The Freedom Freeway

The Freedom Freeway, a book by Leonard E. Read

1. The Freedom Freeway

Countries are well cultivated, not as they are fertile, but as they are free.

—MONTESQUIEU

A freeway is defined as a “multi-lane highway designed to move traffic along smoothly and quickly.” The freedom freeway is strikingly similar: It is a multi-million-lane politico-economic highway, along which speed goods and services, as well as intellectual, moral and spiritual ideas and ideals, to benefit all the people—smoothly and quickly. Not a single stop sign to any creative action! Indeed, many actions move at the speed of light, all according to the actor’s choice. But for such a network to exist, there must be a few who have some understanding as to why it works such phenomenal wonders.

Fundamental to such understanding is an awareness of man’s destiny, the end that should be pursued. So we must ask: What is the purpose of our mortal moment? There is but one valid answer: growth in consciousness so that individual creativity may be increasingly experienced!

Growth in consciousness is the noble objective. Having this end in view and being aware that all ends pre-exist in the means, what is the indispensable means? It is the freedom to exchange all creativities with whomever one pleases—goods, services, ideas or whatever. Not a single red light on this freeway—all green lights signaling go, go, go, now and forever!

Suppose this freedom were completely denied, that each individual were forced to live on only his own productivity—all exchange completely squelched. Obviously, all would perish! Freedom in its ideal form—no red-lights—has been most nearly approximated in the U.S.A.—but not perfectly, for human beings are imperfect. But freedom has never been completely squelched in all history—in spite of the red lights. The most powerful of dictocrats are not up to imposing complete depravity for, intellectually, they are weaklings.

Anyway, it is and always will be an interesting contest of men’s mentalities in one direction or the other—into nothingness—or toward the fulfillment of human destiny, a game of losing or winning. The stakes are the highest in mankind’s existence. So let’s join in the fun of perfecting the freedom freeway!

Why refer to the hoped-for freedom freeway as a multi-million-lane politico-economic highway? The traffic, just in the U..S.A., consists of more than 220 million individuals. No two of these persons are remotely alike, except in superficial ways, and each of them has many unique qualities; some more than others. Each of the millions times millions of these tiny achievements speeding about in an unimaginable profusion! One is reminded of the electrons in an atom darting every which way at the speed of light. No one knows what potencies are still locked within the atom; and likewise no one knows what the freedom freeway would be like should it be attained. The atom and its constituent parts is the smallest manifestation of Creation known to us. Freedom in its highest sense is Creation’s challenge—a goal at which we should aim.

To illustrate the phenomenal performances of the free and unfettered market—so far as we have experienced it—reflect on conditions during my grandfather’s time. Prior to 1864, the human voice could be transmitted at the speed of sound. Today? At the speed of light! Around the earth in the same fraction of a second that grandfather’s voice could be heard by another fifty yards away.

Travel? Grandfather’s fastest was on horseback. Today? Around the earth in less than one day! Light? The American Indians, only four centuries ago, had nothing better than flaming torches. Today? Homes, offices and streets aglow with electric lighting, requiring no more on our part than the flick of a switch!

Grandfather could not imagine the economic wonders that have happened since his time any more than we can foresee the miracles in the offing—provided we do our homework. One remarkable advantage has already appeared to those who can see below the surface—and for free! I refer to the role played in our lives by profit, in the broadest sense of the term.

There are two kinds of profit—material and psychic. The Indians, prior to our Pilgrim Fathers, were so primitive that their population, in the whole area that is now the U.S.A., was less than one million according to the best estimates. They had little to exchange. Material profit close to zero!

Today the material profit is so abundant that psychic profit is, potentially, a part of our lives. For instance, when one is materially graced, he can make a monetary contribution to a church, a school, a family in poverty, a hospital, and countless other objects of his concern—and without any cost whatsoever to any one of them. All free to the recipients!

Why is this a psychic profit? It is freedom of choice in action. One would rather lend others a helping hand than maintain his own material status. When freedom of choice rises to this level, the practice of Judeo-Christian charity finds its highest fulfillment!

Every other nation has had and does have more obstacles to freedom than the U.S.A.—Red Russia and Red China leading in red lights! What is produced and exchanged—goods, services, speech, press—is dictated and coercively enforced by dictocrats, know-it-alls who know no more than did Stalin. I marvel at the millions of Americans in all walks of life who are blind to the distinction between red and green lights. While having no desire to move from the U.S.A. to Russia or China, they favor and promote more and more red lights in our homeland.

As a consequence of this naivete, we have our ups and downs. However, the thrust of the freedom way of life, initiated in bygone days, is so powerful that the red lights only slow us down; they have not yet halted our progress. Sadly, there are many millions who perversely credit the red lights with the munificence they still enjoy!

It should be obvious that our present descent into all-out socialism can be halted only by increasing moral and politico-economic enlightenment. If no reversal, what was once the home of the free will resemble Red Russia and Red China.

The red lights imposed by our 78,000 governments—federal, state and local—are beyond anyone’s ability to count. Here is a typical Federal red light: no one is permitted to deliver first class mail—the free market outlawed in order to maintain a government monopoly. The “service” gets worse and worse as the prices go higher and higher. Were mail delivery left to the free and unfettered market where the wisdom is, no one can imagine the miraculous service that would follow. The leap in efficiency would be as fantastic as the leap from Indian torches to electric lighting!

Why this abysmal absence of faith in freedom? No one knows all the reasons. This may be the most deadening one: An inability to imagine the miracles free men can work leaves most people stranded at the what-is level. The solution to this blindness is simple: merely reflect on how the free market has wrought its wonders in countless other fields.

As that French philosopher, Montesquieu, wrote about 200 years ago, “Countries are well cultivated, not as they are fertile, but as they are free.” How easy it is to confirm this wisdom. Red Russia, for instance, has climates as friendly, soil as fertile, resources as great as the U.S.A. Our plenitude in goods, services, discoveries, inventions, ideas, insights—creativity—has been and still is so far above theirs that accurate measurements are impossible! Why? One reason only: Russians are as enslaved as any people on earth; we Americans—even now—the freest!

What is the lesson to be learned from what is so obvious? What, pray tell, should be our aim? Get ourselves back on the freedom freeway. When? Right now!

* * *

The following chapters begin with the negative—explaining the red lights that restrain creativity. They conclude with the positive—the green lights that signal go, go, go, now and forever!

Wrote Longfellow: “Give what you have. To some one it may be better than you dare to think.” And indeed the one who gains most may be oneself. It is an observed fact that the more one gives—shares—the more will he or she receive. The Biblical counsel, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” means that giving is the precedent to reception.

Let us share with each other, that freedom in its ideal sense may again grace our lives.

2. The Socialization of Sin

Few love to hear the sins they love to act.

—SHAKESPEARE

The Bard of Avon would doubtless agree that most are self-blinded to the sins they love to act. Presently, in the U.S.A., citizens by the millions sin without the slightest awareness that they are so doing—sinning unconsciously. Sin has been socialized! The following is an attempt to demonstrate that the socialization of sin does, in fact, remove the awareness, but not the penalty and not the sin!

Sin is the breaking of a moral principle. Wrote Bulwer-Lytton:

What is the essence and the life of character? Principle, integrity, independence, or, as one of our great old writers has it, “That inbred loyalty unto virtue which can serve her without a livery.”

As to moral principles, the Golden Rule takes first place: “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Would you have others take your life? Steal your belongings? Keep you from working wherever and for whatever hours you please? Prevent you from exchanging your goods and/or services with whomever offers the most in the U.S.A. or elsewhere? Do you want others to decide what your education shall consist of, and what religion you shall profess? Then do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you! Here we have reciprocal justice. This moral principle is the formula for freedom and peace on earth, good will among all human beings!

As to integrity, it is one’s alliance with Truth, that is, what one believes to be righteous. No deviation in word or deed—none whatsoever! Valuable? Indeed it is! As with any desirable good or service, value is determined by scarcity. Fear of disagreement, of standing alone, of unpopularity is an all-too-common trait.

No individual of integrity will ever take any action against his or her conscience. The American clergyman, Charles Simmons (1798–1856) wrote:

Integrity is the first step to true greatness. Men love to praise, but are slow to practice it. To maintain it in high places costs self-denial; in all places it is liable to opposition, but its end is glorious and the universe will yet do it homage.

As to independence, it has to do with the ideal in politico-economic affairs. “Hail! independence, hail! Heaven’s next best gift to that of life and an immortal soul!” With each of us the choice is either dependence or independence. If the former, our reliance is on government—the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul syndrome. If the latter, we have embraced that glorious virtue on which freedom depends: self-reliance! Only those who are self-reliant are free to act creatively as they please. An English political writer gave us good counsel about two centuries ago:

Let all your views in life be directed to a solid, however moderate, independence; without it no man can be happy, nor even honest.

Without independence the individual can never be free!

What is meant by socialization? My dictionary defines socialism:

. . . the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by the community [government] rather than by private individuals.

Briefly, instead of each of us individually being responsible for himself, dictocrats coercively command our way of life—the Command Society. Do as we say, or else!

The proper and limited use of government is to invoke a common justice and keep the peace—and that is all. Whenever government invades the creative realm by taking from some and giving to others, or otherwise intervenes to regulate and control peaceful activities, it abuses its principled role. Taking the livelihood of citizens is no less a sin than taking their lives. Wrote Martin Luther:

Whoever eats up, robs, and steals the nourishment of another, that man commits as great a murder (so far as in him lies) as he who starves a man or utterly undoes him.

The sinfulness of the act is not measured by the amount expropriated; robbing another of a dollar is as sinful as stealing a million dollars.

Now take note of a startling fact. Those who wouldn’t personally steal a dollar from anyone will favor the government stealing for them and with no sense of sinning—their awareness removed. Why this aberration, this departure from what is right? It is because hiding in numbers—mass action—gives a false sense of absolution. People by the millions—even those whose livelihood is taken—fall for this nonsense. I wouldn’t steal your horse but it’s all right if someone else does the stealing for me!

It should be clear that those who empower an agent—vote for a government—to do their robbing are as guilty of sin as those who steal on their own.

Wrote J. A. Broadus: “All the sin that has darkened human life and saddened human history began in believing a falsehood.” And what falsehood could be greater than the belief that the sin of stealing is absolved if government sins for you!

A final question: Is the penalty for such sinful behavior removed when the sin is politicized? Innocent or naive citizens by the millions “think” it does. Why this error? They are not fined or put in jail as would be the case were they personally to do the robbing. In this political hodgepodge the government relieves them of any sense of guilt for having sinned.

Regardless of this false absolution, the penalties are enormous. Merely reflect on all of the political interventions imposed by our 78,000 governments—federal, state and local—with their 16,000,000 elected and appointed officeholders. Here we have the cause for the mess we are in—the planned economy and the welfare state. More and more people are writing me and asking, “How do I survive? My dollar buys less and less.” The reason the dollar buys even as much as it does is the freedom which socialism has not yet destroyed.

There is, however, a happy side to this politico-economic dilemma; resistance to it is developing character. Suppose you were sitting atop the Cosmos and had on your hands the bringing up of a higher grade humanity. Would you pap feed your earthly beings or would you give them obstacles to overcome? Obviously the latter, for it is an observed fact that the art of becoming—life’s high purpose—is achieved by overcoming the countless confrontations. Result? Growth in awareness, perception, consciousness! The mess we are in is a steppingstone to the turnabout now in the offing.

Longfellow had a brilliant glimpse of life and purpose:

Man-like it is, to fall into sin;

Fiend-like it is to dwell therein;

Christ-like it is, for sin to grieve;

God-like it is, all sin to leave.

Away with the socialization of sin that we may glory in the material, intellectual, moral and spiritual bounties of freedom!

3. The Menace Of Meddlers

Meddlers are the Devil’s Body-Lice; they fetch blood from those that feed them.

—THOMAS FULLER

Why write on the same subject over and over again? It is my way of trying to find words for common sense, that is, for the sensible way of life: human freedom. For instance, “meddlers” may more clearly identify freedom’s opponents than “dictocrats” and vice versa. There is no end to the search for phrasings that highlight the blessings of freedom. This way of life is so advanced in intellectual, moral and spiritual learning that it borders on the celestial—each strains our powers of explanation. While confessing to being a neophyte, I love the exploration. ’Tis joyous and rewarding!

The English divine, Thomas Fuller (1608–61) lived when mercantilism was reaching its peak. The only difference between that political legerdemain—“trickery of any sort; deceit”—and our planned economy and the welfare state is in the spelling. In both cases it is the Command Society!

Following the Napoleonic wars, England recovered from that political hocus-pocus by reason of the brilliant works of Adam Smith, Richard Cobden, John Bright and Frederic Bastiat. Today, England is lurching into the same situation from which she earlier escaped. Similarly, during the past few decades, we in the U.S.A. have been rapidly sinking into the planned economy and the welfare state. Societies rise and fall; civilization comes and goes. As all history attests, it’s evolution/devolution—the Command Society/Freedom—in a sequence we should strive to understand.

To grasp the truth of freedom, we must first understand the fallacy of autocracy—“unlimited power of some over others; despotism.” Briefly, it is necessary to know the negative in order to accent the positive.

What a novel way Fuller had of portraying the negative, of identifying the political know-it-alls: the Devil’s Body-Lice! As someone phrased it, they are busy bodies with their hands in every dish. And, Fuller, “They fetch blood from those that feed them.” As the English, if of my persuasion, would describe him, “He was a jolly good fellow!”

Those who live only by robbing others are obvious meddlers. They fetch blood—livelihood—solely from those who feed them. Suppose all were robbers. Result? Nobody producing and nothing to rob—everyone starving to death! Any bright first-grader would agree.

It is the not-so-obvious meddlers who also qualify as the Devil’s Body-Lice; they bedevil nearly everyone. Most teachers—way up to Ph.D.’s—are as blind to this popular politico-economic nonsense as are first-graders. To whom is reference made? To everyone—no exception—who advocates or succeeds in obtaining special privilege, be it a “free lunch” for first-graders to a restraint of competition—domestic or foreign—by billion dollar corporations. Using this criterion, how many citizens have overcome the meddling affliction? My guess, less than 1 per cent!

Understanding what’s wrong is a necessary step to grasping what’s right and meritorious. We must know the negative to accent the positive.

Human evolution is implicit in the Cosmic Scheme; it is man’s manifest destiny. As I see it, moving onward and upward has at least two Evolutionary directives:

  1. Reason: “the ability to think; sound thought or judgment.”
  2. Suffering the consequences of thoughtless behavior: emotions, passions, hearsay, popular jargon.

Reason remains ever the property of the few. If we lack the wit to apply our rational faculties, we suffer the consequences. Suffering, in this case, is an awakening device. Such adversity has the effect of eliciting talents that would otherwise have lain dormant. It is a means to spur us on—to come to ourselves. Failure to grasp the menace of meddlers by pure reason has its instructive, though uncomplimentary, alternative. The first lesson? Rid our America of meddlers by employing reason!

Reason opens the eye to three inviolable rules:

  1. Realize that our first obligation is to “remove the beam from your own eye.”
  2. Never, never meddle with any other human being.
  3. Understand and acquire the ability to demonstrate in spoken and written words why the non-meddling society—the freedom way of life—is in harmony with the Cosmic Scheme: Evolution.

The first rule of reason borders on the obvious; it is strikingly simple. Merely reflect on the difficulty each of us experiences in personal evolution, emergence—growth in awareness, perception, consciousness. The more we know, the more are we aware of how little we know. Reason makes it plain that we are no more than finite creatures. Thus, consider the utter absurdity of anyone running—dictating—the life of any other individual, let alone the whole population. No two of us are remotely alike.

