The Discovery of Freedom

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The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority is a 1943 book by Rose Wilder Lane. The book has remained influential among libertarians. Lane was reportedly dissatisfied with the book after its initial printing and would not allow it to be reprinted pending a rewrite that never happened, but in recent decades the original text has been reprinted several times, as part of the Arno Press Right Wing Individualist Tradition in America series and most recently by Laissez Faire Books.

Lane takes a negative view toward Europe and its traditions of monarchy, divine right of kings, subservience of the individual to the state, militarism, and official state religion. In these she locates the origins of Communism, Fascism, and Nazism as well as stifling socialism and bureaucracy in Europe's democratic nations. She has a positive view of the role of Abraham and the Jews, Jesus and the early Christians, Islam, and the American Revolution. All of these had the effect of breaking people away from their old subservience to states and rulers, according to Lane. The effect was to unleash free enterprise, trade, and scientific advancement. That effect was later again stifled when bureaucratic state-religion forms of Christianity and Islam took hold.

Although resolutely anti-state, her book espouses minarchism rather than anarchism. Although resolutely anti-militarist, she does make a statement at the end of the book seeming to support U.S. involvement in World War II which was going on at the time.

Derivative works

The Mainspring of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver is a popular abridgement of The Discovery of Freedom first published in 1947, and published since 1953 by the Foundation for Economic Education. The continuing interest in Lane's then out of print book prompted Weaver to write his book. Weaver's book has remained in print and became one of FEE's best selling books, bringing Lane's ideas to a wide audience during the time her book was out of print and hard to find.

Islam and the Discovery of Freedom is a 1997 book containing an excerpt of the section in Lane's original book on early Islamic society with an introduction and running commentary by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, who is the president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, a Muslim free-market think tank. Ahmad documents Lane's assertions while pointing out a few historical errors. The book is commonly found in Islamic bookstores and has introduced Lane's work to a whole new audience.