by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief

Heroic Misadventures is reminiscent of Mencken’s Days memoirs published during WW2, and is even more radical, since Ron Manners did not soften his work or limit its scope to placate public opinion.

Heroic Misadventures is a collection of anecdotes of the finest-grade. It will interest everyone. What other book: argues that government licensing is mafia-like protection against competition (p. 18); defends money laundering (p. 56); sings the praises of vertical burial to save cemetery space (pp. 93, 99-102); shows how to rezone a brothel (pp. 179-80); disposes of many genres of work-life balance books and many of the counselling professions by observing that in the mining industry, “[Y]ou only get one nickel boom in your lifetime, but you can always have more kids” (p. 191); reasons that it is best not to fly business class, so that you don’t have to sit next to politicians (p. 201); and explains why the author and his mates lit a bushfire when they discovered that what authorities claimed was the highest mountain in W.A., was actually the second highest (pp. 220-21)?

I learnt a lot about the history of the libertarian movement in Australia. Many of the people and book titles mentioned I’d never heard much about. C.R. “Bert” Kelly (p. 3), John Whiting (p. 135) and his three books, Adam Dollar (p. 156) and his book, another libertarian book by Mr Manners himself (p. 165) and Hancock’s book (p. 217) will be investigated. At Economics.org.au we will make as much as we can available free online. We need more information on the history of libertarianism in Australia, and if it comes in the form of more writings by Ron Manners we would be spoilt.

Lastly, I have two criticisms of the book.

Criticism #1

Mr Manner’s recounts Hancock’s reading of Rothbard as follows:

Though [Hancock] encouraged us, and gave periodic advice, he didn’t contribute financially, later explaining why. He told me that one of the books we gave him, as early briefing, was Murray Rothbard’s For A New Liberty (The Libertarian Manifesto) and in the corner was a small black anarchist flag. This worried Lang, as without any government at all, who would grant mining titles? Lang had a valid point and I pointed out that Rothbard wasn’t an Anarchist, but a realist in the sense that to achieve minimal government, one needed to aim for no, or almost no, government, with a view to landing close to your chosen level of government involvement … I’ll always remember this as an example of pushing the envelope too far. [pp. 129-31]

I disagree with the implied moral that we should not push the envelope so much. There are pros and cons either way and no clear-cut route to recommend. Many people support libertarianism precisely because of its radicalism and subversiveness. If libertarianism is only espoused moderately, then people may confuse it with the Liberal Party or Labor Party. And imagine if Hancock had become convinced of the pure libertarian position, and its radicalness appealed to him. Imagine if someone confronted Hancock with a successful defence of Rothbard’s anarchism (rather than tried to hide it)?

The moral from Hancock’s reading of Rothbard is, to paraphrase what Mr Manners positively quotes Sir Arvi Parbo saying (p. 335), “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

If I had the ear of Hancock, this is what I would say:

You object strongly to every government intervention in the economy, except government presiding over mining titles, and law and order. Ignoring the question of whether you can grant government such an important concession, and reasonably expect it not to spread any further, there are a few important issues to consider.

Firstly, it may be true that government has in the past competently granted mining titles. In that case, why not legitimise the organisation structure of this government department, with a funding model that is mutually agreed on, including signed and witnessed contracts for all parties involved, and no laws against inferior lesser experienced groups choosing not to avail themselves of the great administrative and protective services that the government currently provides?

Secondly, what economic principle leads you to support a monopoly when it comes to something so important as mining titles, but not to all other areas. To merely mention case studies is to avoid the question.

Thirdly, although government monopoly of this service may have been competent in the past, what is to stop it changing in the future? Imagine if McDonald’s was the only provider of food and judge of food quality. It is conceivable that they do a very good job of it, but why should you trust them, and wouldn’t you be a bit suspicious if they banned competitors, even if they had good intentions?

Miners have a vested interest in defending the Rothbardian position. The origin of all mining regulation and taxes is that the government claims it has the right to the land you live on and work with. Rothbard believed that the origin of just property rights is when you mix your labour with unused land, or in a voluntary exchange earn the property title from its previous owner. So when James Cook circumnavigated Australia, even if Australia was uninhabited, that still could not confer any property title in a Rothbardian society. This is similar to Hancock’s own beliefs.

How would mining titles be granted in a Rothbardian society? We cannot know precisely what form an institution in the free market will take, just as we cannot know what the price of a mineral will be in the future. But would you want mineral prices to be decided by the government? And if mining titles are currently administered so justly, then there’s not much in the way of change to worry about. Indeed, if it is maintained that the free market has no role in the administration of property rights and justice, then this is to deny that economics is a science, and to dismiss economics as a science in the belief that it is defending the mining industry seems a questionable strategy to me.

Criticism #2

This book is not available free online. Why not?