The second rule of reason—never meddling with another’s life—relates to exemplarity. Wrote Edmund Burke, “Example is the school of mankind. They will learn at no other.” Call it the aristocratic spirit as did Hanford Henderson:

He may be a day laborer, an artisan, a shopkeeper, a professional man, a writer, a statesman. It is not a matter of birth, or occupation, or education. It is an attitude of the mind carried into daily action . . . a religion. It is the disinterested, passionate love of excellence . . . everywhere and in everything; the aristocrat, to deserve the name, must love it in himself, in his own alert mind, in his own illuminated spirit, and he must love it in others; must love it in all human relations and occupations and activities; in all things in earth or sea or sky.

The third rule of reason requires explanations as to why the freedom way of life is in harmony with human Evolution. It is difficult to find individuals, past and present, who have assessed evolution as here used—in terms of the unfolding of human consciousness. An example of my point: People in our time are higher up the ladder of consciousness than was Cro-Magnon man. History records the rise and fall of civilization—each gain followed by a loss—but attests to the fact that consciousness has inched ahead, evolved, over the millennia.

Henri Bergson, the French philosopher (1859–1941) in his book, Creative Evolution, sheds light on the obstacles, the absence of thought, and suggests where lies our hope:

Our freedom, in the very movements by which it is affirmed, creates the growing habits that will stifle it if it fails to renew itself by a constant effort. . . .

Renewal does, indeed, depend on constant effort which, in turn, is possible only if the individual be free to act creatively as he or she pleases—free to explore the limitless unknown. And free from meddlers. No person who has ever lived is remotely capable of doing your or my or anyone’s thinking or exploring. Every human being is unique, popular notions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Doing our utmost to evolve in the direction of Infinite Consciousness—the Cosmic Scheme—possible only when free, classifies the freedom way of life as religion in its highest form. Alfred North Whitehead wrote:

Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final goal, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.

By “hopeless quest” Whitehead assuredly meant that we finite beings will never become Infinite Beings. However, going in that Divine direction is a hopeful prospect if we have freedom. Wrote Emerson:

Is not prayer a study of truth, a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.

May more of us pray heartily for freedom—man’s only avenue to Truth!

4. Coercion: A Popular Illusion

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds; while they only recover their senses slowly and one by one.

—CHARLES MACKAY

First, what is meant by illusion? According to my dictionary: “False idea or conception; belief or opinion not in accord with the facts . . . unreal, deception . . . an abnormal illusion is a hallucination.” Illusion, as related to my thesis, is indeed a hallucination!

Second, what is coercion? Even the dictionaries fail to give this word adequate definition. In the largest of all quotation books, with over 200,000 words—headings from Ability to Zeal—Coercion is not headlined. Nor is it mentioned by any of the countless authors. Why? Only a few have the slightest idea of what coercion really is!

The American statesman, Charles Sumner (1811–79) knew. He wrote: “Where slavery is, there liberty cannot be; where liberty is, there slavery cannot be.” Coercion is slavery!

And that brilliant British thinker, Herbert Spencer (1820–1908), not only had a similar view but in 1884 gave the word an unusual, thoughtful and accurate definition:

What is essential to the idea of a slave? We primarily think of him as one who is owned by another. . . . That which fundamentally distinguishes a slave is that he labours under coercion to satisfy another’s desires. . . . What. . . leads us to qualify our conception of the slavery as more or less severe? Evidently the greater or smaller extent to which effort is compulsorily expended for the benefit of another instead of self-benefit.[1]

The first question to which we should seek an answer is: Why do the vast majority of citizens look upon coercion—governmental and labor union edicts—so favorably? Is it not because they observe material progress and compulsion going on simultaneously? As a consequence, they erroneously ascribe the progress to the coercions. They make a wrong correlation. These people are unaware of the fact that coercion is a destructive force; coercion is never constructive or creative.

To illustrate my point, this very day I have examined an electronic calculator, a fantastic device that has a memory! Unbelievable! Yet, daily in the U.S.A. there are countless thousands of inventions, discoveries, technological advances. These are increasing at a pace more than comparable to the pace of the nonsensical, inhibitive forces—and so we inch ahead. Is it any wonder that so many believe that coercion is the cause of our advancement!

An example of inhibitive force is the minimum wage law—a labor union edict enforced by government. It is the union’s way of avoiding competition with the many millions who would gladly work for less than $3.00 an hour. Free market pricing of labor is taboo and in its place is the greatest of all monopolies—the labor union monopoly! Is this not slavery? Is not effort compulsorily expended for the “benefit” of labor union members instead of self-benefit for one and all?

Move to another form of slavery, to the millions who are unemployed by reason of labor union monopoly and all others who for this or that excuse are jobless. The present-day remedy? Government coercively takes from those who have and gives to those who have not. These “gifts” are to a great extent more munificent than the jobless would receive if employed. People are being paid not to work. The result? They don’t even look for jobs. Here we have the Marxian nonsense, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Another way of phrasing: Those who don’t have very much are “helped” by those who don’t know very much! They can’t tell slavery from freedom. Poor Souls!

Who are these people that think in herds? Not only labor union “leaders” and political dictocrats but all who vote for slavery. This group includes everyone who approves, encourages or lends support to coercion in order to achieve “goals” inconsistent with liberty. For “where slavery is, liberty cannot be.”

I do not mean to imply that my ideal refers solely to material welfare—riches. Far from it! Wealth only serves to relieve us of mundane chores so that our hours, days and years may be devoted to improving our awareness, perception, consciousness—that more of us may recover our senses “one by one.”

Believing that enlightenments discovered in others should be shared, here are a few I have gleaned from Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59):

The soil is productive less by reason of its natural fertility than because the people tilling it are free.

In fact, those who prize freedom only for the material benefits it offers have never kept it long.

What has made so many men, since untold ages, stake their all on liberty is . . . a fascination it has in itself, apart from all “practical” considerations. For only in a country where it reigns can a man speak, live, and breathe freely, owing obedience to no authority save God and the laws of the land. The man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave.

Some nations have freedom in the blood and are ready to face the greatest perils and hardships in its defense. It is not for what it offers on the material plane that they love it; they regard freedom itself as something so precious, so needful to their happiness that no other boon could compensate for its loss, and its enjoyment consoles them even in their darkest hours.

Other nations, once they have grown prosperous, lose interest in freedom and let it be snatched from them without lifting a hand to defend it, lest they should endanger thus the comforts that, in fact, they owe to it alone.

It is easy to see that what is lacking in such nations is a genuine love of freedom, that lofty aspiration which (I confess) denies analysis. For it is something one must feel and logic has no part in it. (Italics added)

That last line certainly challenges the imagination. C. F. Kettering wrote, “Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence.” Name the so-called logician who can convey the meaning of human freedom by logic!

A genuine love of freedom is, indeed, a lofty aspiration. It is Creation at the human level! Explaining Creation is impossible and explaining the love of freedom is nearly as difficult. Try explaining one’s feeling. The effort will have little if any meaning to another.

What to do? Immanuel Kant gave us an excellent guideline: “Act only on that maxim [principle] which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” Or, in reverse: Never act on a principle which would bring chaos if everyone practiced it. Universality is the test: Can I concede the right to life, livelihood, liberty to every human being? I can, and thus this principle qualifies as a universal law. Try the opposite: Can I concede the practice of coercion to every other person? No! Therefore, I cannot concede the practice of coercion as a principle to anyone. So, let us abandon the practice and the very thought of it. All of this is in accord with the Golden Rule: Never do to others that which you would not have them do unto you.

If we are to do away with coercion—slavery—we should heed the counsel of that English clergyman, Caleb C. Colton (1780–1832):

Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.


[1] This is extracted from the chapter, “The Coming Slavery,” in Herbert Spencer’s The Man Versus The State (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1946), pp. 41–42.

5. Dedication or Decadence?

The politician plans for the next election; the statesman for the next generation.

—UNKNOWN

Here is how the dictionary distinguishes between politicians and statesmen: The politician is one “seeking personal or partisan gain, scheming opportunism,” etc.; as distinguished from statesman which suggests “able, far-seeing, principled conduct of public affairs.”

The scheming of politicians leads to societal decadence such as we are now witnessing. The dedication of statesmen to principled conduct—exemplified by our Founding Fathers—leads to a self-reliant, self-responsible citizenry.

In view of the present decadence, it would seem appropriate to reflect on the steps necessary to again approximate the ideal. Daniel Webster described America as: “The home of freedom, and the hope of the downtrodden and oppressed among the nations of the earth.”

Statesmen are dedicated to the highest of all politico-economic ideals: freedom—to act creatively as anyone pleases.

I have been saying for years that every good movement in human evolution has been led by an infinitesimal minority. History supports this observation. It now occurs to me that these few—the Perfect Exemplar, Confucius, Socrates, Adam Smith, Burke, George Washington, Bastiat and others—did not emerge merely as a response to citizen aspirations. They, as the stars above, are gifts of Creation, receiving inspiration, as we say, from a Heavenly Source. Models requiring your and my emulation!

The Second Coming, as I use the term, does not mean the coming of another Christ, but, rather, the approximation, as nearly as possibly, of His exemplarity. I do not know that any one of us is to be chosen as a model of exemplarity, only that we should strive continually to be prepared to be so chosen. This we must do if statesmen are to emerge from among us.

Indeed, how proficiently we are laboring in this direction can be measured by the number of statesmen now in office. While the number is growing, it is, as of now, far from sufficient. Your and my role should be self-evident.

Conceded, the dedication here at issue does not require our attention to the exclusion of every other effort and activity. Far from that! However, it does demand that our actions, speaking, writing or whatever be as nearly consistent with the freedom way of life as is within our potentialities. While this is difficult and seldom attained, it is impossible without the kind of thinking that clarifies—which, of course, stems from study. Wrote John Locke:

As there is a partiality to opinion, which is apt to mislead the understanding, so there is also a partiality to studies, which is prejudicial to knowledge.

Prejudicial to a free society is this: Millions of citizens study how to make a living—art, music, medicine, mechanics and countless other endeavors. But only now and then can we find an individual who will study how to contribute to a better society on which his living depends!

Everyone is entitled to enjoy the level of prosperity to which he aspires, but the extent to which the millions of ordinary folk can make a good living is determined by the kind of society in which they live. If they live in a Command Society—Red Russia, for instance—the prospects are slim. All but the dictocrats are downtrodden. The only chance of success for the mill run of us is to live in Russia’s opposite: “the home of freedom”!

Self-interest, if it be enlightened, is two-fold:

  1. Making a good living in whatever endeavor one’s uniqueness dictates.
  2. Working to establish and preserve that climate of freedom within which a good living for the millions is possible.

Too rarely recognized is an incontrovertible fact: Man is at once an individual and a social being! It follows that the alert citizen will do his or her part in perfecting the politico-economic situation in which we are destined to live. Individual and social: either one without the other accounts for the disasters that have featured the past decades. William Graham Sumner gave us wise counsel:

. . . making the most of one’s self . . . is not a separate thing from filling one’s place in society, but the two are one, and the latter is accomplished when the former is done.

Man, as distinguished from other animals, has been given the power to act creatively but not the knowledge to use it. This he must arduously acquire! Those who fail in this respect will, more than likely, use their power not to create but to destroy. Power without knowledge is a stumbling block. This observation is remindful of a verse by another Unknown:

Each is given a bag of tools,

A shapeless mass, a book of rules;

And each must make ere life is flown,

A stumbling block, or a stepping stone!

From what are our stepping stones carved? STUDY: “the act or process of applying the mind in order to acquire knowledge, as by reading, investigating, etc.” Here are several thoughts on the blessings of study by individuals noted for their insight and foresight:

The love of study, a passion which derives great vigor from enjoyment, supplies each day, each hour, with a perpetual round of independent and rational pleasure.

Edward Gibbon

Our delight in any particular study, art, or science rises and improves in proportion to the application which we bestow upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise becomes at length an entertainment.

Joseph Addison

There is no study that is not capable of delighting us after a little application of it.

Alexander Pope

The man who has acquired the habit of study, though for only one hour every day in the year, and keeps to the one thing studied till it is mastered, will be startled to see the progress he has made at the end of a twelvemonth.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Since I began to ask God’s blessing on my studies, I have done more in one week than I have done in a whole year before.

Edward Payson

It is hard to find a man who has studied for three years without making some progress in virtue.

Confucius

Impatience of study is the mental disease of the present generation.

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson’s observation on study was made about two centuries ago—shortly before the debilitating controls of mercantilism gave way to free exchange. Does not the same mental disease—impatience of study—feature our present situation—prior to the victory of the market place over the planned economy and the welfare state?

Prior to the victory? Yes, there is every indication that the age of decadence is nearing its inglorious end, being overcome by a dedication to virtue, truth and a return to “the home of freedom.” Our salvation is in the offing. Statesmen will soon displace politicians!

6. Prophets of Doom

Nothing is so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness is it to be expecting evil before it comes.

—SENECA

A prophet, says the dictionary, is “a person who speaks for God or a god . . . as though under divine guidance . . . a person who predicts future events.” Seneca (4 A.D.–65 A.D.), a Roman statesman, writer and philosopher, gave to posterity an observation which deserves reflection in our time—right now! His words prophetically portray the mood of our age.

Admitted, all countries in today’s world—no exception—are experiencing many varieties of misfortune: devastating inflation, the madness of cults and crowds, and a plunge into political nonsense—socialism! Conceded, darkness is upon the face of the earth. Historians of the future may write of these recent decades and use an observation made centuries ago in John 3:19: “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” And, by and large, our deeds have been and still are evil. However, is it not true that it is always darkest just before the dawn?

As a rule my criticisms are directed at the notions of socialists—the know-it-all ilk—at those who would coercively rule our lives. This includes ever so many so-called economists, Ph.D.’s and others with undeserved labels. The following, however, is a critical commentary aimed at some of my best friends, people who have no superiors in understanding and explaining the freedom way of life with its glories and beneficence!

While there are some notable exceptions, many of my friends are prophets of doom. Their god is their assumed foresight. I’m the opposite of an atheist, but I would be pleased were these friends a little more “atheistic” about their own godlike qualities! They have a crystal ball, or so they think, and its gadgetry is extrapolation.

Extrapolation—“to estimate or infer beyond the known range”—is the error here at issue. A typical case: A noted geneticist, extrapolating present population trends, predicted that there will be one billion billion of us on earth no further in the future than the Norman conquest is in the past—“some 120 persons per square yard of the earth’s surface. . . .”[1] Predicting the future is nothing else but extrapolation. That it can easily lead to fantastic conclusions was brilliantly demonstrated by Dr. Henry Margenau, Yale physicist: “By projecting [extrapolating] the rate of increase in the number of scientists against population trends we would have more scientists in 2000 A.D. than people.”

These extrapolating friends are brilliantly aware of the present mess, perhaps so aware as to be quite overwhelmed by it all. As a consequence, they see only a continuance of the present mess, more and more destructive as the years come and go. The ultimate result as they see it? Politico-economic calamity—societal hell!

Before suggesting a better way to anticipate the days and years to come, here are a few thoughts about not looking dismally into the future.

Suffering itself does less afflict the senses than the anticipation of suffering.

Quintilian (35–95 A.D.)

The worst evils are those that never come.

Samuel Johnson (1709–84)

The hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasant than those crowned with fruition.

Oliver Goldsmith (1728–74)

He who foresees calamities, suffers them twice over.

Beilby Porteus (1731–1815)

To tremble before anticipated evils, is to bemoan what thou has never lost.

Goethe (1749–1832)

Among so many sad realities we can but ill endure to rob anticipation of its pleasant visions.

Henry Giles (1800–82)

True, we should never rob anticipation of its pleasant visions. How to avoid this robbery? Keep one simple truism always in mind: No one who has ever lived—past or present—has known or knows what is going to happen in the next minute, let alone the next year or decade. Conceded, it could be disaster. On the other hand, it could be that glorious turnabout which has happened numerous times throughout recorded history—from the Command Society to a Free People!

Human evolution is implicit in the Cosmic Scheme. This is featured by ups and downs, mankind inching ahead over the millennia. As to the infinite variety of Cosmic Forces that account for this phenomenon, we only know that they are, no one having the slightest idea as to what they are!

