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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5080/that-fiery-classic/

That Fiery Classic

May 23, 2006 by

Some great books are the product of a lifetime of research, reflection, and labored discipline. But other classics are written in a white heat during the moment of discovery, with prose that shines forth like the sun pouring into the window of a time when a new understanding brings in the world into focus for the first time.

The Market for Liberty
is that second type of classic, and what a treasure it is. Written by two authors—Morris and Linda Tannehill—just following a period of intense study of the writings of both Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, it has the pace, energy, and rigor you would expect from an evening’s discussion with either of these two giants.

More than that, these authors put pen to paper at precisely the right time in their intellectual development, that period rhapsodic freshness when a great truth had been revealed, and they had to share it with the world. Clearly, the authors fell in love with liberty and the free market, and wrote an engaging, book-length sonnet to these ideas.

This book is very radical in the true sense of that term: it gets to the root of the problem of government and provides a rethinking of the whole organization of society. They start at the beginning with the idea of the individual and his rights, work their way through exchange and the market, expose government as the great enemy of mankind, and then—and here is the great surprise—they offer a dramatic expansion of market logic into areas of security and defense provision.

Their discussion of this controversial topic is integrated into their libertarian theoretical apparatus. It deals with private arbitration agencies in managing with disputes and criminality, the role of insurers in providing profitable incentives for security, and private agencies in their capacity as protection services. It is for this reason that Hans Hoppe calls this book an “outstanding yet much neglected analysis of the operation of competing security producers.”The section on war and the state is particularly poignant. “The more government ‘defends’ its citizens, the more it provokes tensions and wars, as unnecessary armies wallow carelessly about in distant lands and government functionaries, from the highest to the lowest, throw their weight around in endless, provocating power grabs. The war machine established by government is dangerous to both foreigners and its own citizens, and this machine can operate indefinitely without any effective check other than the attack of a foreign nation.”

Also overlooked is the Tannehill’s challenging plan for desocialization or transition to a full free society. They argue against privatization as it is usually understood, on grounds that government is not the owner of public property and so it cannot sell it. Public property should be seized or homesteaded by the workers or by people with the strongest interest it in, and then put on the open market. If that sounds crazy or chaotic, you might change your mind after reading their case.

What’s remarkable is how this book actually predates Rothbard’s For A New Liberty. It has a huge impact when it came out in 1970, especially among the generation that was debating question of whether the state needed to provide “night watchman” functions or be eliminated all together. The authors were drawn to Rand’s ethical outlook but Rothbard’s economics and politics. But, clearly, they were surrounded by classics of all ages when they wrote. So this fiery little treatise connected with the burgeoning movement at the time, providing just the type of integration that many were seeking.

Since the 1980s, however, the book has languished in obscurity. If the authors are still around, no one seems to have heard from them, a fact which seems only to add to the mystery of this never-to-be-repeated book.

Who should read this book? It makes a bracing read for a person who has never been introduced to these ideas. No reader could be left unchanged by it. For the person who has an appreciation of free enterprise, this book completes the picture, pushing the limits of market logic as far as it can go. For those who have been drawn to the argument concerning insurance agencies in the free market, this explantion is still the most extended in print.

{ 12 comments }

Gil Guillory May 23, 2006 at 10:00 am

One of my favorite quotes, p. 37:

It has been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. But such vigilance is a constant non-productive expenditure of energy, and it is grossly unreasonable to expect men to keep expending their energy non-productively out of “unselfish idealism”. There is no area of the free market which requires the constant vigilance of the entire population to keep it from going awry. We would all be shocked and indignant if we were admonished to give such attentions to, say, the dairy industry in order to have our milk delivered unsour.

Government Employee May 23, 2006 at 11:19 am

Being a government employee myself, I like this paragraph from chapter 15:

Government employees would have to find jobs in private enterprise if they wanted to work. There are two major kinds of government employees — those whose services would be in demand in the free market (teachers, librarians, secretaries, firemen, etc.) and those who perform no useful function but simply keep the governmental machinery running (lawmakers, tax collectors, bureaucratic record keepers and paper shufflers, executives in the military-industrial complex, the President and the Vice President, etc.). The first kind would probably find only minor difficulties in adjusting to a free society. A forest ranger in Yellowstone National Park might find his job almost unchanged, as the Park was taken over by a private corporation to be run for profit. Those lawyers and judges whose minds were young and flexible enough to adjust to freedom instead of statutory law could sell their services to free enterprise arbitration agencies. On the other hand, men who had spent their lives as tax collectors for the Internal Revenue Service or as Federal narcotics agents would find no “demand” for their services and would have to change careers in order to survive — perhaps even to that of garbage collector or janitor (honorable work, for a change). In a sense, this would be a partial penalty for having been willing to make a career of ruling over others.

Stephen W. Carson May 23, 2006 at 12:37 pm

I just wanted to add my voice to how great a book this is. And from me that is really saying something since I was, as usual, turned off by the Randian stuff. But I found that once I pushed through that (mostly the first chapter as I recall) the book got into some really valuable analysis of a fully anarchistic society. The young anarchist should read this book as a companion to Power & Market by Rothbard.

