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Thoughts on David Friedman

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Tbonesw Posted: Thu, Mar 20 2008 3:25 PM

I am currently enrolled in a class where the required reading is a book called Law's Order by David Friedman. Upon researching Dr. Friedman I discovered that he is an anarcho-capitalist but not in the Murray Rothbard sense. His theory is based upon the belief that anarcho-capitalism would be a more efficient system from a cost-benefit analysis rather than the idea of natural rights. Does anyone have any thoughts on the similarities/differences between Friedman's/Rothbard's approaches? Are his views compatible with the Chicago School? How can it be if they believe in government control of the money supply? I now plan on reading his book The Machinery of Freedom but I would like to get a little background first.

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JAlanKatz replied on Thu, Mar 20 2008 4:20 PM

Where do you go to school?

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MacFall replied on Thu, Mar 20 2008 6:30 PM

JAlanKatz:

Where do you go to school?

 

Ya rly. What school teaches David Friedman?! 

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bapho replied on Thu, Mar 20 2008 10:11 PM

I bet San Jose State, the Law and Econ used Friedman's Book 

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banned replied on Thu, Mar 20 2008 10:31 PM

bapho:

I bet San Jose State, the Law and Econ used Friedman's Book 

 

 If that's true, I swear I'm going to enroll there. I live like 20 miles away.

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Tbonesw replied on Fri, Mar 21 2008 3:58 AM

I attend UC Riverside. Law's Order is the required text and it is a pro-market book. However, my instructor seems to completely ignore Dr. Friedman's conclusions entirely, and I find myself having to give pro-state answers on the tests even though I competely dissagree with what I write. I don't want to give you the impression that the econ teachers at this place are Libertarians or Austrians.  

 PS

 The class I am taking is also a law and economics class. Friedman seems to be esteemed in the field. 

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jtucker replied on Fri, Mar 21 2008 6:06 AM

There's a ton of stuff on mises.org on this  

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He teaches at Santa Clara University.

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Tbonesw:

I am currently enrolled in a class where the required reading is a book called Law's Order by David Friedman. Upon researching Dr. Friedman I discovered that he is an anarcho-capitalist but not in the Murray Rothbard sense. His theory is based upon the belief that anarcho-capitalism would be a more efficient system from a cost-benefit analysis rather than the idea of natural rights. Does anyone have any thoughts on the similarities/differences between Friedman's/Rothbard's approaches? Are his views compatible with the Chicago School? How can it be if they believe in government control of the money supply? I now plan on reading his book The Machinery of Freedom but I would like to get a little background first.

David Friedman is a Chicago School economist, but as he has said, don't confuse methodology with policy conclusions.  He's an anarchist and certainly doesn't believe in government controlled money, but he also does not subscribe to Austrian methodology in economics.  He came to anarchy differently than Rothbard.

Also, if you're interested in the differences between Rothbard and Friedman, Rothbard wrote a short article on it, and Friedman has responded.  Basically, Rothbard said that throughout his own writings, you could detect a pervasive, gut-level hatred for the state, and no such hatred was evident in Friedman, who, as you said, came to anarchism through a cost benefit analysis.  Friedman believes that the state is mostly a colossal, but understandable mistake (given human nature), and that anarchy would produce the most attractive possible society.  Friedman, for his part, conceded that he did not hate the state in the sense that Rothbard meant, and he thought a crucial difference between them was that (in his eyes) Rothbard was a man who was more concerned about being on the right side of the debate than about having correct arguments.  Thus he may use dishonest arguments to reach a conclusion he wanted.

A big theoretical difference in their respective visions of anarchy is that Friedman believes law would be created on the market, for profit, and that you may occasionally have less than libertarian outcomes, although rarely.  Rothbard believed that a basic libertarian code must be set down first, and then a successful anarchist society could follow.  It's also worth noting that the two men did not like each other.

I think the name of Rothbard's article was something like, "Do You Hate the State," but I'm not sure.

