Monday, January 27, 2014

More Chapters for the Third Edition of _Machinery_

I have just webbed two more drafts of chapters for the third edition, along with the appendix, which benefited from suggestions made in comments to an earlier post. More comments are welcome. In particular:

Have I left anything out of the appendix that should be there? For the most part I do not include books I have not read, with a few exceptions.

In the second edition, I included addresses for magazines and organizations. This time I replaced them with URL's. Is there any good reason to have both?

A few items in the appendix are shown crossed out, magazines or organizations that I think, but am not certain, no longer exist. Let me know if I am wrong.

Don't bother to tell me that I am inconsistent about the punctuation for article titles, sometimes using single quotes and sometimes double quotes. The previous edition used single quotes, double quotes seem more natural to me, I changed a few then stopped on the theory that my publisher will tell me their style preferences.

Are there any topics I should cover in the new chapters and don't? They should probably be topics I have written on in the past, here or elsewhere. There are a great many other subjects worth discussing, but this is a book, not a library.


At 5:05 PM, January 27, 2014, Blogger jdgalt said...

If you're going to mention the Institute for Justice, I'd also toss in the Pacific Legal Foundation (

At 8:23 PM, January 27, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking at your appendix, I want to note that your title, "My Competition," is not actually accurate if you are going to list your own novels.

I'm surprised to see you not listing some of Vinge's more recent work, and especially A Deepness in the Sky, which I not only think is his single best work of fiction, but find compelling for its portrayal of resistance to a singularly nasty form of totalitarianism. Vinge's idea of the peculiar catastrophes that highly advanced societies can fall into is thought-provoking too.

At 9:50 PM, January 27, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

I didn't finish A Deepness in the Sky, stopping when it got too unpleasant for my taste. When I told Vinge that, his response was that he could write more unpleasant than he could read.

Perhaps I'll try again sometime when I am in a very cheerful mood.

At 11:00 PM, January 27, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simple curiosity: Why does your daughter think that you nagging her to learn the multiplication tables was a mistake?

At 11:14 PM, January 27, 2014, Blogger NeedleFactory said...

Your appendix lists a book as "Income Support". I recommend you use the complete title: "Income Support: conceptual and policy issues" as there are at least five other books whose titles begin "Income Support".

At 11:25 PM, January 27, 2014, Blogger NeedleFactory said...

In the appendix: the link for the "interesting essay by Nozick attempting to explain the anti-capitalist bias of modern intellectuals" is broken.

At 11:31 PM, January 27, 2014, Anonymous Rebecca Friedman said...

Because I've never used them and, over by now considerably more than a decade of never using them, have near-completely forgotten them. Learning how to multiply quickly in my head (which I learned from various computer games/non-computer games/mental exercises) was useful; memorizing a given table of answers which doesn't include half the stuff I'm looking for these days (no fractions, no numbers higher than ten) was not.

At 1:14 AM, January 28, 2014, Blogger Claudio said...

This is a great book. As a non-US reader, what I most missed in the last edition was a more non-US features. I mean, the book is great, but there are so few examples from around the world.

I recognize the comparative advantage of the author in talking about US politics, instead of my country (Brazil), for example.

Anyway, my 2 cents (actually, 1 cent):

how about some comments about international experiences (e.g.: charter city in Honduras).

Thank you for the great book.

Claudio Shikida

At 4:01 AM, January 28, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One rather embarrassing correction I must make- in your chapter on unschooling you say "From one point of view they were learning a useless skill, since neither Pokemons nor the world they live in are real", but the plural of 'pokemon' is the same as the singular, like deer and fish.

Needless to say, I did not learn this vitally important information in school.

At 12:27 PM, January 28, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...


I learned that fact yesterday--in an email from my daughter. Only she put it as:

"Pokemon is an invariable noun. It does not transform for a plural."

At 4:49 PM, January 28, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

I'm wondering why you used the subtitle "libertarian approach to children" for the unschooling chapter. While unschooling may as well be attractive to a lot of libertarians, I don't think there is anything specifically libertarian about it. I understand it if it is an effort to tailor it more into the book which mostly covers different topics of which almost all are related to libertarian ideas.

I think unschooling is a great idea and can work very well, but I think it is also quite difficult, especially if done at home. It requires the parents to have a lot of dedication and also a variety of different interests they can show to the children. Perhaps those can be substituted with well written books.

