In 1943, a lady by the name of Rose Wilder Lane published a book called The Discovery of Freedom. This book is an absolutely original work of non-fiction, truly ahead of its time, a salvo to human energy and the independent thinker, an encomium to the creative mind unshackled. Her book has influenced classic liberals beyond number — and yet it’s largely gone unacknowledged.
From a good review I once read:
“Rose Wilder Lane sought to highlight the difference it made in America that the individual was permitted freedom from government authority. The Americans broke from the idea that dominated all over human history that they must depend on some overarching authority in government to grant them well being, and thus when good happens, we owe ever more to the powers that be.”
Countless ideas found in other classic-liberal writers, like Isabel Patterson and Ayn Rand among many others, are sprinkled all throughout The Discovery of Freedom — her favorite words and phrases as well: “standard-of-value,” “life on this earth,” “law of non-contradiction,” “static universe,” “sunlit world,” and many others.
Overwhelmingly influential also, yet also largely unacknowledged, were her themes: themes such as the counterproductivity of government planning and its futile attempts to control the spontaneous order of the free-market; the poweful case for limited government; the factual nature of morality; that contradictions cannot exist in reality but only in the human mind; that the mind can apprehend reality as reality actually is, and that words (the human method of grasping) have precise meanings; that no rights can exist without property rights.
In the 1990s, Rose Wilder Lane was also unveiled as the true author of the Little House on the Prairie series, normally attributed to her mother Laura Ingalls Wilder. Yet, excellent as those books are — and they are — it’s primarily for her philosophical originality and her courage in promulgating this philosophy that Rose Wilder Lane should be remembered.
She was an excellent writer and a fearless and exceptional person, not without flaws (as who among us is?), who took on politicians, journalists, economists (like the great Ludwig von Mises, with whom she, like me, profoundly disagreed upon the subject of democracy), heads of state, and more.
Rose Lane Wilder, RIP: 1886–1968.