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Monday, March 6, 2023

Unpopular Truths Need to Be Told

Freedom needs fearless truth-tellers.

Image by fszalai from Pixabay

“Tell the people what is honestly believed to be true. Disregard votes. Pay no attention to popularity. ‘To thine own self be true.’”

— Leonard E. Read, Pattern for Revolt (1948)

When a truth needs to be told, tell it.

Is it an unpleasant truth? Tell it anyway. People-pleasing and people-helping are often at odds.

Is it an unpopular opinion? Express it anyway, assuming it is your honest opinion and your urge to offer it comes from a good place.

And pay no heed to self- or government-appointed arbiters of “correct” opinion. Respect for expert opinion is to be earned, not mandated.

Have the courage of your convictions. Do not be intimidated by crowds or crowns. Do not let masses or masters cow you into silence or submission to errors and lies.

Make the truth your primary allegiance. If you side with the truth, you automatically win the moral victory and your conscience will grant peace of mind as your reward.

Moreover, with truth on your side you gain a powerful advantage in any contest of ideas, one that can help you prevail even against the direst odds: when you seem hopelessly outnumbered and the game is rigged against you.

One man who courageously told the truth, even when it was unpleasant, unpopular, and unauthorized was Leonard E. Read. As his biographer Mary Sennholz wrote:

“In 1946, when Leonard E. Read set out to launch the Foundation for Economic Education, the eyes of the economics profession were on the federal government.”

Sennholz elaborated how all of America’s most authoritative economics institutions at the time were lending their intellectual weight to the nation’s wholesale shift toward central planning and away from freedom.

The philosophy of freedom that founded America had become forgotten by the people and anathema to the elites. But Read was undaunted, because he trusted in the power of truth. As Sennholz wrote:

“To create an institution of learning that would confront this vast array of officialdom and its vocal allies was well-nigh inconceivable to everyone except Leonard E. Read. He appeared to be oblivious to the power and strength of official opinion and mainstream economic thought.”

In the face of massive opposition and seemingly insurmountable odds, Read founded FEE to boldly uphold the banner of economic truth and political wisdom. The remnant of American freedom-lovers rallied to that standard, and a movement was reborn. Ever since, the ranks of the liberty movement have grown as the ideas of liberty have spread.

We should regard that legacy as an encouragement. Defenders of liberty were far more marginalized in 1946 than today. Thanks to the groundwork laid by predecessors like Read, we have much more to work with than they did and thus much less of an excuse for despair and defeatism.

Above all, we still have the truth on our side.

When people all around you have been whipped up by deceiving demagogues into woke manias, public health hysterias, planet panics, war fevers, and socialist scrambles for legal loot, it can be tempting to keep your head down, to dissimulate, and to “go along to get along.”

But to acquiesce to lies is to forsake the truth. If we do that, we condemn ourselves to inner torment and consign the world to disaster.

Precious few can perceive the truth amid a fog of falsehoods and fallacies. The fate of society depends on whether those few are brave enough to say the truth they see no matter what.


  • Dan Sanchez is an essayist, editor, and educator. His primary topics are liberty, economics, and educational philosophy. He is the Director of Content at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the editor-in-chief of FEE.org. He created the Hazlitt Project at FEE, launched the Mises Academy at the Mises Institute, and taught writing for Praxis. He has written hundreds of essays for venues including FEE.org (see his author archive), Mises.org, Antiwar.com, and The Objective Standard. Follow him on Twitter and Substack.