Once it is recognized that no person has been given the world to run—or our nation, or any other individual—your and my role becomes clear. Self-perfection—period![2] This is the sole way of harmonizing with the Divine Plan. Several guidelines:

  • Have faith that we will again be blest with freedom. The nonbeliever hinders more than helps. The turnabout a miracle? Yes, as is everything in Creation! As Goethe wrote: “Miracle is the darling child of faith.”
  • Refuse to be an extrapolator. Instead, become an exemplar. Start a trend that may attract others. Achieve such excellence in understanding and explaining the freedom philosophy that others will seek one’s tutorship.
  • Replace pessimism with optimism. Joyous enthusiasm is the key! Foreseeing only the bad blinds us to the good. Despite today’s trials and tribulations, good and worthy actions far outnumber and outweigh the bad.

The perfect guideline is to be found in James 1:25: “But whoso looketh into the perfect Law of Liberty, and continued therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”


[1] “The Biological Revolution,” Stanford Review, September-October, 1965.

[2] “Be ye therefore perfect. . . .” (Matthew 5:48)

7. Utopia: Despotism in Disguise

The Utopian schemes of levelling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impracticable, as those which vest all property in the Crown, are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government unconstitutional.

—MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES—1768

The above message—with its archaic language—was sent to the agent in London who worked for and in behalf of our Colonies. The word “unconstitutional” refers, of course, to the British Constitution, which was then our Constitution—predating the American Revolution and the Constitution of the U.S.A.

Our Massachusetts representatives believed that the taxes imposed upon them evinced a despotic and unconstitutional design, in defiance of their natural right to their property. It was a distorted levelling process—taxation without representation! Our Colonists had no say-so with either the Crown or Parliament—none whatsoever! These forefathers of ours were slaves to a scheme as senseless as it was Utopian.

Is it not obvious that the security of human rights, including the rights to property, is the appropriate end of government? Whenever these rights are destroyed, both property and government are without support. In that respect they must stand or fall together.

The above is nothing more nor less than a portion of the historical background for the present-day situation in the United States. How shall we characterize our society? Is our present political process levelling and Utopian? But, first, what is meant by Utopian? Here’s a definition from the Oxford Dictionary.

Utopian: Involving, based or founded on, imaginary or chimerical perfection; impossibly ideal.

Throughout recorded time these impossible day dreams have wrought havoc in every country. Kings, Presidents and Czars, as well as witch doctors, have authored them. One might say that mankind is addicted to Utopias, and to rid ourselves of these addictions is extremely difficult, requiring unusually high talents. As Dostoyevski (1821–81) saw it, “All the Utopias will come to pass only when we grow wings and all people are converted into angels.” Such an ideal is clearly impossible.

What is possible is that first one, and then others, may see not only the error of Utopian schemes but also the alternative way for less than perfect people.

What is despotism? It is “autocracy; tyranny, a political system dominated by a despot.” Are we in the U.S.A. dominated by a despot? No, not by one but, rather, by millions of elected or appointed officials. Only a small fraction of officials are statesmen, with the understanding and courage to stand for the ideal government limited to the point where liberty can prevail.

Why this lamentable situation? There are more reasons than anyone knows. An unknown gave this reason:

Some modern zealots [despots] appear to have no better knowledge of truth, nor better manner of judging it, than by counting noses.

This is nothing more than going along with popular jargon as a means of getting elected or appointed to power over others. Multiple despotism! Such is as far from truth as anyone can get.

A Columbia University professor of last century, Francis Lieber (1798–1872), gave us a profound truth in 1859:

Woe to the country in which political hypocrisy first calls the people almighty, then teaches that the voice of the people is divine, then pretends to take a mere clamor for the true voice of the people, and lastly gets up the desired clamor.

Lieber’s insight turns out to be a remarkable instance of foresight, substantially portraying what’s going on in America today. An elaboration of his points:

  • Politicians, as distinguished from statesmen, claim that nose counting determines what is right.
  • With such a false premise, they ascribe divinity to mass hysteria—“emotional excitability.”
  • Clamor—“a continual, vehement expression of public opinion”—is falsely depicted as the public good.
  • Observe how politicians advocate special privileges to all and sundry as a means of promoting the clamor favorable to their despotic rule.

Utopia: Despotism In Disguise. Why does despotism give the false appearance of being sound? Actually, it is comparable to a Stalin in saintly masquerade—appearance and reality being opposites! Despotism plays favorites; the millions who are the recipients of this or that special privilege from government see the “good” conferred on them, but are blind to the damages done to themselves and all others. Individual blessings are deadened where and whenever despotism is in the driver’s seat.

Utopian schemes throughout history have been featured by levelling everyone into a sameness—human uniformity. In reality, no two persons are remotely alike; thus, these schemes thwart individual growth, emergence, evolution. The despot’s aim? Be like me! These poor souls who do not see the error of be-like-me-ness can hardly be expected to grasp the virtue of a society where each individual is free to act creatively as he or she pleases.

Speaking of blindness, we have a college professor friend who has been without sight for years. The fact that he engages in all sorts of outdoor exercises means that he has overcome much of his physical handicap. But, far more important, he is an excellent teacher of the private ownership, free market, limited government way of life. Meaning? He has also overcome the ideological blindness that handicaps a vast majority of the population. Wrote Jonathan Swift, “There’s none so blind as they that won’t see.” Our professor friend may not perceive everyday objects, but he sees the truth of freedom. A seer!

Our millions of despots inspect us in more ways than anyone can count. WE versus THEY. They fail to understand that the role of political officialdom is limited to seeing that no one does injury to others; the law should inhibit and prevent fraud, violence, misrepresentation, killing, stealing and the like. Injuries we inflict on ourselves, be it anything from erroneous thinking to suicide, is none of THEIR business. Required? A turnabout: rising to that point in understanding where WE can intelligently and persuasively inspect THEM.

Finally, we devotees of freedom must perform a most difficult and seldom attained task: ridding ourselves of despondency and hopelessness. Failure to do so gives credence to Utopian schemes—despotism. The formula was written centuries ago in Hebrews:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For just in a little while . . . He who is coming will come and will not delay, but my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. . . . But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who believe and are saved.

Let us be among those who believe and are saved!

8. The Infallible I

As for the men in power, they are so anxious to establish the myth of their infallibility that they do their utmost to ignore truth.

—BORIS PASTERNAK

First, what is the definition of infallible? It is “incapable of error; never wrong.”

Second, what inspires the following commentary on infallibility? It is nothing less than a recognition of my own fallibility—countless mistakes, errors in judgment, intellectual goofs. It is my contention that the freedom way of life is possible only as more of us than now become aware of our fallibility. The opposite—infallibility, never wrong, know-it-all-ness—can have but one result: the planned economy and the welfare state, that is, the Command Society. Worthy of analysis? Indeed!

Boris Pasternak, a brilliant Russian poet, who lived in the world’s number one political holocaust, where the absurdity of infallibility reigns supreme, had genuine background for the above observation. Those who succumb to the myth of infallibility are blind to the truth of freedom. There is nothing in the Cosmos over and above their assumed infallibility. The USSR—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—is god!

Undeniably, those afflicted with the infallibility syndrome are sources of societal chaos—socialism. They ignore truth, and millions of people suffer the consequences. But there are other ways to ignore truth, and it may be helpful to examine some of them.

Forgive a play on words as I move from “I” to “Aye.” I am thinking of those who yield to the opinions of others rather than standing by their own convictions. Leo Tolstoy clarifies this point:

From the day when the first members of councils [committees] placed exterior authority higher than interior, that is to say, recognized the decisions of men united in councils as more important and more sacred than reason and conscience; on that day began lies that caused the loss of millions of human beings and which continue their unhappy work to the present day.[1]

Falsehoods, misrepresentations—lies—do indeed sprout from committee reports—“men united in councils.” Reflect on a typical committee procedure. Assume that a committee of seven has before it for decision such a question as: Should government deliver the mail? or Should government impose rent control? or whatever. No two members think alike. Actually, no one person thinks as yesterday if his or her thinking is improving or degenerating. But these seven men must come up with a committee recommendation. So these no-think-alikes vote four to three in favor or against. Whatever way the majority decides is the committee position, and it does not accurately reflect the convictions of even one of the seven members! Here we have nothing but nose counting, and the committee report is a lie!

Reason and conscience play no more part here than in the actions of the political office seeker who shades one word for one vote or a thousand words for a thousand votes. For shame!

Again, forgive a play on words as I move from “I” to “Eye.”

It is light that brings forth the eye and, conversely, it is the eye that brings forth the light. Shakespeare phrased it well:

The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t,

Because we see it; but what we do not see

We tread upon, and never think of it.

Before commenting on the jewel that very few find, a bit of reflection on what the vast majority fail to see and, thus, tread upon. What do they not see? That which no one ever sees—the unimaginable! Benjamin Franklin, flying a kite in a thunderstorm, proved the identity of lightning and electricity. But not even Franklin—a genius in many fields—could foresee the wonders that would later be wrought by electricity. Even after these wonders have blest our lives for many decades, you and I have an awareness of only a few of them—so bountiful their number!

Paraphrasing Lord Arthur James Balfour, the English statesman and philosopher (1848–1930):

The vast majority of people prefer the continuance of a problem they cannot explain to an explanation they cannot understand.

In today’s U.S.A. most citizens are stalemated. Why this ideological standstill? First, most people haven’t the slightest idea as to why our slump into socialism and, thus, explanation is beyond them. Second, they cannot understand explanations of how the free and unfettered market works its wonders. In their utter confusion, as Lord Balfour observed, they prefer the easy promises of socialism to the rigors of competition. Result? They imitate—unknowingly—the infallible I’s out front and become members of that mass hysteria!

Now to “the jewel that we find . . . because we see it.” How come that a few fallible individuals have faith in the unimaginable—a return to freedom? How do they see this wondrous way of life while the infallibles do not? Harry Emerson Fosdick made a wise observation:

You cannot kill a philosophy with a gun. You must destroy a philosophy with a philosophy—an ethical evil with an ethical right.

The ethical evil—the philosophy of socialism—is spawned by the millions of infallibles, those who “are incapable of error; never wrong,” that is, by the know-it-alls!

Very well! What is it that the fallible person sees that gives him or her faith in the unimaginable? An ethical right! And what, pray tell, might that be? The moral and ethical wisdom written into the three greatest political documents of all time: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

These fallible persons, aware of knowing next to nothing, turn their eyes to early America; they study our all-but-forgotten history. And then the light: the greatest outburst of creativity ever known—the miracle! They grasp the all-important point, namely, that limiting government more than ever before in world history—the opposite of socialism—results in a self-reliant, self-responsible citizenry.

Our Founding Fathers had a single goal: righteousness. They had no idea as to what the material results would be. But our fallible citizens—those who do their homework—do know. Indeed, such knowledge is no more than an affirmation of the ancient past:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God [Truth and Righteousness] and these things [wealth, learning, intelligence] shall be added unto you.

C. S. Lewis gave this an excellent phrasing: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”

In Matthew 6:22 we read, “The light of the body is the eye.” What then should be the aim of we fallible ones? To see how nearly we can emulate our Perfect Exemplar: I am come a light into the world.


[1] See The Law of Love and The Law of Violence by Leo Tolstoy (New York: Rudolph Field, 1948), p. 26.

9. The Vagaries of Belief

He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend, must have a very long head or a very short creed.

—CALEB C. COLTON

Observing what’s going on in our country today and wishing to comment on the variations in belief—from fickle to profound—but not knowing how to proceed, I chanced upon the above quotation—as if by magic. What wisdom in a single sentence by that British clergyman (1780–1832)! Anyway, it is a sufficient cue for what follows.

A “long head” is an old term for a person with “much foresight, shrewdness; good sense.” Colton, as Tennyson, was a long head: “For I dipt into the future far as human eye can see.”

A creed is “a statement of beliefs, or opinions on any subject.” The creeds in our country are numbered in the millions, and with few exceptions they are short.

How shall we identify the plethora of “short creeds” that bedevil, plague, torment, harass, bewilder present-day Americans? What are the creeds responsible for our slump into the planned economy and the welfare state—socialism? The best generality that comes to mind: fickle beliefs on the part of nearly everyone!

The life and ideas of Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931) set the stage for this thesis. Young Edison spent only three months in school—no government “education” to unlearn. There was little, if anything, in his earlier years to thwart the release of his fantastic creativity.

As a lad he knew not what was in store for him nor did anyone else. Later a miracle—the Wizard of Menlo Park!

Not only did Edison achieve the distinction of being the world’s greatest inventive genius, he was also a profound philosopher. Now to my point: he wisely grasped mortal man’s limitations when he said:

No man knows more than one-millionth of one per cent of anything!

Edison was comparing the miniscule wisdom of any mortal man to Infinite Wisdom. His own genius was evident only by contrast with other mortals. All individuals—no exception—are no more than human seedlings!

A “short creed”? Assigning to seedlings a nonexistent omniscience—“knowing all things.” This all-too-common politico-economic hallucination leads to schemes for turning over the welfare of mankind to the legendary character who robbed the rich to “help” the poor—Robin Hood.

Citizens by the millions are afflicted with escapism—“a tendency to escape from reality.” What is the typical prognosis for this malady? Instead of striving for self-reliance and self-improvement the masses join the ranks of present-day Robin Hoods—self-proclaimed wiseacres—“those who think they know everything.” They seek government handouts and call upon government to redistribute the wealth.

There is a direct method of immorally acquiring another’s goods, and there is an indirect method. A very small fraction of robberies is of the man-to-man, “stick-’em-up” variety. All citizens, except the gunmen, regard that type of “self-benefit” as despicable, immoral and a breaking of the Commandment, Thou shalt not steal. Most people are not of that villainous ilk, or so they quite innocently “think.” What deviltry such unawareness plays, not only on them, but on all of us!

What, pray tell, is the difference between personally robbing another and getting any one or more of our 78,000 governments to do the robbing for us? There is just one distinction: a sense of absolution! “I didn’t do it.” The truth? Anyone who advocates or condones such ill-gotten loot, be it in the form of food stamps, rent control, minimum wages, maximum hours, restrictions of competition or any of thousands of special privileges—regardless of how innocently—is catering to modern Robin Hoodism.

Now for the few who have been described as “long heads.” They face a distressing dilemma. They understand the utter fallacy of all “short creeds,” but they are compelled to live with, abide by and suffer from, most of them. The example of Social Security will suffice to make the lamentable point. No “short creed” excels Social Security in politico-economic nonsense and the “long heads” know it. Working for a business or any nonexempt organization, they face the choice of either paying the government’s dictatorial and ever-rising fee or quitting their jobs. Freedom to act creatively as one pleases, the hallmark of a free society, destroyed! All “short creeds” are destructive.

What might be the remedy for this malady? Unless freedom devotees—“long heads”—are aware of the proper tactics, the “short creeds” will grow in number and in their devastation. No question, we are faced with difficulties galore.

Perhaps the first step is to recognize that the difficulties we resist are blessings in disguise. Wrote Edmund Burke:

He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.

The act of becoming first-rate “hard heads” is the overcoming of obstacles. The “short creeds” are, indeed, our helpers. Seen in this light, the problem can and, of course, must be approached with joy and enthusiasm. Emerson on joy: “Nothing great was ever accomplished without it.” And Bulwer-Lytton: “Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.” In a word, let our efforts be undertaken with the kind of spirit that is catching!

First, there is the “negative” task: we must understand and be able to explain the fallacies of “short creeds.” But far more important is an ability to accent the positive: we must demonstrate how and why freedom works its wonders!

And here’s a final thought that might be really contagious if we can discover how to present it with clarity and good humor. It’s a paradox: the freedom devotee has more faith in the victims of “short creeds” than they have in themselves!

These poor souls cannot realize their intellectual, moral and spiritual potentialities unless they divorce themselves from all the coercive interventions. As free men and women they would become self-reliant, self-responsible citizens, joining the “hard heads.”