What a lot of people told me about schools like Sudbury or unschooling in general is that they thought it maybe a good way to go if you have a smart child who you want to prepare for some liberal-arts college, but not for the "hard sciences" or some "working class" jobs. I think that suggestion is based on the idea shared by some people that maths or physics or engineering are things that people do because they can be useful and not because they actually like to do them. But maybe there is something to it. Do you think that the unschooled children are on average more or less likely to grow interest in maths or natural sciences than the schooled children? I would also like to know Rebecca's thoughts on that (since she was actually unschooled). Thank you.

And by the way, I would have also written it as Pokemons :)

At 5:43 PM, January 28, 2014, Anonymous Rebecca Friedman said...


That's because you never played the games/watched the show/anything else associated with it, I suspect. Five minutes of exposure would likely have given you the correct grammar, no problems. It's not as if English doesn't have all sorts of nouns that behave like that!

And of course unschooling is libertarian... it's based on a belief that children should have liberty, too. That forcing children to do things they don't want to for no good reason is not appropriate, any more than it is when you do it to adults. Children are just generally too young to fight back the way adults can. ... OK, the last bit is my view, not Dad's. Still. Unschooling allows for significantly more freedom than normal schooling; how is it not libertarian?

As for your actual question directed to me... I don't know. I think unschooled children are less likely to form an aversion to math and sciences, because they aren't being forced to study them (and, quite possibly, poorly taught into the bargain). Whether they're more or less likely to grow interested... I'd say it likely depends immensely on the parents' interests, the kids' interests, what they're exposed to, etc. For example, Bill did a lot of probability theory because of D&D. I did some, but less. I'm afraid I don't have anywhere near a large enough sample size to give you a more meaningful answer though... sorry!

Do you know if we have statistics on that? One should be able to get them, just look at majors of college applicants sorted by unschooled or not (presuming they keep that data), but I don't know where to look for it.

At 5:53 PM, January 28, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...


A central element of libertarianism is the idea of each individual controlling his own life, making his own decisions. Unschooling applies that approach to children. Hence the title.

I don't see any reason why unschooled children would be less likely to end up in the hard sciences. In my experience, math is something that people who like it do for fun and not something for which the classroom approach is particularly suited. I learned algebra at home before entering fifth grade, advanced algebra a few years later, and read a good deal of The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior for fun.

Part of the problem with the classroom approach to math is that most students are not very good at it, with the result that those who are spend a lot of classroom time being told things they already know.

At 5:55 PM, January 28, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't think unschooling is well enough established for schools to keep statistics on it, although home schooling may by now be.

At 5:59 PM, January 28, 2014, Anonymous Bill Friedman said...

I'd suspect that unschooling is likely to have less of an aversion, but I don't actually know. I do have an aversion to math and mathematically-based science, which comes, I believe, from studying for the SATs - which I did because it was the only way to get into a good school, not because I liked it at all, and which still sticks with me. (Though I don't include probability theory in this, because it is interesting.)

I also agree with my sister about the multiplication tables. I was pressured into learning them, almost never use them, and carry around a highly advanced calculator in my pocket (a phone) in case I ever do run into a situation in which I need to multiply.

At 6:04 PM, January 28, 2014, Anonymous Rebecca Friedman said...


I studied for the same SATs, and I found Astrology and Astrophysics - which was a math-based science course - quite fun in part because of the math. I liked stretching, and I liked doing math with a purpose behind it. I loved my basic Statistics course for similar reasons (although a lot of it was also the fact that it had more economics than the economics courses. Study design, <3!) And I like being able to do simple math in my head... so you may agree with me, but not for exactly the same reasons.


Drat. Homeschooling isn't a very good proxy. Not sure how to figure out then.

At 11:47 PM, January 28, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...


I didn't realize that Chicago taught astrology. Or was that at Oberlin?

At 12:16 AM, January 29, 2014, Anonymous Rebecca Friedman said...

Bleep bleep bleep why do I always Astronomy! So so so sorry. I always mess those up. ><

Knew I should check my comments more before posting...

At 2:08 AM, January 29, 2014, Anonymous Andrew said...

