90 second book review: The Market for Liberty

I finished reading The Market for Liberty, by Morris and Linda Tannehill a few days ago on my Kindle (available as a free epub and PDF at the previous link).  This was another one of the suggestions I took away from a conversation or session at Porcfest.  Overall it was a quick and easy read and I do recommend it, even if you have read some of the other, deeper liberty focused literature, at least one specific chapter (that I will get to later).  I especially recommend it if you haven’t read any Rothbard, Mises or Hoppe.  They are all great, but I have to admit the length of their books and the language they use can be a little intimidating.  The Tannehill’s do a great job of getting the ideas out on the table in a little more consumable fashion.
The book is less than 200 pages and is divided into three sections.  The first makes the case for a market based society, the second is a reason / logic based exploration of how a market based society would deal with different scenarios, from protection of life and property to rectification and justice, and the third talks about how to transition to such a society.
I was already familiar with many of the concepts presented in The Market for Liberty, mostly from my prior reading of Rothbard’s For a New Liberty (free download here), but there is one chapter that is worth reading even if you’ve already read everything else on mises.org except for this.  In Chapter 12 they lay waste to the argument that legislative law (law of men) is necessary to maintain social order.  Read the whole chapter, but here’s a money quote:

It is true that objective laws governing the nature of human relationships are necessary for the maintenance of societal order, but to conclude from this that statutory laws formulated by some legislative body are necessary for societal order is to be guilty of a non sequitur.  In order to understand the nature of this non sequitur, it is necessary to examine two kinds of law – statutory law and natural law.
A natural law is a causal attribute which governs an entity’s actions, which attribute is inherent in that entity’s specific nature (the adjective “natural” means “of or pertaining to the nature of” – to what a thing is in reality).  Since it is inherent in the nature of the entity to which it relates, natural law is always objective.  It cannot help being reality-centered, because it is inherently inseparable from the nature of the real thing.  This means that it’s practical – it must always “work”, because it relates to things as they really are (it could hardly relate to things as they really aren’t).  Natural law can’t be repealed, nor does it have any loopholes.  A man who “breaks” natural law does so at his own peril.  Immediately or eventually it will break him.

The rest of the chapter is a deconstruction of why everything that natural law is, statutory law is not and vice versa.  I especially liked the section that defames the idea that statutory law is simply an attempt to clarify natural law.  If you take this chapter and combine it with Hasnas, you’d have a good basis for some interesting conversations with your friendly, neighborhood politicians.






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