Brother, Can You Spare a Decade?

Perspective – Liberty Magazine – May 2009

Brother, Can You Spare a Decade?
by Mark Skousen

Few things other than a New Deal can be more painful than an economic depression. But few eras were more vital and enjoyable than the private side of the last one.

One of the rare books in my financial library is “I Like the Depression,” by Henry Ansley, the “Jackass of the Plains.” This amusing little volume was published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1932, and the price was a buck fifty.

Ansley, a newspaperman from Amarillo, Texas, described a prosperity in the 1920s that wasn’t that great. He burned candles at both ends, became a financial hotshot, and ultimately overextended himself. Then the depression hit: “Good-by twin beds, frozen salads, indigestion, credit and swelled head. Hail to the old-fashioned nightgown, buttermilk, sow bosom [a kind of food], comfort and cash.” He lost his job but found happiness by rediscovering leisure, friends, and neighborliness. Hard times taught him the value of a dollar and not to take things for granted: “My dog is my pal again; my wife my lover and my Dad my advisor.”

Ansley’s book was never a bestseller, but it started me thinking. Can the worst of times also be the best of times? The history books are replete with the evils of the 1930s — soup lines, bank closings, Hoovervilles, dustbowls, bear markets, demoralizing despair. It’s all been retold countless times, in such books as Milton Meltzer’s “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” and most recently Amity Shlaes’s “The Forgotten Man.” The Great Depression brought us Nazi Germany, the New Deal, Keynesianism, and, some say, World War II.

Not surprisingly, everyone from Wall Street to the halls of Congress is worried that the current recession will turn into the dreaded D, and has seized on desperate rescue measures. But was the Great Depression all bad? Did anything good come out of the 1930s? I started doing some research and was amazed to find a bright side to the gloomy ’30s — a lower cost of living, great new inventions and other technological advances, new forms of entertainment, more sports and reading, and a return to sober social behavior.

Start with leisure. Henry Ansley describes the free time he had during the depression. Indeed, millions of Americans had a lot more leisure time. Before the depression, almost everyone worked a six-day week. In the 1930s, the five-day work week became commonplace. “Spread the work!” was the rally cry. By 1937, wage earners in 57% of all manufacturing companies enjoyed a five-day week. Saturday was now a free day, and the Saturday rush hour was replaced by the Friday rush hour.

As a result, there was a tremendous increase in sports and leisure-oriented jobs. People began getting out into the sun and open air and taking a greater interest in golf, tennis, skiing, roller skating, and bicycling. Softball became a national pastime; by 1939, there were nearly half a million teams and 5 million players of all ages throughout the country. Expensive private club golf courses withered, but inexpensive public courses grew. Miniature golf was all the rage in the early ’30s. Bobby Jones became the first and only person to win the Grand Slam of golf in 1930. And black athletes became national idols for the first time, Joe Louis in boxing and Jesse Owens in track and field.

Americans traveled more. House trailers became a very big business. Camping, canoeing, and other inexpensive outdoor activities increased in popularity. People took their cameras with them, and photography became a craze of remarkable dimensions. Americans took tons of pictures with their small German cameras. Life and Look — big, glossy picture magazines — became popular.

Dancing, all the rage in the ’20s, continued to rage in the ’30s. Americans would dance their way out of the depression! Young people everywhere danced the swing, the jitterbug, and the boogie woogie to the music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Louie Armstrong.

Indoors, parlor games such as bridge and the ingenious “Monopoly” were popular. People read more, and circulation at local public libraries increased. Kids loved comic books, especially “Superman,” the world’s first comic book superhero. Books “condensed” by Reader’s Digest saved time and money. There was an intense interest in epic novels — Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth,” A.J. Cronin’s “The Citadel,” Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” — as well as such how-to books as Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” (1937, with 17 printings right away).

In the same year, Lin Yutang, the Chinese-American Taoist, published “The Importance of Living,” which was to become especially popular among libertarians. It encouraged Americans to stop worrying and start “letting go.” One chapter was entitled “The Art of Loafing.” “I am quite sure,” Lin wrote, “that amidst the hustle and bustle of American life, there is a great deal of wistfulness, of the divine desire to lie on a plot of grass under tall beautiful trees of an idle afternoon and just do nothing.” Whether fortunately or unfortunately, in their own opinion, millions of Americans got to live Lin’s upbeat message of idleness.

New Entertainments

Idleness — and its companion, entertainment. People wanted to forget their troubles, and radio and motion pictures provided an escape. Radio really came of age during this period, with up to 80 million listeners on some evenings. There was a lot more to radio than FDR’s fireside chats. It was the way to hear worldwide news bulletins, good music, and such half-hour comedies as “Amos ’n’ Andy,” the first syndicated program, and “The Jack Benny Show.” In the late 1930s, NBC was carrying broadcasts of symphony orchestras, especially its own orchestra, conducted by the immortal Arturo Toscanini, to 10 million listeners every week. And who can forget the night of Sunday, October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles broadcast his version of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”?

Hollywood blossomed during the ’30s. In one decade, the motion picture industry went from silent films to talkies in Technicolor. Films brought the American public together as never before. Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney, and Clark Gable were welcome alternatives to Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, and other demagogues of the era. Many considered Shirley Temple a gift from God during the gloomy de-pression. The motion picture event of 1938 was the first full-length animated cartoon, Walt Disney’s “Snow White.” The same year saw one of the first films in Technicolor, the blockbuster “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn. A burst of classic award-winning films came out the next year, including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and the greatest of all epic films, “Gone With the Wind.”

The ’30s was the era of the first great horror films, “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and “King Kong.” For a dime, Americans could go to the Saturday matinee and see double features of cowboys, adventurers, and gangsters. The silver screen brought us science fiction, serial thrillers and the Singing Cowboy (Gene Autry). The theater was filled with humor — Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, the Three Stooges. Americans would laugh their way out of the depres-sion! There were reasons why Chicago economist Robert Lucas, Jr., called the 1930s “one long vacation.”

New Technology

Alvin Hansen and other Keynesian economists developed their “stagnation thesis” in the late 1930s, arguing that the United States was indefinitely stuck in an economic rut. They claimed that there was no new technology, no new frontier to drive the American economy. They ignored the tremendous economic progress that took place throughout the depression — the invention of plastics, artificial fibers, plywood, the 2-cycle diesel engine, and lighter, tougher steels.

Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll invented the electron microscope in 1932. Howard Armstrong created FM radio in 1933. Wallace Carothers manufactured nylon, and Robert A. Watson-Watt discovered radar in 1935. Hans Pabst von Ohain developed the jet engine in 1937 and the first jet airplane in 1939. Chester Carlson originated xerography in 1938. Igor Sikorsky made the first practical helicopter in 1939. Several people, including Philo T. Farnsworth and Isaac Shoenberg, developed television in the 1930s. CBS and NBC began broadcasting TV during this decade.

