Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Discovery of Freedom

Our responsibility to enhance freedom everywhere

This is an extract from the current version of the manuscript of my next book, The Discovery of Freedom (on which I seek your comments).  Also closely related to this post is my work at World 2.0.


It is not only India that I write for. I am determined to participate in the global destruction of the last vestiges of socialism, fascism, and religious absolutism. I am a liberal. I am a human that believes we must all be free. I am not built to be a mere spectator who can silently watch the creative potential of millions of people across the world being reduced to ashes. Many ‘rulers’ of collectivist societies don’t hesitate to use fearsome force against their fellow citizens and confiscate their property in their quest for delusional aims like equality, social justice, or religious salvation. I battle all such misguided people – through persuasion, through teaching freedom. Hence this book has many purposes. Most importantly, I ask that you too, if persuaded at the end of this book, consider becoming a liberal: a fighter for liberty.

We all have this responsibility to give battle to intolerant and erroneous ideas. It wasn’t too long ago that a handful of misguide people – Hitler and Mussolini along with the Japanese leadership – joined hands through the Tripartite Pact of 1940 to hold the world to ransom. In that moment of extreme madness, human life became cheap, almost expendable. If for nothing else but to ensure that such madmen never feel emboldened to raise their heads again, and to ensure that if they ever do so, that humanity unites quickly to destroy them comprehensively, we have the obligation to teach our children about the arduous, tortuous, and often blood-stained history of freedom. 

No one is free to harm others. Freedom is only about the liberty to impact the world for the good. Note, though, that this can't be taken to be an authorisation to restrict liberty, as Rousseau did. We can’t coercively demand the expression only of good behaviour.  Principles of accountability will allow gaps, if any, in our behaviour, to be addressed. 

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When Europe switched off the light of Islamic tolerance

I’ve just finished reading half of Rose Wilder Lane’s book, Discovery of Freedom, that I wrote about a few days ago. The book belied the high expectations I had of it, at least at the beginning. It started slowly, even erratically, and while otherwise well-written, was repetitive and uninspiring.

However, from somewhere in the middle, it has perked up and is, in patches, actually quite good. 

Below an excellent section that describes what happened when free and tolerant Islamic Spain was torn down by fanatic Christians. Note how Spain suffered, and how deeply and quickly it was destroyed. This passage is a salutary lesson for India. I’ve snipped out unnecessary words/sentences from this extract to keep it short and crisp.

The decline of Spain after the violent destruction of tolerant Islam

The Moriscos were … driven from their homes and herded to the seacoast. Starving, dying of thirst, and robbed, beaten, murdered along the way, few of them lived to reach the African deserts. Not one was left alive in Spain.

All Spanish intellectuals burst into one great song of joy and hope. Now Spain was clean. Now every Spaniard was wholly obedient to Church and King. Alone of all European countries, Spain was now one united mass of loyal men, believing and acting as one being. Every thinker and poet in Spain celebrated in book and song this glorious event, this blessed time, the dawn of Spain’s Golden Age.

It was the end of Spain.

The loss of a million Moriscos was not so important. But hardly one was left who knew that men are free.

The Moriscos, with their secret thoughts, were gone.

And human energy in Spain simply ceased to work.

Great stretches of the Morisco’s fertile land, depopulated then, have never again been plowed. When Spaniards were hungry, they flocked to the cities, to The Church, to the King, who should feed them. As if fishermen should come to the cities, for fish.

Thirty years after the last knowledge of freedom was gone from Spain, the Government could not get even a dribble of taxes from provinces that once had filled the Royal treasury to overflowing, and outfitted in addition all the ships and thousands of men who sailed to the New World. In Seville, where two thousand looms had been working, barely three hundred moved. The whole civilized world had been buying Spanish gloves; now Spain produced no gloves.

Travelers report that monasteries were enlarging and multiplying everywhere; property was flowing to The Church; hordes of priests thronged the streets; villages were dwindling, fields poorly cultivated, the people were hungry. Protestant writers say that The Church was devouring Spain.

Madrid’s population declined from half a million to 200,000. In the middle of Spain’s second century, the 200,000 were starving, and the Governor of Castille with armed troops and executioners was scouring the countryside and seizing food from the peasants, to feed Madrid. Why did he not buy it? He could collect no more taxes.