Conceded, bringing about a return to freedom will involve a miracle. But remember Goethe’s wisdom: “Miracle is the darling child of faith.”

Have faith, “hard heads,” and we shall win!

10. Quote the Wise if Thou Would be Likewise

I quote others only the better to express myself.

—MICHEL E. DE MONTAIGNE

My Encyclopedia says of this remarkable Frenchman (1532–92) and his works:

This attitude of judicious neutrality toward life is reflected in his immortal Essais which with irony, humor, and a spontaneously flowing style incorporate wise judgments on all human affairs. They are generally considered the finest examples of the ESSAY every written.

Like Socrates, Montaigne was keenly aware of how little he knew. On his Coat of Arms were the words: Que-sais-je? [What do I know?] He was graced with the humility of which Charles Spurgeon has said:

Humility is to have a right estimate of one’s self. . . . The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem.

True humility reflects an absence of fancy pride and an awareness of one’s own limitations as mortal man. As the rare seers would phrase it: “The more I know the more aware I am of how little I know.” Briefly, every gain in understanding is accompanied by an increased appreciation of the yet-to-be-known. Does this involve a contradiction? To the contrary! Every broadening of one’s intellectual horizon is an incitement to explore further, a steppingstone to enlightenment, a move in the direction of Infinite Consciousness.

Saint Augustine was of this same humble caliber:

The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.

In trying better to express myself in twenty-four books, I have followed Montaigne’s example of quoting many others. Only those have been favorably quoted whose thoughts add substance and meaning to life’s high purpose: Liberty for one and all to act creatively as each pleases. Liberty makes the unbelievable possible!

Why are not atheistic, socialistic, power hungering, special privilege notions favorably quoted? What follows is my explanation.

With liberty as the aim, my rule is this: all quotes must be consistent with the objective. And this rule demands that a person do his reasoning logically and deductively from a basic premise.

Short of a fundamental point of reference—a sound premise—ideological positions will be every which way—politico-economic hodgepodge! Wishing to avoid such inconsistency, I sought, many years ago, for a premise that would steer me aright! How? By asking and attempting to find an answer to a difficult question: What is man’s earthly purpose? That may be as deep as we can go. If the premise be not deep—fundamental—it will serve only on shallow and peripheral matters.

Man’s earthly purpose? I began the search for an answer by carefully examining three of my fundamental assumptions:

  1. Man did not create himself for it is easily demonstrable that man knows very little about himself. My first assumption, therefore, is the primacy and supremacy of an Infinite Consciousness.
  2. My second assumption is one that any person who makes the effort can prove for himself: man can upgrade his own awareness, perception, consciousness.
  3. My third assumption is the profound belief, based on one’s immediate awareness of his inner self, that consciousness is the one great reality. This earthly moment, then, is but the beginning; the individual consciousness—dim or bright—is eternal.

What, then, is man’s earthly purpose? It is growth, emergence, evolution in consciousness; or, in lay terms, a realization of one’s unique potentialities. Hatching! Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, wrote, “Man is on earth as in an egg,” inspiring C. S. Lewis to remark, “Now, you cannot go on being a good egg forever; you must either hatch or rot.”

With a premise such as the foregoing, how employ it to advantage? Take any quote, thought or idea—one’s own or that of others—and relate it to the premise. If inconsistent, reject. If consistent—in harmony—approve and abide thereby. If one’s premise be sound and if one reasons logically and deductively therefrom, one’s positions will be consistently sound and righteous.

Two ways of checking as to the efficacy of one’s premise: First, if it does not require individual liberty, thumbs down! And, second, if one cannot stand before God [Infinite Consciousness] and man alike and proclaim his or her premise as proudly as I have mine, do some more exploring!

That distinguished scholar, Montaigne, quoted others “only the better to express myself”—an acknowledgment that his was never the original or final thought. What about those he quoted? Contrary to common opinion, they, no more than he or anyone who has ever lived is the originator—inventor—of creative thought. Wrote Brewster Ghiselin:

For the creative order, which is an extension of life, is not an elaboration of the established but a movement beyond the established. . . . New life comes always from outside our world, as we commonly conceive that world. This is the reason why, in order to invent [originate], one must yield to the indeterminate within him. . . . He works toward clarification, toward consciousness.[1]

What is meant by “New life comes always from outside our world as we commonly conceive that world”? And what is the source of consciousness?

Many people not only think of our world as all there is but believe there is no source over and beyond the mind of finite man. Man is the originator of inventions, of all creative thought—they “think”! The fact? No man knows what an atom is or electricity or even why grass is green. Thank heaven for the few who concede that everything shades into mystery.

No one knows what Infinite Consciousness is; but some know that it is the source! The quotable Ralph Waldo Emerson saw with clarity that “new life comes always from outside our world”—and from beyond our minds:

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence which makes us receivers [perceivers] of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage of its beams.

While it is true that we do nothing of ourselves but “allow a passage of its beams,” it takes a lot of discernment to decode the beams. They pass through animals and nothing happens. The same can be said of most humans who inhabit this earth; they lack the proper receiving sets. A few, however, get the message. In a word, no person originates an idea any more than you or I originate heavenly or earthly beauty in its infinite variations.

The most that can be said of anyone is that he was the original perceiver—identification impossible! As Goethe wrote, “All truly wise ideas have been thought already thousands of times.” The first perceiver of any idea can no more be identified than can the first individual to behold the beauty of the aurora borealis!

If we would improve our ability to capture the beams of Infinite Consciousness, what might be a few of the guidelines?

  • Make the decoding of this Heavenly Wisdom life’s first aim—a prayed-for objective.
  • Empty the mind of all conceits, banish know-it-allness, that there may be room for the not-yet-known. “Humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.”
  • Search for those individuals—past and present—whose receiving sets have been or are far superior to one’s own.
  • Test your “intercepts” against the premise that is the Essence of Americanism: “Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life and Liberty.”
  • Look upon those who are intellectual, moral and spiritual giants, relative to self, as intermediaries, that is, as go-betweens—receiving and sharing. Socrates thought of himself as a philosophical midwife, while acknowledging that he knew nothing.
  • How use these exemplars? Quote them only the better to express one’s self as I am now quoting a wise man, Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Quote the wise if thou would be likewise!


[1] Excerpted from The Creative Process (A Mentor Book), pp. 14–18.

11. Liberty and Union: One and Inseparable

Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others.

—WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE

William Allen White (1868–1944) bought the Emporia Gazette in 1895 and edited this small-town newspaper in Kansas the rest of his life. He made it and himself famous throughout the nation because he so brilliantly featured “grass-roots” political opinion.

The title of this chapter is supplied by that remarkable statesman, Daniel Webster (1782–1852): “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”

By “Liberty” he meant precisely what we have in mind today, namely, everyone’s privilege to act creatively as he or she pleases. And by “Union” his reference was to a friendly, harmonious, working relationship between our Northern and Southern states. Someone in this early period, while not referring to slavery, offered wise counsel that applies to ever so many situations—in his time and ours: “By uniting we stand; by dividing we fall.”

The thoughtful people in America’s early history had good reason to work and pray for Union. Why? Because of division and antagonism between the states. The cause? Slavery in the Southern states; and in the North, an abhorrence of the Simon Legree way of an inferior life.

While our Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights were the greatest political documents ever written, they were not perfect. No one—not even among our Founding Fathers—is or ever has been perfect.

There are numerous errors in these documents but the greatest of all was the failure to outlaw slavery. Why this deviation from simple justice? It was the ambition of the writers to bring the Southern states into the Union: This was an act of political expediency, the result of which was The Civil War. While all wars are disgraceful blows against civilization, none was ever more shameful than that unholy fracas.[1] “By uniting we stand; by dividing we fall.” And we fell!

Someone wrote, “Foresight through hindsight conduces insight.” Following The Civil War, many Americans gained a foresight of righteousness by hindsight, that is, by reflecting on those vicious errors. This improved thinking led to trillions of inventions, discoveries—insights—and a prosperity the likes of which no other people every experienced. A historical phenomenon!

As Horace wrote, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in times of prosperity would have lain dormant.” Talents of the politico-economic variety are indeed lying dormant—dying on the vine.

Must we await national adversity to elicit the talents that assure Union or can we avoid such a disaster by rationally and volitionally coming to our senses? Doubtless, this is impossible unless we have a keen awareness of our present disunion, a disunion just as foreboding as that between our Northern and Southern states which led to The Civil War. So, here are some reflections on our present disunion.

Our situation today in society is, in at least one respect, analogous to the animal world: we tend to conform to the circumstances imposed upon us. The tiger is ferocious when first captured, but if he remained that way there would be no zoos. Adapting to captivity, the tiger becomes docile.

Move to the human level. No one would have kept slaves had slaves remained as rebellious as when first captured. But once enslaved, they tend to become tractable and docile workers.

The 16th Amendment—the Progressive Income Tax—would never have been enacted had there been a realization of the degree of confiscation—politico-economic captivity—that now exists. Confiscation is but another form of enslavement, but indifference and docility now mask the serfdom implicit in this form of taxation. One only needs to realize the nature of serfdom to see this. Serfdom or slavery substitutes coercive political control for self-control. The rights to the fruits of my labor have been dramatically transferred from me to political caretakers. Accompanying this shift to a primitive way of life is a marked loss of an awareness of what has happened. More and more are humans caged; more and more we observe an unfortunate docility!

The above-mentioned tax—a grave political error—has its genesis in countless errors on the part of citizens in all walks of life. Error continues to beget error—unless the cycle is broken by creative thinking. For instance, ever so many citizens speak favorably of our efforts at FEE and then add, “but you go too far for me.” What do they mean? They resent FEE’s disapproval of their particular brand of special privilege: tariffs or embargoes or TVA or government education or rent control or minimum wage laws or public housing or wage and price controls—on and on, ad infinitum.

To make sense, their criticism should be phrased, “You folks at FEE are too consistent for me.” It isn’t new to favor free market, private ownership, limited government ideas. However, only rarely is a literature written consistently on behalf of these ideas. And it might be added that no one can work effectively for this ideal way of life who does not advocate consistency in all of its parts. No one can make the case for freedom by favoring one socialistic item. One leak—one “yes, but”—philosophically and logically makes the case for all-out socialism—might makes right! Wrote Jeremy Bentham: “The rarest of all human qualities is consistency.” Consistency for freedom is precisely as rare as freedom itself. So let us, as best we can, strive to plug the leaks!

Liberty and Union are, indeed, one and inseparable. The opposites? Socialism and anarchy! As Ludwig von Mises wrote, “Socialism is planned chaos; Anarchy is unplanned chaos.” Each assures national disunion. But there is a Golden Mean: it is government—federal, state and local—limited to inhibiting all destructive actions, to keeping the peace and invoking a common justice. Striving for this kind of Union should be our goal!

Now to a few reflections on the wisdom of that small-town editor, William Allen White, who gained fame by featuring “grass-roots” political opinion. Who are these “grass-rooters”? They are the millions whose voting weight tips the scales in one direction or the other, toward Union or disunion.

“Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others.” When liberty is defined as “No man-concocted restraints against the release of creative human energy,” it follows that if I vote or plead for a single special privilege, I have forsworn liberty as my way of life. No one can expect any blessing he or she is unwilling to concede to all others.

Edmund Burke put the solution for disunion better than anyone known to me:

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith. Wrote Caleb C. Colton:

Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.

Let us raise ourselves to liberty and enjoy its countless blessings!


[1] For an elaboration of this point, see the chapter, “War And Peace,” in my book, Awake For Freedom’s Sake (Irvington, N.Y.: The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1977), pp. 30–39.

12. Why Let Worry Ruin Our Lives?

Worry affects the circulation—the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.

—DR. CHARLES H. MAYO

This American surgeon (1865–1938), along with his brothers, developed the Mayo Clinic—1889. It gained international fame!

Dr. Mayo used the words “worry” and “doubt” as analogous; each connotes a distressed state of mind characterized by anxiety, apprehension, dread, fear, suspicion, and vexation—a psychosomatic condition.

Dr. Mayo in the above deals with the individualistic aspect of worry: the destruction of life-sustaining faculties—the whole nervous system.

I would like to add another aspect, the societal. Worrying and fretting about the mess we are in, if it becomes an obsession among the citizenry—being the opposite of creative thought—can only continue the downfall and eventually lead to the end of freedom. In this event, life-sustaining elements become inadequate. Result? Life is shortened as in ever so many countries!

A person can literally worry himself to death, and it matters little whether he frets about his own state of health or about the health of his nation. Worry will never solve, but only worsen, these problems. Some reflections are in order concerning these two disasters and the alternatives.

Dr. Mayo stated that he never knew a person to die from overwork. This is a shocker to all people whose goal in life is to vegetate—where aspirations are limited to shorter hours, longer vacations, earlier retirement, getting out of rather than into life. The economist of a national businessmen’s organization wrote and widely publicized this error:

The most that can be said for work is that it is an unfortunate necessity.

The truth is quite the opposite. Listen to the wisdom of William Osier, M.D. on “the master word”:

Though little, the master word looms large in meaning. It is the “open sesame” to every portal, the great equalizer, the philosopher’s stone which transmutes all base metal into gold. The stupid it will make bright, the bright brilliant, and the brilliant steady. To youth it brings hope, to the middle-aged confidence, to the aged repose. . . . Not only has it been the touchstone of progress, but it is the measure of success in everyday life. And the master word is WORK!

Another distinguished physician, Dr. Hans Selye, names several famous men who lived to a ripe old age, and adds this comment:

Of course, in their many years of intense activity, these people never “worked”; they lived a life of “leisure” by working at what they liked to do.[1]

“What they liked to do”! With such fortunate ones there is no problem. They have hit upon their distinctive energies and talents, either by accident or by self-discovery. Let me illustrate.

Years ago FEE had a private garbage collector—a one-man, one-truck enterprise. While emptying a can of garbage, he said with a smile, “Mr. Read, I just love my work.” He would not love my work nor I his, any more than I would love being President of IBM or the U.S.A.

Granted, millions have never discovered their uniqueness and thus labor at tasks they look upon as drudgery. What is the remedy?

Reflect upon one’s present work until reasons for enjoying it are discovered; learn to love whatever the daily engagement may be. If impossible, switch jobs! Pride in one’s work is an important step toward a joyful life.

Work, if in harmony with one’s uniqueness, does not shorten life, it lengthens life. An understanding of this is one of the remedies for the several ills inflicted by worry.

Worry is also the cause of a traumatic illness that shortens the lives of millions. Proverbs 23:7 comes to mind: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If he thinketh despondently and fearfully of every little ache and pain, his heart will cease to function—life at an end. This ancient truth gains modern support from an M.D. specializing in psychosomatic illness:

A patient whose parents have both died of heart disease will be anxious about his own heart. When then a normal diencephalic response to an emotion causes the heart to beat faster or when gastric distension pushes his heart out of its usual position, he will be inclined to interpret what he feels as the beginning of the disease which killed his parents, thinking that he has inherited a weak heart. At once all his fears cluster like a swarm of angry bees on his heart, a vicious cycle is established and thus anxious cortical supervision may eventually lead to organic lesions. He and his family will then be convinced that he did indeed inherit a weak heart, yet this is not at all true.[2]

The remedy? Do away with these killers—worries and fears. Cultivate instead the calm resolve that little aches and pains are transient; they have no ultimate significance for one whose mind is fully and properly engaged. Such an attitude offers no toe hold for these killers, allowing faith again to work its wonders.

Finally, some reflections on worry as it relates to society. Keep in mind that man is at once an individual and a social being. Good men make a good society and a good society makes it possible for men to grow in goodness—the creative life. The reverse is equally true. No good society can emerge from bad men or from “worrycrats”!

Have a look at the world around us, the millions who are murdered or sent to Siberia as in Russia, or the millions who die of starvation as in India. The cause of these disasters? Worry—fretting about the future—is assuredly one cause. Most people, observing the present societal mess, see tomorrow as a mere continuation of today. With hindsight as their only guide, they become prophets of doom—fatalists.