Manufacturers weren’t idle in getting new technology to market. New household products included electric mixers, pop-up toasters, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and irons. For the first time, consumers enjoyed sliced bread and packaged frozen foods. Union Pacific came out with fancy new streamlined, air-conditioned trains. Mass-market automobiles could now accelerate to 60 mph, carrying passengers along new highways with underpasses and cloverleafs. The dirigible, a new form of air transportation, appeared in 1936 (but disappeared with the fiery destruction of the Hindenberg a year later). The Douglas DC3 came out in 1936, traveling at 200 mph, compared to the 1932 passenger airplane speed of 110 mph. Coast-to-coast travel in overnight air sleepers was now possible. New ocean liners, such as the Queen Mary, appeared in a crowded New York harbor. Everyone came to witness the building of the 102-story Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center (the only skyscraper group to rise in the 1930s). And who could not marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge, opened to traffic on May 28, 1937?

Social historian Frederick Lewis Allen, author of “Only Yesterday” (1931), a bestselling history of the 1920s, summed it up best when he wrote in a sequel, “Since Yesterday” (1940), “the American imagination was beginning to break loose again.” At the end of the decade, the New York World’s Fair had as its theme “The World of Tomorrow.”

Society and Economics

The depression brought about a change in American social trends. People attended church more. Many retreated from the sexual revolution of the roaring ’20s. The mood was more somber and prudent, even after Prohibition was repealed in December 1933. (By the end of the decade, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded.) There was greater approval of marriage and family life. The divorce rate dropped sharply, by 23% from 1929 to 1932, though so did the marriage rate and the birth rate — possibly because marriage and children cost money.

Not all economic news was bad. The most favorable statistic was the decline in the cost of living. During the period 1929–32, retail prices dropped by an average 24%, wholesale prices by 31%, farm prices by 51%, and raw commodity prices by 42%. Of course, wages, salaries, dividends, and other forms of income declined as well, but for those who kept their jobs and held onto their assets, the loss of nominal income was offset by sharply lower prices for all consumer products. “Everything was all right in those years,” said a woman quoted in Amity Shlaes’ book, “but only if you had a job.”

Unemployment reached 25% and higher in some regions at the depths of the depression, causing enormous hardship for millions of Americans. But see it in another light: three out of every four people were employed in the worst parts of the depression. Total employment rose after 1932, reaching 90% by the end of the decade. In a sense, the Democrats were right: happy days were here again!

Businesses adjusted to the new deflation by downsizing, cutting costs, and implementing labor-saving devices. Even the farming industry mechanized. By 1936, despite persistent unemployment, real national output had nearly recovered to pre-depression levels. Auto sales exceeded all previous years except 1928–29. The steel industry was operating at close to capacity. Even the building industry was climbing briskly. Miami was having its best season since the collapse of the Florida land boom. The race tracks were crowded, lavish debutante parties flourished in the big cities, and the night clubs were full.

For bulls and bears alike, the 1930s was the most fantastic period in stock market history. Stock prices collapsed between 1929 and 1932, losing an average 88%, but industrial, rail, and utility stocks all shot up from their lows in the summer of 1932, anticipating the end of hard times. Few bull markets have ever equaled the rocket performance of the summer of 1932, when the rails tripled within eight weeks and the utility averages doubled. Wall Street went on a rampage for the next four years. The Dow rose 67% in 1933, 4% in 1934, 38% in 1935, and 25% in 1936. After a sharp 32% correction in 1937, the market re-sumed its upward trend until war broke out in Europe in September, 1939. There were also plenty of speculative opportunities on the long side of gold and other natural resource stocks during the ’30s. In sum, the bulls, not just the bears, had plenty of chances to make money in the 1930s.

There’s an old saying, “It is the irritation in the oyster that forms the pearl.” The Great Depression was an irritation that most people didn’t expect. A few people couldn’t take the hard times and jumped out of windows, but most responded to the challenge. Adversity often demonstrates the virtue and creativity of humankind. Bad news often creates good news and opportunities to learn and advance. The 1930s were no exception.

Mark Skousen is the author of Economic Logic, now available in its second edition.

The Necessary Evil

Suggestion – Liberty Magazine
The Necessary Evil
by Mark Skousen

Today libertarians spend most of their time lamenting the consequences of big government. And rightly so. Today government is less a defender of freedom and more a Hobbesian leviathan that undermines prosperity. When we do talk about limited government, it is often seen solely as “a necessary evil.”1 Too much government and the economy chokes. Too little, and it cannot function. Is there a Golden Mean?

George Washington best summarized the libertarian view: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”2 So it is with some trepidation that I suggest that societies or countries may not have enough good or legitimate government. In the never-ending battle against big government, it might be well to consider what constitutes “good government” to see how far we have strayed from the proper role of the state.

Each year the Fraser Institute publishes their Economic Freedom of the World Index (see, which measures five major areas of government activity in more than 100 countries: size of government, legal structure, sound money, trade, and regulation. The most surprising thing about the study, according to its author James Gwartney, a professor of economics at Florida State University, is the importance of legal structure as the key to maximum performance for an economy. “It turns out,” he told me in a recent interview, “that the legal system — the rule of law, security of property rights, an independent judiciary, and an impartial court system — is the most important function of government, and the central element of both economic freedom and a civil society, and is far more statistically significant than the other variables.”

Gwartney pointed to a number of countries that lack a decent legal system, and as a result suffer from corruption,insecure property rights, poorly enforced contracts, and inconsistent regulatory environments, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. “The enormous benefits of the market network — gains from trade, specialization, expansion of the market, and mass production techniques — cannot be achieved without a sound legal system.” 3

The Proper Role of the State

Milton Friedman identifies the legitimate roles of the state: “The scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow- citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets. Beyond this major function, government may enable us at times to accomplish jointly what we would find it more difficult or expensive to accomplish severally.” 4

Adam Smith suggests that this “system of natural liberty” will lead to a free and prosperous society. As Smith declares, “Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest level of barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”5

The division between the positive and negative role of government can be represented visually. In the diagram on the next page, we have on the vertical axis “socio-economic well-being”: some general measure of the quality of life in a free and civil society. For empirical studies, economists might want to use changes in real per capita income, but this may be too confining. On the horizontal axis we have “government activity.” At point O, we have zero government, and as we move along the horizontal axis, the size and scope of government activity increase. The ultimate extreme is the totalitarian regime, which institutes “total government,” though I would hesitate to label this “100% government,” since no government can control all activity.

Too Little vs. Too Much Government

My thesis is that as a society moves from zero government to point P, economic well-being increases to peak performance. Then, as it adopts a larger and less necessary government, its growth diminishes, and can even turn negative if government becomes too burdensome and controlling. Looking at the left side of the mountain, point O (zero government) to P (optimal government) constitutes “too little” government. For example, a nation may spend too few of its resources on personal protection, property control, and government administration. Here we see how increasing the size and scope of government activity initially leads to increased well-being, as measured by individual freedom and prosperity. Point P represents the right amount of government and the optimal amount of expenditure necessary to fulfill its legitimate functions.

This is the ideal of the minimalist state. Any point to the right of P represents too much government, when the central authority becomes a burden rather than a blessing. I’ve drawn it as a gradual downward slope, so that the more bad government a country adopts, the greater the decline in performance, even to the point X where government is so large and so intrusive that it results in the destruction of economic and social well-being, which is probably worse than the costs of anarchy.

