Machinery of Freedom

Read David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom last week, pretty good stuff.

I think Machinery of Freedom pretty neatly presents some real implementation options for a libertarian society. I especially enjoyed:

  • The calculation that the working class could buy up all the capital goods needed for the US industry by just saving for a couple of years. ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’
  • Speculation on how courts and police could be organized on the market.
  • The discussion on public goods, the difficulty of organizing national defense as something else than a public good.

I think I enjoyed the father’s ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ more – possibly since it was the first of the two I read. My big revelation from it was that by asking for tax money for something you want you are coercing others to pay for your consumption – you are always free to set up a collective to get what you want together with others without coercion.

Weak points:

I think Friedman downplays the threat of sociopaths (see Pinker’s Blank Slate) and authoritarianism (See Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians on the intertubes) to non-coercive security and law enforcement. Groups of people are well known to engage in voluntary violent discrimination: witch-hunts, racist lynchings, continuous wars in primitive societies. Additionally, in several places where he can’t find a market mechanism to solve X he falls back on ‘but most people act decently by default’ which may not be true.

A number of arguments in the book on at least some form of a market equilibrium / efficient market hypothesis. Now since reaching an equilibrium is completely impossible (the amount of time for the necessary information to propagate through actors even in a small state is longer than the remaining lifetie of the universe) such arguments are suspect. Now it could be that a) the arguments don’t really require the hypothesis or b) that they they only require a much weaker form of it – but Friedman never argues for anything like that.

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