What is the alternative, the remedy, for this no-faith syndrome? Here is number one, a paraphrasing of some thoughts by Jacques Barzun:

Disciplining from within—by the self—must continue, steady and firm, or it will be taken over by public bodies—discipline by government. Moral regeneration can come about only when we devotees of freedom feel once more confident that ethical behavior is desirable, widely practiced, approved and admired. Only one force can bring this about: the force of moral and intellectual leadership.

Remedy number two is to abandon the error of prognostication—predicting the future, the crystal ball fantasy. It is easily demonstrable that no one knows more than an infinitesimal fraction of what went on yesterday or what goes on today. Tomorrow? The next minute? Not you nor I nor anyone else!

Wrote E. H. Chapin:

To me there is something thrilling and exalting in the thought that we are drifting forward into a splendid mystery—into something that no mortal eye has yet seen, and no intelligence has yet declared.

So why let worry ruin our lives? Why not let faith make our lives? As Goethe wrote, “Miracle is the darling child of faith.” Instead of worrying about debacles, have faith in a miracle: FREEDOM!


[1] See a splendid article, “But Hard Work Isn’t Bad For You” by Dr. Hans Selye, Reader’s Digest, June 1973.

[2] Man’s Presumptuous Brain by A. T. W. Simeons, M. D. (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1961).

13. Teaching: Revealing the Unknown

Ignorance deprives men of freedom because they do not know what alternatives there are. It is impossible to choose to do what one has never heard of.

—RALPH BARTON PERRY

This American philosopher (1876–1957) was not only a student—ever learning more and more—but, also, a distinguished writer and teacher. The above is an example of his deep and incisive thinking, which never abated. Doubtless it was this mental activity that accounted not only for his long life but for his improvement year in and year out. Age did not wither him. Those of us who aspire to grasp more and more of the unknown as our years extend should ponder this observation by a noted biologist:

The normal human brain always contains a greater store of neuroblasts than can possibly develop into neurons during the span of life, and the potentialities of the human cortex are never fully realized. There is a surplus and depending upon physical factors, education, environment, and conscious effort, more or less of the initial store of neuroblasts will develop into mature, functioning neurons. The development of the more plastic and newer tissue of the brain depends to a large extent upon the conscious efforts made by the individual. There is every reason to assume that development of cortical functions is promoted by mental activity and that continued mental activity is an important factor in the retention of cortical plasticity into late life. Goethe [and others] are among the numerous examples of men whose creative mental activities extended into the years associated with physical decline. There also seem sufficient grounds for the assumption that habitual disuse of these centers results in atrophy or at least brings about a certain mental decline, and examples bearing out this contention are only too numerous.[1]

In short: Think and stay young!

Dr. Perry, a brilliant mentor, insists that ignorance deprives men of freedom by denying them a choice among alternatives. No one can select a course of action he’s never heard of!

Most of us have heard of “freedom” and sense that it refers to doing as one chooses. So, of course, we favor freedom. But what are we doing to expand the range of our choices, exploring alternatives, maintaining the open society? Are we aware as we turn to the planned economy, to the welfare state, to socialism, that we thereby foreclose further options to choose? Do we understand that we thus abandon freedom?

So, if we truly choose freedom, we must consciously and constantly probe the unknown for new and better alternatives from which to choose. We must seek out effective teachers so that we in turn may become better teachers and exemplars. So let us study and practice the art of becoming.

Becoming a better teacher! How can we tell whether or not success is attending our efforts? There is no way of telling unless we use the right approach: seeking truth rather than followers! To the extent that we reveal the unknown—the multitudinous ways freedom works its wonders—to that extent will others seek our tutorship. These seekers are not followers but students—not imitators but learners! Those of us struggling to reveal the unknown may ascribe success to our efforts when and if our once-upon-a-time students become our teachers!

The above conviction derives from my own experience. It is the law of attraction at work at the human level; ’tis the joyous game of leapfrog, when, observing another’s progress, we then strive to surpass him. There are ever so many in my experience who embrace some minor truth I had grasped, who later used it as leverage to leap over and beyond my understanding. Result? I am now motivated to try to exceed their superior perceptions. Should I succeed, they will try again leaping over me—an intellectual, moral and spiritual game without end!

There are countless aspects to the teacher-student escalation—growing, ever growing in revealing the unknown. Here are a few thoughts by those of the past who, fortunately, have turned out to be my teachers. My ambition? To leapfrog them!

A man only understands that of which he has already a beginning in himself.

Henri Frederic Amiel

Never expect an intellectual companionship among those who do not use their cerebral faculties. Disuse results in atrophy. The only ones who already have beginnings are those who employ conscious effort—mental activity. They are on their way!

Amiel regarded himself as a neophyte, and other great teachers have claimed no more, regardless of how richly graced with natural talents. Finite man moving toward Infinity!

We are perishing for the want of wonder, not for the want of wonders.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

This English humorist, essayist and critic (1874–1936), observed his country rapidly falling into the catastrophic situation from which she had earlier escaped—the Command Society called Mercantilism. But we must no more belittle Englishmen than Americans for ideological slippage. We, also, have been similarly slipping for several decades, evident to anyone who has an eye to see. In that land and here, wonder and the urge to penetrate the unknown has suffered a fantastic slump. And when a people cease to wonder—lose the desire to know—they are destined for an earthly purgatory. They perish for the want of wonder!

But not for the want of wonders! Wrote Carlyle: “The man who cannot wonder, who does not wonder and worship is but a pair of spectacles beyond which there is no eye.”

I would modify the above to read, “who cannot or does not wonder.” Ever so many who do not wonder have the potential to do so. Fritz Kunkel shared this wisdom with us: “Immense hidden powers lurk in the unconscious of the most uncommon man—indeed, of all people without exception.”

Everything on earth or sea or sky is wondrous—from atoms to galaxies. Contemplate the wonders by which—in spite of the decadent direction in which we are now headed—we live and prosper. These wonders exist by the trillions! Why is this not recognized? How account for the blindness—no eyes to see?

No one can see that for which he or she does not look. Those few who do see discover that our present prosperity is but a powerful thrust of the freedom that existed earlier. Creativity is still in our blood streams. As bad living stops the flow of the blood stream, so can erroneous or no thinking kill the thrust that blesses us today.

Lightning—radiant energy—goes from earth to clouds and back again, millions of oscillations in less time than one can say “Bang!” This is analogous to another form of radiant energy: the thoughts that go back and forth between those teachers who make progress at revealing the unknown.

There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.

Elbert Hubbard

Few there are who recognize ability. Many people are drawn to those who spout popular jargon, purveyors of gibberish. They repeat the ignoble creeds proclaimed by those afflicted with the little-god syndrome: “I can run your life better than you can. Follow me, be like me, and wear diamonds!”

Ability is to be found only in those individuals

  • Who live in harmony with Creation;
  • Who make progress in revealing the unknown;
  • Whose mental activity is ever improving;
  • Who day-in-and-day-out strive better to understand and explain why freedom is attuned to the Cosmic Design.

These few are the only ones who deserve the title of Teachers. Let’s try to surpass them—life’s greatest game of leapfrog!


[1] See Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Renee von Eulenburg-Wiener (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938), p. 310.

14. Resolution: A Freedom Imperative

He that resolves upon any great and good end, has by that very resolution, scaled the chief barrier to it.

—TRYON EDWARDS

Freedom of everyone to strive for life’s high purposes assuredly qualifies as a great and good end. Tryon Edwards (1809–94), American theologian, gave wise counsel:

He will find such resolution removing difficulties, searching out or making means, giving courage for despondency, and strength for weakness, and like the star of old, ever guiding him nearer and nearer to perfection.

He will find such resolution removing difficulties—To resolve means “to solve or explain; make clear, as a problem.” In what respect is freedom a problem? Personal experience has given me the answer. For 45 years my principal aim has been to understand and explain how freedom works its wonders. A confession: I have no more than scratched the surface!

However, this I have learned: The dedicated aim—resolution—of many people working for freedom has resulted in thousands of tiny break-throughs. These, more often than not, are regarded as original by the recipients.

However, I side with Socrates, who regarded himself as merely a philosophical midwife. He received from sources over and beyond self and shared with all who would listen! Because Emerson was more explicit, I repeat his wise observation:

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage of its beams.

The Sage of Concord could easily be misunderstood with his “we do nothing of ourselves.” To “allow” requires not only resolution but a prayerful—even passionate—desire that the beams be intercepted. There is no person through whom these do not pass. Indeed, they are omnipresent in everyone, a fact rarely realized. Where discernment is lacking, there are no sparkles of heavenly enlightenment. Not only do most people unconsciously lie in the lap of immense intelligence but, even more unfortunately, they cannot conceive of any individual so graced.

Reflect on the difficulties in achieving a return to freedom. The obstacles are manifold! Those who prefer freedom to socialism but haven’t resolved to achieve this great and good end are barren of enlightening ideas. They are forlorn and have no hope. Discouraged!

Thank Heaven, there are a few whose resolve serves as a tower of strength. The ideas and ideals which they intercept are countless—they see the light and the hope. Encouraged! They have a faith on which all miracles depend.

. . . resolution in searching out or making means—Searching—seeking and asking—is in the spirit of inquiry; it is the genesis of improved understanding. We freedom devotees can find encouragement in Matthew 7:7–8:

Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

The above presupposes that the asking be for the highest of all possible ends. This is confirmed in Matthew 6:33:

But seek ye first the Kingdom of God [Truth] and all these things [the Blessings of Freedom] shall be added unto you.

For “making means” appropriate, that is, consistent with the freedom objective, the formula is improved understanding. We must grasp the role of means. Again, Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in the means, the fruit in the seed.

Our end—the Blessings of Freedom—is but the flower of good seeds we plant; our objective has no other means of attainment. Your and my role? Exemplarity! “Example is the school of mankind; they will learn at no other.” Three guidelines:

  1. Never do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.
  2. Never speak, write or behave in a manner that would bring chaos were everyone to do likewise.
  3. Do that which, if emulated, would confer upon mankind the Blessings of Freedom.

. . . resolution, giving courage for despondency—Wrote Confucius: “To see what is right and not do it, is want of courage.” Were all citizens, above the moronic level, to do the right as they see it, regardless of how little they see, what a boon to civilization this would be—an evolutionary explosion!

Unfortunately, citizens by the countless millions so greatly fear disapproval and disagreement that they stoop to serve the latest public clamor. Courage to stand for what they believe to be right gives way before their dread of ostracism.

The result of this weakness in character? Societal decay, which in turn leads to their despondency. The world is going to hell! And, they, for lack of courage, go along. Wrote James F. Clarke:

Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.

. . . resolution in giving strength for weakness—We must rid our America of the prevailing socialism—politico-economic weakness. The sole route to this achievement? A firm resolution to understand and explain the strength of freedom! Here is an excellent formula by an unknown:

The nerve that never relaxes,

the eye that never blanches,

The thought that never wanders,

the purpose which never wavers.

These are the masters of victory!

The chief barrier to the good life is socialism! Let us remove this barrier by resolving to concentrate on and work for that rewarding and glorious end—freedom!

15. Perseverance: A Key to Freedom

The divine insanity of noble minds,

That never falters or abates,

But labors and endures and waits,

Till all that it foresees it finds,

Or what it cannot find, creates.

—LONGFELLOW

Why, for heaven’s sake, did this brilliant thinker and poetic genius use the word “insanity” in the above? No word has a more derogatory meaning! An interview being impossible, I can only guess. To startle the readers? Maybe, but unlikely! Perhaps the adjectives “divine” and “noble” provide a clue. The reference is to minds so far above the ordinary man’s—moving toward the celestial—that the mill run of humanity would mistake genius for insanity! And “creates” relates to Creation. I’m no poet but I am with you, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, at least in aspiration.

Perseverance is only one of numerous keys to freedom. It is not a master key but without stick-to-itiveness the door to freedom will never open. Ever so many freedom-oriented citizens enter enthusiastically into our intellectual, moral, and spiritual fray. They may do their very best for a spell, but noting no turnabout as the result of their efforts, they throw in the sponge and become do-nothings. More a hindrance than a help!

Most of us fail to understand that doing our very best—now and henceforth—is but a beginning! Everyone—no exception—is more or less naive, and a recognition of this fact is important. Short of such awareness, there can be no return to freedom. Some examples of naivete:

A pre-New Deal President of the U.S.A., seeking a way to end the depression that began in 1929, forbade business firms to lower wages or raise prices. Wage and price controls!

In the early days of the New Deal I became Manager, Western Division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and I believed in wage and price controls—the N.R.A. Why? The U.S. Chamber gave its endorsement as did the National Association of Manufacturers and most leading businessmen. Copycat Read!

One of the most brilliant economic thinkers and writers I have known once advocated rent control—a naive position he later overcame.

The role of government? A mentor of mine, a Harvard Professor of Political Economy, once wrote, “Government must do for the people that which they cannot do for themselves.” A so-called conservative President of the U.S.A. said the same thing. This specious counsel spawned countless copycats and made a substantial contribution to the socialistic mess we are now experiencing.

Reflect: I do not know how to make most of the foods on which my life depends, and there are millions of things you and I cannot do for ourselves. Government’s role according to this panacea? The 16,000,000 elected or appointed officials—federal, state and local—who doubtless know even less than the rest of us, will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves! If this isn’t politico-economic balderdash, pray tell, what is?

The above instances may be sufficient to suggest that our lives, when lived aright, manifest a process of progression. As we progress onward and upward, some of our thoughts and ideals of the past—guesses at truth—will be revealed as error. The right course is uphill all the way—a bit of new light replacing the darkness of bygone days.

Before commenting on appropriate tactics, here are three thoughts we might keep in mind:

  1. Freedom is personal; it is a social climate in which each person initiates his own actions, chooses his own goals, and functions creatively in peaceful ways of his own. Government control depersonalizes; it interferes with peaceful persons, interrupting their private plans in order to enhance some national overall plan, treating them impersonally as mere means to some political end.
  2. Freedom works its wonders amidst complexity—tiny bits of expertise in unimaginable numbers flowing hither and yon and configurating into the goods and services by which we live and prosper. The more complex anything is, the more difficult is comprehension. The freedom thesis leaves most people nonplused—“a condition of perplexity in which one is unable to go, speak or act further.”
  3. Freedom is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to the highest of all human aspirations: growth in awareness, perception, consciousness. This is why we should reflect on Longfellow’s enlightening counsel.

. . . the “genius” of noble minds, that never falters or abates—This refers to those very few who never vacillate or give up—regardless of depravity, corruption, demoralization, political hypocrisy. Such adversity, instead of turning them off—making do-nothings of them—spurs them on. It elicits talents that would otherwise have lain dormant.

. . . the “genius” of noble minds labors, endures, and waits, till all that it foresees it finds—It is genius—a superior power of seeing—that begins great works; labor alone finishes them. Wrote John Ruskin:

It is only by labor that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labor can be made happy; and the two cannot be separated with impunity.

But the labor should be happy—joyous!

It is only these noble minds who endure, who never quit—Wrote Epicurus:

The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots [those who point our way to freedom] gain their reputation from storms and tempests—[the socialistic confusion].

Not only do they gain their reputation; they make possible our salvation.

Another talent: it is only these noble souls who wait—If at first they don’t succeed, they try and try again. These few who fail today may well be up again tomorrow. Patience is their hallmark. Wrote Gail Hamilton:

Life has such hard conditions that every dear and precious gift, every rare virtue, every genial endowment—love, hope, joy, wit, sprightliness, benevolence—must sometimes be put into the crucible to distill the one elixir—patience.

“Patience is not passive; on the contrary it is active; it is concentrated strength.”

