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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Freeman Is Not a Monolith

You might not always agree with what we publish

Apparently yesterday's Anything Peaceful blog post by Casey Given created some controversy among our readers. While the Arizona law he discusses has been vetoed, it touched on several different topics—freedom of association, sexuality, morality, the State's role in any of this. These subjects reliably provoke disagreement whenever they arise.

Some of our readers—a small minority—would like to visit The Freeman every day to find that they agree with everything we publish.

That's just not going to happen.

An example might be called for. As the 2008 financial crisis was unfolding, and then when legislative flotsam appeared in its wake, The Freeman ran a lot of articles in which writers' opinions clashed. This article, for instance, stirred a lot of controversy. And this situation did not cut straight to issues of religion, morality, sexuality, and identity.

The Freeman is a journal of analysis and opinion. The former is arrived at, not received intact. In other words, analysis is the route taken. And that's why we require all of our writers to be transparent about how they arrive at their opinions. Sooner or later, that's going to mean we publish articles from people who don't operate from the same starting point as some subset of readers. Simply put, libertarians disagree about matters. We at The Freeman don't even agree with each other about everything. We argue. We send each other snarky emails. We edit, occasionally, through gritted teeth. We—shockingly—even disagree with Mises and Hayek on certain points.

But we are humble enough to consider multiple perspectives. We are willing to run pieces we ourselves don't agree with—as long as the author is championing liberty in good faith and makes an intelligent case. It happens all the time. And we do it in the interests of challenging our own thinking, as well as that of our readers. We'll run Hayekians, Misesians, Rothbardians, Objectivists, Libertarians, libertarians, Friedmanites, Anarchists, Minarchists, Liberaltarians and Paleocons. That's because we're more interested in having our readers test their assumptions in the crucible of diverse libertarian views than in falling into ideological stasis.

The Freeman is part of the general mission of FEE—inspiring, educating, and connecting emerging leaders with the princples of a free society—but it's not designed to crank out libertarian scripture as determined by any one person. There are other sites that attempt to do that. Our articles are a collection of “ideas on freedom.” Far from being a static thing, The Freeman is designed to catalyze an ongoing conversation about what it means to be free and what we need to do to have freedom. That might sometimes involve apparent contradictions from one article to the next.

F. A. Hayek once wrote:

The word “truth” itself ceases to have its old meaning. It describes no longer something to be found, with the individual conscience as the sole arbiter of whether in any particular instance the evidence (or the standing of those proclaiming it) warrants a belief; it becomes something to be laid down by authority, something which has to be believed in the interest of unity of the organized effort and which may have to be altered as the exigencies of this organized effort require it.

We think of ourselves as truth seekers, not truth authorities.  And if there's more to be said, then we want you to say it. Say it well, respectfully, and with the fullest reasonable accounting of the principles behind it. We'll help you keep the conversation going. It only ends when you choose to leave it.

  • 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.