Quantifying the Right Amount of Government

Can we quantify P, the optimal size of government? Several economists have attempted to determine the ideal level of government spending as a percentage of GDP. In the1940s, Australian economist Colin Clark said that the maximum size of government should not exceed 25% of GDP. Anything higher would hurt economic growth.6 Professor Gerald W. Scully, of the University of Texas at Dallas suggests that the tax rate ought not to exceed 23%.7 World Bank economists Vito Tanzi and Ludger Schuknecht analyzed 17 countries during the period 1870 to 1990 and concluded that public spending in newly industrialized countries should not exceed 20% and in industrialized countries not more than 30%.8 Is optimal government (point P) the same for every country?

This would make an interesting study, but I suspect that differences in culture and socio-economic circumstances suggest that some nations require more government than others. As Benjamin Franklin states, “A virtuous and laborious [industrious] people may be cheaply governed.”9 And a lazy, dishonest people must be expensively governed.


Optimistically, I would think that if all nations were featured together on the diagram above, the various points P would constitute a fairly narrow mountain range. Almost every country in the world today is to the right of Point P, and could grow faster and enjoy a higher quality of life by reducing the size and scope of government. Countries from China to Ireland to Chile have demonstrated how dramatically the economy can improve by cutting back the state. I’m sure even Hong Kong, #1 in the Fraser Institute’s study in terms of performance and freedom, could benefit from some improvements by scaling back some types of government services.

According to the latest surveys of economic freedom by the Fraser Institute and Heritage Foundation, countries on average are becoming more free, and not surprisingly, the world’s economic growth rate is rising.10 After noting that government represents 40–50% of GDP in most developed nations, Tanzi and Schuknecht conclude, “we have argued that most of the important social and economic gains can be achieved with a drastically lower level of public spending than what prevails today.”11

Two Case Studies in Little or No Government

Are there any examples of countries to the left of point P, that have too little government? The United States suffered from too little government under the Articles of Confederation, which was the basic law of the land from its adoption in 1781 until 1789, when they were replaced by the Constitution. The Articles limited the federal government to conducting foreign affairs, making treaties, declaring war, maintaining an army and navy, coining money, and establishing post offices. But it could not collect taxes, it had no control over foreign or interstate commerce, it could not force states to comply with its laws, and it was unable to payoff the massive debts incurred during the Revolutionary War. States were already putting up trade barriers, striking a serious blow to free trade, and the economy struggled. After the Constitution became law, the United States flourished because of improved government finances, protection of legal rights, and free trade among the 13 states.

A modern-day example of too little government is Somalia, located east of Ethiopia and Kenya, where life has been difficult and often dangerous without any central authority since 1991. For example, drivers pass seven checkpoints, each run by a different militia, on their way to the capital. At each of these “border crossings” all vehicles must pay an “entry fee” ranging from $3 to $300, depending on the value of goods being transported. Competing warlords vie for control of the countryside, which has frequently collapsed into civil war. Only an estimated 15% of children go to school, compared to 75% in neighboring states. However, a recent report by the World Bank indicates that an innovative private sector is flourishing in Somalia. This vindicates the Coase theorem, named for economist Ronald Coase, which argues that in the absence of government authority, the private sector will step in to provide alternative services, depending on the transaction costs.12 The central market in Bakara is thriving: all kinds of consumer goods, from bananas to AK-47s, are readily sold; mobile phones proliferate and internet cafes prosper. But with no public spending, the roads and utilities are deteriorating. Private companies have yet to appear to build roads — the transaction costs are apparently too prohibitive. Public water is limited to urban areas, and is not considered safe, but a private system extends to all parts of the country as entrepreneurs have built cement catchments, drilled private boreholes, or shipped water from public systems in the city.

There are now 15 airline companies providing service to six international destinations, and airplane safety can be checked at foreign airports. After the public court system collapsed, disputes have been settled at the clan level by traditional systems run by elders, with the clan collecting damages. But there is still no contract law, company law, or commercial law in Somalia. Sharp inflation in 1994–96 and 2000–01 destroyed confidence in the three local currencies, and the U.S. dollar is now commonly used. Because of a lack of reliable data, neither the Fraser Institute nor the Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom indexes rank Somalia. The World Bank concludes, “The achievements of the Somali private sector form a surprisingly long list. Where the private sector has failed — the list is long here too — there is a clear role for government intervention. But most such interventions appear to be failing. Government schools are of lower quality than private schools. Subsidized power isbeing supplied not to the rural areas that need it but to urban areas, hurting a well-functioning private industry. Road tolls are not spent on roads. Judges seem more interested in grabbing power than in developing laws and courts. Conclusion: A more productive role for government would be to build on the strengths of the private sector.”13

In short, most countries could use less government, but a few countries could use more of the right kind of authority. There is an optimal size and structure of government, and when it is reached, the result is, in the words of Adam Smith, “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”14

My Friendly Fights with Dr. Friedman

The Rational, The Relentless – Liberty Magazine – September 2007

by Mark Skousen

“To keep the fish that they carried on long journeys lively and fresh, sea captains used to introduce an eel into the barrel. In the economics profession, Milton Friedman is that eel.”— Paul A. Samuelson

Milton Friedman, the intellectual architect of the free-market reforms of the post-World War II era, was a dear but prickly friend. We constantly argued over a variety of issues, but remained friends throughout. I was probably the last person to go out to lunch with him before he died of a heart attack on Nov. 16, 2006.

It was a privilege to know him, despite our policy differences. The triumph of free-market reforms introduced by Thatcher, Reagan, and other leaders in the post-Berlin Wall era (reforms such as lower taxes, deregulation, and privatization that showed the collapse of the Keynesian and Marxist paradigm) can be laid at the feet of a single giant figure: Milton Friedman. Other free-market economists made their mark, but Friedman was the most influential.

Founder of the modern-day Chicago school of economics, Milton Friedman was the force behind many new and excit­ing ideas: policies such as monetarism, privatization of Social Security, school choice, and futures markets in currencies, and also scholarly pursuits that transformed the economics profession from the “dismal science” to the “imperial sci­ence” of today. He was the first economist to counter effec­tively the Keynesian monolith and its myths: that capitalism is inherently unstable, that money does not matter, that there is a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. Friedman debunked them all. He demonstrated that money mat­tered a lot: “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”

His most important work is his 1963 magnum opus, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960, with co-author Anna J. Schwartz. This book carefully demonstrates a close correlation between monetary policy and economic activity. Friedman and Schwartz demonstrated beyond doubt that ineptitude by a government body, not free-enterprise cap­italism, caused the Great Depression, when the Fed allowed the money supply to contract by over a third. This book marked the beginning of a counterrevolution, away from the Keynesian view that big government and the welfare state were beneficial. Now government was seen as the cause of our problems, not the cure, as Reagan used to say. Textbooks replaced market failure with government failure. And Friedman made it happen.

He was able to succeed where other free-market econo­mists failed because he had impeccable credentials within the economics profession — earning his Ph.D. from Columbia University, becoming president of the American Economic Association, being published by Princeton University Press, teaching at the University of Chicago, and winning the Nobel Prize in Economics (in 1976, appropriately on the 200th anni­versary of America’s Declaration of Independence).

After establishing himself as a top-ranked economist, he wrote for the general public, especially in Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980), co-authored by his wife and fellow economist, Rose Friedman. (Rose was his beloved companion in life — they traveled and worked together, reared two children, and wrote the memoir “Two Lucky People.”) Milton told me that he always regarded Capitalism and Freedom as his best book for the intelligent layman. I recommend it as an ideal libertarian document.