. . . or what it cannot find, creates—Noble minds, time after time, are stumped; they can find no ready-made answers to problems they seek to solve. What then? They turn to the spiritual in the sense that an idea, discovery, invention, insight, intuitive flash is spiritual. Everything by which we live originates in the spiritual before manifesting itself in the material. For instance, a water glass is inconceivable had not some cave man eons ago discovered how to harness fire. There would be no airplanes had not some Hindu centuries ago invented the concept of zero. All modern chemistry, physics and the like would be impossible if reliance had to be on Roman numerals!

Interestingly, Americans more than any people in all history have proved the efficacy of the spiritual approach to the good life. It had its beginning in 1776:

. . . that all men are . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Spiritual? Yes, indeed! By proclaiming the Creator as the endower of human rights they unseated government from that role. Result? The American miracle!

Thanks, Mr. Longfellow, for being a philosophic as well as a poetic genius. May we aspire to the divine “genius” of noble minds, featured by day-to-day perseverance. Yours is, indeed, an important key to freedom!

16. Let There Be Light

Light! Nature’s resplendent robe; without whose vesting beauty all were wrapt in gloom.

—JAMES THOMSON

Man is potentially a part of Nature but more often than not is apart from her “resplendent robe.” As to the latter, let me quote my FEE associate, Reverend Edmund A. Opitz:

Man is Nature’s wayward son, the chief disturber of the Cosmic Harmonies. He is a part of Nature, but a portion of his being sets him apart from the material universe. Man transcends Nature and is gifted with a novel kind of freedom of choice.

Here at last is a creature so detached from instinctual controls that guide animals that he can defy the laws of his being. The other orders of creation—birds, beasts, insects—possess built-in servo-mechanisms which give them all the answers; before man the Creator has poised a question mark and the answers are ours to work out.

This is our freedom, and also our peril. No animal has such control of its destiny as we possess—for good or ill. The tiger cannot be untigerish, Ortega once remarked, but a man can be inhuman. Man’s will is free; all other creatures obey the laws of their nature willy-nilly. Man’s freedom is so radical that he can deny his own nature—he can deny his Maker.

Yes, we have freedom of choice. We are free to abide by our nature—the constant pursuit of light—or to deny life’s high purpose, and our Maker. The results? It is, as Thomson wrote, “Nature’s resplendent robe,” on the one hand, or else “all wrapt in gloom.” It is either perpetual ascendancy—Heavenly; or degeneracy—hellish. So let us seek the light!

For years I have been repeating that wise old English axiom: “It is light that brings forth the eye.” The extent to which one’s own light is shining bright, to that extent does it bring forth the eye of others. Excellence in this or any other field is magnetic and is in tune with the Universal Law of Attraction. Anthony Standen gave this truth a brilliant phrasing:

All the phenomena of astronomy, which had baffled the acutest minds since the dawn of history, the movement of the heavens, of the sun and the moon, the very complex movements of the planets, suddenly tumble together and become intelligible in terms of the one staggering assumption, this mysterious “attractive force.” And not only the movements of the heavenly bodies, far more than that, the movements of earthly bodies too are seen to be subject to the same mathematically definable law, instead of being, as they were for all previous philosophers, mere unpredictable happen-so’s.[1] (Italics added)

As related to self and others, it is, indeed, light that brings forth the eye!

All of a sudden, a wee gleam of new light—for me, a discovery. My question has been, What about the dependence of others on my light? All well and good! Now, another question pops into mind, What about my dependence on others for light? The answer to the first has been and still is: It is light that brings forth the eye. The answer to the second question? It is the eye that brings forth the light. The brighter one’s light, the more are others attracted to it. That’s one side of the coin. The other side poses the question, How does one brighten his own light?

One’s eye—his awareness, perception, consciousness—is not and can never be a lone, one-man project. The notion that anyone could advance on his or her own and disregard the wisdom of the ages is absurd. The mind would remain a blank! We have the capacity to gain light from the wisest of tutors—past and present—and should make full use of it. The English critic and poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) wrote:

A dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulders to mount on.

Admittedly, I am a finite being—a dwarf—but it is in the realm of possibility for me to see further than any single giant by drawing on hundreds of giants, past and present—tutors.

“We see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) This biblical observation was made nearly 2,000 years ago when glass was barely translucent, rather than the transparent substance we know. Reflect on the number of things about which we are “in the dark,” the things in creation beyond our perception or calculation. We do not understand what electricity is, only that it is. This may be said of everything by which we live and prosper. Do I know how to make my pen or the paper on which these words are written? Could I build the home in which I live or the car I drive or the airplanes on which I fly or any single part thereof? No human being has any such know-how!

“He sees enough who doth his darkness see.” This is a truism. Why? There are at least two reasons:

  1. It is an absolute necessity that all creative activities be left to the free and unfettered market where the wisdom is, for this permits the flow and configuration of our tiny bits of expertise. Even the simplest item of daily use represents the convergence of countless thousands of contributors. If pencil making were left to any single human being there would be no pencils. Or paper, or whatever!
  2. When we really “see” our darkness, we strive for light—enlightenment.

In nature there is no absolute darkness. There is light for those who have eyes to see. Animals ranging from cats to owls are examples. They roam and fly by night. Time after time I have peered through the glass of my bedroom window into the night and all is black as ink. But keep peering and the iris expands and admits more and more light into the eye. We begin to see.

Peering, forever peering into the intellectual, moral and spiritual darkness that besets each and every one of us, results in the mind opening to understanding—Light! In John 12:46 our Perfect Exemplar is quoted as saying, “I am come a light into the world.”

May each of us strive to become a light—even a tiny spark—into the world! It is our role in human evolution.


[1] See Science Is a Sacred Cow by Anthony Standen (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1950), pp. 63–64.

17. Morality: Its Ups and Downs

The true grandeur of humanity is in moral elevation, sustained, enlightened and decorated by the intellect of man.

—CHARLES SUMNER

Sumner (1811–74) was U.S. Senator from Massachusetts for four terms. Whether or not we agree with all he powerfully advocated or denounced, the above reveals a brilliant insight. Moral elevation is, indeed, the true grandeur of humanity. Equally true, it is sustained, enlightened and decorated by our intellects.

If our intellects are advancing the cause of truth, up goes morality. But if the intellects be erroneous or bogged down at a low level, down goes morality. Thus, it seems appropriate to reflect on the causes: the ups and downs of our intellects.

The meaning of intellect: the power “to perceive, understand . . . the ability to reason.”

First, let’s dispose of the negative in order to concentrate on the positive. Whenever and wherever intellects are below par, morality deteriorates, and with it freedom and the welfare of mankind. Dictocrats take over! Wrote C. S. Lewis:

I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside of rational morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.

It should be clear why no such example can be found. Benevolence—“kindliness”—and power to run the lives of others—molestation—are opposites. Benevolence and power are as contradictory as are their characteristics: love and hate!

What is the cause of a sagging morality? Can it be other than an inability to perceive, understand, reason? Why this inability? Millions of individuals have their eyes cast only on satisfactions of the flesh—ease, comfort, sensation. Goals at this level—no high aspirations or aims—fail to stimulate the intellect. Result? Potential energies are not realized!

Were everyone of this caliber, there would be no moral elevation. Thank heaven, there are a few at the truly high level where energies are not “bottled up” but are free to flow—the gateway to freedom!

Wrote Emerson: “Intellect lies behind genius which is intellect constructive. Intellect is the simple power, anterior to all action or construction.”

How simple is this power? No more is required than to strive for the highest goal there is—Infinite Consciousness!

While this goal—the Eternal—is unimaginably beyond the reach of anyone, it is the lodestar—“the guiding idea”—at which man should aim now and forever. When this course is passionately pursued, permitting nothing to stand in the way, the practitioners are graced with intellectual, moral and spiritual growth. Elevation!

It is interesting to reflect on our intellects and how they can advance mankind toward the Eternal Verities—Truth.

  • Creation has given us unlimited scope for the exercises of the intellect during our mortal moments.
  • In some the intellect is highly advanced. Those so blest—unlike others—move toward Truth in the absence of obstacles to overcome. They inspire in others an understanding of the Unobstructed Universe—life in the Hereafter!
  • Individuals so graced can fail in this or that endeavor without dejection and can succeed without elation. In tune with reality!
  • Only those whose intellects are growing understand liberty, and have the courage to stand for liberty—the right of every person to act creatively as each pleases.
  • Intellects in the higher realm can be likened to lamps in a lighthouse. They can be seen from afar and, thus, assist others in finding their way to the freedom way of life.
  • The intellect of the wise can be likened to a glass which, intercepting the light of heavenly virtues, reflects them.
  • Intellect and productivity in all fields are ideological and material companions. Happiness and peace on earth are increased by their union.
  • Those who foster all creative actions are men and women of advanced intellects.
  • The commerce of intellect loves distant shores. The practitioners favor free and unfettered trade the world over. They are the ambassadors of good will.

The true grandeur of humanity is, indeed, in moral elevation. And this is possible only as highly elevated goals are adopted and accepted as life’s earthly mission.

To develop higher intellects that morality may be on the way up rather than down, here is a good guideline by Saint Jerome (340–420): Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.

18. Coping With Darkness

There is not enough darkness in the whole world to put out the light of one wee candle.

—A SCOTTISH EPITAPH

Some 2,800 years ago an ancient author wrote these words in Genesis: “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Darkness is still upon the face of the earth and always will be! And the darkest spot is just under the wee candle. Striving to become a tiny light amid humanity’s darkness is a worthy and heavenly aspiration for each of us who would lend a helping hand to freedom.

The darkness with which we must cope is in the future. Why in the days to come rather than right now? There is no fraction small enough to identify the present—that moment when the future becomes the past. All is past or future, which is to say, all of our correct guidelines consist of memories or expectations, each of which should be examined.

If we rely on memory to steer us aright, we build our thinking on intellectual quicksand—fickle stuff! Why this assertion? Merely answer this question: On what are our memories founded, that is, memories prior to your or my experience? We are forced to rely on reporters, including those who label themselves historians! Are the reports accurate? To the contrary—loaded with prejudices! Heed these words by one of the greatest of all historians, a scholar who recognized the confusions which beset the members of his own profession:

What is it that leads one historian to make, out of all the possible true affirmations about the given event, certain affirmations and not others? Why, the purpose he has in mind will determine that. And so the purpose he has in mind will determine the precise meaning which he derives from the event. The event, itself, the facts, do not say anything, do not impose any meaning. It is the historian who speaks, who imposes meaning.

The historian has to judge the significance of the series of events from the one single performance, never to be repeated, and never, since the records are incomplete and imperfect, capable of being fully known or affirmed. Thus into the imagined facts and their meaning there enters the personal equation. The history of an event is never precisely the same thing to two different persons; and it is well known that every generation writes the same history in a new way; and puts upon it a new construction.[1]

While no two reporters of past events see precisely the same significance in any one of them, it is equally true that no two readers derive identical interpretations. Thus, histories, while not all darkness, are, at best, shifting, shadowy accounts of the near and ancient past. That such accounts are not the way to brighten one’s wee candle has been recognized by numerous wise men.

History can only be understood by seeing it as the theatre of diverse groups of idealists respectively urging ideals incompatible for conjoint realization.

Alfred North Whitehead

We read history through our prejudices.

Wendell Phillips

Truth is very liable to be left-handed in history.

Alexander Dumas

The men who make history have no time to write it.

C. W. Metternich

Many historians take pleasure in putting into the mouths of princes what they have neither said nor ought to have said.

Voltaire

We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real, authentic history. That certain kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend on as true; but all the coloring, all the philosophy of history is conjecture.

Samuel Johnson

To be entirely just in our estimate of other ages is not only difficult, but is impossible. Even what is passing in our presence we see but through a glass darkly. In historical inquiries the most instructed thinkers have but a limited advantage over the most illiterate. Those who know the most approach least to agreement.

James A. Froude

Enough of the negative. In summary, the present does not exist and the past is shrouded in darkness. So let’s reflect on the future and the light that can be gleaned. Again, a bit of wisdom from Froude:

History is a voice forever sounding across the centuries. . . . Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity.

Mankind’s problem is first and foremost the discovery of and a strict adherence to the moral law. The answers are to be found on the tablets of eternity—the future! It is by peering into the future that we will find the only way for each of us to light his wee candle.

It is well to remember that the darkest spot—the past—is just under one’s wee candle. Thus, the eye must be cast upward, toward the tablets of eternity, for only there is the moral law written. Here are two assurances:

Thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God [Infinite Consciousness] will enlighten my darkness. (Psalms 18:28)

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness. (John 8:12)

We who strive for freedom—peace on earth and good will toward men—must seek and find the moral law without in order that it may reside within our individual souls. Immanuel Kant phrased it well:

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within.

Freedom rises or falls as a common justice is or is not observed, as our lives are or are not governed by the highest of moral principles. In trying to brighten my own wee candle by looking upward and onward, what are the first two guidelines that meet the eye of yours truly? The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule!

Discovering their existence or being able to repeat the words is far from adequate. Learning to live by the truths written on these tablets of eternity—gleaning all the light they have to shed—is beyond the capability of anyone in a lifetime. It is finite awareness moving slowly toward the imperceptible—Infinite Consciousness!

That wise philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, humbly acknowledges his position:

We are going to look for a little of that light. You can expect nothing more of course. I can only give what I have. Let others who can do more do their more, as I do my little.

Many others have shared their “more” with me that my own wee candle may be brightened. This is the stairway to the dispelling of darkness and the light in which freedom appears as a way of life!


[1] See “What Are Historical Facts?” by Professor Carl Becker (1955) in Hans Meyerhoff (ed.), The Philosophy of History in Our Time (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1959), pp. 131–132.

19. Nature’s Law of Change

We shall be changed. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye.

—I CORINTHIANS 15:51–52

The above, a wise message passed on to posterity by Saint Paul, has been variously phrased and supported by others. Here are a few samplings from the distant past to recent times:

There is nothing in the world that keeps its form.

Ovid

Presume not that I am the thing I was.

Shakespeare

All things must change

To something new, to something strange.

We must all obey the law of change.

It is the most powerful law of nature.

Edmund Burke

Look around thro’ Nature’s range.

Nature’s mighty law is change.

Robert Burns

Weep not that the world changes—did it keep a stable, changeless state it were cause indeed to weep.

William Cullen Bryant

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.

Alfred North Whitehead

The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.

C. F. Kettering

Ovid, a Roman poet of antiquity, was graced with hindsight, insight and foresight or else he could not have written, “There is nothing in the world that keeps its form.” Hindsight and insight imparted this wisdom to Ovid: that change is a law of life. This has always been the case, and it will be true in the future. It is interesting to reflect on the scientific evidence during recent years that lends credence to Ovid’s foresight.

Thirty trillion atoms could be placed on the period at the end of this sentence without overlapping. All atoms are in constant change—nature’s law—no two ever alike.

There are one octillion atoms—1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—in each individual. How can this be imagined? Cover the earth with dried green peas to a depth of four feet. An octillion? No, it is necessary to cover 250,000 earth-sized planets with the same depth of dried peas to reach the staggering figure of one octillion!

Interestingly, each individual has a new octillion atoms every five years. How fast do they come and go? One quintillion—1,000,000,000,000,000,000—every second! To and from where? Throughout the universe! It has been mathematically demonstrated that each of us, at any moment, possesses a few atoms that were in Christ.

The above is a firm confirmation of nature’s law of change. No person is the same from one second to the next. This is true of a blade of grass, snow flakes, clouds, our Sun and all other stars, galaxies or whatever.

Shakespeare’s “Presume not that I am the thing I was,” shows that he grasped nature’s law. Suppose everything in nature had remained as was. No such title as The Bard of Avon would have been accorded him. Why? Stalemated at babyhood—the thing he was! While there would be no human beings on earth—or even our earth itself—in the absence of nature’s law of change, reflect on our likeness to men of the Stone Age—Neanderthals. We would look more like monkeys than those who populate today’s world!