On the topic of whether unschooling is libertarian, I'd side with Tibor. My definition of 'libertarianism' describes a relationship between citizen and the state (if there even is one) with relatively low levels of coercion. I may be quibbling, but I'd describe unschooling as being freedom-based, or offering curriculum autonomy for students etc, rather than invoking a particular political term. I'm not saying David ought to change how he words it in the book but the word 'libertarian' there is not entirely accurate (not inappropriate as such either).

I am pretty sure that it was Bryan Caplan who made a point that the only big disadvantage of unschooling is that for some extremely competitive careers paths that require intensive training from a young age, it's unlikely the child will attend/practise sufficiently without a parent pushing them. Examples are world class sports players and musicians.

At 5:12 AM, January 29, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"heretics are worse than pagans" - David Friedman 2014. good quote, love it

At 5:21 AM, January 29, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude, most of your books listed in this appendix are OLD, like some of them were published in 1970s!!! thats soooo old!!! no one cares about what LBJ or nixon did, no one even cares about reagan, in 1 years time even OBAMA will largely be irrelevant. u need to keep up.

also u TOTALLY left out ALL tea-party types and mostly all the people around Ron Paul. i know these people are not as intellectually pure as us and are far more populists but they ARE the libertarian movement. no one cares about milton friedman any more. 99% who call themselves libertarian today are RON PAUL supporters.

i know that ron paul DEEPLY disturbs you but it is simply FACT that ron paul's stance on foreign policy is what energised the current young libertarians, NOT nozick, not friedman and not HAYEK.......

At 10:42 AM, January 29, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

David, Rebecca, Bill: Thanks for the many answers :)

The title: I guess, if you understand the word libertarian extensively, than it fits. Then again, I can imagine someone being a proponent of unschooling and disagreeing with libertarians on most issues, especially those related to things like free trade and economics in general. I would even be surprised if all or even a majority of unschoolers indentified themselves as libertarians, simply because the proportion of libertarians in the population is very small and while there can be a strong correlation between those sentiments and favouring unschooling, it probably won't beat the low proportion.

Pokemon(s): It is interesting that I never quite got much interested in these massively popular things such as Tamagotchi, pogs or Pokemon. When I was in the 2nd grade, everyone in the class had Tamagotchi...that is except for me. I thought it was a stupid little game when I had Prince of Persia or Wolfenstein 3D at home :) But I guess back than it was not yet regular for most people to have a computer at home while I got to play games on one since I was about four (since my father started a refurbished computers business in 92) and obtained my very own computer with Intel 486 CPU and a CD reader after the first grade, so to me, Tamagotchis (I hope the plural is correct like this :)) and gameboys were kind of a step down.

At 10:43 AM, January 29, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

Maths: Personally, the schooling I received in maths prior to my university studies (in probability theory...but of course, to do it properly, you have to go through basics like calculus, linear (at least) algebra or fundamentals of measure theory, but while I don't enjoy these as much as probability theory, I like them as well) was rather off putting. Particularly one unfortunate teacher made me take a long detour - from a maths grammar schools where she was teaching me to a business high school (I left because I did not want to do too much maths any more) and then because of another (fortunate) teacher of statistics there to getting a Ms. degree in mathematics...and continuing on a PhD. If it were not for that statistics lecture and the good teacher, I would have probably ended up "hating maths" and who know what I would study instead. Economics, probably, as that was my second choice, although judging from what I know about what they do at the economics school I was going to apply to, I prefer learning economics on my own in my spare time and I think maths have improved my abstract thinking in a way that studying (only) economics would not.

Given the quality of most teachers (judging from nothing more reliable than personal experience) at grammar schools and high schools and given the horrible maths curriculum (which is apparently about the same in the US as it is in the Czech republic and probably mostly everywhere else), I think the net effect of schooling maths is discouragement rather than encouragement of students. I think that the situation in maths is even worse than in some other fields as those who actually do it and understand it either teach at a university or don't teach at all (with some exceptions like Paul Lockhart and partially Timothy Gowers) and maths is presented as something that "has practical applications" (which is mostly not true about high school maths in practically any field with perhaps the exception of plumbing) and is something "you should learn because it is good for you to know it" rather than "look how interesting this is", while no actual maths (i.e. thinking mathematically) is done in all of those classes. In German classes at least, you do German. So yes, I would say that while there can be lucky children who end up with a good maths teacher (who somehow manages to bypass the curriculum), many more with a possible interest in maths will learn to hate it. And for me, maths and related things are also what I not only do for work but also what I do for fun and as I mentioned I suspect those people who mentioned this criticism assume that maths or physics or something like that is something that is boring but useful and I don't really agree on that. Which accidentally reminds me of one blog post of David's where he compared Chicago school approach to economics with that of some other school with a similar distinction between "this is fun and nice way to think about stuff" and "this is dry and boring, but useful".