On a personal level, Milton was unique. He had an “open door” policy toward people of all walks of life. Always intelligent and demanding of evidence, he kept his secretary busy with a huge correspondence with friends and strangers. When I met him in the early 1980s, he didn’t know me from Adam, but he was willing to talk with me and answered my questions seriously. I kept up our friendship by letters, emails, telephone calls, dinners, and lunches over the past dozen years. In 1988, he invited me to my first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, and through his influence, I became a member in 2002. He generously wrote blurbs for my recent books and was a big fan of FreedomFest, my annual gathering of freedom lovers. When I had the opportunity to teach at Columbia Business School, he wrote a favorable letter to the dean, which helped me win the position.

Friedman loved to debate, and took on all comers. Unlike many erudite libertarians, he suffered fools gladly and, to my knowledge, never excommunicated anyone over intellectual disagreements. He disagreed sharply with Keynesian economists such as Paul Samuelson and John Kenneth Galbraith, yet he remained friends with both. At times, my own disputes with him were so intense that I thought our relationship was threatened, but my friendship with this happy warrior continued to the end.

Friedman and I were friend and foe on many issues, to the point where I was criticized for being both too sympathetic and too critical. In 2001, at my first board meeting as president of the Foundation for Economic Education, I was approached privately by Bettina Greaves, a long-time FEE employee and devotee of Misesian (“Austrian”) economics. She said, “Mark, I support you in every way as the new president of FEE, but please be more critical of Milton Friedman.” I thanked her for the suggestion. Then, half an hour later, another board member, Muso Ayau, past president of the Mont Pelerin Society and founder of the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala, pulled me aside to give me some advice. He whispered, “I support you in every way, but could you do me a favor? Please stop being so critical of Milton Friedman!” When I told Milton this story, he had a belly laugh.

I first met Milton Friedman at the San Francisco Money Show. I approached him with a question about Murray Rothbard’s book, America’s Great Depression, and he willingly engaged me. At the time, I was quite enamored with Rothbard’s Austrian-school explanation of the depression — his argument that it was caused by an inflationary boom in the 1920s that had to collapse, and that the 1930s was actually a good cleaning for a defective financial system. Friedman quickly disparaged Rothbard’s scholarly work, saying that the Fed’s policies during the 1920s were not the problem and that Rothbard had artificially inflated the money supply figures to justify his Austrian position. “The Great Depression was caused by inept Fed policy in the 1930s, not the 1920s,” he told me.

Afterwards, we continued our correspondence by mail, arguing largely about Austrian vs. Chicago economics. This correspondence eventually culminated in my book, Vienna and Chicago, Friends or Foes? (2005). When I asked Milton about the title of this book, he answered, “We’re both friends and foes!” Once I made the mistake of referring to Anna Schwartz, co-author of Monetary History, as his “researcher,” and he blew up. He accused me of being “narrow-minded” and “intolerant” in a way he termed “typical of Austrian economists.” He urged me to look at the back­ground papers and letters dealing with Monetary History at the Hoover Institution, where I would quickly realize that Schwartz was clearly a bona fide “co-author” and not just a “researcher.” This letter is still burning in my files. Funnily enough, a month later, I saw a picture of Anna Schwartz in the American Economic Review, and the short summary of her professional career listed the terms “researcher” and “research” seven times! But I dared not write him back with this comment for fear of retaliation.

A few years after the Money Show I was back in California for a meeting of political conservatives where Friedman was a speaker. I called his hotel room and invited him to lunch, just the two of us. He agreed, and we had a delightful two-hour luncheon overlooking the California coastline. I showed him a chart of M1, the narrowly defined money supply, noting that it had declined sharply in the mid-1980s. I interpreted this to mean that another economic collapse was imminent. He disputed my interpretation. “You can’t rely on M1 anymore — it’s out of date due to the deregulation of the bank­ing system. If you look at M2, which includes money market funds, the money supply is growing. There isn’t going to be any collapse.” He was right. The Reagan era was booming.

When the lunch was over, the bill came and I insisted on paying. As I was signing the credit card bill, I turned to him and said, “Dr. Friedman, one of your favorite sayings is ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch.’ Well, I’m here to disprove it today because I’m paying for yours.” Quick as a flash, he retorted, “Oh, no, no, Mark, that wasn’t a free lunch. I had to listen to you for two hours!”

When my book Economics on Trial (1991) was pub­lished, I prepared an advertisement with the headline: “Japan and Germany Win World War III,” followed by these words: “Their formula multiplies wealth so rapidly that they will achieve their goal of world domination by the year 2000.” In the ad, I referenced the sound economic model that had transformed war-torn Germany and Japan into economic powerhouses and strengthened their stock markets in one generation. The principles were high savings rates, low taxes on capital and investment, low inflation, balanced budgets, and free markets.

I sent a copy of my ad to Friedman, and he took no time debunking it. “This prediction is a bunch of nonsense,” he scribbled over the ad copy. “I will not live long enough to see it falsified, but you will. In the year 2000, the U.S. standard of living will be higher than the Japanese.” He was, of course, proven right.

Friedman’s anger flared again in the late 1990s, when we gathered in Vancouver for a Mont Pelerin Society meet­ing. Milton and Rose Friedman were in charge of the conference program. Its title was “Can Creeping Socialism Be Stopped?” In one of the breakout sessions I asked Friedman about his easy-money solution to Japan’s economic problems. I held up an article he published in The Wall Street Journal, “Rx for Japan,” in which he advocated a massive printing of yen to jumpstart the Japanese economy, while ignoring such free-market solutions as cutting taxes, deregulating, or open­ing up the Japanese economy. “Isn’t printing more money another example of creeping socialism?” I asked. He was not amused, and noted that, historically, increasing the money supply has stimulated economic recovery, and that fast monetary growth was necessary, given Japan’s fragile condition. I countered, “Ah, so there is a free lunch, after all, Dr. Friedman?” “A free disaster!” he interjected with high emotion. Afterward, Professor Jim Gwartney came up to me and said, “You attacked God today!” Indeed. Yet even free-market icons can make mistakes.

A year later, Milton and Rose were invited to speak at the New Orleans Gold Conference, an annual gathering of hard-money investors. After Milton spoke, he took questions from the audience. I tempted him with the question, “Who’s the better economist, Ludwig von Mises or John Maynard Keynes?” I knew Milton would answer straight; he didn’t care what gold bugs thought. “Keynes,” he proclaimed to a shocked audience. When asked who was the greatest economist ever, he didn’t say Adam Smith, but settled on Alfred Marshall, the British economist who invented supply and demand curves.

Rose dissented. I had never seen her disagree with her husband in public, but she stood up and said that Marshall was infamous for treating his wife poorly and refusing to support her professional career as an economist. In all my private meetings with the Friedmans, Rose was always graciously reserved and seldom if ever argued with her husband. I had heard a rumor that she differed with Milton on Austrian capital theory, and one time I asked her if this was true. She simply smiled and winked.

