Tag Archives: Asimov

Review: The Market For Liberty

The Market For Liberty is a book by Morris and Linda Tannehill. I found it on Podiobooks, read by Ian Freeman.

Starting from the notion that government is always a coercive force, and it can do nothing without violence and the threat of violence, the book goes through various ways that the coercion is applied, how even when government tries to be constructive it ends up being destructive, and goes on through ways the market (even when it’s not totally free) can signal the reality of things, how things could work out in a society without a government, and How We Can Get There.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I’m not sure I quite agreed with everything, and perhaps I should have paused it at certain points to I could think more: Mr Freeman kept the words coming thick and fast, there.

The quickness didn’t all seem to be down to the reading style, though. Because a wide range of subjects were covered, there wasn’t quite enough time to spend giving more than a cursory look at alternative viewpoints. They do spend some time on them, all too often to quickly dismiss them. Some of those quick dismissals seem justified, some less so. As ultimately a free market, anarchist society would be a breeding ground for competing ideas, and the best ones would theoretically do better, it seems that in places a “well ok, give it a go, see how that turns out” response might have been better. But when your publication is restricted in size, and you’re trying to spread your particular ideas, it’s probably pretty hard to not come across as heavy-handed.

I know the book was written in the ’70s, and a certain industry hadn’t become quite the monolithic parasite it is today, and that many of the problems we have with that industry are precisely because of government meddling, but still, I can’t say I was very fond of the emphasis the book places on insurance.

If you’ll forgive me a little tangent:

One thing I liked about Asimov’s Robot series of books, was that he wrote the Three Laws of Robotics, and then a lot of the stories were spent trying to break them. What if this law was modified? What if a law was accidentally broken? What if all these robots were programmed with the laws, but one of them had certain knowledge that would make the application look different? What would the long-term effects be on society?

Similarly, in Babylon 5, the creator JMS talked about creating your characters, writing them up into a tree, and then throwing rocks at them. It’s the same sort of concept: create the world, and then try to break it.

By the end of this book, it really seemed to me that we need to see some good strong stories coming out of the voluntaryist/libertarian/anarchist communities.

I mean, this book did give sketches galore about what this could look like, how that could work, and so on. That’s well and fine, it just doesn’t have the scope within it of really putting it under a microscope, trying to break it and see what happens. We need to start seeing fleshed-out fictional societies working in this model, to help us figure out a clearer way to get there, and envision what problems there might be along the way. The Market For Liberty said spreading the idea of liberty among everyone was a good way to help them desire it. I don’t disagree, but I think that fiction is going to have the edge in this regard.

1, fiction is less threatening, less didactic and more exploratory. 2, fiction doesn’t demand immediate action when the reader isn’t ready for it. A lot of people comfortable in the status quo.

Having said this, regularly listening to The Survival Podcast might just do it for ya, even though it’s not fiction. Jack sometimes manages to get quite a bit of mileage out of “what if?” questions on this topic. I like his concept, “you can be as socialist as you like, just don’t make me participate.”