Freeman

PERSPECTIVE

Freedom 101

A Suggestion for Spreading the Freedom Philosophy

FEBRUARY 01, 1998 by SHELDON RICHMAN

Where is someone likely to come into first contact with the freedom philosophy? In school? Considering that almost 90 percent of American children attend schools run by the government, that’s not likely. There may be exceptions, but how often will a teacher in a coercive institution tell his charges that each individual should be free to determine his own life’s course? Schools are too busy hammering home the lesson that government saves us from the otherwise chaotic and environmentally destructive marketplace. It would be slightly discordant to add, “And by the way, freedom is both moral and practical.”

Since we can’t look to most schools, we have to put our trust in other methods. The news media carry stories of government ineptitude, but we can’t count on everyone drawing the right conclusion, namely, that government power is the problem. It’s too easy to think that a change of personnel will fix things. Besides, by the time young people are paying close attention to news accounts about government, their political views may already be set.

I don’t have a definitive answer to my question. But I do have a suggestion. The Freeman aims to be accessible to readers who know little about how the free economy works. That makes it right for college and high school students, and even younger children who show an interest in public affairs. Look around you and see who would most benefit from these monthly articles on the market process, unplanned order, individual rights, and the dangers of statism. You could be the one who introduces a young person to a lifetime appreciation of freedom.

* * *

In the wake of the big recall of hamburger meat last year, the Clinton administration has sought new power to regulate the food industry. Yet Thomas DiLorenzo and James Bennett explain that what is needed is not more power but less. The Food and Drug Administration, spurred by some environmental groups, until recently prevented the beef industry from killing deadly bacteria, such as E. coli, with a safe and established procedure. See the excerpt from their forthcoming book, The Food and Drink Police: America’s Nannies, Busybodies, and Petty Tyrants.

We continue our commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of FEE founder Leonard E. Read with a 1956 Freeman article in which he explains that the freedom philosophy is neither left nor right. As Read writes, “Liberty has no horizontal relationship to authoritarianism.” This is a point worth revisiting.

The U.S. Information Agency puts on programs for top students and professors. What does it tell them about the role of government? Tom G. Palmer describes a recent event. It wasn’t pretty.

We are pleased to publish the first- and second-prize-winning essays in the 1997 Olive W. Garvey Fellowship program, sponsored by the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. The topic for the competition was F. A. Hayek’s statement, “Private property is the most important guaranty of freedom.” David Upham, a doctoral candidate in politics at the University of Dallas, wrote the top-winning entry, “The Primacy of Property Rights and the American Founding”; Jason Baldwin, a senior at Wheaton College in Illinois, placed second with “Property and the Moral Life.” Both will interest Freeman readers.

Political reformers are always going on about the evils of money and the need for campaign finance reform. John Wenders, noticing that the scope of government power is rarely acknowledged, brings some clear thinking to the issue.

Adherents to the freedom philosophy think it is no coincidence that economic growth correlates with economic freedom. Randall Holcombe explores this connection and presents some empirical evidence that fits the theory like a glove.

Is the regulatory state merely socialism by other, subtler means? Ralph Reiland looks at this question and comes up with a disquieting answer. If the era of big government is over, we must have entered the era of lots of little government.

Smoking is a major target of public policy these days. Yet, writes Andrew Cohen, we could better handle the potential conflicts involved if the rules of private property were allowed to take precedence over government regulation. Ownership can solve the apparently insoluble.

Russell Madden thinks it’s ironic that the government is called on to protect the environment. It’s not just that government officials act under perverse incentives. More than that, the state itself, through its subsidies and regulations, is the great despoiler of the environment. This is truly a case of the predator watching the endangered species.

Taxation is not the only way that government “taxes” its citizens. In fact, almost anything government does is in reality a tax. Max Schulz explains.

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

February 1998

ABOUT

SHELDON RICHMAN

Sheldon Richman is the former editor of The Freeman and TheFreemanOnline.org, and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families.

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December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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