My most embarrassing moment with the Friedmans came later that evening when I invited them to dinner at the best restaurant in New Orleans, Commander’s Palace, along with two friends, Gary North and Van Simmons. After we ordered and exchanged greetings, Milton turned to me and asked in a serious tone, “Mark, why are gold bugs so passionate about gold?” It was a perfect opportunity to talk about the importance of “honest money,” a theme that Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and other Austrian economists have taught for years. I pulled out of my jacket pocket a large oversized $20 banknote, a “gold certificate” issued in the 1920s. Together we read the words spelled out on it: “This certifies that there has been deposited in the Treasury of the United States of America TWENTY DOLLARS IN GOLD COIN payable to the bearer on demand.” I then explained, “Milton, we’re passionate about gold because under the gold standard, there’s a contract between the government and its citizens. For every gold certificate issued, the government had to back it up with a $20 gold coin. Under a genuine gold standard, the Treasury can’t just print up money to pay their bills. It’s honest money.”

All along, I felt that Friedman was simply playing along, since after all, he was the world’s foremost monetary historian. I went on, “So, what kind of contract exists today between the government and its citizens? Milton, do you have a $20 bill?” He reached into his pocket and handed over a $20 bill. “See, the contract has completely disappeared. Now it only says ‘Federal Reserve Note.’ And the Fed doesn’t even pay interest!” I paused and said, “Milton, this $20 bill isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.” And I tore it up! I ripped Milton Friedman’s $20 Federal Reserve Note into a half-dozen pieces.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed. He turned to me and said angrily, “Mark, you had no right to destroy my property!” Rose chimed in, “Yes, Mark, you shouldn’t have done that. That was Milton’s private property.” Gary North and Van Simmons stared in horror and didn’t say a word. Milton’s voice rose, and other dinner guests looked over at us and could see emotions rising. At this point, I was worried. My relationship with the Friedmans seemed to be ending that very night. Finally, I said, “Well, I suppose you want your money back?”

They assented heartily. So I reached into my pocket and pulled out a $20 St. Gaudens Double Eagle gold coin, handed it to Milton, and said, “Okay, here’s your $20!”

He looked startled and stared at the coin. I thought he would be pleased, but I was wrong. Suddenly, he handed it back to me. “I don’t want it!”

I gulped, struggling for words. “But Milton, it’s a gift. Here, take it. It’s a $20 gold coin, worth a lot more than a $20 Federal Reserve Note.”

“No,” he repeated emphatically. “I don’t want it.”

After an agonizingly pregnant pause, I finally figured out a solution. Setting the coin aside, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a fresh new $20 paper note, and handed it to him. “There, okay, will this help?”

He calmed down and took the $20 bill. Gathering up some courage, I brought out the gold coin again. “Look,” I said, as I handed it over to him, “look at the date.” He examined the coin again. “Oh, 1912 — my birth year!” He laughed haltingly. Rose looked on and smiled.

I explained that the entire evening was a set-up, an opportunity for me to give him a St. Gaudens Double Eagle gold coin minted in the year he was born. The coin was in a PCGS certificated plastic container with the words, “To the Golden Milton Friedman.” I told Milton and Rose that my friend across the table, Van Simmons, was a coin dealer and had gone to great lengths to find a 1912 Double Eagle, which was rare. Van added that it had been shipped overnight from Switzerland and had arrived only an hour before dinner. I think that only then did the Friedmans recognize what was going on. The next morning they came up and thanked me for the coin and my gesture of appreciation.

Throughout the evening Gary North — a well-known economic historian and gold bug — said nothing. But in the morning, he came up to me at the conference and said something profound. “Mark, I’ve thought all night about what happened at dinner at Commander’s Palace. You and I have an ideology of gold. And Milton has an ideology of paper money. Mark, last night you attacked his ideology!”

Milton and I never discussed the coin incident again. (I keep his torn-up $20 bill in my wallet as a keepsake.) We met on many other occasions, but I shall never forget our last lunch together in San Francisco. There for the Money Show, I took the opportunity to call him. We met at his favorite Italian restaurant, the North Beach. For the past few years he had walked with a cane and traveled only on cruises or in private jets. At age 94, he had weak legs, a serious heart condition (after two open heart surgeries in the 1980s), and was losing his eyesight. Yet his mind was still sharp.

We discussed the latest Nobel laureates in economics. “We’re running out of good names,” he said. I showed him a Photoshopped picture I had created of him standing next to the 6 foot 10 inch John Kenneth Galbraith, the premier Keynesian and welfare statist of the 20th century. Galbraith towered over the diminutive Friedman. Beneath the picture* was a funny line from economist George Stigler: “All great economists are tall. There are two exceptions: John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman.” Milton was so pleased with the photo and caption that he sent it to all his friends.

As we left, I asked him, “Do you think you’ll live to be 100?” He answered quickly, “I hope not!” But he was almost always upbeat about life, even to the end. He was not a religious man, but he expressed interest in religious topics near the end of his life. His favorite poem was Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” which ends, “ ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ — that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” He discovered both in a full and complete life. I consider it a privilege and honor that I knew him.

Friedman’s Less Familiar Quotations

Milton Friedman was not only a great economist, but a memorable quotesmith. Besides the standard-bearers, such as “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon” and “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” (which he popularized), here are some others less well known:

“If a tax cut increases government revenues, you haven’t cut taxes enough.”

“I favor tax reductions under any circumstances, for any excuse, for any reason, at any time.”

“A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.”

“Competition is a tough weed” (George Stigler). “Freedom is a rare and delicate flower” (Milton Friedman).

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

“Inflation is taxation without legislation.”

“The economy and the stock market are two different things.”

“If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington.”

“The great advances of civilization, whether in archi­tecture or painting, in science or in literature, in indus­try or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.”

“The minimum wage law is one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books.”

“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.”

“The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”

The Art of Letting Go

Liberty Magazine
March 2007

by Mark Skousen

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.”— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Would you do me a favor? Find an easy chair, or better yet, go outside to a secluded spot and read this essay at your leisure.

Ever since my family and I lived in the Bahamas for two years,1 I’ve had an interest in leisure, the lure of breaking away from business and just relaxing, wandering, and letting my mind go. It seems like a very libertarian thing to do. Along with a photo of my family in the Bahamas, I have on my bookshelf a whole list of titles to remind me to walk away from work: The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow; Leisure: The Basis of Culture; and Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness.

But before I go on, would you mind indulging me? As I write this, it’s a beautiful sunny day here in New York, and my wife has just beckoned me to join her at the swimming pool along the Hudson River. I’ll be back in a not-so New York minute . . . (While you wait, go ahead and read the rest of this issue of Liberty, or just listen to the birds sing.) There’s nothing like an opportunity to think, meditate, and relax with friends on a balmy summer day.

In my travels, I make a point of wandering aimlessly around the city or neighborhood I’m visiting, and usually end up at some used-book store. In the mid-’80s, I happened to be in Durango, Colo., a small college town, and came across a first edition of a book called The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang. I’d tried to read Chinese philosophers before, but never found them appealing until this book came along. What makes Lin Yutang so different from Confucius, Mencius, and Lao Tzu? He lived in both the East and the West, and consequently does an extraordinary job of contrasting the cultures. His book was so refreshing and shocking, so charming and witty, that I found myself underlining something on practically every page. And though Lin wrote in 1937, he sounds very modern.

