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Monday, October 31, 2016

Freedom Is Personal

Life under unlimited government power is constricting, unimaginative, and perilous.

Freedom is personal to me.

Growing up, conversations at the dinner table regularly addressed my father’s Polish background, most importantly why his parents decided to leave all of their material possessions–and cultural comfort–behind to move to Chicago when my dad was eight years old. I learned from an early age how life under unlimited government power was constricting, unimaginative, and perilous.

Through these conversations, I became interested in Poland, Russia, the Cold War, and political ideologies, evaluating what made them “good” and “bad.” My quest led me to study in St. Petersburg, Russia over a high school summer, and sparked my reading books by Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, later writings by Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and Leonard E. Read.

After a few years working to make the world freer through public policy in my dad’s American hometown of Chicago, I moved to the organization Leonard Read began in 1946: FEE.

FEE is my natural intellectual home because of our focus on what makes free societies more creative, more dynamic, more accepting, and entirely more personally fulfilling than those such as communist Poland. The ideas we champion help me live a happy and satisfying life, as we say, serving myself by serving others well.

Many of the ideas that have changed my life can be found in the pages of the last issue of The Freeman. From Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson that taught me everything has a cost–whether time, resources, or opportunity–to Read’s “I, Pencil”–which explains the miracle of the simplest everyday object–these ideas will make you begin to recognize just what a truly marvelous world we occupy… and how fragile so much what of what we take for granted actually is.

In “Why Socialism Failed” by Mark Perry, we learn how so many civilizations have sabotaged themselves by ignoring and suppressing the guidance of prices, profit and loss, and private property rights. In “Unicorn Governance,” Michael Munger explains how a government that seeks the disinterested “public good” is as elusive as mythical creatures. In The Law by Frédéric Bastiat, I learned how the law can so easily be corrupted to serve entirely unjust purposes. And in “How to Find Joy in An Unfree World,” my colleague Jeffrey Tucker summarizes a wonderful yet practically forgotten book by Orison Swett Marden that reminds me of one of my favorite quotations by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his pen-pal John Adams:

“There are indeed…gloomy and hypochondriac minds, inhabitants of diseased bodies, disgusted with the present, and despairing of the future; always counting that the worst will happen, because it may happen. To these I say How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened? My temperament is sanguine. I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. My hopes indeed sometimes fail; but not oftener than the forebodings of the gloomy.”

It’s my hope you will find as much value out of these words as I continue to find every day. When you’re finished reading, share this collection with others to become, as Leonard Read recommended, like a candle in the darkness whom people would seek for insight on current events, interpersonal relationships, entrepreneurship, and living, as one of my favorite philosophers Robert Nozick called it (echoing Socrates), an “examined life.”

Not only examined, but also happy, prosperous, and free.

  • Richard N. Lorenc is Chief Growth Officer of Iron Light, an award-winning strategic marketing firm specializing in helping purpose-driven brands change the world. He served at FEE from April 2013-November 2021, most recently as FEE's Executive Vice President.