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Acquiescence
  2. Why Sports Fans Should Be Libertarians
  3. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  4. Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
  5. Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
  6. The Drugs Problem Problem
  7. Self-Defeating Campaigning
  8. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
  9. Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
  10. Population Puzzle Solved
  11. An Open Letter to the CIS
  12. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  13. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  14. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  15. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  16. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  17. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  18. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  19. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  20. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  21. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  22. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  23. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  24. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  25. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  26. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  27. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
  28. Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
  29. Ronald Kitching Obituary
  30. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  31. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
  32. Economics.org.au in the news again
  33. Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
  34. The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
  35. WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
  36. Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
  37. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  38. Economics.org.au at 42
  39. "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
  40. "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
  41. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  42. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  43. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  44. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  47. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  48. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  49. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  50. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  51. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  52. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  53. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  54. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  55. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
  56. The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
  57. Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
  58. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  59. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  60. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  61. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
  62. The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
  63. Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
  64. The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
  65. Neville Kennard Obituary
  66. Contrarian Conformism
  67. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
  68. Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
  69. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
  70. Bad news about the Mises Seminar
  71. Gina Rinehart Fan Club gives big to Australian political education
  72. Sam Kennard wins North Sydney by-election by unanimous consent
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  2. Hancock's Australia
  3. Hancock on Government Help
  4. Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 1
  5. Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 2
  6. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  7. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  8. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  9. Jump on the Joh bandwagon
  10. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  11. Governments — like a red rag to a Rogue Bull
  12. Lang Hancock's Pilbara-Queensland Railway Proposal
  13. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  14. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  15. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  16. Small and Big Business Should Oppose Government, says Lang Hancock
  17. A Condensed Case for Secession
  18. Hancock gets tough over uranium mining
  19. Hancock's threat to secede and faith in Whitlam
  20. PM's sky-high promise to Lang
  21. Lang Hancock: "a catherine-wheel of novel suggestions"
  22. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  23. The spread of Canberra-ism
  24. Govt should sell the ABC, says Lang Hancock
  25. 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
  26. Aborigines, Bjelke and the freedom of the press
  27. The code of Lang Hancock
  28. Why not starve the taxation monster?
  29. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  30. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  31. Right-wing plot
  32. "The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them." - Lang Hancock
  33. WA's NCP commits suicide
  34. "You can't live off a sacred site"
  35. Hancock: King of the Pilbara
  36. Bludgers need not apply
  37. New party formed "to slash controls"
  38. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  39. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  40. Government seen by new party as evil
  41. Ron Manners on Lang Hancock
  42. Does Canberra leave us any alternative to secession?
  43. Bury Hancock Week
  44. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  45. Lang Hancock on Australia Today
  46. Hancock and Wright
  47. Lang Hancock on Environmentalists
  48. Friends of free enterprise treated to financial tete-a-tete: Lang does the talking but Gina pulls the strings
  49. Lang Hancock, Stump Jumper
  50. Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
  51. The Treasury needs a hatchet man
  52. We Mine to Live
  53. Get the "econuts" off our backs
  54. 1971 Lang Hancock-Jonathan Aitken interview for Land of Fortune (short)
  55. Gina Rinehart, Secessionist
  56. 1982 NYT Lang Hancock profile
  57. Enter Rio Tinto
  58. Hamersley and Tom Price
  59. News in the West
  60. Positive review of Hancock speech
  61. Lang Hancock International Press Institute General Assembly speech, Canberra, 1978
  62. Australia's slide to socialism
  63. The Great Claim Robbery
  64. Why WA must go it alone
  65. Lang Hancock in 1976 on Public Picnics and Human Blights
  66. MILLIONAIRE PUTS MONEY BEHIND SECESSIONISTS
  67. Resource Management in Australia: Is it possible?
  68. The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
  69. Crystal Balls Need Polishing
  70. Minerals - politicians' playthings?
  71. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  72. Boston Tea Party 1986 style, hosted by Lang Hancock and Bob Ansett
  73. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  74. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  75. Tactics change by Hancock
  76. Lang Hancock complains to Margaret Thatcher about Malcolm Fraser
  77. 'Phony crisis' seen as 'child of politics'
  78. Lang Hancock on nuclear energy
  79. Lang Hancock beats the left at their own game on civil liberties
  80. Lang Hancock's Favourite Books
  81. 1977 Lang Hancock Canberoo poem
  82. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  83. Hancock proposes a free-trade zone
  84. An Open Letter to Sir Charles Court
  85. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  86. Lang Hancock in 1984 solves Australian politics
  87. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  88. Lang Hancock asks what happened to Australia's rugged individualism?
  89. Precis of Ludwig Plan for North-West
  90. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  91. Lang Hancock's March 1983 attempt to enlist "former presidents of nations and heads of giant companies" to save Australia
  92. Lang Hancock asks us to think how easily environmentalists are manipulated for political purposes
  93. Invest in free enterprise
  94. Democracy is dead in Australia and Lang Hancock's education
  95. Lang Hancock Incites Civil Disobedience
  96. Hancock sounds call to battle Canberra
  97. Mining policy a threat
  98. Over Whitlam's head
  99. Lang Hancock suggests that newspapers don't give space to politicians unconditionally
  100. Lang Hancock on saving Australia from socialism
  101. Secede or sink
  102. Australia can learn from Thatcher
  103. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  104. How Lang Hancock would fix the economy
  105. Lang Hancock: victim of retrospective legislation
  106. Lang Hancock supports Joh for PM
  107. Hancock seeks miners' tax haven in the north
  108. The Ord River Dam
  109. Why Lang Hancock invested in Australia's film industry
  110. Lang Hancock's 1983 letters to The Australian: Lang's precedent for Steve Jobs, renaming the Lucky Country to the Constipated Country, and more
  111. Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
  112. 1980 Lang Hancock-Australian Penthouse Interview
  113. Canberra: bastion of bureaucracy
  114. Pilbara can be the Ruhr for South-East Asia
  115. 1982 Lang Hancock-John Harper Nelson Interview
  116. Australian elections are one of the greatest con games in history
  117. Our leaders are powerless
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5