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The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism Paperback – August 19, 1989

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court; 2nd edition (August 19, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812690699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812690699
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #906,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an academic economist currently employed as a law professor, although I have never taken a course for credit in either field. My specialty, insofar as I have one, is the economic analysis of law, the subject of my book _Law's Order_.

In recent years I have created and taught two new law school seminars at Santa Clara University. One was on legal issues of the 21st century, discussing revolutions that might occur as a result of technological change over the next few decades. Interested readers can find its contents in the manuscript of _Future Imperfect_, linked to my web page. Topics included encryption, genetic engineering, surveillance, and many others. The other seminar, which I am currently teaching, is on legal systems very different from ours. Its topics included the legal systems of modern gypsies, Imperial China, Ancient Athens, the Cheyenne Indians, ... . My web page has a link to the seminar web page.

I have been involved in recreational medievalism, via the Society for Creative Anachronism, for over thirty years. My interests there include cooking from medieval cookbooks, making medieval jewelery, telling medieval stories around a campfire creating a believable medieval islamic persona and fighting with sword and shield.

My involvement with libertarianism goes back even further. Among other things I have written on the possibility of replacing government with private institutions to enforce rights and settle disputes, a project sometimes labelled "anarcho-capitalism" and explored in my first book, _The Machinery of Freedom_, published in 1972 and still in print.

My most recent writing project is my first novel, _Harald_. Most of my interests feed into it in one way or another, but it is intended as a story, not a tract on political philosophy, law or economics. It is not exactly a fantasy, since there is no magic, nor quite a historical novel, since the history and geography are invented. The technology and social institutions are based on medieval and classical examples, with one notable exception.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Kari Sullivan on December 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
While I am more of a rights based anarchist, I can appreciate utilitarian arguments against government. No one does a better job at presenting a utilitarian case for anarchism than David Friedman does in this masterpiece. Not only is Machinery of Freedom intellectually acute and persuasive, it is also a humorous and easy read for the lay person interested in libertarian thought.
This book touches quite a bit on the issues that most libertarian anarchists find difficult to deal with, such as national defense and polycentric law. A good critique of government education is also offered as well as a two part section on monopolies. As a seasoned libertarian, I most enjoyed the postscript, which focuses on more advanced topics like private currency, law and econ, and anarchist politics.
In sum, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in anarcho-capitalism, from those new to political philosophy to well versed freedom fighters.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Ananda Gupta on June 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
Once in a while, one reads a truly extraordinary book. The Machinery of Freedom qualifies for a variety of reasons: its intellectual rigor and honesty, and its fearlessness in asking tough questions.
Friedman's distrust of intellectual orthodoxy and his distaste for complacency come through everywhere, as he systematically sketches out his ideas about the society he thinks would leave the vast majority of the world's inhabitants better off. Not infinitely better off -- there are no utopian dreams here -- but materially and spiritually better off.
Central to Friedman's thought is the notion that governments are finite, constrained institutions like any others -- hardly the infallible entities for which we simply design outcomes. Whenever someone says 'There's a case for government intervention here,' the implicit assumption is that the intervention will be done flawlessly and properly. That's not always, or even often, the case -- intervention has to be viewed as a tradeoff. If it makes little sense to assume that there are perfect markets, then it makes even less sense to assume that there are perfect governments. Friedman makes a convincing case that we should rarely, if ever, expect government to produce better outcomes than the market does, simply because of the different incentives those two processes present individuals.
I am not entirely persuaded by Friedman's argument, but I would be hard-pressed to give a good reason therefor. That means I am not thinking clearly, which is hardly Friedman's fault. At the risk of sounding redundant, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 1997
Format: Paperback
So what would happen if we threw an election and nobody came? That is the central theme of David Friedman's book The Machinery of Freedom." While it not hard to find libertarians shooting the wounded by attacking easy targets like the post office or the sugar quota, it is rare to find someone who advocates dismantling all government functions. It is even rarer to find someone who does it coherently. Friedman is both of these things.

Friedman presents a utilitarian case for anarchy, or as he refers to it, "anarcho-capitalism." Anarcho-capitalism is essentially a society that not only respects property rights, but has no government. If the two seem to be mutually exclusive, you have not read the book. Friedman slaughters the fallacy that since certain government services (police, fire department, etc) are essential, they must be provided by the government. As a teacher of mine once put it "he throws a monkey wrench into the sacred cow."

After reading the Machinery of Freedom, you will wonder why you didn't think like this all along.

Steve Frenc
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By John Hall on May 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Friedman has an uncommon ability to illustrate complex topics in Economics, Law, and Liberty. Yet while he skewers the collectivists, he also points out that some Libertarian positions are overly simplistic. His book helps you think, even when you have reservations about a few of his positions.
The book has 4 parts. Part 1 is devoted to defending Human Rights in property. Part 2 is devoted to ideas for reducing the influence of goverment. The chapter "Buckshot for a Socialist Friend" is precious. Part 3 is an exploration of how a society might exist without a state, along with an admission that this might not always be possible. Finally, Part 4 is addressed to Libertarians in general.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Gochenour on May 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Machinery of Freedom has been called the Bible for anarcho-capitlism and radical libertarianism (among other things, some not as flattering) but it isn't the definitive work. What it is, however, is a really great book that outlines many of the popular utilitarian/efficiency arguments for anarchy and puts it in a way accessible to everyone. David Friedman is probably the greatest living "father" of anarcho-capitalism, and this book is the main treatise available to a wide audience. The book bleeds logic and doesn't pull any punches - it is matter-of-fact and does what it purports to do: shows, briefly, how "public goods" could be privately provided and that Statism, especially welfare statism, is grossly inefficient.
David Friedman, a physicist by training, is the son of Nobel laureate and Chicago economist Milton Friedman. Don't let his natural science background turn you away - David Friedman understands economics very well. Maybe it was destiny. His writing style is good, and his insights are some of the best, as a whole, in the history of anarchist thought. This book is a great introduction to anarchy as well, but don't expect too much hand holding - the book is fast paced.
Friedman, while a "radical capitalist," does not go on tangents about the "revolution" or bringing down the system. The book is a scientific and philosophical inquiry, and as such is well thought out, well constructed, and well presented. The chapter on Iceland is well-researched, even if seemingly out of place. Overall, Friedman is a real thinker capable of presenting his major ideas concisely and in a readable fashion. Most educated readers will find it accessible, and I believe you will find it interesting if not completely eye-opening.
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