Phil R May 23, 2006 at 1:35 pm

I wanted to like this book, but it disappointed me. I found The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman ultimately more pursuasive. The Market for Liberty just read like a series of unjustified assertions. By this I don’t mean that the assertions were incorrect or that they were unjustifiable, just that there didn’t seem to be much of an effort made to back them up.

Speaking as someone who used to be a liberal, and became a libertarian, this is not the book that did the trick. I suspect its primary value may be in pursuading a “deontological minarchist” that market anarchy is a more consistent worldview. Since I’ve never been one, I can’t speak to that.

closet anarchist in the military May 23, 2006 at 2:31 pm

That “eternal vigialance” metioned is the obligation of EVERY free adult to ensure their own continuity of freedom. It’s not something that can be delegated to chaps like myself. True I became aware of this reality after having chosen this career, for which there would most certainly be no demand in a free society. Yes, I’m going to have to change careers; but myself and like-minded commrades aren’t afraid of it! I AM afraid of what will happen when the not so like-minded of us realize that there is no safe 20 years and punch out retirement scheme that will sustain itself into the distant future. (Why do I always feel like a hooker in church on this site?)

averros May 23, 2006 at 5:14 pm

closet anarchist —

actually, military (well, “paramilitary”) forces have a role in a free society – as a part of commercial protection against large-scale external threats (such as remaining welfare-warfare or dictatorial states) and as a check against rogue protection agencies or criminal bands attempting to form new states.

Meanwhile, changing career now is probably a good choice – there’s little sense in placing yourself in a danger for the sake of the kleptocrats’ ambitions.

M E Hoffer May 23, 2006 at 6:52 pm

c.a.i.t.m.,

I agree that the prime charge of Liberty, Eternal Vigilence, cannot be delegated. The idea that it can be, is, to me, the idea, once accepted, that imperils Liberty, nay, mitigates Liberty, to its Death. Patrick Henry, brave, he was, left for us all the “Political Triangulation” we needed to understand: Liberty or Death.

As far as your feelings are concerned, I’ll posit it is due to: that you have, in fact, walked the mean streets that many, here, only experience, virtually, behind their keyboards. Easy, it is, that many of us console ourselves with the pragmatism of acquiesence, while doing our level best to empower the beast that is consuming the, potential, future fruited with Liberty. It would not be surprising that our easy words and faint deeds are reminiscent of many of the pews that fill, but one day a week.

closet anarchist in the military May 23, 2006 at 6:55 pm

thank you, averros :)

I agree that there may be a place for many of us.
Discovering a workable system to take on agressors using volunatry and private means of defence (as discussed in Hoppe’s last book) is probably the bigest priority on my agenda. THE MARKET FOR LIBERTY and THE MYTH OF NATIONAL DEFENSE are both great books. What I want to see are theorists, like Billy Mitchell, Liddel Hart from days of old. Only, I want to see theorists come along to deconstruct modern conventional war and formulate a theory to defeat the states that use it with private voluntary means. I find the mid 20th century Communist guerilla chieftans to be useful only to a piont. Anyone out there watch the history channel and know that it’s full of it?

Brian Gladish May 24, 2006 at 9:04 am

The author of the blog post is apparently unaware that the Tannehills were influenced directly or indirectly by Andrew J. Galambos. As evidence, they credit Skye D’Aureous, the nom de plume of Durk Pearson, in the acknowledgments. Pearson had taken Galambos’s original Course 100 and the initial presentation of F-201. Also, if they knew of Galambos, chances are that they knew of Robert LeFevre.

Chris Heath June 30, 2007 at 11:33 pm

Great read, however, the whole nature of capitalism will change greatly in the next ten years, as it is based on the idea of wealth creation at the expense of the natural resources, as they (resources)dry up the world will surely change it economic model?

rtr July 1, 2007 at 6:42 am

LMAO, “the whole *NATURE* of capitalism will change in the next ten years” …

Wrong. But then you should already be running down the street, arms flailing, screaming gibberish.

I mean, damn, if you want to be convicted for your conviction, just keep it up.

But thanks, thanks, for adding your 100% bullshit reply regarding “capitalism”. Go get hooked on phonix with yer kidz, if you still wanna, no, obviously you dont, be a gentleman and a scholar.

P.S. Please remove all “economicZ” refrenceZ to your understanding. How do you feel now, dumba$$?

Tom Rapheal July 1, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Are you kidding me rtr? Even though I agree with you in this situation, you are being extremely rude. Chris, you underestimate the ability of the market to adapt. Resources have been lost before and were replaced without catastrophe. Resources that near depletion would be stored by speculators. This new demand would push up prices and reduce use and foster opportunities for profit by finding more of the resource or finding an alternate resource. With this scenario it is difficult to see a resource running out to the point of needing to “change” (hamper) the economic system. Above all, do you see another economic system that could possibly work for humans?

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