Tax collectors were tearing down houses and selling the materials for anything they could get, to apply on the owner’s taxes. In some towns they demolished more than two-thirds of the houses. And where would they get taxes next year?

Villages were completely deserted. Villagers wandered in bands, looking for food. They died along the roadsides, all over Spain. The King slashed official salaries, even of the highest nobles, even of the Royal household; and slashed them again, two-thirds; and could not pay them. Unpaid soldiers left the frontiers unguarded and ravaged the country, for food.

For almost eight hundred years, human energy in Spain had produced such an abundance of food, comforts and luxuries as the world had never before imagined. After Granada fell, human energy continued to operate in Spain and through Spain upon the New World and Europe, for two more generations. The third generation no longer knew that men are free, and energy weakened in Spain. The fifth generation could no longer support the Government, and their children died of starvation.

In 1699, the British Minister to the Spanish Court could not buy bread in Madrid. Like everyone else, he had to ask the Government for bread. The Corregidor gave him an order for bread, and he was obliged to send men conspicuously armed with “long guns” two leagues from the city to get the bread and bring it back, for only armed men could protect bread in the streets of the capital of Spain.

Twenty thousand starving peasants came into Madrid that day, from the country where the plows were rotting in the weedy fields.

From that time, foreigners ruled the Spanish people. Spain’s Prime Ministers were French, Italian, Austrian; Irish soldiers propped up the Spanish monarchy. The ambassadors of Spain were not Spaniards.

When the French were losing the war that Americans know as the French and Indian wars, France slipped Louisiana to Spain—in order not to lose it at the peace conference. And the Lord High Admiral of Spain, who sailed into Lake Pontchartrain to take possession of this continent west of the Mississippi for the Spanish Crown—and who quelled rebellious New Orleans by hanging nineteen leading men from his yard-arm—was Admiral O’Reilly from Ireland.

Spain had practically ceased to exist.

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Last call for comments on The Discovery of Freedom

For over two years now, since mid-2008, I've shared with everyone who is connected to  the internet the draft manuscript of The Discovery of Freedom (DOF), a book I've been working on since February 2005.

DOF is a sister book to Breaking Free of Nehru (BFN). It is addressed to the entire world, including India. It discusses the theory of freedom and the broad history of the institutions of freedom.

I've now completed what is perhaps the sixth or seventh revision of the manuscript. As with BFN where  I invited public comment on its draft, I've sought comments on DOF from the thin air (namely, internet!) over the past two years, and have been delighted with the quality of feedback I've so far received.
With this revision, I'm now into the final stretch of this marathon journey. I'm particularly keen at this stage to receive comments on content that you disagree with or anything you think I've misrepresented or is inaccurate. I'm happy to fine-tune my arguments and even change them where appropriate.
While typos still litter this draft, please don't be daunted by them. They'll be fixed in subsequent revisions. You may, however, point out such typos to me as well.
Please download the PDF version from here and send me your comments at sabhlok AT yahoo DOT com. Since each revision takes me around 4-6 months of (part-time) work, I look forward to your comments by, say, end-2010.
(Please forward the URL of this post to your friends, or spread the word on Facebook. The more the people who spend time to read this draft, the better the quality of the final product).
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Another book, The Discovery of Freedom!

I was reading Jim Powell's book, "The Triumph of Liberty" yesterday and found that Rose Wilder Lane had written a book in 1943 by the same name as the one I'm currently writing (The Discovery of Freedom).

Apparently 1000 copies were printed, and sold out. Despite the few copies sold she became extremely influential in the American libertarian movement. She was not happy with her book and wouldn't permit a reprint. 

Fortunately, it looks like the copyrights on the book may have expired. I've found the PDF version of Wilder Lane's book (on The Fund for American Studies website under The International Institute for Political and Economic Studies) and uploaded it at: It is 10 MB so be patient.

I've also quickly converted to Word (since it is more useful for marking/editing while reading), and uploaded at: This version is only 760KB, so it is easy to download. Be careful since some of the words didn't transcribe properly from PDF to Word.

Based largely on Jim Powell's recommendations at the moment, I commend this book to you. Over the next few days/weeks I'll read it word by word, and provide a separate book review.

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