April 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I stumbled across this book in an Amazon review and I am so glad I did. More than any other book I have read, this one tells the story of the United States of America in the context of the story of human freedom throughout the ages, and makes one appreciate how rare and unique this gift we have inherited (and often take for granted). Rose Wilder Lane is uncompromising, but also inspiring. God is part of the equation of freedom, and freedom is part of the natural order that allows human energy its full expression. Authority, in the form of governmental control, is what stifles human energy and has unceasingly stymied human progress. While written during World War II, I think her observations are just as accurate, and her warnings now more than ever need to be heard. Her recounting of history is unconventional, but seems accurate to me (I've read enough history to be a fair judge). Everyone, especially every American, should read this book to understand the unique and special legacy we've inherited and should strive to preserve. If you can't get a hold of a copy, it is also available via the author's biography on Wikipedia.
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