Rose Wilder Lane is known in libertarian society for her book The Discovery of Freedom, a nonfiction work that champions the human spirit over the forces that attempt to control it, contain it, or guide it according to some centralized plan. The book encapsulates Lane's worldview and intellectual outlook toward a vast swath of human experience. It's all about the mighty human heart and its capacity for overcoming obstacles.
Young Pioneers, a story of two young lovers David and Molly, as they set up a new life in the unsettled West, is a magnificent fiction work of Lane's that explores the same themes. It is a book that inspires in the same way as The Discovery of Freedom, and perhaps even more so. Jeffrey Tucker writes the editorial preface, and Wendy McElroy writes the detailed introduction.
Lane is writing about frontier life in the 1870s. The drama concerns not competition between industrial giants but the strength of will of regular people in the face of astonishing obstacles in an untamed land. Those obstacles are not government regulators and tax agents but rather weather, killer insects, getting food, finding and keeping shelter, and the ever-present danger of despair and bad decision making.
The reader realizes early on that we are being introduced to a world of which we know absolutely nothing today — even though it all happened only 140 years ago, a tiny slice of time compared with the whole history of the human race.
The novel opens up with a story of a young man of 18 who is thanking his father for allowing him to leave the homestead at the age of 18 rather than requiring him to work at the home business until he is 21. This is a reminder of a time when children were considered employable assets to the family, charges that had to earn their keep and win their independence through productive work. The son is grateful to the father for letting him go West fully three years earlier than the custom would seem to require, and for also sending him off with a team of horses and wagon.
What else was different? In their new home in the West, there was no communication technology apart from the mails, which only ran from town to town, and which often required that people walk days to mail and pick up letters. There was no electricity for refrigeration. Plumbing was nowhere in place. The fastest mode of travel for individuals was the horse, since railroads were only for the well-to-do and the laying of tracks to the West was still in process. No aspect of life was without grim struggle: to eat, to stay warm, to find or grow food, to make clothing, to bathe. To own one book was a glorious thing.
Even so, for the young couple setting out in this novel, the future looked bright with the romantic dream of a new settlement in the Dakota territory. The optimism proves unwarranted as they face trials that are unfamiliar to us today. They all serve to remind us of the cruelty of nature, the fragility of human life, the disasters of bad financial decision making, and the capacity of human beings of character to overcome them.
We should also be reminded of the extraordinary opportunities that have been bequeathed by history and current technology on this generation. Today we complain if the wireless Internet connection is flakey, the newest smartphone upgrade is not everything we hope, or if a video we want to see on our handheld wireless devices doesn't play because of a software incompatibility. These are all what are known today as "first-world problems," which are incomparably trivial to the struggles you will encounter in these pages.
Lovers of freedom today are also young pioneers, a generation trying to find its way in a world of command and control. That mighty generation of westward movers of the 1870s did what was necessary to build a new civilization.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Five stars for the story itself ...
Three stars off for the libertarian preaching.