The Market for Liberty

Linda & Morris Tannehill

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Introduction to this Edition

Douglas Casey

Ideas are the force which shape history and, more importantly, the lives of the individuals who make it happen.  Books are the main transmitters of ideas.  Morris and Linda Tannehill’s The Market for Liberty has shaped my thinking, and someday I hope it will do the same for history.

In my two investment/economic books, Crisis Investing and Strategic Investing, I said the Tannehills’ book was “one of the two most important books I have ever read.”  Perhaps I should take advantage of the present opportunity to restate my sentiments: The Market for Liberty was the second most important in time, but the most important in significance.

I well remember the evening when I read the first important book, Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness.  I was 21 at the time, and had been serious about ideas and philosophy for some years, but was having a little trouble putting it all together.  I liked some things liberals said, and some others conservatives said, but I didn’t like either group.  After reading only the first page of Rand’s book, I was thunderstruck, and had to put the small volume down momentarily:  It became clear to me that someone had been there before, recognized the same problems, and thought them out logically.

Rand’s book gave me a moral and philosophical foundation upon which to build, and, at the very least, saved me a lot of time it would have taken to figure things out for myself.  It’s so nice when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  But the Tannehills’ book helped me to build an elegant structure on that foundation, and that’s where one lives.  They acknowledge an intellectual debt to Rand, but, in my opinion, they have performed an even greater service to the intellectual marketplace than she has.  The relationship is analogous to the contributions of Einstein and of Newton in the field of physics.

The Market for Liberty is, on the face of it, about politics, but it is really much more.  In order to have a political view, it’s necessary to have a view on economics, on philosophy, and on the nature of man himself.  That, of course, is why 99.99 percent of all books on politics aren’t worth reading; they amount to little more than a regurgitation of the author’s half-digested opinions.  That’s also why this book is so sound in its reasoning, and stunning in the scope of its implications.  What Rand’s books did for philosophy, what Mises’s did for economics, this book does for politics—and more.

In the past all political writing (with a few, somewhat checkered exceptions, such as Bakunin, Kropotkin, Berkman, Goldman, Spooner, and Menchen, and, more recently, Murray Rothbard, Harry Browne, John Pugsley, and Karl Hess), has dealt with government as a noble and ennobling, if somewhat flawed, institution that should be nurtured and cherished.  Morris and Linda Tannehill point their fingers at government per se as the problem.  They demonstrate that it is the institution itself, not just a few bad men who occasionally take its reins, or a few mistaken laws which alter its direction, which needs to be done away with.  The Market for Liberty explains that government is not what keeps human beings from reverting to the jungle, as most think, but is rather what keeps them from advancing to the stars.

The word “anarchy” is never used in this book, as far as I can recall.  I suppose the authors chose not to employ it for much the same reason another great thinker, Robert LeFevre, doesn’t: it scares people.  In the commonly held view, anarchists are violent, unstable characters dressed in black capes, skulking about carrying little round bombs with lit fuses.  The word carries a lot of emotional baggage in people’s minds, and unleashes supposed atavistic fears when it appears.  Paradoxically, anarchy is perhaps the gentlest of social systems; it is a political manifestation of the ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy, wherein everything flows unrestricted, to its own level, at its own pace.  “Anarchy” is equated with “chaos” and “danger,” while “government” is equated with “order” and “peace,” when exactly the opposite is true.

It’s been said that it isn’t so much what people know that creates problems, but, rather, what they think they know that just isn’t so.  And that’s certainly the case with words in the intrinsically Orwellian world of politics.

Anarchy means only the absence of government.  And since government, as Mao Zedong, lately one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, once said, “comes out of the barrel of a gun,” that’s not a bad start.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word in this introduction; by doing so, I may have raised your defenses implanted by the system, and thus frustrated the Tannehills’ intent.  But, ideas speak for themselves, and semantics are better used to clarify than to obscure their meaning.

If you are interested in ideas or, indeed, in life itself, this book has the potential to more than just shock you.  It has the power to change the way you view the world, to change your ideas, and then, perhaps, to change the world itself.  I believe The Market for Liberty will do so.

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