As far as data go, I'm afraid that unschooling not a concept that is widely recognized. I only learned about it from this blog...although I was then surprised that my mother knew about Sudbury valley type of schools - but that is perhaps because she is a teacher (at a regular public school). However that was the only instance when I mentioned when the other person had at least a basic idea of what it is.

At 10:44 AM, January 29, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

Typos in the article: I noticed you wrote "ability to trigonometry" so there is a "do" missing.

Astrology (since it has been mentioned, if accidentally): I always wondered if there is any traceable difference between traits of people born in Spring (and therefore spending their first few months in a much "friendlier" environment and those born in Fall (spending their early months while everything is freezing outside). It would only apply to the parts of the world where there is a significant difference in weather between the seasons. But probably if any, the effect is going to be negligible today when you can create a mini climate of any kind at home. But in prehistory they may have been a difference. The winter children had to endure harshest conditions in their first months and so only the stronger survived. They would then differ from the "untrimmed" summer a (very weak) basis to saying things like "people born in Taurus are like this and that". It might have more significant effects on more short lived animals who also spend all the time outside - cats for example. But they probably don't even have offspring before winter anyway (and cavemen might also have not had them).

At 11:20 AM, January 29, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...


Ron Paul doesn't "deeply disturb" me, but neither does he interest me very much. He's done a good job of getting attention for libertarian ideas and I wish his son good luck in his political career, but that isn't what I am writing about.

And several of the books I listed go back a good deal farther than the 1970's.

At 5:04 PM, January 29, 2014, Anonymous Rebecca Friedman said...


I had a computer. I just wasn't that interested in most computer games. I didn't follow most trends, either; pokemon was an exception. I tended to be a one-game-at-a-time girl, for... well, years at a time, usually. Pokemon was that game for quite a while. So was Diablo II, later on WoW... to some extent Pokemon had the advantage that, being on a gameboy, I could take it places and play while the adults did boring adult things, which I could not do with my computer. So it overlapped a bit with computer games, but not too much. Prior to discovering roleplaying-with-other-people as an option, though, I never viewed computer games as innately superior... my brother had Prince of Persia, and it struck me as rather boring. Perhaps it's in what kind of things appeal to a given individual?

(I'm afraid I can't help with spellings on the other things you mentioned; never heard of them.)

And... I tend to think of "libertarian" as meaning "pro-freedom, anti-coercion". Obviously a simplification, and quite possibly not how others use the term, but... that's the sense in which I think of unschooling as libertarian. Normal schooling involves outrageous amounts of coercion, most people just don't see it because they're used to it.

At 3:05 AM, January 30, 2014, Blogger Matthew Munoz said...

It's a bit misleading to say that Hayek argued that planning "must lead to totalitarianism". Steven Horwitz quotes LLL here:

"What I meant to argue in The Road to Serfdom was certainly not that whenever we depart, however slightly, from what I regard as the principles of a free society, we shall ineluctably be driven to go the whole way to a totalitarian system. It was rather what in more homely language is expressed when we say: 'If you do not mend your principles you will go to the devil.' That this has often been misunderstood to describe a necessary process over which we have no power once we have embarked on it, is merely an indication of how little the importance of principles for the determination of policy is understood, and particularly how completely overlooked is the fundamental fact that by our political actions we unintentionally produce the acceptance of principles which will make further action necessary."

