Perspective: Speak for Yourself!
APRIL 01, 1987 by ROBERT JAMES BIDINOTTO
There are many reasons to support the free market system—a fact reflected in the divergent philosophies of the system’s advocates.
For some, the rationale for capitalism is strictly utilitarian: it fulfills the economic wants of the greatest number of people. Others deny the possibility of any single standard of values for all people, arguing that a free, pluralistic society allows for diversity and competition among subjective values. Some hold that capitalism’s individualist roots can be traced to Christianity, which recognizes the sacred importance of the individual soul. Still others, from a secular standpoint, contend that capitalism is the only system fully compatible with human life, creativity, and self-realization.
Most people think there is strength in numbers, and feel reassured when they can claim a host of supporters for their positions. Perhaps that is why some proponents of liberty yearn for a mass movement, an identifiable “we.” They would have “us” confront the public with a united front—a coalition based on suspension of divisive premises, and focused solely on “our” common conclusions.
But such a unity has its dangers. All philosophical roads do not necessarily lead to the same political destination. Differing premises often color the kinds of conclusions people will reach on a variety of issues. The philosophical disputes among freedom’s interpreters and advocates frequently have practical consequences, and should not be evaded.
Yet neither should they be feared. Fundamental debates help us clarify and strengthen our understanding. Just as importantly, debates will refine the emerging arguments for freedom and capitalism.
What is crucial is to maintain open forums for these debates—forums (such as The Freeman) in which individuals may present their insights, contentions, and understanding for public consideration. Ideas are not spread by coalitions; rather, it is only after individuals advance their own visions of the truth that coalitions can arise around their fundamental positions.
Today there remains a variety of intellectual arguments for a free society. So let us not pretend to ourselves, or to the public, that “we” are part of some unified intellectual movement. Let us not hide behind the collective “we”; but rather, let us each accept full individual responsibility for our own convictions. In short, when addressing the public, make it clear that you speak for yourself/
—Robert James Bidinotto
Freedom Around the World
On his 70th birthday, in 1964, Henry Hazlitt spoke of the importance of continuing the struggle for freedom_ In many ways, the situation then was discouraging. But Hazlitt admon ished his listeners, “Be of good heart; be of good spirit. If the battle is not yet won, it is not yet lost either.” Twenty-three years have passed. Although “the battle” is still not “won,” there is cause for cautious optimism.
Groups all over the world are now promoting the freedom philosophy. Some date from before 1964—for instance, this Foundation, as well as organizations in Argentina, England, and Guatemala. But many more have sprung up since and are publishing books, conducting seminars, and establishing educational institutions.
For instance, the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala and the Escuela Superior de Economía y Administraci6n de Empresas (ESEADE) in Argentina are dedicated to explaining free market principles and their application to the real world. Some of the books of the noted “Austrian” economist, Ludwig von Mises, as well as those of his Nobel Prizewinning student F. A. Hayek, once again are being published in the original German. Quite a few of them have been published in other languages, the latest being a Spanish translation of Mises’ Planning for Freedom. Some of the writings of Frederic Bastiat, who had been all but forgotten in his native France, are being reprinted in French by a newly-formed institute in Parris. Other organizations to promote the freedom philosophy are operating in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark,Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.
As Mr. Hazlitt said, the battle may not as yet have been won, but it has also not been lost.
A Look at the Supply Side
Bruce Bartlett’s first Freeman article appeared in 1975. He went on to become one of the leading spokesmen for supply-side economics. Because of the increasing importance of supply- side theory, and because of Mr. Bartlett’s familiarity with FEE’s free market, limited government stance, we have called on him to explain the supply-side position to Freeman readers. See his article, “Supply-Side Economics and Austrian Economics” on page 151.
Op-Ed Program Starts Second Year
April marks the first anniversary of The Freeman’s op-ed newspaper program, in which we send adaptations of Freeman articles to a select group of newspapers for use on their editorial or commentary pages.
Thus far, columns have appeared in newspapers in 23 states and the District of Columbia, including such major outlets as the Houston Chronicle, the Phoenix Gazette, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, The Orange County Register, Long Island’s Newsday, the Dayton Daily News, and the San Diego Union. Combined circulation for all newspapers who have used our columns is over 8 million.
These results are encouraging. They show that FEE, without compromising our message, can readily achieve publication in the main-steam press.
As we continue with this program, we would appreciate it if you would call our attention to any of our articles you may see.