Lin was a 20th-century Taoist known for his philosophy of leisure and “letting go.” He was also a libertarian who despised all forms of government control, especially Marxism-Leninism and Maoism in Red China. Born in southeastern China in 1895 to Christian missionaries, he learned English at St. John’s University in Shanghai and pursued a doctoral degree at Harvard University. He left Harvard early and went to France and then Germany, where he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Leipzig. After 1928, he lived most of his life in New York, where he translated Chinese texts and wrote prolifically. His objective was to bridge the gap between East and West, teaching Westerners about the old Chinese culture in such bestsellers as My Country and My People (1935) and The Importance of Living (1937). Refused permission to return to China by the Communists, Lin moved to Taipei, Taiwan, where he died in 1976.

The Age of Busy-ness

To understand Lin’s Chinese philosophy, I begin by quoting his most famous line, a line that mystifies workaholic Americans: “Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”

I made the mistake of writing this statement on the blackboard on my first day of class as a professor at Columbia Business School. A third of the students immediately left, and dropped the class. (Fortunately, the majority had an open mind about pursuing interests other than a 24/7 lifestyle, and later rated my class highly.)

Yet there is wisdom in Lin’s statement. If you are too busy in your work, you don’t have time to learn new ideas, to discover new truths, to enjoy life’s little pleasures, or perhaps to pick a winning stock! Beating the market requires you to look down untrodden paths, and you need the free time to do it.

Lin Yutang criticizes most Americans for being too busy, and therefore slaves to the business culture and the old ways. They worry themselves to death. In another startling statement, Lin writes, “The three American vices seem to be efficiency, punctuality and the desire for achievement and success. They are the things that make the Americans so unhappy and so nervous.”2 Gee, I thought they were American virtues!

Life in the West, according to Lin, is “too complex, too serious, too somber, and too involved.” He would agree with Henry David Thoreau: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” Following Taoist philosophy, Lin warned against “over doing, over achieving, over action . . . of being too prominent, too useful, and too serviceable.” The “perfectly square” house, the “perfectly clean” room, and the “perfectly straight” road rankle in him. He goes on to say, “O wise humanity, terribly wise humanity! How inscrutable is the civilization where men toil and work and worry their hair gray to get a living and forget to play!”

The Art of Loafing

Lin says not to worry: “The Chinese philosoph[er] . . . is seldom disillusioned because he has no illusions, and seldom disappointed because he never had extravagant hopes. In this way his spirit is emancipated.”

Culture, says Lin, is essentially a product of leisure. “The art of culture is therefore essentially the art of loafing. From the Chinese point of view, the man who is wisely idle is the most cultured man.” He likes a messy room, a crooked road, and a leaky faucet!

Lin offers the secret to success for the businessman (busy man?) in this statement: “Actually, many business men who pride themselves on rushing about in the morning and afternoon and keeping three desk telephones busy all the time on their desk, never realize that they could make twice the amount of money, if they would give themselves one hour’s solitude awake in bed, at one o’clock in the morning or even at seven. There, comfortably free, the real business head can think, he can ponder over his achievements and his mistakes of yesterday and single out the important from the trivial in the day’s program ahead of him.”

But the West won the cultural war. Today, 70 years after Lin’s critique of the three American vices, it is the Japanese, the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Indians who dress in Western business suits and spout the Western philosophy of efficiency, punctuality, and goal-setting, and who work 14-hour days and forget to play. In the new China, the roads are straight, the houses are perfect, and everything works. I suspect Lin Yutang would not like the new Asia, especially the regimented Singapore. It’s a paradise lost.

The Individual and the State

Lin Yutang is a champion of the individual and “its unreasonableness, its inveterate prejudices, and its waywardness and unpredictability.” But in today’s society, warns Lin, the individual free thinker is being replaced by the soldier as the ideal. “Instead of wayward, incalculable, unpredictable free individuals, we are going to have rationalized, disciplined, regimented and uniformed, patriotic coolies, so efficiently controlled and organized that a nation of fifty or sixty millions can believe in the same creed, think the same thoughts, and like the same food.” Lin goes on to warn, “Clearly two opposite views of human dignity are possible: the one believing that a person who retains his freedom and individuality is the noblest type, and the other believing that a person who has completely lost independent judgment and surrendered all rights to private beliefs and opinions to the ruler or the state is the best and noblest being.”

I daresay which of the two applies to Liberty readers! Lin dislikes the popular trend of sorting people into groups and classes. “We no longer think of a man as a man, but as a cog in a wheel, a member of a union or a class, a ‘capitalist’ to be denounced, or a ‘worker’ to be regarded as a comrade. . . . We are no longer individuals, no longer men, but only classes.”

Lin Yutang experienced the brutality of Chinese communism and the heavy-handed bureaucracy of Washington durng the New Deal era. Needless to say, he had a low opinion of government: “I hate censors and all agencies and forms of government that try to control our thoughts.”

Favoring persuasion over force, Lin distrusts laws and law enforcement. Quoting Lao Tzu, Lin says government regulation “represents a symptom of weakness.” Lin adds, “the great art of government is to leave the people alone.” Quoting Confucius, Lin suggests that if you regulate people by law, “people will try to keep out of jail, but will have no sense of honor.” But if you regulate the people by moral teaching, “the people will have a sense of honor and will reach out toward the good.” War is never ideal, even when your side is right. Again Lin quotes Lao Tzu: “Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow.”

Lin opposed Mao and the Communists because they placed society above the individual. The Soviet model was “disastrous” and Maoism “the worst and most terroristic regime.” Lin favored a “silent revolution, of social reform based on individual reform and on education, of self-cultivation.”3

He also questioned the establishment economist and forecaster:

“Perhaps I don’t understand economics, but economics does not understand me, either. The sad thing about economics is that it is no science if it stops at commodities and does not go beyond human motives . . . It remains true that the stock exchange cannot, with the best assemblage of world economic data, scientifically predict the rise and fall of gold or silver or commodities, as the weather bureau can forecast the weather. The reason clearly lies in the fact that there is a human element in it, and when too many people are selling out, some will start buying in. . . . This is merely an illustration of the incalculableness and waywardness of human behavior, which is true not only in the hard and matter-of-fact dealings of business, but also in the shape of the course of history.”

He was probably unfamiliar with the one school of economics that does take into account human behavior: the Austrian school of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Undoubtedly Lin would like the title of Mises’ magnum opus Human Action.

Lin Yutang has many more things to say about our culture and how to live a happy and fulfilling life: about growing old gracefully (“The East and West take exactly opposite points of view. In China, the first question they ask is, ‘What is your glorious age?’ ”); the need for women at dinner (“the soul of conversation”); the evils of Western wear (“inhuman”); the only way to travel (“buy a one-way ticket”); and his controversial views on smoking (“one of the greatest pleasures of mankind”). I’ve only scratched the surface of this brilliant Chinese philosopher.

On Buddhism and Christianity

For Lin, Buddhism’s outlook (“life is suffering”) was too pessimistic and its path to happiness (“suppress one’s desires”) too austere. In a chapter called “Why I am a Pagan” in “The Importance of Living,” Lin renounced his parents’ Christianity, which in his age forbade enjoying sex, dancing, food, smoking, drinking, and the good life, in favor of an ascetic lifestyle that suppressed all sinful pleasures to obtain salvation.

