Freedom, Naturally: A Review of Morris and Linda Tannehill’s, The Market for Liberty
by Joel Bowman
The Daily Reckoning
It is at times
useful to imagine how a truly laissez-faire society, one entirely
emancipated from the shackles of state coercion, might exist and
operate. Morris and Linda Tannehill examine this very idea in, The
Market for Liberty: Is Government Really Necessary?
Liberty imagines a totally free society; one with no government
intrusion whatsoever; one in which the free market is left to respond
to the demands of individuals, without recourse to institutionalized
coercion implied or actual. Is such a stateless existence
even possible, much less preferable? Or, as so many contend, is
it merely an academically contrived utopia?
Linda Tannehill address all the usual fears and protestations that
a truly non-governmental i.e. anarchist society conjures
arises in conversation the mere suggestion of a totally free, laissez-faire
market, the possibility that human beings might even be able to
survive (much less thrive) without the safety net of State control,
apologists for benevolent government invariably step
atop their soapboxes and ask:
but who will provide education for the masses, if not the public
schools? or Who will care for the sick and weak, if
not the public hospitals?
are questions that deserve thoughtful, honest answers. But these
questions assume realities that are not in evidence.
that the public (i.e., the state) actually has money
to provide these services, rather than, as is actually
the case, first having to expropriate (steal) it from private, productive
individuals. Furthermore, the fallacy of benign governmental control
relies on the idea that governments can provide essential services
more reliably and cost-effectively than the private sector.
In other words,
the governments obligation to provide essential services
is more reliable and effective than the private sectors opportunity
to provide essential services. Admittedly, this debate does not
lend itself to easy, black and white conclusions.
But as the
Tannehills argue persuasively, the free market provides solutions
that governments would never dream of. The big advantage of
any action of the free market, contend the Tannehills, is
that errors and injustices are self-correcting. Because competition
creates a need for excellence on the part of each business, a free-market
institution must correct its errors in order to survive. Government,
on the other hand, survives not by excellence, but by coercion;
so an error or flaw in a governmental institution can (and usually
will) perpetuate itself almost indefinitely, with its errors being
corrected by further errors. Private enterprise must,
therefore, always be superior to government in any field.
[It is worth
mentioning here that corporations acting in collusion with the state
are NOT private enterprises as the Tannehills define them.
They are simply entities that have co-opted the governments
gun-for-hire to do their dirty work for them. Think
Wall Street bailout recipients and their army of D.C.
lobbyists. Indeed, think any institution at all that seeks unfair
protection or promotion from the state.]
The lines on
the battlefield between the comfort of State control and the liberty
of anarchy are familiar to all. The State is a protector, one side
argues. The State is a prison guard, the other side argues.
- How, the
statist is heard to question, might common disputes find resolution
without the currently preferred monopoly of the states courts?
- What about
private monopolies that would ruthlessly jack up prices and bleed
us working class proletariats to death?
- By what
means might a laissez-faire society offer protection from foreign
- How might
the personal liberties underpinning the whole system be protected
if it were not for the tireless work of the states police
and its myriad other law enforcement agencies?
the statist continues, how would the law itself even
come into being, and in what shape would it find application,
in the absence of the all-knowing, all-powerful state?
address these anxieties thoroughly and logically. Freedom
is not only as moral as governmental slavery is immoral, they
write, it is as practical as government is impractical.
criticizing the states myriad shortcomings and follies are
many. The Tannehills Market for Liberty takes the extra
step in providing viable, concrete solutions to state-sponsored
dilemmas. The Free Market, they argue, can correct the States
tendency toward costly excesses, and can do so peacefully and voluntarily,
simply by following price signals from the market itself.
Liberty is, for all intents and purposes, a very real, practical
solution set to those most commonly presented excuses for acquiescing
to governmental authority. The government is not merely a necessary
evil, the Tannehills argue. It is necessarily evil.
Market for Liberty does not project a utopia in which acts
of violence simply disappear and where every individual immediately
sets off on a long road to perfection. Rather, the authors illustrate
how individuals acting in their own self-interest, coming together
to engage in mutually-beneficial exchanges, are thus incentivized
to act with honesty and integrity.
of governments always has been, and always will be, written in blood,
fire and tears, the Tannehills assert. In Market for Liberty,
they show how freedom is not only an alternative to the State, but
a far superior one worth, at the very least, our immediate and undivided
with permission from The Daily
Joel Bowman is managing
editor of The Daily Reckoning.
After completing his degree in media communications and journalism
in his home country of Australia, Joel moved to Baltimore to join
the Agora Financial team. His keen interest in travel and macroeconomics
first took him to New York where he regularly reported from Wall
Street, and he now writes from and lives all over the world.
© 2011 The