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The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism
The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism
by David D. Friedman
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from $14.96

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sprout by Which My Present Views Flourished!, February 22, 2013
This book is one of a trio of books that appeared during the 70's that made the case for a Libertarian society with the complete absence of government. The other two are For a New Liberty and The Market for Liberty.

The former takes what one might call a "natural rights" approach to the subject and the latter comes from an Objectivist standpoint.

"The Machinery of Freedom" on the other hand takes a cost/benefit approach to the issues, and I think that makes it the best choice as a first read along with making it the best of the three.

If I devoted any space in this review to describe just how much this book has changed my worldview and entire life as a result, I highly doubt this review would ever get done.

So instead of raving on about how massive a game changer this book is, I'll get straight to the point.

"The Machinery of Freedom" is the work of Milton Friedman's son which argues that everything the government presently does (including police, courts, and possibly national defense) could be done privately through free market means. In simple terms these services could operate on a decentralized (multiple providers) profit and loss basis (instead of through compulsory taxation).

Although numerous terms exist for this type of economic arrangement, "Anarcho-Capitalism" is the term used in the book to refer to it.

What made this book so fascinating to me was it's emphasis on taking a cost/benefit approach to the question of whether or not such a system is desirable. Sure the State is out of the picture and thus cannot violate anyone's rights, but does the resulting alternative actually work?

This is what "The Machinery of Freedom" sets out to do. In this second edition, the book is divided into four parts.

Part one is a series of chapters that defend the concept of private ownership. You could look at it as being a defense of free market systems . The two chapters on economic monopoly are extremely fascinating. When I first read them I was only just becoming familiar with understanding why natural monopolies are less likely to occur in the absence of government interference.

Part two deals with specific reforms that could happen tomorrow that would bring us closer to an Anarcho-Capitalist society. School vouchers and decentralized governments are some examples. Friedman also tackles some additional challenges that have been made against free markets and also gives some additional ideas for how they might handle certain situations.

For instance, he suggests that if workers want total control over a given company, they could combine some of their wealth and buy it from the people presently in charge. A lot more is discussed in these chapters - roads, dealing with pollution, etc. - but the really distinct content begins in part three.

Part three is where the subject of anarchy finally comes up. Friedman begins by explaining what separates government and anarchy, then he explains how the market would provide law. The second chapter in this part (Police, Courts, and Laws - on the Market) contains some of the most thought-provoking material on the subject of law without government I have ever come across. If you think private protection agencies are likely to go to war with each other, this chapter might change that.

The next chapter (The Stability Problem) also gives further weight to the idea that private protection is likely to be far less life-threatening than the current government system of police protection we have now. Other things like national defense, or what means are most realistic in attaining an Anarcho-Capitalist system are also covered here.

Part four is a new part to the second edition. Here Friedman explores some challenges that could be raised towards any Libertarian ideology, and explains why the (then) new field of economic analysis of law is an excellent tool for answering a number of challenges. Friedman also covers Medieval Iceland as an example of a series of private arrangements between people to produce law.

His chapter on foreign policy has his usual "nothing is perfect but the best available choice is..." kind of nuanced attitude toward the subject and seemed to have inspiration from what was going on during the cold war at the time the book was published. The following chapter on private currency gave some food for thought; in large part because he explores far more alternatives besides simply going back to a gold standard.

It sure is difficult to cover every reason this book is so significant and why you should either buy or download it (yes, he doesn't believe in copyright and Open Court is cool with that).

I will say that if you already consider yourself at minimum a Libertarian-leaning person, this book has the potential to push your ideology even further than you ever thought possible! That turned out to be an understatement for me, but if you take the time to read the book the outcome will speak for itself.

Direct Citizen Action: How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot
Direct Citizen Action: How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot
by James Ostrowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.75
35 used & new from $0.79

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Thing Since Samuel Konkin's Manifesto, July 21, 2010
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If you look at most books proposing a "strategy" for the liberty movement, they tend to be very lacking in the specifics. Oh sure, there is talk about what policy platform ought to be followed, but getting there is left to one's own imagination.

Direct Citizen Action is not one of those books. Not only does Ostrowski give a good common sense platform to pursue, he gives an excellent set of tactics on how to achieve it. Instead of trying to get certain politicians elected, Ostrowski argues for what he calls "Direct Citizen Action," which some readers will find similar to the agorist tactics described by Samuel Edward Konkin III in New Libertarian Manifesto

Direct Citizen Action basically consists of influencing government power without having to use governmental avenues to do so. In that sense, what this book advocates is far more potent that traditional voting, because the tactics described produced immediate results unlike contributing a ballot to a pool of millions of others, which to be effective would require changing the minds of other people. In short, this is the primary advantage of Ostrowski's ideas. Instead of direct political participation, which entails that you get other people to agree with you (like that will ever happen amongst the Chomskyites and Michael Moore idolizers of today), you can help create a freer society by becoming self-sufficient and minimizing your contacts with government. Very rarely should we resort to voting or campaigning, unless the candidate in question is as well-rounded as Ron Paul.

