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Thursday, September 18, 2014

FEE Then and Now

Reflections on a 70-year-old organization


Distinguished fellow Jeffrey Tucker has written a stirring tribute to FEE over at Liberty.me.

In it he offers a couple of keen insights about FEE's position in the wider movement:

Back in the early years, FEE was the only game in town. It was founded by Read to give voice to the liberty agenda during very dark times. It did that work so well that many other institutions have been founded in the intervening years. There are thousands of freedom-minded research and educational institutions in the world. 
What is FEE’s specific role in this division of labor? The decision was made to focus on that crucial demographic of late high school and college students, age 16 to 24. This was the very time I had discovered this body of ideas through FEE’s work. And this is an area in which FEE has always excelled. That doesn’t mean forgetting about everything else, but it does mean being clear about the primary role of FEE. 
To be sure, the “millennials” are a generation unlike any we’ve seen. They are the first to be raised entirely in a world with the Internet, a world in which all human knowledge is potentially accessible through a device you carry in your pocket, a world in which enterprise is driving innovation in ways never before seen in human history. 
It would be a mistake, then, to assume that this age group is all about requiring beginner material. In some ways, this is the most knowledge-exposed generation to live on this planet. Reaching this generation, then, requires a special focus. Knowledge is one thing but wisdom and principles are another. Being bombarded with non-stop data bits is not the same thing as having a useful worldview rooted in a coherent set of changeless principles. Knowing facts about the world is not the same as understanding cause and effect. 
This is precisely what FEE seeks to impart, and its renewed focus can extend the influence of the core ideas with greater clarity to the particulars of the mission.

This really captures our approach. Indeed, we want not only to stay mission focused, but to regard ourselves as functioning within a wider ecosystem of organizations, activists, academics and entrepreneurs. A failure to do so, we think, will turn us into a guild or monastery—closed off from the feedback loops and porous edges of a movement that may have just found its moment.


  • The Freeman is the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education and one of the oldest and most respected journals of liberty in America. For more than 50 years it has uncompromisingly defended the ideals of the free society.