Talk:The Machinery of Freedom

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This article reads like a publisher's blurb. It needs to be edited for NPOV by someone who's read the book. Thalia/Karen 20:44, Dec 18, 2003 (UTC)

After having been edited by Finlay McWalter, POV looks fine to me now, although it would be nice if someone who's read it would expand the article. Thalia/Karen 22:09, Dec 18, 2003 (UTC)


This happens to be my favorite book and I've read it about 3 times. What specifically do you think needs to be added?Atripodi 09:59, 3 October 2006 (UTC)


Hmm... in anarcho-capitalism Friedman is a consequentialist, and now suddenly he "employs" utilitarianism. This suggests, even if it doesn't quit state, that he is a utilitarian. This is what I wrote on the other talk page:

I don't have The Machinery of Freedom on hand right now, but I'm pretty sure there is a passage where David D. Friedman not only very explicitly denies being a consequentalist, but in fact expresses his amusement about the idea. Instead, he puts up philosophical arguments to show that both naïve consequentialism and naïve deontological/natural-rights ethics can lead to absurdities when taken to their logical extremes. In general, Friedman seems not to worry about this too much. Unlike staunch everything-from-first-principle rationalists like Rothbard, but notably very much in the spirit of Popper and Hayek, he doesn't seem particularly committed to an all-ecompassing grand axiomatic System Of Ethics And Law, but prefers to show how his ideas make sense under a variety of reasonable assumptions, and analyze them more from the perspective of a social scientist than that of a moral philosopher. I think this derives from a relative lack of interest in actual politics. Friedman does not seem to be worried that having subtler ideas or a more mess-with-your-mind writing style would make it harder to attract a political following than a more Randian "I'm always right and this is how the world works" style.

Consequentialism "poops out" when it needs to justify the criterion for judging consequences, and deontology often gets eerily consequentialist again when the philosopher almost inevitably attempts to justify his/her axiomatic rights. I have the impression that Friedman understands this mess pretty well, and just refuses to panic about it very hard. This may throw off people who are used to more rigid modes of thought, but it does not mean that Friedman is a shallow or confused thinker; to the contrary. It just means that he is willing to make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.Sjeng 21:24, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Friedman states that as far as economics goes he is a consequentialist. That is, his goal in that capacity is to find out how the most wealth for the most people can be procured. He feels these pragmatic arguments to have more rhetorical appeal and sees a lot of holes in the Rothbardian natural rights argument. This does not mean that he is an ethical consequentialist- see the chapter on GK Chesterton for more on his ethical views, which he describes as "Catholicism without God". I don't think his ethics are particularly unique or important within the context of his work (which may be unique of itself for an an-cap writer). "Social scientist rather than moral philosopher" sounds correct to me too. He approaches politics as a social planner would, utilizing his gift for thought experiments and abstract thinking, but comes to a solution that rejects social planning entirely. This led Rothbard to call him a "weak anarchist", one who doesn't hate the state on principle, but happens to think it doesn't work very well. I don't think anyone can believe that the complete inviability of government to be coincidental (not based on human nature) and I think Friedman agrees. He just recognizes his own limitations and the limitations of the field of ethics well enough not to breech the subject.Atripodi 06:10, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

Recent changes that removed most content[edit]

I note that a series of seemingly innocuous edits over the course of a couple of years, many making entirely specious claims (for one example, one claiming that a statement about Friedman's stated opinion in the book was "unsourced" when clearly the source of Friedman's stated opinion is the book) reduced this article to a contentless stub over a course of two years. I will not presume that this was an intentional strategy, as that would have been an action taken in bad faith, but the effect was to remove all utility from the page. I am now systematically restoring the content. Pmetzger (talk) 22:39, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

