Few other, man or woman, compete with Rose Wilder Lane as a champion of liberty. Throughout the 1920s and 1930’s, when socialism was being welcomed to the world, Rose, a native-born American, travelled the world and discovered that the best system, empirically, is the American system; liberty-minded and individual-centered. She wrote substantially about this realization in her book the Discovery of Freedom: Man’s Struggle Against Authority, a book so powerful it is often credited with the launch of the libertarian movement in the United States.
Rose Wilder Lane was a highly opinionated and original libertarian woman, what she called a “fundamentalist American.” She believed passionately in the benevolence of minimum government and personal freedom, and her work undoubtedly shows why.
Born in America in 1886, her family were poor farmers who worked and survived through many hardships: poverty, diphtheria, and crop failure among some. They moved from the northern United States, to Florida, then onto Missouri. There, the family built the home that her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, based the “Little House on the Prairie” stories upon. Rose continued to travel throughout her life, working different jobs such as telegraph clerk, real estate agent (one of the first females in the profession), reporter, and eventually author. Rose herself was the one who edited the structure of “Little House on the Prairie,” enhancing the narrative into a story that was able to be published.
But Rose’s crowning achievement was in her prose on liberty. The Discovery of Freedom, written in 1942, tells the story of the American Revolution and its lasting impact on human progress, both technologically and ideologically. One thousand copies were originally printed in her lifetime. Today, hundreds of thousands of copies are in print, and it has helped inspire the launching of several organizations to promote liberty, such as Leonard Read’s Foundation for Economic Education, F.A. Harper’s Institute for Humane Studies, and Robert M. Lefevre’s Freedom School.
With strong-willed eloquence, The Discovery of Freedom tells a history of humanity, and the story of how individual rights and personal freedom in the United States has created inarguably the best standard of living for humans in all of history. Minimum government is powerfully defended against common arguments, such as the necessity for economic equality, as she somewhat humorously states:
“Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been too much
babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect
him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting diseases and insects
and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a
right to security and that ‘The State’ must give it to him.”
So powerful is her work that she is deemed one of the founders of the libertarian movement. She believed, “Americans (of both parties) who stand for American political principles … have no means of peaceful political action. What was needed was a political movement which would unite writers, activists, teachers, propagandists, and politicians in favor of individual liberty. A “libertarian movement” was her phrase.” The first ballot ever cast for a libertarian candidate, and a woman candidate, was made by Roger MacBride: Rose Wilder Lane’s close companion and inheritor.
Her words, arguments, and thoughts have a lasting impact; the clear imagery of her stories emblazon the meaning and importance of freedom on the memory, and strike a chord in everyone whose personal experiences have led them to libertarianism. She is an inspiration to all who continue to defend liberty. As she puts it best:
“When all living men know that men are born free, the energy of twenty-two
hundred million human beings will be released upon this earth. A hundred
million have made America. What will twenty-two hundred millions do?”