Edmund Burke and Robert Burns add their wisdom and clarity to this incontrovertible truth. Burke’s—“All things must change to something new, to something strange”—sheds a light easy to see. “Nature’s mighty law is change,” wrote Burns. Since their time there have been many millions of changes that would not only have been new and strange but startling to these brilliant minds.

Let two examples among the millions suffice:

  1. An automobile that can speed at 90 miles per hour, with power steering, a self-starter, air conditioning, radio, rear-view mirrors, automatic windshield wipers and other labor-saving gadgets.
  2. A motion picture camera that takes photos near and far and in color which are displayed on TV that can be seen not only by all citizens in the U.S.A. but by anyone in the world—by satellite!

These and ever so many other things which I use every day are strange to me. Imagine how phenomenal to Burke had he been able to look two centuries into the future! Though amazed, he would have said that the unexpected is to be expected. He understood that nature’s law is change!

No individual of even moderate perspicacity—keenness of sight—could help but side with William Cullen Bryant: Weep not at nature’s law of change! To weep at change would be no less absurd than to decry all progress—human emergence, growth, evolution, Creation! Were the world to keep a stable, changeless state, there is little prospect of survivors to mourn the sad fate of mankind.

Those who favor the art of progress must recognize the essence of this art. Alfred North Whitehead gives the formula: to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.

Our present situation resembles a one-sided contest, with changes galore but disorder on the rampage. Reflect on the disorder—politicians, bureaucrats, business and professional “leaders” coercively interfering with the free flow of creative energy. Labor union strikes, tariffs, embargoes, regulations, controls—these are but samples of disorder. Bear in mind that the practitioners are no more at fault—perhaps not so much—as those who advocate this dictocratic nonsense—preachers, teachers, the media and the millions who have gleaned no politico-economic light. One-sided? The score is a thousand to one! We must achieve order if we would preserve change—nature’s law.

Boss Kettering avers that the world hates change. He was not referring to the few like himself who understand that change is the only thing that has brought and will bring progress. His reference was to those who revel in special privileges, ranging from cartels—which eliminate competition—to food stamps. The tens of millions who live by countless plunderbunds hate the very thought of a return to self-responsibility—living off the fruits of one’s own labor. The private ownership, free market, limited government way of life is anathema to parasites—hated!

Those who despise freedom haven’t the slightest idea that their sordid, avaricious notions will, if not reversed, do them in. They fight against their own self-interest—unknowingly! What is it they fail to see? Changes, occurring in profusion and automatically when the freedom way is observed, account for material abundance; but coercively taking from some to subsidize others will dry up the springs of wealth until nothing remains to be confiscated! What happens to parasites when the host has been killed!

What, then, is the solution to our problem? It is to establish an order in society that is free, flexible, fluid—and growing. Under these conditions of orderly freedom every individual may act in any creative way that pleases him.

All persons may:

  • Labor wherever they choose and for the number of hours that best suits their fancy.
  • Produce whatever accords with their talents.
  • Exchange with whomever is agreeable.
  • Freely compete in any or all activities.
  • Employ and manage the capital they can honestly accumulate.
  • Rely upon a government limited to protecting these natural rights, that is, keep the peace by invoking a common justice.

Thank heaven, ours is not a numbers problem. Over and over again I have written that all good movements in the world’s history have been led by an infinitesimal minority. Our role is finding ways better to phrase and explain the freedom philosophy.

As this is being written, a letter arrives from a freedom devotee in Spain. He reports a comment of his wife: “The Freeman articles feature the same subject over and over again.” His reply, “Yes, but note that new and better ways of explaining with clarity are on the increase.”

To conclude, here are the thoughts of two more wise men:

A system of fixed concepts is contrary to natural law. It prevents life from flowing. It blocks the passage of the universal law.

Newton Dillaway

The greater thing in the world is not so much where we stand as the direction we are going.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

May you and I go in the right direction that more may go with us: Toward nature’s law—toward freedom!

20. Our Times Demand Statesmen!

The great difference between the real statesman and the pretender is, that the one sees into the future, while the other regards only the present; the one lives by the day, and acts on expediency; the other acts on enduring principles and for immortality.

—EDMUND BURKE

To understand Burke’s distinction between the pretender and the statesman presumes that one knows the purpose of government and the appropriate role for political action. It then can be seen that pretenders, as distinguished from statesmen, are to be found not only among elected and appointed officials but in the ranks of the so-called private sector as well. Pretenders include all who advocate political action as a matter of short-run expediency, be they labor leaders, businessmen, teachers, preachers or of whatever calling.

As I explained in Chapter 2, it should be clear that those who empower an agent—vote for a government—to do their robbing are as guilty of sin as those who steal on their own.[1]

Indeed, if there were no private advocacy of political intervention, there would be little, if any governmental practice thereof. If private citizens favored only enduring principles and reasoned from the premise of immortality, officialdom would reflect the same virtue. Officialdom is but an echoing of wrong or right thinking on the part of the citizenry.

As to enduring principles, premised on immortality, an American author—Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–1881)—understood and beautifully phrased the virtues each of us should comprehend and use as guidelines:

God give us men! A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor; men who will not lie;

Men who can stand before a demagogue

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking;

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty and in private thinking;

For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large profession and their little deeds,

Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,

Wrong rules the land, and waiting Justice sleeps.

Each of us is a part of society, and thus, has a public duty to keep the societal agencies within proper bounds, so that freedom may prevail. This demands that we be statesmen—tall men, sun-crowned—who see above the fog of socialism. The potential for statesmanship exists in any individual. Whether in public office or in private life, each may serve as an exemplar of the private ownership, free market, limited government way of life.

Jefferson wrote, “There is a natural aristocracy among men. It is composed of virtues and talents.” When society is graced with a few natural aristocrats—statesmen—setting a high standard, acts of selfish strife are held in abeyance. The rank and file of mankind respond to statesmanlike example. But when such exemplarity slumps as it has today in all walks of life—politics, business, professions, education, religion, labor unions—out come the thumb-worn creeds like weeds in an unkept garden.

Does one then stand among the weeds in despair? Or does he take up the challenge? Let that wise statesman, Edmund Burke, answer once again:

How often has public calamity been arrested on the very brink of ruin, by the seasonable energy of a single man? Have we no such man amongst us? I am as sure as I am of my being, that one vigorous mind without office, without situation, without public functions of any kind, (at a time when such a thing is felt, as I am sure it is) I say, one such man, confiding in the aid of God, and full of just reliance in his own fortitude, vigor, enterprise, and perseverance, would first draw to him some few like himself, and then that multitudes, hardly thought to be in existence, would appear and troop about him.

Acknowledged, only a few over the ages have done more than follow the dictatorial customs of their time. This explains why the freedom way of life has graced humanity only on rare occasions. Those of us who love liberty have one assignment—to achieve the highest stage of exemplarity within our capabilities. This is the sole contribution we can make to mankind’s movement away from a primitive to an enlightened way of life.

Margaret Cameron, in The Seven Purposes, offers further insight as to how such exemplarity affects others:

Give unto each his opportunity to grow and to build for progress. Freedom to strive is the one right inherent in existence, the strong and the weak each following his own purpose, with all his force, to the one great end. And he who binds and limits his brother’s purpose binds himself now and hereafter. But he who extends his brother’s opportunity builds for eternity.


[1] For Congressman Davy Crockett’s well-told story of how he learned this lesson from one of his constituents, ask for a copy of “Not Yours to Give.”

21. The Idea With An L: Ideal

A great idea is usually original to more than one discoverer. Great ideas come when the world needs them. They surround the world’s ignorance and press for admission.

—AUSTIN PHELPS

There are varying definitions of the ideal but this is my favorite: “A conception of something in its most excellent form.” However, even this has limitations along with its limitless potentialities. Tryon Edwards phrased it well:

We never reach our ideals whether of mental or moral improvement, but the thought of them shows us our deficiencies and spurs us on to higher and better things.

There are infinitely more ideas than all the individuals who live on this earth—and they are all different, no two identical. I need only reflect on how my own ideas have varied over the years—even from day to day. The same can be said of everyone else, except those who are mentally and morally stagnated. Variation occurs when the quality of ideas declines, no less than when it improves. Multiply all who live times the countless variations in their ideas, and the figure is beyond our imagination!

All of our actions, good as well as bad, are in response to the ideas we hold. Only rarely are these ideas one’s own; we borrow from someone else. Thus, many of our actions are no more than imitations, and too often we imitate actions spawned by bad ideas that have been so prevalent in mankind’s history.

There may be no better illustration of such imitation in our own history than that supplied by the Pilgrim Fathers during the years 1620–23. Where did they get the idea that they could best survive by taking from those who have and giving to those in need?

Prior to 1620—with a few notable exceptions—the Command Society, such as serfdom and feudalism, had more or less been a way of life. No better demonstration of this ancient idea has ever been written than by Karl Marx, the father of modern communism. While the Pilgrims, for the first three years, practiced the idea, Marx, two and one-half centuries later, was the first to phrase it: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Bad ideas, like bad events—murders, airplane crashes, and so on—are publicized and talked about. Good ideas, like good events—respect for others, honest dealings, safe flying—are rarely publicized or discussed. Those addicted to bad ideas do not recognize good ideas or talk about them. Good ideas are over their heads and out of sight—invisible!

These bad ideas from the primitive past are remindful of an avalanche; they grow as they descend upon mankind. As an avalanche finally reaches a terrain where descent is no longer possible, so do bad ideas eventually run head-on into good ideas that make their continuance impossible. As Austin Phelps wrote, “Great ideas come when the world needs them. They surround the world’s ignorance and press for admission.”

We of today’s world—individuals in the U.S.A. no less than those in other countries—are in dire need of great ideas. Our aim? To surround and do away with the prevalence of bad ideas. Let the good replace the bad! In what politico-economic form do the bad ideas manifest themselves? In the planned economy and the welfare state: socialism, that is, Marxism![1]

Human errors—bad ideas—are undetectable by you or me until better ideas are found. However, when discovered and uncovered, the great idea with an L—The Ideal—graces the mind: the freedom way of life!

Freedom—no man-concocted restraints against the release of creative human energy—is the latest great idea of the evolutionary process. Like a distant star, such an ideal is glimpsed by only a few, never more clearly than by our Founding Fathers in their stand before the avalanche. They unseated government as the endower of men’s rights and placed the Creator in that role. Result? The American Miracle!

How are we to explain the rather drastic slump from our country’s earlier approximation of the Ideal? Merely bear in mind that our countless blessings are conferred by Creation and that we mortals are creatures who have the potential of sharing in evolution.

What, then, is my answer to the question posed? Human freedom is but a phase of the celestial. Awareness of Infinite Consciousness is within our reach but understanding and clear explanations are beyond our finite minds. However, we can reach, and reaching is the part we can play toward our own salvation and evolvement.

For what shall we reach? That high goal: FREEDOM! This goal has at least three ascending stages:

  1. Achieve that understanding and tenacity of spirit which makes it impossible to lend any support or encouragement to any socialistic notion.
  2. Become a thinker and writer capable of explaining the fallacies of socialism and the principles of freedom.
  3. Arrive at that state of excellence which will cause others to seek one’s tutorship.

The third stage is the law of attraction in human relationships. It is easy to tell the degree of excellence achieved. Ask yourself, “How many others are seeking my tutorship?” If none, there’s homework to be done!

Finally, let us strive to so grasp the great ideas that lie at the root of human liberty until it becomes second nature for us to act in accord with those ideals.

Ever so many behaviors in life are second nature, that is, we act automatically and correctly without the need of thinking. Two examples:

  • Remember when as a child you were learning to write. You had to think your way around all the letters from A to Z. Today? Those physical movements have been relegated to the conditioned reflexes and all you have to think about is what you wish to write. The physical movements have become second nature.
  • Reflect on driving an automobile. You do not think about turning the wheel or pressing the accelerator or brake. These movements, as in writing, have been relegated to the conditioned reflexes and all you have to think about is where you wish to go and how to avoid obstacles. The physical movements are second nature.

Very well! When do the great ideas about human liberty become second nature? When one can clearly explain the fallacies of socialism and the ideas that lie at the root of human liberty with the same ease as responding “42” to the question, “What’s 6 times 7?”

An admission: I am unaware of anyone who has reached this stage of perfection. As contrary notions are posed, most of us devotees of liberty must do a lot of thinking before arriving at a correct answer. Yet, there are a few known to me whose responses to most notions are instinctive! The knowledge has become a part of their very beings—second nature to that degree, and a goal we must each strive to attain.

True, mortal man has not attained and may never attain the Idea with an L: The Ideal—“the conception of something [freedom] in its perfect form.” Perfection is not within our range.

However, the thought of mental and moral improvement—The Ideal—exposes our countless deficiencies and spurs us on in a glorious direction!

They only who build on Ideas, build for eternity.

Emerson

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world and that is an idea whose time has come.

Victor Hugo

The time has come to build for eternity!


[1] For an appraisal of how nearly we in the U.S.A. have adopted the ten points of the Communist Manifesto, see the chapter, “Ignorance: Agent of Destruction,” in my book, Vision.

22. Reading and Writing

The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths that are too complicated; he forgets truths that are too simple.

—REBECCA WEST

The above epigram by this famous lady is, to say the least, an oversimplification. “The trouble about man” is not twofold; it is a millionfold! And this is true of me, or you, or anyone. Nonetheless, her two assertions deserve reflection by those seeking truth.

For whom are truths too complicated—the sayers or the listeners? If they be the sayer’s own thoughts, they are simple to him, if to no one else. He learns from them! The same applies to truths that are “too simple.” They will not be forgotten by the sayer but only by the listeners.

Here is an example of a truth—a sentence from the Sermon on the Mount—that at one time was too complicated for me, but not for Christ: “The meek shall inherit the earth.” To most of us “meek” refers to the Casper Milquetoasts. Christ did not mean that—far from it!

How did I go about simplifying this complication? By reading and writing—each equally important for thinking. The highly informative book was The Code of Christ by Gerald Heard. The word “meek” was originally in Aramaic: inwethan. Years later the Greeks translated this to praos and still later the French used debonair. At the time of the King James translation, the word meek was used for the first time. As Heard explains:

  • There seems little doubt that praos stands for a word the meaning of which is opposed to “arrogant,” “domineering,” “overbearing,” “aggressive,” “bellicose.”
  • Debonair is a startling contrast [to meek]. Instead of the motto being, “Please don’t kick me” we find, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
  • . . . in the period before and during the time of the King James translation, the word “meek” implied “a wonderful, inherent teachability.” In a word, the Third Beatitude should read, “Blessed are the teachable for they shall inherit the earth.”

Heard’s interpretation was confirmed by one of the world’s great linguists, my late friend, Mario Pei. However, to capture this wisdom—to make it my own—required that I put it into my own phrasing. This simplification of a complication appears as chapter 3 in my book, Having My Way.

Next, what about a truth that’s “too simple”? Example: “Resist not evil.” Here it is in its Biblical context:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38–39)

Assuredly, “resist not evil” was simple to Saint Matthew and possibly to many people of our time. But was the evil of his time assessed the same as now? Or, do any two of us have identical concepts of what is wrong? Negative on both counts! Indeed, if and when one gains in righteousness, what had seemed right before turns to evil when seen from the new perspective. For instance, in earlier years, I saw nothing wrong in referring to socialists as fools. Today? Such disparagement represents evil of the first order!

In Saint Matthew’s time slavery was no more questioned than is communism in today’s Russia. Today, nearly all Americans look upon slavery as an evil, that is, if slavery be of the Simon Legree kind. But what about those who coercively feather their own nests at the expense of others? Are not the victims enslaved? Thus, is not the welfare state evil? Affirmative!

Saint Matthew’s statement includes an obvious complication: “. . . whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other.” Really, should one turn the other cheek? Only to get socked twice? I came upon the answer by reading the works of Konrad Lorenz, the noted animal psychologist:

A wolf has enlightened me; not so that your enemy may strike you again do you turn the other cheek toward him, but to make him unable to do it.