Hi. Please review WP policies WP:RS and WP:V. We need secondary reliable sources to select which parts of the book or ideas are noteworthy and need to be included in a WP article. As editors, we do not rely on our own opinions, no matter how well informed, for this judgment. We simply represent what acknowledged RS have to say. SPECIFICO talk 23:01, 11 July 2014 (UTC)
"We need secondary reliable sources to select which parts of the book or ideas are noteworthy" -- you do not need secondary sources to describe what the content of the book itself is. The book itself is the source for that. You are distorting the policies you claim to be following. This appears to be an attempt to simply remove all content from the page, including perfectly neutral content that simply describes what the book says. I note that you've been T-banned recently for similar behavior. If you edit the page again without discussing this in detail before making further alterations to remove perfectly reasonable content, I will bring this up for arbitration immediately. Pmetzger (talk) 01:34, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
You appear not to understand policy regarding article content. I explained to you above that we need a secondary RS which summarizes and characterizes the noteworthy content of the book. I cited two policy pages which I hope you will read closely to develop an understanding of my statements on the article and talk pages. The fact is that this is a self-published work and we have only a single mention of it by any secondary source. I have tagged the article for notability and perhaps this will attract editors who can provide some additional RS references and provide a solid basis for keeping the article in WP. SPECIFICO talk 01:38, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
"The fact is that this is a self-published work" -- no, it was published by Open Court for its first two editions. You are distorting again. Further, I have read both policies, neither says that you cannot describe the content of a book without finding secondary sources that also describe the book -- such a policy would be patently ridiculous since it would prevent discussing almost any book. If you believe otherwise, quote chapter and verse. Pmetzger (talk) 02:00, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Furthermore, you originally removed the content before the third edition came out. You have no "it was self published" excuse available for that. Pmetzger (talk) 02:01, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Further, you have now re-added the clearly incorrect "notability" tag. The book is clearly well known, and that is trivial to demonstrate. I have reverted the edit -- if you wish to claim otherwise, discuss it here before re-adding the tag. Until we have consensus, please stop attempting to push your point of view unilaterally. Your edits essentially removed the work of all previous editors. Pmetzger (talk) 02:05, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I suggest you read the policy and find good references to improve the article. Improving the article is entirely up to you. Please add the publisher data and any noteworthy reviews to the article. SPECIFICO talk 02:06, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
It is of course always wonderful to improve an article, and I certainly will attempt to make it even better, but I don't believe that as it stands the article is violating any policy. Again, please quote me specific sentences from the policy that I can read that say it is impermissible for an article on a book to describe the content of the book itself without a secondary source that describes the content of the book. --Pmetzger (talk) 02:16, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
The notability tag does not belong here. The book has more than 500 citations on Google Scholar, which is significant. Limit-theorem (talk) 02:08, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. The book is well known in its field. --Pmetzger (talk) 02:16, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
He is cited in many many venues by many prominent scholars, so I really don't see where this absurd "notability" is coming from. Here are the last 3 years [1] Limit-theorem (talk) 02:22, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I also don't see where the claim that SPECIFICO is making that an article about a book cannot contain descriptions of the content of the book without a secondary source stating that this is the book's content comes from. He has failed so far to quote the passages from the policies he cites that he claims have this effect. If you look at the edit history of the article, it was on this basis that he removed essentially all the content from the article. --Pmetzger (talk) 02:32, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Indeed, it appears the "self published" claim is bogus even for the new edition. The forthcoming paperback is again from Open Court, see: Pmetzger (talk) 02:13, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

Suggested improvements[edit]