The book is divided into three main parts:

First, it looks at what our present status is and where we ought to be. Ostrowski begins this part by highlighting the most significant shortcomings of our nation today in the context of governmental threats to liberty. He then explains what we ought to achieve in it's place. Here Ostrowski is far less radical than the agorists he otherwise seems to be similar to. If he is, then he certainly doesn't make it public in this book, and nor should he if he wants to draw attention to a feasibly accessible platform. From there he explains why traditional political methods of affecting the government's role in our lives are far from perfect, and that Direct Citizen Action is far more potent.

In the Second part, he explains some key points and tactics relevant to DCA. This includes everything from moving to less politically intrusive states to boycotting businesses who bankroll statist politicians. These are excellent tactics in my opinion, and they are a great add-on to any counter-economist as well as mainstream tea-partier. All in all, they are different ways of reducing the role and influence of government in your here and now. Over time they can lead to the system shrinking altogether.

Part Three is sure to raise a few eyebrows. It is intended to inform the reader on what they need to do in order to prepare themselves for what might potentially happen as more people take the actions of part two into practice. This includes forming a militia if necessary. I thought this was crazy at first, but then again what Ostrowski advocates here really isn't all that different from what might happen in the latter stages of agorist revolution. I definitely think he's onto something.

Along with the conclusion, the book also has some excellent bonuses which include an appendix detailing five key lessons everyone should know about economics, and a list of books and resources to further educate yourself for educating others.

I will say it clearly: If you are part of the self-described "tea-party movement," the Ron Paul Revolution, or are deep into Libertarian thinking in general, then you owe it to yourself to buy this book. Get multiple copies and give them as gifts, recommend it to others who happen to be interested in freedom-oriented writings. Most of all, don't forget to put this book's suggestions into practice yourself!

FEB 2013 UPDATE: I would definitely recommend buying at least five of these at a time and giving them away to anyone that wants less government intrusion than we have now. This is definitely accessible to a wide audience of people and the more individuals there are that put these things into action over time the better.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2012 4:41 PM PDT

New Libertarian Manifesto
New Libertarian Manifesto
by Samuel Edward III Konkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.48
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary Reading for All Radical Libertarians, July 21, 2010
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For years, this book has remained an entirely relevant guide to pushing the state into irrelevance. Though he is now deceased, Samuel Edward Konkin (SEK3) has forever made his mark within the minds of radicals who feel all functions of government should either be privately provided or done away with altogether.

The central idea this book illuminates that distinguishes it from typical anarcho-capitalist writings is what SEK3 has dubbed "Agorism." This is both an ideology as well as a tactical plan for how to do away with the state. There are two main pillars that the book highlights as being part of agoric thinking. First, it is an adaptation of Robert LeFevre's concept of agoric institutions. This is basically a preference over individual contractors as opposed to large corporations. The book rightfully describes big corporations not as flowing from a free market, but instead as creatures of the state.

This preference for individual contractors makes perfect sense; if a business performs a service poorly because of the mistakes of a single employee, should the business be held accountable or should the client have the choice of selecting a different employee for the task? Obviously the latter is ideal since large businesses are simply "voluntary" versions of collectivist enterprise.

Simply put: Corporations don't screw up, individuals do. The New Libertarian Manifesto also gives an brief but excellent account for how an agoric society would operate in practice. SEK3 describes how market-based actors could provide safety and security, and his account for how the role of insurance would play in the process was truly an eye-opener for me.

Pages 28 through 30 contain a swift account for how agorism would deal with crime, and I would highly recommend that readers lay out the process such a system would deal crime in a step by step fashion to really grasp the beauty and ingenuity of what Konkin is advocating. His description of restoration (in the form of restitution, time preference, and apprehension) is a must-know for all those who call themselves anarcho-capitalists, market anarchists, agorists, etc.

Secondly, agorism has a very potent way of eradicating the state far better than parliamentary political activity. Think about it, can you recall a single election when voting reduced the size of government? While I think this book overstates the case against voting by condemning it as "evil," it does demonstrate that agorism is far more powerful in downsizing government. In a nutshell, it consists of minimizing governmental contacts by keeping all economic activity in the black (or gray) markets. Here the government is hopeless in taxing what you produce, and eventually if the private sector becomes powerful enough, the state will no longer have any power over you. The full details of how this would play out are outlined both in this book and in another book that he died before completing called An Agorist Primer

Included in this edition are critiques of the manifesto by a few other Libertarians, but each coming from slightly different influences. The one I agreed with the most would be the one presented by Murray N. Rothbard. While I would side more with Konkin's response, Rothbard did bring up some pretty good points about how there are some limitations to what agorism can do, that "voting" in and of itself isn't "evil," and that there isn't anything wrong with Charles Koch deciding to donate large sums of money to Libertarian organizations. But Rothbard unfortunately seems to really miss the power of the arguments SEK3 presents for agorism.

In short, the New Libertarian Manifesto is undoubtedly an excellent take on how we go from statism to liberty. Those who like this book may also like James Ostrowski's recent book, Direct Citizen Action: How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot

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