Although Lin approved of the Christian emphasis on technology and education, and its banishment of foot binding and drug use in China, he rejected the austerity and social isolationism. “Chinese Christians virtually excommunicated themselves from the Chinese community,” he wrote. While at college, Lin discovered “the vast world of pagan wisdom.” His personal philosophy: “If I had to make a choice between contemplating sin exclusively in some dark, cavernous cor­ner of my soul, and eating bananas with a half-naked girl in Tahiti, entirely unconscious of sin, I would choose the latter.”

Yet in the 1950s, he returned to his Christian roots, although it was a liberal, tolerant, forgiving Christianity. What reconverted him? Not the catechism, but Christian charity, the showing of love, kindness, and good works toward his fellow man as Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount. “Once this original emphasis is restored and Christians ‘bear fruit’ in their lives, nothing can withstand the power of Christianity.”4

But for now, it is Lin Yutang and his works that are bearing fruit. There is a growing hunger for leisure in a speedy world and for individualism in a conformist globalization. As if speaking today, Lin states, “I am quite sure that amidst the hustle and bustle of American life, there is a great deal of wistfulness, of the divine desire to lie in a plot of grass under tall beautiful trees of an idle afternoon and just do nothing.”

While enjoying that idle afternoon, may I suggest you take along a copy of Lin Yutang’s “The Importance of Living”? In the United States, a Little, Brown edition came out in 2003, although I’m disappointed that it is without Chinese art on the cover or running heads inside the book. Lin would not approve of such an austere edition! A Singapore edition by Cultured Lotus recaptures the beauty of the original and is far superior. Yet I personally prefer the 1937 edition by John Day Company, available by wandering through any dusty, dank, disorganized bookstore.

1. See “Easy Living: My Two Years in the Bahamas” (Liberty, December 1987).
2. Lin Yutang, “The Importance of Living” (John Day and Company, 1937), p. 150.
3. Lin Yutang, “From Pagan to Christian” (World Publishing, 1959), p. 78.
4. “From Pagan to Christian,” p. 236.

Franklin and His Critics

Was Benjamin Franklin an indispensable public servant, or a cunning chameleon? A believer, or a heretic? A hard-headed entrepreneur, or an opportunistic privateer? A devoted family man, or a salacious womanizer? An important scientist and inventor, or a hoaxer and self-promoter? The first civilized American, or the most dangerous man in America? Read the article below.

History of Freedom
Liberty Magazine
December 2006

Franklin and His Critics
by Mark Skousen

“Let all men know thee, but no man know thee thoroughly.” — Poor Richard’s Almanac

Was Benjamin Franklin an indispensable public servant, or a cunning chameleon? A believer, or a heretic? A hard-headed entrepreneur, or an opportunistic privateer? A devoted family man, or a sala­cious womanizer? An important scientist and inventor, or a hoaxer and self-promoter? The first civilized American, or the most dangerous man in America?

Probably, he was all of the above. But no matter where you come down on this debate, one thing is clear: Franklin’s stature has increased dramatically since his death in 1790.

A recent AOL poll ranked him after Washington as America’s most admired founder. None of the others (Jefferson, Adams, Madison) even came close. This year, the nation celebrates Franklin’s 300th birthday with fanfare: two commemorative coins by the U.S. Mint, four stamps by the U.S. Postal Service, and a national exhibit that is making its way around the country. A bevy of biographies has been published, and most of the books are laudatory. H.W. Brands identifies Franklin as “the first American . . . who is perhaps the most beloved and celebrated American of his age, or indeed of any age.”

Michael Hart ranks him as “the most versatile genius in all of history” — the most multi-dimensional of the founders as businessman, scientist, writer, and politician.

Joyce Chaplin identifies Franklin as one of only two scientists in the world who have achieved “international icon” status (the other is Einstein).

Many consider Franklin the cultural father of American capitalism, because of his emphasis on self-education, industry, and thrift. And Gordon Wood argues that Franklin was second only to Washington as America’s “necessary man,” the man who single-handedly raised 34 million livres (equivalent to $14 billion in today’s money) to finance the war of the revolution. Washington won the war at home, but Franklin won the war abroad: “He was the greatest diplomat America has ever had.”

I was privileged to be part of the Franklin celebration when, last April, I was invited to speak at the First Day Issue Ceremony in Philadelphia for the four commemorative stamps honoring Franklin as a printer, scientist, postmaster, and statesman. I’ve been an admirer of this versatile genius since reading his “Autobiography,” which is rightly regarded as America’s first “how to” self-improvement book, championing the virtues of industry, thrift, and prudence. Over the years I’ve collected dozens of other books on him, including the voluminous edition of his “Papers” compiled and edited by Yale University Press. It was while reading through the “Papers,” now approaching 38 volumes, that I came up with the idea of completing the “Autobiography.” These memoirs end abruptly in 1757, just as Franklin is about to embark on his career as an international political figure. He lived another 33 years as colonial agent, revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, America’s first ambassador, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. In going over the “Papers,” I realized that it might be possible to gather together the autobiographical passages from his letters, journals, and essays, and complete his story, all in his own words. The result was “The Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin,” published this year by Regnery.

Yet I have sometimes wondered whether my admiration of Franklin was misplaced, and how, if at all, his ideas could be defended.

Among libertarians, there is a great deal of animosity toward wise ol’ Dr. Franklin. Just last month, for example, I came across an article called “Benjamin Franklin Was All Wet on Economics,” written by a college student for the Mises Institute website. The author focused on Franklin’s labor theory of value and his support of paper money.

No doubt the philosopher was seriously misguided on a number of important issues. Yet, if we are willing to take a broad view of his economics, a case can be made that even in this area he was a sound thinker. Actively involved in the creation of the three major documents of American government (the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution), Franklin was an advocate of a limited central government. “A virtuous and laborious people may be cheaply governed,” he declared. He was a disciple of Adam Smith and free trade, and was enamored of the laissez-faire policies recommended by the French physiocrats (Turgot, Condorcet, et al.). His are the admirable sayings: “Laissez nous faire: Let us alone. . . . Pas trop gouverner: Not to govern too strictly.”

Franklin was certainly no Keynesian. He defended the rich and worried about how incentives for the poor would be affected if the state adopted a welfare system. He was no Malthusian, either. He opposed a minimum wage law and wrote in favor of free immigration and fast population growth. He rejected any form of state religion or mandatory religious oaths and demanded that slavery be abolished in the new nation — in 1789. And he learned by sad experience (through the careers of his son and grandson) that public service is less rewarding than private business. His ideas on foreign policy anticipated George Washington’s farewell address by nearly 20 years. In 1778 he stipulated that “the system of America is to have commerce with all, and war with none.”

Granted, he was no anarchist. In economics, he did favor paper money and a “real bills” doctrine of expanding the money supply beyond specie, though “no more than commerce requires.”

He believed that easy money would facilitate trade. During the American revolution he justified the runaway inflation of paper “Continentals” as an indirect way for all Americans to pay for the war, although he begged Congress to improve the creditworthiness of the United States by 2006 paying interest in hard currency. He was a strong supporter of Hamiltonian-style central banking and an investor in the Bank of North America. His likeness on the $100 bill — the highest denomination of an irredeemable American paper currency — would greatly please his vanity.