  • Why is the section titled "Friedman's Law"?
Based on the humorous self-titling of the section of the book. The name is actually widely used, but documenting that would be painful. If it would be considered sufficient, the section could be re-titled "Observations about Government Inefficiency", and it could be noted inside the body text that he (somewhat jocularly) self-titled it "Friedman's Law". --Pmetzger (talk) 14:31, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
The book is about libertarianism in general. Why does this particular theme ("Friedman's Law") stand out? – S. Rich (talk) 16:55, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I was not the editor who originally added that section. That said, I'm aware of the coinage being used widely in discussions about the costs of public vs. private solutions to problems, so I can see why another editor would have thought it was important to mention. --Pmetzger (talk) 18:01, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
While "Friedman's Law" is a minor point of the book, it is arguably the most original bit. —Tamfang (talk) 19:45, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
  • How are "Related books" related?
They're also books on the same topic. That said, there probably should just be a category for books on this topic with all these books and more -- such a section is non-standard. --Pmetzger (talk) 14:31, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
As per my comment above, the book's topic is libertarianism. An article about a particular book cannot have a section. Instead, we use categories at the bottom of the page. (For example: Category:Libertarian books.) Perhaps a "Further reading" section (below the "References" section) would work provided the listed items were directly related to Friedman's book. I gather that Huemer's book does so. – S. Rich (talk) 16:55, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Note that I already spoke in terms of categories being potentially a better solution here. The book's topic is a subset of libertarianism, specifically, anarchocapitalism, not per se libertarianism in general. It is probably a good idea to create a category for that subset of books. --Pmetzger (talk) 18:01, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I do not understand the sentence "An article about a particular book cannot have a section." —Tamfang (talk) 19:45, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
  • What is the relationship between the book and the "See also" items? (A brief note for each would help.)
Some of the "See also" items appear to be non-related, in fact. I can document the others with a note, if that is felt to be useful. --Pmetzger (talk) 14:31, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Well, let's see what you can do. – S. Rich (talk) 16:55, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
S. Rich (talk) 03:27, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
  • What have notable commentators, scholars, or reviewers said about the book? Despite several editors indignant insistence that the book is notable and widely respected, no secondary RS description or acknowledgement of the work (other than the two "top-twenty" type mentions) has been added to the article. Strange times indeed. SPECIFICO talk 11:51, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Let us have some factual disciple here. So far claims that it is "self-published" and of "low notability" turned out to be false and all editors did is point out objective criteria for that (Google Scholar is an objective quantitative metric). "Strange times?" rather strange editing practices.Limit-theorem (talk) 13:15, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Google scholar does not determine notability. Please find RS discussion and refer to the WP notability standard. The notability tag does not assert that the subject is not notable. It invites editors to add RS content which establishes notability. If an editor were convinced that the the subject fails notability, we may presume an AfD would have been mounted. If the sourcing of this article is not improved it will remain weak and will not advance to anything approaching a Good Article. Does this book present any original content? Is it a scholarly treatment of the subject or more in the vein of a popular presentation? We don't know because no editor has added sourced content that gives us a clue as to its character or content. I hope you'll do so. Whatever appears in Google's statistics or other "objective quantitative metric" does not address the quality and nature of sourced comment on this book. If article improvement could be accomplished by the application of Google's algorithms, Wikipedia would by now be a complete finished work. SPECIFICO talk 13:58, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
"Google scholar does not determine notability"? What kind of reasoning is this? Limit-theorem (talk) 14:15, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
There could be situations of notability scoring low on GS, but the reverse is not true.Limit-theorem (talk) 14:43, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I think the fact that it has been cited at least hundreds of times in the academic literature over 40 years is more than sufficient for notability here, not to mention the fact that the book is very widely known and influential in lay libertarian circles (as documented in the article in at least one critical reference). We could, of course, simply add hundreds of citations to the book in the article, but that would not make this a Good Article either, it would encrust it with useless data that someone seeking information on the book has no need for, concealing the useful information. I do not believe the request for additional information on notability here is reasonable -- there's more information here on notability than there is on the majority of books listed in Wikipedia. SPECIFICO keeps quoting the notability standards, but I've read them and this book clearly seems to fit and there seems to be no actual requirement that every notable work be encrusted with references to all available academic opinions on the work. --Pmetzger (talk) 14:31, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
Another straw man. Please add sourced content which presents the views of independent secondary RS publications. SPECIFICO talk 16:13, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
"Straw man"? This attitude is not helpful (another strange claim). We are here to improve articles not to demolish, erase and make patently false claims. Why don't you look into the numerous RS from Google scholar and select what you can find to help improve the article? Limit-theorem (talk) 16:32, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I'll just say this once more and then it's up to you to decide whether to read and follow up on what I say: I've made no claim about the book (I happen to be a big fan of DF and his parents.) I looked at the Google results and saw no RS citations from notable authors. I am not sure whether there are any such sources, but any editor who believes that she has found RS discussion could really help out here by adding those sources and their ideas to the article. If there are editors who "know" that there are RS discussions of the work based on some theory about Google's algorithms and their output, but have not seen or read any RS references, I don't think that such faith-based belief is going to help us improve that article. SPECIFICO talk 17:03, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
"Faith based belief"? We should trust an editor who does not seem to get simple facts rights ("self-publishing"), but not the standard Google "Algorithm" that is accepted in academic departments (in fact GS is transparent, counts all scholarly journals, and correlates with other scholarly metrics)?Limit-theorem (talk) 17:24, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I think I'm with Limit-theorem here at this point. This is not supposed to be an adversarial process, either, but rather one where we are supposed to cooperate to bring forth the best information possible to readers of Wikipedia. Please stop looking for reasons to gut the article. I assure you that this is indeed a popular, well known book in its niche, and if you feel that it is important that we demonstrate that objectively to readers, then we can work to find ways to demonstrate that objectively to readers. You earlier simply removed almost all of the content from the page, rather than discussing it on the Talk page and working with other editors to make sure the material was improved to be up to standards. I'd like to ask you to work positively with others on this, or to leave the article alone if you don't have time available to help maintain the page. Please do not remove material without consulting other concerned parties first here and gaining consensus. Pmetzger (talk) 18:01, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
It seems to me that notability and reliable sources are logically independent. A subject in pseudoscience, for example, is notable if it has a large number of unreliable sources! —Tamfang (talk) 19:45, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
If a couple of people or entities who are themselves notable enough for Wikipedia say this is an important book, that's at least a good start at establishing notability. —Tamfang (talk) 19:45, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The tag has been changed. You should review WP policy on V and RS and find good secondary discussions of this book. Per Srich, you also need to find some secondary RS for creating a section and using the facetious reference in the work to "Friedman's Law" as its title. Many instances of "Friedman's Law" can be found in popular and academic literature. Some refer to Milton Friedman, some to Thomas Friedman, some to various other Friedman men and Friedman women. The title should be removed and the text should be catenated with that which precedes it. SPECIFICO talk 20:03, 12 July 2014 (UTC)