Some David Friedman quotes


January 8, 2012 by galudwig

Although, as someone who’s more in the “austrian” tradition, I don’t quite agree with David Friedman‘s economic methodology, I do share most of his conclusions about government and liberty, and I really liked his book Machinery of Freedom. I found most of the more typical arguments in favor of anarcho-capitalism to be explained better (from my point of view at least) by the likes of Rothbard, HoppeMurphy, Block and many others. But Machinery of Freedom holds a special place in my heart for the literary panache it employs in its defense of radical freedom. Friedman definitely has a way with words, and his use of poetry and parables, literary forms not commonly associated with economic thought, has most likely swayed many younger people to delve further into the cause of liberty (and Friedman offers an extensive and very interesting reading list at the end of his book to put the reader on the right track for further broadening of the mind).

Here are just a few quotes from his book which I personally found well worth remembering.

On libertarianism:

The central idea of libertarianism is that people should be permitted to run their own lives as they wish. We totally reject the idea that people must be forcibly protected from themselves.

On the “ask not..”-speech, a topic his eminent father famously wrote on as well:

‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask rather what you can do for your country.” Ask not, in other words, how you can pursue what you believe is good, but how you can pursue what the government tells you is good.


Ask not what the government can do for you. Ask what the government is doing to you.

On socialism:

‘Socialism’ has become a word with positive connotations and no content.

On improving socialism:

By the time a democratic socialist has modified socialism sufficiently to make its political control mechanisms as accurate and sensitive as the economic control mechanisms of capitalism, he has reinvented capitalism.

On special-interest politics:

Special interest politics is a simple game.

A hundred people sit in a circle, each with his pocket full of pennies. A politician walks around the outside of the circle, taking a penny from each person. No one minds; who cares about a penny? When he has gotten all the way around the circle, the politician throws fifty cents down in front of one person, who is overjoyed at the unexpected windfall. The process is repeated, ending with a different person.

After a hundred rounds everyone is a hundred cents poorer, fifty cents richer, and happy.

On planning:

In Washington there isn’t any plan

With “feeding David” on page sixty-four;

It must be accidental that the milk man

Leaves a bottle at my door.

It must be accidental that the butcher

Has carcasses arriving at his shop

The very place where, when I need some meat, I accidentally stop.

My life is chaos turned miraculous; I speak a word and people understand

Although it must be gibberish since words

Are not produced by governmental plan.

Now law and order, on the other hand

The state provides us for the public good;

That’s why there’s instant justice on demand

And safety in every neighborhood.


The book is chock-full of great, juicy quotes like this, so it is well-worth purchasing!


2 thoughts on “Some David Friedman quotes

  1. […] explicitly crediting David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom (which I just did a short post on recently) in his preface, and I haven’t yet reached what I assume will be the more […]

  2. […] anarcho-capitalist/market-anarchist theory and would rather point to the likes of Murray Rothbard, David Friedman, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Bob Murphy and many others for that. But, again, this is not what the author […]

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