The Discovery of Freedom

Mankind has always struggled to become more than what it has been in the past. Socially evolving from gross barbarism towards principled virtue requires a recognition that individual freedom actually works. Discovering the magnitude of our species’ collective potential reinforces when Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said that, “Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order.”



The author begins this work by arguing that everything revolves around human energy, and that tyrants always try to harness such energy coercively so as to benefit from it unfairly. Once that energy has been transformed into other forms, then it can be utilized in concrete ways. It because of this that it was possible for human civilization to flourish.

For this human energy (really, labor) to manifest itself fully, it is necessary for people to truly understand that all men are free. Many times Lane rails against what she calls “Authority” (not to be confused with the Lunar Authority from Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress novel), yet she claims that free men somehow need government, otherwise they would not be free from having to carry guns on themselves around all day. Interestingly enough, this is what is precisely depicted in Smith’s The Probability Broach novel as an incredibly desirable aspect of absolute liberty. Related to this are her contradictory statements about anarchy and government. On one hand she says:


“In nearly every American community there are men who lived in this country, somewhere between the Mississippi and the Pacific coast, with no Government whatever. They lived in anarchy, and every man carried a gun.”


She attempts to explain this away by claiming that this was more of a nuisance than a danger, and thus government was convened out of the natural evolution regarding the provisioning of collective security services; but if that is true, how do you explain these other claims of hers:


“Everyone knows that anarchy is the natural relationship of human beings, and that it works perfectly well. Father and mother and their grown children got along all right with uncles and aunts and cousins, and no policemen. If they quarreled, they settled the quarrel themselves. Even executions were not formal; a majority acted directly and killed the criminal with stones. Having no Government, the Israelites used their energy in production, cultivating and harvesting crops, caring for flocks and making clothes and shelters.”

“The Saracens evidently got along very well for nearly a thousand years with no law. They modified, in many ways, the pure anarchy of freedom.”

“Naturally; for republicanism was anarchy, there was no social order, no Authority.”


As you can no doubt tell, it is inconclusive whether Lane was advocating minarchy or anarchy, since she seemed to be repeatedly inconsistent on this matter, especially when you consider that she also bitched and moaned about the onerous regulations imposed upon her car by the French bureaucracy when she was in Europe. Always decrying Authority throughout the book, she remained indecisive about whether government was a necessary evil, or simply an optional one.

Rose Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom: Man’s Struggle Against Authority is an historical insight as to how the contemporary libertarian culture began. Written in 1943 during the Second World War, Lane attempted to explain statism as well as the value of liberty. Is it a history book filled with a philosophical narrative, or a philosophical treatise laced with historical factoids? Either way, chances are that this work won’t be assigned reading in government school anytime soon. Unfortunately, I would have to agree with them, since it seems much more like a polemic rather than an actual history of “progress” towards liberty.

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