At 5:00 AM, January 30, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

Rebecca: Of course, it was not my intention to suggest something like "who did not like what I did is stupid". This was just how I saw the other things. A computer was this wonderful thing that you could do so many things with and install as many games as you wanted (and since my father was in that business, I learned to assemble from parts and install it - back that using the command line - pretty early...which also made me like computers even more), whereas the gameboys and similar things struck me as a bit primitive pieces of technology. Also, Tamagotchi was a kind of a Japanese "game console" you could have on your keys and you would have a black and white pixelated "animal" there and press buttons to feed it and nurse it in general every now and then. Otherwise it died and you had to restart the game. I am not sure you could actually win it somehow. And pogs were tokens similar to coins you somehow tipped over with the other ones in order to get more and you could somehow stack them or something...I am not quite sure any more. They also worked as collectibles. Also, the gameboys I encountered were probably an earlier version - they only had black and white pixel graphics and contained Tetris, Snake and a kind of an top down shooter. Also, I had other games than Prince of Persia and Wolfenstein...but those were ones I remember as one of the first games I played.

As I mentioned - if you understand the term libertarian in a more broad or abstract sense, then I agree. But I think most people don't. Personally, I don't like this label for perhaps "tactical reasons". Unschooling is a good idea and some people who might like it might be put off by the subtitle "libertarian approach". They will say "Oh, those stupid libertarians, this is going to be some nonsense about free market" and stop reading. Of course, you might say that that's their problem and that people with such an attitude would not probably be very good at unschooling anyway...and you may as well be right.

I agree that there is a lot of coercion at the regular school...I did not like that much and had a B grade for conduct twice partly because of that :) And part of the reason my math teacher made me hate math for a while was exactly that she was this kind of officious type of person who probably cared more about keeping things in order than mathematics itself. So no argument about that.

At 8:15 AM, January 31, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is why Friedman is distancing himself from the RON PAUL and MISES crowd, because of racism and holocaust denialism

when this is all over and KOCK and ROCKWELL are long dead i hope someone will write a book on what happened.

At 6:04 PM, February 04, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I should have mentioned Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Liberty & Dialectics trilogy, the final volume of which, "Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism", seems particularly relevant here. Sciabarra's mastery of the literature is striking, and his thesis is unique. I wish him a wider audience.

At 10:43 PM, February 04, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

I'm not distancing myself from Ron Paul and the Mises crowd because of racism and holocaust denialism, neither of which I'm convinced they as a group are guilty of. Insofar as I am distancing myself from them--specifically the Mises people--it's because as an organization the Mises Institute comes across as arrogant, closed minded, and not very intellectually interesting.

But it may be more a matter of them distancing themselves from me, presumably out of loyalty to the ghost of Murray Rothbard.

So far as Ron Paul is concerned, I like him. I don't regard him as a serious libertarian intellectual but I think his net effect on the world has been positive.

Speaking more generally, I'm not all that happy with the whole "distancing from" metaphor. It treats intellectual views as a form of coalition politics. There are people who have made important contributions to my thinking whose political views are very far from mine and people whose political views are close to mine who, intellectually speaking, I don't think much of.

At 9:05 AM, February 07, 2014, Blogger Kefalas said...

This probably has nothing to do with the third edition of the book, but I was wandering if you are familiar with the book "Size of Nations" by Alesina and Spolaore. The overlapping jurisdictions described in it reminded me of the agencies described in your book. Do you think it is similar and what do you think about the economy of scope argument that the book uses to rid itself of these overlapping jurisdictions?
In case you are not familiar with the book I give a brief description:
As its title indicates the book tries to model the size of nations. To do that it is assumed that people living close by have similar tastes regarding the types of government provided services they want (the book calls these services public goods). This is presented as an argument for small states and states with continuous territory. On the other hand of the tradeoff lies the assumption that public goods can be provided with increasing returns to scale, which obviously is an argument for large states. However, for each government provided service the extent to which people's tastes matter and the intensity of the increasing returns are different. This means that the size of the optimal "jurisdictions" differ for each government good. Hence, the optimal would be an overlapping jurisdiction outcome. It seems to me, especially if we assume that geography is not the only determinant of people's tastes, that these overlapping jurisdictions resemble your theory a lot and maybe provide some new arguments for it (or at least a different formulation). To go on the book introduces what it calls economies of scope, which means that a jurisdiction providing two "public goods" saves cost compared to two jurisdictions providing the same two goods. If these costs are sufficient then it is optimal for all the public goods to be provided in the same territory. These are described in chapter 2 of the book, which is very brief.

At 10:31 PM, February 07, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

I not only read the book, I reviewed it:

For my much earlier work on the same subject, see:


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