Rose Wilder Lane is one of the great writers and thinkers of the 20th century. She is said to have been a ghostwriter for the Little House series of books. She was wildly gifted, extremely well-read and creative beyond belief. This is her manifesto. It is a book for the ages.
It was written at a heck of a time: right in the middle of wartime planning during World War II. Everything was being rationed. The domestic state was on the march. Freedom seemed to be evaporating, even as the U.S. was supposedly fighting for freedom abroad. She says nothing and everything about the war itself: Censorship prevented it. But my goodness, the restrictions caused her otherwise to unleash everything she had to offer the world.
She knew the old America. She lived it and understood its energy and the reason for its great success. She adored freedom as few others did, but more than that, she understood the substance of what freedom really is. It means independence for the individual and his or her own associations. It means the right to keep and control property, to move about without being spied on, to choose your own path in life, to grow and build and to do it all without being hectored, coerced, badgered, robbed and bludgeoned by authority.
Freedom was liberation from the controls and despotisms of the old world. That was America’s gift to the world. We showed the way and built the most-marvelous society in human history. But Lane looked around in the 1940s and saw that we were throwing it all away. She sounded the alarm. It was not an alarm of panic, but of enlightenment.
The path she chose was to start from the very beginning. She does that here. She describes the long, hard struggle for freedom from authority in the ancient world. She isolates several great moments in history when the liberation happened and then was thwarted.
You have never heard history told in the way she tells it. Prepare yourself, because you will be rattled by some parts of this book. But that’s OK. In fact, that’s the point. The idea is to shake us loose from our biases, to inspire thought, to get you interested and excited about the intellectual challenges she offers you.
In the end, this book could change your life. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is what she intended to do. She loathed complacency more than anything else, and she dreamed of a day when our whole culture would find itself swept up again in the love of liberty. She used every bit of her intellectual and rhetorical power to make that dream a reality.
This edition comes with a learned and marvelous introduction by a woman who is, in many ways, Lane’s successor. Her name is Wendy McElroy. If this is the first time you have met her, you will be mightily impressed. She knows far, far more about Lane than I do. There is no better person to introduce her to you and describe her life and works.