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Thursday, November 1, 1962

A Miracle at Stake

The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights more severely limited government than government had ever before been limited in the history of the world. And there were benefits that flowed from this severe limi­tation of the state.

Number One, there wasn’t a single person that turned to the government for security, welfare, or prosperity because government was so limited that it had nothing on hand to dispense, nor did it then have the power to take from some that it might give to others. To what or to whom do people turn if they cannot turn to gov­ernment for security, welfare, or prosperity? They turn where they should turn—to themselves.

There was another benefit that flowed from this severe limitation of government. When government is limited to the inhibition of the destructive actions of men—that is, when it is limited to inhibiting fraud and depredation, violence and misrepresentation, when it is limited to invoking a common jus­tice—then there is no organized force standing against the pro­ductive or creative actions of citi­zens. As a consequence of this limitation on government, there occurred a freeing, a releasing, of creative human energy, on an un­precedented scale.

This was the combination mainly responsible for the “Amer­ican miracle,” founded on the be­lief that the Creator, not the state, is the endower of man’s rights.

This manifested itself among the people as individual freedom of choice. People had freedom of choice as to how they employed themselves. They had freedom of choice as to what they did with the fruits of their own labor.

But something happened to this remarkable idea of ours, this revo­lutionary concept. It seems that the people we placed in govern­ment office as our agents made a discovery. Having acquisitive instincts for affluence and power over others—as indeed some of us do—they discovered that the force which inheres in govern­ment, which the people had dele­gated to them in order to inhibit the destructive actions of man, this monopoly of force could be used to invade the productive and creative areas in society—one of which is the business sector. And they also found that if they in­curred any deficits by their inter­ventions, the same government force could be used to collect the wherewithal to pay the bills.

I would like to suggest to you that the extent to which govern­ment in America has departed from the original design of in­hibiting the destructive actions of man and invoking a common jus­tice; the extent to which govern­ment has invaded the productive and creative areas; the extent to which the government in this country has assumed the respon­sibility for the security, welfare, and prosperity of our people is a measure of the extent to which socialism and communism have developed in this land of ours.

The foregoing is an excerpt from the set of two LP record­ings by Mr. Read, three sides of which deal with the Essence of Americanism—the gift of freedom, the loss of freedom, the rescue of freedom. The fourth side describes a series of sug­gested answers to various Clichés of Socialism.

This set of two records may be ordered from The Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, at the special introductory price of $5.00.

  • Leonard E. Read (1898-1983) was the founder of FEE, and the author of 29 works, including the classic parable “I, Pencil.”