David Friedman

American economist, physicist, legal scholar, and libertarian theorist

David Director Friedman (born February 2, 1945) is a law professor and writer, who became a leading figure in the anarcho-capitalist community.

David Friedman discusses his recent book Future Imperfect at the Cato Institute, November 6, 2008.



The Machinery of Freedom, 1973

  • The direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is commonly employed only by small children and great nations. (p.4)
  • If we want to be honest, we can ship the Statue of Liberty back to France or replace the outdated verse with new lines, "America the closed preserve/ That dirty foreigners don't deserve". (p.71)
  • In the ideal socialist state, power will not attract power freaks. People who make decisions will show no slightest bias towards their own interests. There will be no way for a clever man to bend the institutions to serve his own ends. And the rivers will run uphill. (p.108)
  • Perhaps the best way to see why anarcho-capitalism would be much more peaceful than our present system is by analogy. Consider our world as it would be if the cost of moving from one country to another were zero. Everyone lives in a housetrailer and speaks the same language. One day, the president of France announces that because of troubles with neighboring countries, new military taxes are being levied and conscription will begin shortly. The next morning the president of France finds himself ruling a peaceful but empty landscape, the population having been reduced to himself, three generals, and twenty-seven war correspondents. (p.123)
  • We must ask, not whether an anarcho-capitalist society would be safe from a power grab by the men with the guns (safety is not an available option), but whether it would be safer than our society is from a comparable seizure of power by the men with the guns. I think the answer is yes. In our society, the men who must engineer such a coup are politicians, military officers, and policemen, men selected precisely for the characteristic of desiring power and being good at using it. They are men who already believe that they have a right to push other men around - that is their job. They are particularly well qualified for the job of seizing power. Under anarcho-capitalism the men in control of protection agencies are selected for their ability to run an efficient business and please their customers. It is always possible that some will turn out to be secret power freaks as well, but it is surely less likely than under our system where the corresponding jobs are labeled 'non-power freaks need not apply'. (pp. 123-124)
  • I predict that, if anarcho-capitalist institutions appeared in this country tomorrow, heroin would be legal in New York and illegal in most other places. (p.128)
  • An ideal objectivist society with a limited government is superior to an anarcho-capitalist society in precisely the same way that an ideal socialist society is superior to a capitalist society. Socialism does better with perfect people than anarcho-capitalism with imperfect. And it is better to wear a bikini with the sun shining than a raincoat when it is raining. That is no argument against carrying an umbrella. (p.134)

Price Theory: An Intermediate Text, 1986

  • Economics is that way of understanding behavior that starts from the assumption that people have objectives and tend to choose the correct way to achieve them.
  • The tendency to be rational is the consistent and hence predictable element in human behavior. (p.4)

Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life, 1996

  • [T]he assumption describes our actions, not our thoughts. If you had to understand something intellectually in order to do it, none of us would be able to walk.
    Economics is based on the assumption that people have reasonably simple objectives and choose means to achieve them. Both assumptions are false-but useful.
    Suppose someone is rational only half the time. Since there is generally one right way of doing things and many wrong ways, the rational behavior can be predicted but the irrational cannot. If we assume he is rational, we predict his behavior correctly about half of the tie - far from perfect, but a lot better then nothing. If I could do well at the racetrack I would be a very rich man.
    [R]ationality is an assumption I make about other people. I know myself.
    [R]ationality is an assumption I make about other people. I know myself well enough to allow for the consequences of my own irrationality. But for the vast mass of my fellow humans, about whom I know very little, rationality is the best predictive assumption available. (pp.3-5)
    • As cited in Ronald J. Baker (2010) Implementing Value Pricing: A Revolutionary Business Model for Professional Firms. p. 122

Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do With Law and Why It Matters, 2001

  • Legal rules are to be judged by the structure of incentives they establish and the consequences of people altering their behavior in response to those incentives (p.11)


  • David D. Friedman is the one of the most important living anarcho-capitalist philosophers. He has added a philosopher's insistence on consistency to the firm grasp of economic principles he presumably learned at the paternal knees.
    • In The Pragmatist. (1998), Vol.14, p. 77
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