The Machinery of Freedom

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The Machinery of Freedom is a 1973 nonfiction book by libertarian economist David D. Friedman outlining the means by which a stateless society could operate. It is one of the most influential books in anarcho-capitalist literature.[citation needed] The Institute of Public Affairs included it in a list of the "Top 20 books you must read before you die."[1]

The book calls for the abolition or privatization of all government functions, details suggestions for many specific instances of privatization, explores the consequences of libertarian thought, examples of libertarian society (such as the Icelandic Commonwealth), and offers the author's personal statement about why he became a libertarian. Topics addressed in the book include the privatization of law (both legislation and enforcement), and the knotty problem of providing for public goods (such as national defense) in a purely libertarian society. Friedman's approach and conclusions are anarcho-capitalist.

While some libertarians and anarcho-capitalists offer deontological views and argue in terms of natural rights, Friedman argues from utilitarianism that the consequences of anarcho-capitalism will be beneficial to the vast majority, including the poor. Friedman's strategy for moving from the current status quo to anarcho-capitalism is pragmatic in spirit, advocating incremental change. For example, he favors the introduction of education vouchers as a prelude to privatization of the school system, and the decentralization of the police as a similar first step toward privatized defense.

Friedman's Law

Friedman says that anything done by government costs at least twice as much as a privately provided equivalent. He illustrated this idea with several examples, the US Post Office being an especially well-known case. Friedman's Law is hotly debated; empirical research is still inconclusive.[citation needed]


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