An old Arab proverb comes to mind: “He who strikes the second blow starts the fight.” If another strikes or argues with you and you refrain from doing the same to him, you leave him absolutely nothing to scratch against. The lesson? Away with confrontations—all of them! This point is further explored in the chapter, “Resist Not Evil,” in my book, Then Truth Will Out.

Anyway, reading and writing have made it possible for me to comprehend many ideas that otherwise would have lain dormant.

Now for a few comments on several other of the many books in what may be the best freedom library in the U.S.A. or any other country. The reading of these has largely accounted for my writing several books—25 in all. And, in my judgment, this freedom library will be equally helpful to anyone who aspires to radiate the private ownership, free market, limited government way of life. These books range from those which are easy to understand to those which are more profound—and difficult.

The easiest of all is Weaver’s The Mainspring of Human Progress. Countless thousands of individuals—young and old—have been given their start toward an understanding of freedom by reading this literary gem. For example, he refers to the miracles of modern productivity in the United States, made available to the vast majority of people in all walks of life.

Three generations—grandfather to grandson—have created these wonders which surpass the utmost imaginings of all previous time.

And then Weaver clearly and attractively answers the question:

What has been responsible for this unprecedented burst of progress, which has so quickly transformed a hostile wilderness into the most prosperous and advanced country that the world has ever known?

That remarkable Frenchman, Frederic Bastiat (1801–50), saw as clearly through the political fog as anyone known to me, past or present. And the fog was dense in France during his time! However, it is one thing to see the fallacies of socialism but quite another matter to explain them clearly to anyone who can read and is interested. Here is a sampling of the light that shines from each of the 75 pages of The Law:

See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Ask me the question, “What economics textbook would you recommend for high school and college use?” My answer: The two volumes of Free Market Economics (A Syllabus and A Basic Reader) by Bettina Bien Greaves, a senior member of the FEE staff for 27 years, close friend of Ludwig von Mises and avid student of his written and spoken words.

A Syllabus offers suggestions for teachers but also belongs in the hands of students—a well-organized guide to the principles and practices of social cooperation by which individuals compete and trade in the open market, each pursuing his own interests. A Basic Reader is a careful selection of eighty-one articles by various authors on the different aspects of economics, as outlined and organized in A Syllabus. Together, an unbeatable combination for a do-it-yourself course in economics.

Well known to Freeman readers are the writings of Dr. Clarence Carson, specialist in American history. Most exciting and helpful to me is The Rebirth of Liberty, concerning the founding of the American Republic in those critical years from 1760 through 1800:

When the energies of peaceful men are released, they are capable of and have achieved wonders of building, invention, production, transportation and much more.

And reproduced as a bonus in this volume are the “Declaration” and the “Constitution,” and seven other historic American documents.

Most people think of inflation as a rise in prices. What a fallacy! Henry Hazlitt, author of “Inflation in One Page” and numerous previous articles and books on this subject, offers a thorough analysis in his latest book, The Inflation Crisis, And How to Resolve It.

Andrew Dickson White, Professor of History, University of Michigan, and later co-founder and first President of Cornell University, presented to mankind an easy-to-read book, Fiat Money Inflation in France, describing the monetary debacle of the late 18th century and the accompanying revolution that brought Napoleon to power. It deserves reading and rereading.

Human Action by Ludwig von Mises is at once the most difficult and profound of our books. An appropriate aim should be an understanding of this great man’s wisdom.

A concluding thought: Ever so many among us who disdain socialism do no more than bemoan our plight. “There is no hope; the world is going to the dogs.” To their own loss and ours, they overlook their potentialities and the development thereof. Reading and writing will serve to put them on the right track. For an excellent eye opener, read The Undiscovered Self by the distinguished Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung.

For freedom’s sake, let us discover our undiscovered selves. Intellectual, moral and spiritual ascendancy will be the reward for each and all of us!

23. Glory Be!

True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier and better for our living in it.

—PLINY, THE ELDER

The Roman naturalist, Pliny, The Elder, was born in 23 A.D. When he passed away at the age of 56, he had written 37 books on the nature of the physical universe—including geography, anthropology, zoology, botany and other related subjects.

Pliny did, indeed, leave the world happier and better for having lived in it. His scientific findings have been far surpassed, as we would expect. And if we live our lives aright—in freedom—the miracles of the future will surpass our findings, as ours have his! He lived every moment of his life with zest—enthusiasm—perhaps the greatest stimulus for noble works. Wrote Emerson: “Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever accomplished without it.”

True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; it consists in noble deeds worth recording. This is to be distinguished from blatant notoriety. History presents far more writings of the latter sort than the former. Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and countless other great destroyers loom too large in written history. Why these lopsided recordings? It is the bad, not the good, which attracts the public eye. Observe today’s media and the preponderance of reporting that does not deserve to be either written or read, spoken or heard.

The following is an attempt to think through and to understand Pliny’s three parts of True Glory. If even partially successful, I will make a small contribution to the displacement of that which should be neither written nor read.

True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written—In my study of writing that deserves to be written, I’ve been surprised that most of the world’s great writers—past and present—never kept a daily journal. Obviously, they had other disciplines that brought out their remarkable writings. We are all different in all respects. As for me, I have kept a journal for nearly 27 years without missing a day—capturing every thought that comes to mind or that I have learned from others—a rewarding experience. What a discipline—writing such entries for nearly 10,000 days!

Recently I came upon my entry of August 11, 1955, long since forgotten:

If it were not for the gravitational force pulling us down, there would be no such concept as “up.”

If there were no darkness, we would have no sense or appreciation of light.

If there were no evil, we would have no awareness of virtue.

If there were no ignorance, we would not know intelligence.

If there were no troubles, there would be no pleasures.

If there were no obstacles, there would be no aspirations.

If there were no insecurity, we would not know of security.

If there were no blindness, we would not be conscious of perception.

If there were no poverty, we would not experience riches.

If no man ever imposed restraint on others, there would be no striving for liberty and the term would not exist.

I now recall discovering, just a few days later, while reading Runes’ Treasury of Philosophy, that around 500 B.C. Heraclitus was saying the same thing: “Men would not know the name of justice if there were no injustice.” This made me laugh at my “originality” and brought to mind Goethe’s assertion: “All truly wise ideas have been thought already thousands of times.”

Assuming the above observations to be valid, then “doing what deserves to be written” is learning how to cope with and overcome life’s countless obstacles. It is an observed fact that the art of becoming—human development—is composed of acts of overcoming.

Gravitation, for instance, is a physical force drawing all and sundry toward the earth’s center. What else accounts for physical ascendancy! Were there no such force, there would be no ladders or airplanes or rain or snow—indeed, no life!

Obstacles are assuredly the source of aspirations. Human frailties—which lead to such things as governmental interventions of the kind that destroy creative activities—inspire their own overcoming. Why, then, do errors have their value? Their overcoming leads to evolution—human Liberty!

A Latin proverb: “Nothing is too often repeated that is not sufficiently learned.” This encompasses an enormous realm, including every thought that reveals truth—repeating it over and over again, seeking improvement. Learning how to overcome may very well rank first in what deserves to be written!

True glory consists in writing what deserves to be read—There are countless thousands of books, articles and commentaries that deserve to be read. The vast majority of these writings are known to a mere handful of people. I shall refer to only one that is an inspiring and instructive example: You Are Extraordinary by Roger J. Williams.[1]

Professor Williams, a noted biochemist, became convinced that his wife’s death was caused by the doctor treating her as “an equal,” rather than as an individual. This led the Professor to his first study in human variation, having to do only with the variation in taste buds in different people. The findings, published in Free And Unequal, are fantastic.[2]

Having an unusually inquiring mind, he began an investigation into ever so many other forms of variation. The findings appeared in 1956: Biochemical Individuality, somewhat technical for lay readers.[3] Nevertheless, I read it with avidity, because it contained an important key to the freedom philosophy. It was this book that led to my acquaintance with the author.

We corresponded, and after answering a question of mine he added that he had just written a book, to be entitled You Are Extraordinary, designed, he said, for lay readers. The manuscript was enclosed.

Professor Williams is extraordinary. So are you and so am I and so is each human being. Indeed, no one is the same as a moment ago. Variation is a rule of all life, plant, animal and man.

Why does You Are Extraordinary deserve to be read? It makes the case for liberty. Wrote William Gifford:

Countless the various species of mankind;

Countless the shades that sep’rate mind from mind;

No general object of desire is known,

Each has its will, and each pursues his own.

Once variation is recognized as a fact of life, there can be no endorsement—none whatsoever—of know-it-alls controlling the creative actions of you or me or anyone. Authoritarianism dismissed as utter nonsense! We would witness our 16,000,000 public officials reduced to a mere fraction thereof. All but a few would return to that wonderful status of self-responsible citizens—America’s miraculous performance on the go again.

True glory consists in so living as to make the world happier and better—How do we live to make others happier and better? Here are a few guidelines, mostly gleaned from others:

A desire to stand for and staunchly to abide by what is believed to be righteous—seeking approval from God, not man.

Strive for that excellence in the understanding and explanation of freedom which will cause others to seek one’s tutorship. This brings happiness to both the striver and the seeker—and the world!

Live with zest and enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever accomplished in the absence of such spirit.

Be optimistic. This does not mean a blindness to dictocrats lording it over us. Rather, it is self-assurance that a turnabout is in the offing. The world is not going to the dogs as the prophets of doom proclaim. Optimism increases happiness for it is contagious.

If we would make the world happier and better, we might well heed these words by Albert Camus when accepting the Nobel Prize in 1957: “In all the circumstances of his life, the writer can recapture the feeling of a living community that will justify him. But only if he accepts as completely as possible the two trusts that constitute the true nobility of his calling: the service of truth and the service of freedom.” To serve truth and freedom is as high as we can go. When more of us than now attain this intellectual and moral height, the path toward glory will open:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


[1] You Are Extraordinary, Pyramid Books.

[2] Free And Unequal, University of Texas Press.

[3] Biochemical Individuality, Wiley.

24. Laws That Make and/or Break Mankind

The civil laws, . . . so long as they are just, derive from the law of nature their binding force. The authority of the divine law adds its sanction.

—POPE LEO XIII

The following could not be authored, except by one who is aware of how infinitesimal is human knowledge—compared to what is to be known. A know-it-all could never make appropriate concessions to Infinite Knowledge—from which all blessings flow. Here, from one who is aware of knowing next to nothing, are a few thoughts that have been helpful to me and thus may be worth sharing with other devotees of freedom.

The following is a commentary on two kinds of laws: (1) the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and (2) laws that human beings contrive. The fundamental point of this thesis is: We humans can no more break or alter the Divine Laws than we can control a galaxy or govern the going and coming of your or my octillion atoms. The laws of CREATION are above and beyond the power of man’s control.

What is the lesson we should derive from the above? It is this: The extent to which men break God’s Laws—be it through lack of understanding or willfully or whatever—to that extent will societal chaos bedevil mankind. Nature’s Laws are at once immutable and omniscient: “the Omniscient God.”

Pope Leo XIII shares his enlightenment. He says that man-concocted laws, that is, civil laws—if they be just—derive their binding force from the law of nature. The authority of the divine law, the sole source of all that is just and that should be obeyed—loyalty to righteousness—adds its sanction to those man-contrived laws only if they be consistent with the Laws of Nature.

Plato, the Greek philosopher, expressed a similar idea 2,200 years before Pope Leo:

Freedom is no matter of laws and constitutions; only he is free who realizes the divine order within himself, the true standard by which a man can steer and measure himself.

Edith Hamilton, a student and historian of ancient Greece, wrote:

. . . the shadow of effortless barbarism was dark upon the earth. In that black and fierce world a little centre of white-hot spiritual energy was at work. A new civilization had arisen in Athens, unlike all that had gone before. . . . True standards, ideals that lift men up, marked the way of Greeks.

The above is only to emphasize an incontrovertible fact: Any good society has its origin exclusively in individual attunement to the Divine Order. Thus, our aim should be, during our mortal moments, to discover as best we can the rules and imperatives of this highest of all orders and strictly adhere thereto.

Nature’s Laws reward virtues. Civil laws, when just, are limited to the inhibition and punishment of the various evils or vices. The relevant question is, why are most civil laws unjust? There are more reasons than we’ll ever know, but the fundamental error, the root cause, is the belief that the universe holds no wisdom or authority superior to the individual ego. And that belief, in my humble opinion, contains the correct definition of atheism.

This is more meaningful to me than the dictionary definition of an atheist: “a person who believes there is no God.” There is an important distinction to be made between the person who disbelieves in this or that concept of the deity, and the egotist who simply disregards or disdains the wisdom and truths of “Nature and Nature’s God.”

Those who disregard include people from all walks of life—even many clergymen and church members—and they are far more numerous than proclaimed atheists. All mortal beings fall into the disregarding category who fail to search for and adhere to the Highest Truths—the great ideals “that lift men up.” Unaware of how little and feeble their minds, such people regard themselves rather than Creation as omniscient—each fancies himself as the Big I Am!

Fancies! Wrote Samuel Johnson: “All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity.”

Insanity—“great folly; extreme senselessness”—has been dramatized a few times in history by those who fancied that the world would be perfect if its billions of inhabitants were cast in a single image—theirs! One can imagine no greater folly or senselessness.

There are, however, degrees of insanity. These range from the many who try to recast one other person in their image to such a Big I Am as Alexander the Great, who lamented because there were no more worlds to conquer. He boasted of his power to Diogenes and offered to grant any of the philosopher’s wishes. Came the answer, “Please move aside; you are standing between me and the Sun.” Such is an appropriate response to any know-it-all, be he a neighbor or a do-as-I-say President of the U.S.A.

That distinguished English statesman, William E. Gladstone (1809–98), wrote: “Good laws make it easier to do right and harder to do wrong.” What is behind this inspired thought? Gladstone observed his own country’s turnabout when a host of bad laws—those which imposed mercantilism—were repealed and replaced by free trade and an unheard of prosperity for the British masses—the Industrial Revolution.

Gladstone’s observation was even more inspired, no doubt, by the nearest approximation to the ideal in all history—the American Revolution. My reference here is not to that revolutionary fracas between our forefathers and England but to a revolutionary concept:

That all men are . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

As I have written over and over again, it is one thing to adopt a Divine Premise, as did our Founding Fathers, but quite another matter to implement it, to put it into practice. This was accomplished by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, limiting government more than ever before—keeping the peace and invoking a common justice.

Result? A self-reliant, self-responsible citizenry. When these virtues are prevalent, creativity is unhampered, released. The Divine Order, as Plato phrased it, was more or less experienced by our forefathers—flowing naturally from the Divine Premise. Freedom and the all-time miracle at the human level: Success unparalleled!

Wrote Henry Ward Beecher: “Success is full of promise till men get it, and then it is as a last year’s nest from which the bird has flown.” Our bird of politico-economic paradise began its flight from the nest in 1898—the year I was born—and has been flying further and further away ever since. The background for this judgment is to be found in a book.

John W. Burgess (1844–1931), a Civil War veteran, enjoyed a long career at Columbia University. He became Dean of the Faculty of Political Science in 1890. In 1923 he wrote a small book, Recent Changes in American Constitutional Theory. The changes, in Burgess’ view, were not for the better. According to this believer in limited government, the leading contributor to the flight was a former student of his, who later became President of the United States.

Our flight from the nest has led to a first-rate plight. To get out of it demands rebirth of the ideas, ideals and the Creator concept that was responsible for the America that was. Large numbers of people are not required but, as a starter, nearly every freedom devotee must do a methodological about-face if our downfall is to be reversed.

Briefly, we must never depend on winning by concentrating on the opposition’s errors. To do so is to confine our thoughts to their goofs and blunders. Instead, spell out the positive case for freedom and we will remove all obstacles to their merciless, downhill stumbling.

I conclude with this bit of advice from the Father of our Country. He gave to Americans of his and our time the formula—a spiritual law—which if believed and adhered to makes mankind:

If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.

Further Reading