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The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,150 ratings  ·  84 reviews
This book argues the case for a society organized by private property, individual rights, and voluntary co-operation, with little or no government. David Friedman's standpoint, known as 'anarcho-capitalism', has attracted a growing following as a desirable social ideal since the first edition of The Machinery of Freedom appeared in 1971. This new edition is thoroughly revi ...more
Paperback, 2nd, 288 pages
Published February 3rd 2000 by Open Court (first published 1973)
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Sep 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was disappointing. Instead of crafting a convincing argument, it seemed like Friedman was writing to an audience of believers. He often spends no more than three pages on a complex topic, like how national security would work without a centralized state, then satisfied that he has made his case, moves on to something much more inane.

There were some interesting ideas about the morality of government and the practical aspects of anarcho-capitalism, but they were too intertwined with half
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me as the best case for anarchocapitalism... if this is true, then I did not find the strongest arguments for anarchocapitalism (or libertarian anarchy) compelling enough. It is an interesting case that Friedman makes, when he states that socialism would only work if it was populated by saints, and anarchy would only fail if its filled with demons.

Ostensibly, the argument is that for imperfect beings, anarchocapitalism is the best arrangement. The costs of violence or im
Patrick Peterson
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Updated 16 April 2018) Excellent book. Anyone who wants an understanding of how individuals interact and solve problems freely, without government should read this book. David Friedman does a marvelous job of explaining how property rights is the key to a just and prosperous society and how government mucks up just about everything it gets power over. You will be amazed at how logical and practical totally free markets are.

I recently (3-18-12) re-read about 2/3 of the book about 25-30 years afte
UPDATE: David Friedman himself responded to this review in the comments. I am a firm believer in hearing both sides before passing a verdict, so: Please read his feedback. It is succinct enough that I don't think I have to summarize it.

The Machinery of Freedom differs from the anarchocapitalist mainstream, as established by Murray Rothbard, in two aspects: Economically, David Friedman stands in the tradition of the Chicago School, not the Austrian School; ethically, he is a utilitarian, and does
Jan 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: different-view
The worst book I have ever read. This book is a series of statements that are designed solely for the converted and not supported by facts (there are no sources in the book). Friedman does not argue his case, he simply states it in a ridiculously over-simplified and unrealistic manner. It does not acknowledge possible criticism but rather defeats strawmen. It draws a false dichotomy by implying that you are either a libertarian or a communist. The only theory he criticises is Marxism, as though ...more
Jun 07, 2008 rated it liked it
It was a little too extreme in parts for my taste, and I found myself saying, hey, that would never work in parts, but hey, you gotta appreciate the spirit, haha. Definitely worth a read in the spirit of thinking out of the box a bit.
Dimitrios Mistriotis
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Old but pure gold. Thanks David Friedman
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very well-thought out, provocative read. I would recommend this for anyone, though chiefly Friedman seeks to convince the non-libertarian. He identifies himself alternately as classical Liberal, Goldwater conservative, libertarian, and/or anarcho-capitalist. Overall, he makes penetrating arguments using principally a pragmatic focus on outcomes. He does delve into moral philosophy at points, though he seems to exhibit some skepticism of morality generally (his description of himself as a Catho ...more
Pedro Jorge
(Note: the review was edited after having gone through the initial chapters once again, re-reading my underlinings. I'd say this in fact deserves like... 4,2 instead of 3,8. Additionally, I believe my copy is of the first edition of the book, so I guess it doesn't yet include Friedman's famous discussion of the Icelandic law system)

The book gets more interesting and nuanced towards the end, when the author starts dealing with the actual difficulties of implementing an anarchist society (although
Run Reason
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
“There is no way to give a politician power that can be used only to do good.” – p17

This guide to anarcho-capitalism turned out to be less definitive than I had hoped. The book is filled with truths derived from libertarian thought and pro-capitalist economics though with regard to a few issues, most noteably the core issue of property rights, the defense is not so much a proof as it is a best-case scenario. For example, how private property rights over natural resources (ie. land) are initiall
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good book. Maybe I was too familiar with Rothbard when I gave his book only 3 stars. In any case, there were a few downsides to this book, but somewhat negligible. To be ironic, the benefits exceeded the costs in reading this book. The pros: Friedman takes a refreshing approach instead of the hard-headed Austrian natural rights approach, he covers many different topics, much of it might appeal to somebody who is not buying the natural rights approach. The cons: Friedman speaks ...more
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fun reading in the "selling a stateless society" genre. Like a utilitarian version of Rothbard's "For a New Liberty" He starts off with pretty mainstream libertarian stuff but as the book goes on he pushes it into stateless society territory awwwwww yeah. His best stuff is on polycentric legal firms/security firms/courts/etc.

He also isn't "vulgar" at all, in the sense that he doesn't often apologize for existing "capitalist" institutions, nor is he distracted by capitalist socialist word games.

Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quotes:

"The direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is
commonly employed only by small children and great nations."