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Chriscal12:
Friedman, for his part, conceded that he did not hate the state in the sense that Rothbard meant, and he thought a crucial difference between them was that (in his eyes) Rothbard was a man who was more concerned about being on the right side of the debate than about having correct arguments.  Thus he may use dishonest arguments to reach a conclusion he wanted.
This is interesting. It is not like his utilitarianism is not pulled out of his ass.
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 As his name might suggest, he is the son of Milton Friedman. He is an Atheist as well.

 "The plans differ; the planners are all alike"

-Bastiat

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I read his blog from time to time.  It's pretty slow sometimes (like recently), but sometimes he writes some pretty inciteful stuff.

 

http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/

There are some samples here from Machinery of Freedom:

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Machinery_of_Freedom/MofF_Contents.html

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Tbonesw:
His theory is based upon the belief that anarcho-capitalism would be a more efficient system from a cost-benefit analysis rather than the idea of natural rights.

I've debated extensively with him "face to face" online, many years ago when Usenet was all the rage.   He takes the solid utilitarian premise that anarchy precludes any social or political order being pre-determined, that anarchy by it's nature will allow whatever orders emerge from it.  Therefore, he is explicitly amoral in his economic and political theories, believing that what would emerge would be generally libertarian and peaceful even though it would not and can not be an explicit goal of "the system". The basic reasoning for that is that aggression and conflict are expensive, and without the massive imbalance of power the state provides, would not generate enough resources to justify the cost, and so markets would seek ways to minimize conflict and reduce the cost of settling what conficts do arise. 

Philosophically, he rejects any notion of ought-from-is, and this informs his utilitarian approach.  He is very conversant in objectivism, and sympathetic to it, but does not consider himself to "follow" it or any other normative school of thought.  He is libertarian, but only because he prefers it, in the economic sense of "prefer".

I don't believe he is strictly Chicago school economically, as it implies a level of state intervention that he rejects.  When I used to debate with him, I wasn't then aware of Austrian theory, so I can't speak very confidently to his tendencies there, but I don't recall him bringing up anything that I would now recognize as such.  I know he never brought up subjective value theory, at least not explicitly, because I clearly remember first hearing about it at a later date.

As to comparisons with Rothbard, Friedman comes at it much more from rightist sensibilities.  His focus is on the institutional apparatus that would arise in a free market, such as PDA's and courts, positing a complex heirarchy of them that would in many ways resemble the enforcement, adjudication, and even legislative functions of a state, with the exception that participation and funding is voluntary and not geographically divided.

He's just about the most unfailingly polite and on-message person I've ever debated with online, to the point of causing me much frustration at times. A very nice guy, but never reluctant to overwhelm an argument with his own premises and conclusions.  They aren't quite wrong, but the amorality is like a brick wall to anyone arguing from a normative point of view. Nonetheless, he was quite challenging, and I learned a hell of a lot, even though I continue to disagree with some of his ideas. 

For a glimpse of him in action heavily outnumbered but holding his own, do a Google Groups search on "prudent predator" and dig into some of the threads, particularly the 1990's ones on the objectivist groups.

 

 

 

The state won't go away once enough people want the state to go away, the state will effectively disappear once enough people no longer care that much whether it stays or goes. We don't need a revolution, we need millions of them.

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MacFall:

What school teaches David Friedman?!

That got me curious, so I googled for [Law's Order, Friedman, syllabus]

My book appears to have been used as a text at some point in recent years at:

University of Georgia. University of Virginia, George Mason University, Santa Clara University, University of Pittsburgh, San Jose State University, Keio University (I think in Japan), Campbell College and London Metropolitan University. It was used at Northwestern before it was published, from the webbed draft with my permission. I expect there are other schools that I didn't find with the search.

The book continues to sell. Judging at least by current figures on Amazon, I outsell both Cooter and Ulen and Posner by large margins. That may be partly because my book is aimed both at the textbook market and at the intelligent layman who wants to learn things himself. Also, I'm available in paperback and Posner, I gather, isn't.

