Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How to Advance Liberty

The below clip is of a speech delivered by the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, Leonard Read. I once heard Read give this speech at FEE. I have no idea if the recording below was done when I attended or some other time. It seems to be a Read "stump speech".

In this taping, Read says that he had a way to get people who sat next to him on airplanes to ask him what he did. He then suggests that it would be something he would explain in more detail during the Q&A, if anyone wanted to hear more. He did the same thing at the speech I heard. Someone asked him about it after the speech I attended and he explained his technique was a type of name dropping. He knew, as he mentions in this tape, Walt Disney, and also I believe, Arnold Palmer, among many other well known people. He would throw these names out around short stories of his interaction with these men until finally the seatmate passenger would say, "What do you do?"

Read was something of a stage performer this way. I recall waiting in a room before a FEE conference was to get started and he walked in, made a bit of a commotion about just getting back into town and said to his secretary in a sort of stage whisper, "I think he is going to buy the entire library." Someone then asked him about this and he explained that FEE had for sale copies of all its publications in one set as a library.

Read was very important to the early development of the libertarian movement in the United States. He was a big supporter of Ludwig von Mises. After Read's death Hans Sennohlz and Richard Ebeling served as presidents of FEE. They played important roles in maintaining the spirit of FEE that Read created. Ebeling was instrumental in bringing FEE into the internet age. There have also been not so happy other episodes with FEE presidents that included Rudy Giuliani being invited to speak at the foundation. Now, FEE has fallen into orbit around the Koch brothers and I follow the foundation so little that I don't even know who is president.

The center of the libertarian movement is now located at the Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com. Mises and LRC bring a much deeper consistent freedom message than Read did, though Read was no slouch. It is a reflection on how much Mises and LRC have advanced things rather than a poor reflection on Read.  They not only promote the thinking of Mises, but the advancements on the thinking of Mises about the dangers of all government activities, thinking developed by Murray Rothbard.

All that said, here is Read delivering his speech on how to advance liberty. You can tell he gave the subject a lot of thought and he makes some very important points.


  1. Thanks for posting. Good information that can be put to good use.

  2. FEE's current president is Lawrence Reed, a longtime Freeman columnist and FEE board member. I worked for him and he's a good guy though probably not a hardcore Rothbardian anarchist.