David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism, Third Edition


"Since the function of politics is to reduce the diversity of individual ends to a set of 'common ends' (the ends of the majority, the dictator, the party in power, or whatever person or group is in effective co
Max Martin
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book, thought provoking on every page.

The text is mostly free of straw-men. Friedman himself raises and attempts to answer the arguments against each of his points. He also points out where he feels there can be no definitive argument (in the case of morality for example) in which case he is just discussing his own personal preference.

Instead of starting from natural-rights arguments like some libertarians, Friedman looks at the removal of government from a more utilitarian point of
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is an excellent book on freedom (both from a libertarian and an anarcho-capitalist perspective).

Interesting how the book has 4 editions, and each just added to the last. There were sections where in the 1970s or 1980s Friedman outlined how anonymous digital currency could work, but said it didn't exist -- with an update later describing what had been built and how it enabled his earlier predictions. This was true for many topics throughout the book -- Friedman is remarkably good at predicti
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economic-liberty
This book is a sizable collection of essays and articles by first published over forty years ago. There have been additions and updates with each reprinting so it offers and interesting perspective that illuminates a lot of libertarian thought from the era of Jimmy Carter up to the first term of Barrack Obama.

This broad range of perspective is probably most visible in Part II. These are essays from forty years ago and while many are dated some are amazingly prescient. Both show a deep level of t
Lars Yencken
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating walk through libertarian ideals and anarcho-capitalism. It doesn’t address many modern critiques, such as the fact that humans are not idealized economic actors, and problems like climate change that require massive scale coordination. An interesting thought experiment.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Classic of Ancap Philosophy! Love the length of chapters and anecdotes of his storytelling
Alex Zakharov
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
The main body of the book itself is predictably well-executed but will probably leave most libertarians nodding their heads and everybody else scratching theirs – in 160 pages Friedman discusses all the classic ways in which private property and absence of coercion can lead to a well-functioning society that requires little state (Part II) or no state (Part III). Part II is perfectly reasonable and almost practical, part III is a theoretical pipe dream, logically consistent but almost surely imp ...more
Aris Catsambas
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
The only reason this gets two stars instead of one is that it does provoke some thought into alternatives to government. However, the book is a poor "guide to radical capitalism".

First, the book is very badly structured - it reads like a very loose collection of essays (and, inexplicably, poems) that do not form a consistent narrative. At times, they stray way off topic, as is the case of the chapter reviewing Ayn Rand's philosophy, for example.

Second, and more damningly, what the author does ti
Martin Pozor
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is great for introduction to libertarian (or anarcho-capitalism) ideas to someone not familiar with them but also for “already convinced” libertarians or anyone who only roughly knows what it means, but otherwise cannot imagine living in society without a government.

Friedman does not write from ideological (moral) perspective, his approach is highly practical. Being economist he rather focuses on efficiency of how mechanics of society work now and how they would work in market driven w
Dave Maddock
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, politics
I'm a big fan of David Friedman. His flavor of libertarianism is very close to mine (in contrast to Misesian or Randian approaches). In this book he lays out his argument for anarcho-capitalism while commenting on a wide range of issues--which brings me to my primary criticism. Now in its third edition, the book is a bit like an onion with newer layers tacked on to older ones. That's not necessarily a problem, but it does give the book a piecemeal feel in places. I particularly enjoyed the origi ...more
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Friedman uses a utilitarian approach to libertarian ideas in this book.

Already being familiar with those I really enjoyed the second half of the book where he writes specifically to libertarians. The arguments he makes for making a utilitarian approach to spread libertarian principles rather than a moral approach to libertarianism is interesting. He talks about how both have their weaknesses. I've heard of anarchist Iceland, it was nice to read about a brief history of that period.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A large collection of short chapters that discuss various topics on libertarianism, anarchism, or radical capitalism. I read the third edition, updated 20 and then 40 years after the original publication. Great bibliography; really want to read Friedman's not yet published book on governments through history. ...more
Logan Albright
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Fantastic exploration of the possibilities of a stateless society. Friedman is more concerned with consequences and less concerned with moral principles than I am, but he definitely made me reexamine some of my deeply help views, and that's what you want out of any good book. ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
Hated this book. The guy is a total nutcase. Truly bizarre view of libertarianism.
Michael  Morrison
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Simply one of the best introductions to the principles of individual freedom ever written.
I cannot recommend this excellent book highly enough or often enough.
John Backus
One of the most thought provoking books I've read in a while. Convinced me to change some pretty core beliefs. ...more
Mar 22, 2021 rated it liked it
This book is courageous. It argues for more capitalism and more individual, to the point of suppression of all public structures. Friedman calls it anarcho-capitalism. Instead of public institutions, he advises the invisible hand of the market will solve most of the issues. This is "redistribution is theft" at its extreme.

Friedman's hearth is in the right place : he really believes it will lead to a raise in our quality of life. Some say free-market wonks do not care about the poor people. This
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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, dis

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