 

 

 

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Ha!

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wombatron replied on Tue, Jun 10 2008 3:20 PM

 Welcome to the forum.  One of the nice things about a classier forum like this one, is that the experts actually post on it Big Smile

Market anarchist, Linux geek, aspiring Perl hacker, and student of the neo-Aristotelians, the classical individualist anarchists, and the Austrian school.

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Brainpolice:

Ha!


Seconded; that gave my brain it's daily surrealist tickle.

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MacFall replied on Tue, Jun 10 2008 7:17 PM

Woah, that was sort of awesome

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 Friedman was pretty much the only economist who was discussed at my law school.  Other economists would come up now and then, but only in terms of evidence, not theory.  I didn't take any courses where we used his text, but we definitely read excerpts or articles and had lectures on some of his work.

Edit:  Actually, we talked about Posner too, probably more.  Don't know how I could have forgotten that.

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Grant replied on Tue, Jun 10 2008 10:46 PM

Chriscal12:
A big theoretical difference in their respective visions of anarchy is that Friedman believes law would be created on the market, for profit, and that you may occasionally have less than libertarian outcomes, although rarely.  Rothbard believed that a basic libertarian code must be set down first, and then a successful anarchist society could follow.  It's also worth noting that the two men did not like each other.
Reading his blog, he always seemed like more of a public choicer (though I admit I have no idea if accepting public choice theory is popular in the "Chicago School").

Chriscal12:
David Friedman is a Chicago School economist, but as he has said, don't confuse methodology with policy conclusions.  He's an anarchist and certainly doesn't believe in government controlled money, but he also does not subscribe to Austrian methodology in economics.  He came to anarchy differently than Rothbard.
I side with David on this one. Even if one accepts natural rights ethics, the illigetimacy or moral bankruptcy of states isn't going to make them go away. Popular normative beliefs are the result of positive phenomena, not the other way around. In my opinion, people will adopt libertarian ethics when it is clear that it is in their self-interest to do so - in a similar manner to how the vast majority of people are libertarian in their personal associations.

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I have the book Anarchy and the Law (edited by Stringham) which has an excerpt from Friedman's book. It is indeed an excellent excerpt, so the book is probably good as a whole too. Friedman does take the argument from a utilitarian perspective, but so does Rothbard, to an extent. Rothbard often shows how a libertarian society would leave everyone better off and then he includes why it would be morally superior from his natural rights POV.

Also, I have no clue why you mentioned the Chicago School. David Friedman is an Austrian just like Rothbard. I think you might have mixed him up with Milton Friedman, who was the famous monetarist and leader of the Chicago School in the 20th century who brought semi-libertarian economics to the forefront.

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Hold your horses - an Austrian!? I think he works within the neoclassical framework. He might have some affinities with Austrianism, but none that I've noticed really, aside from support for anarchism. Anyway, his book is great. I prefer Rothbard's FANL and Hoppe's DTGTF, but his book is also a great primer, and is good for converting the "average Joe" type.

-Jon

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Jon Irenicus:

Hold your horses - an Austrian!? I think he works within the neoclassical framework. He might have some affinities with Austrianism, but none that I've noticed really, aside from support for anarchism. Anyway, his book is great. I prefer Rothbard's FANL and Hoppe's DTGTF, but his book is also a great primer, and is good for converting the "average Joe" type.

 

My bad. I assumed he was an Austrian. Not many neoclassical economists support anarcho-capitalism, you know? lol

 

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I think he, Ed Stringham and Bryan Caplan do - but other than that, you're right.

-Jon

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Fephisto replied on Mon, Jun 16 2008 10:21 AM

I remember reading Friedman's Machinery of Freedom (it was in my library.  Sorry, I like to do things on the cheap :p).

 

I tend to think of it as Rothbard took things in a Kantian-esque rights-based approach, while Friedman took the Utilitarianistic approach.

 

I.e., libertarianism have all the major ethical theories covered!  Now, when do the Ancaps take over?

 

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