He argued that the state should be actively engaged in the free education of youth and other public services, and in dispelling the ignorance represented by public fads and superstitions. From several sources, it appears that he was in league with Jefferson in emphasizing “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as the goal of government, downplaying John Locke’s inalienable right to property. Property, he wrote, is purely a “creature of society” and can be legitimately taxed to pay for civil society. He was quite critical of Americans who were unwilling to pay their share of society’s “dues.”

None of this is likely to endear Franklin to libertarian theorists, and it hasn’t. Among them, the leading detractor has been Murray Rothbard, who in his four-volume history “Conceived in Liberty” describes Franklin as “perhaps the most over inflated [leader] of the entire colonial period in America.” At every turn in the history of the American revolution, Rothbard deprecates Franklin’s achievements and accentuates his peccadilloes. He finds in the sly Dr. Franklin “a sinister, subversive devil . . . an opportunist par excellence . . . cunning . . . fawning . . . meddling . . . opportunistic hedonist . . . ”

According to Rothbard, Franklin was a warmonger, a Tory imperialist, and a speculator with his “cronies” who engaged in a “pattern of plunder of the American taxpayer” during the war. His Albany Plan was far more than an innocent way to unify the nation; it was a deliberate attempt to create a “central super government.” Franklin comes off almost as badly as the “deep-dyed conservative” Washington, who is characterized as a fumbling, inept general who sought to “crush liberty and individualism” among his soldiers and impose a “statist” army.

Rothbard would have preferred as American commander “the forgotten hero,” the “brilliant, gifted” Charles Lee, champion of “liberty and guerrilla war.” And instead of Franklin as envoy to France, Rothbard would have selected the “estimable liberal” Dr. Arthur Lee.

Never mind the fact that other historians uniformly describe Arthur Lee as a “bilious” and “cantankerous” patriot who hated America’s French allies and accomplished little himself. Rothbard also likes Thomas Paine, promoter extraordinaire of the American cause — while ignoring the fact that Paine’s mentor was none other than Benjamin Franklin, and that Franklin was a lifelong supporter of Paine’s ideas. What did Paine see that Rothbard couldn’t?

Rothbard never explains the way in which somehow, by July 1776, the “Tory imperialist” suddenly became the “radical revolutionary” and co-conspirator of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, Franklin was one of the first of the founders to call for independence. As early as 1771, he observed that the “seeds are sown of total disunion” between England and her colonies. In 1775, he drafted a resolution to Congress to dissolve “all ties of allegiance” with a country that had failed to “protect the lives and property of [its] subjects,” adding: “It has always been my opinion that it is the natural right of men to quit, when they please, the society or state, and the country in which they were born, and either join with another or form a new one as they think proper.”

Furthermore, Franklin (like Rothbard) appears to have been an advocate of natural rights: “I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very zealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil.”

No modern libertarian could have said it better. It is surprising that modern libertarians should fail to give Franklin credit for the “radical” and “libertarian” Pennsylvania Constitution written in 1776 and endorsed by him throughout his lifetime. And what about his critical role in raising military and financial aid in France? This is what we receive from Rothbard’s witty but poisoned pen: “The wily old tactician Franklin proved to be a master at the intricacies of lying, bamboozling, and intriguing that form the warp and woof of diplomacy. Moreover, the old rogue was a huge hit with the French, who saw him as the embodiment of reason, the natural man, and bonhomie.”

Rothbard is deadly silent about Franklin’s thrill of victory and Arthur Lee’s agony of defeat when it came to fundraising for the American cause.

Unfortunately, the only biography that Rothbard recommends is Cecil B. Currey’s “Code Number 72: Ben Franklin: Patriot or Spy?”, which accuses Franklin of being a double agent for the British. (Carl Van Doren’s “Benjamin Franklin” [1938] is the most comprehensive work in the field, and quite different in its conclusions from Currey.) Currey is a tough-minded researcher but ignores the evidence that doesn’t fit his agenda. “I have not . . . pretended to write a ‘balanced’ picture of Franklin (for I have focused on his shadows).”

Currey put together a sizeable amount of circumstantial evidence that while Franklin was ambassador to France he played both sides of the conflict. “The story involved treason, breaches of security, lackadaisical administration, privateering, misplaced truth, war profiteering, clandestine operations, spy apparatus, intrigue, double-dealing.” Today we know that Franklin and Adams were surrounded by spies, including one of their secretaries, Edward Bancroft. “A cell of British Intelligence was located at Franklin’s headquarters in France, and Benjamin Franklin — covertly perhaps, tacitly at least, and possibly deliberately — cooperated with and protected this spy cell operating out of his home in France from shortly after his arrival in that country until the end of the war.”

It is true that Franklin loved England before he loved France. He lived in London for nearly 20 years and considered it home, more even than Philadelphia. His son William was so enamored with the British Empire that he remained a loyalist throughout the war, thus giving rise to the rumor that his father was a double agent. In France, Franklin met with British agents and listened to their offers of honors, emoluments, and bribes. He did little to hide his activities and papers from alleged spies, whether French or British. And, yes, he was identified clandestinely as “Number 72.”

But it is also clear that Franklin broke with his son and was so bitter about being deserted “in a cause where my good fame, fortune and life were all at stake” that they never reconciled. Currey is correct that the British had a code number for Franklin, but the French also had a code for him (“Prométhée,” the Greek god who brought fire from heaven). The British had code numbers for almost everyone, including Washington (“Number 206”). And British and French spies were so common that Franklin simply ignored them.

Again, it’s important to look at the big picture. If indeed Franklin was playing both sides of the war, would he have worked so enthusiastically to obtain essential aid from France? If you buy Currey’s argument, you could just as easily make the argument that Arthur Lee and even John Adams were traitors, because both seemed to make every effort to insult the French and sabotage Franklin and his fundraising efforts. Practically every historian today agrees that without Franklin, the French would not have given the financial and military support necessary to win the war at Yorktown.

Nevertheless — and this demonstrates the influence of Rothbard in libertarian circles — when Gary North devoted the 1976 bicentennial edition of his “Reconstructionist” journal to a symposium on Christianity and the American Revolution, he chose only one historian to write “The Franklin Legend,” Cecil Currey. Today Currey’s book is out of print, and for good reason. Franklin clearly switched from loving the British Isles to hating the Crown and its ministers. He considered the War for Independence “the greatest revolution the world has ever seen” and a “miracle in human affairs.”

But let’s consider some other historians’ attacks on Franklin. Tom Tucker wrote an entire book (“Bolt of Fate” [2003]) contending that Franklin’s famous kite experiment was faked, that it was one of Franklin’s hoaxes. His evidence? Franklin didn’t write about the kite story for years, and the only detailed account was written by his friend Joseph Priestley, some 15 years after the event. Yet according to Priestley, Franklin dreaded the ridicule of performing an unsuccessful experiment in public, so he used his son William as his only witness — and William never denied the kite test, even after he and his father had become estranged.

Another assault on Franklin is embodied in “Runaway America” (2004), by David Waldstreicher, who argues that Franklin masked his true feelings about slavery, and that he was a slave trader and slave owner in an age of supposed freedom and equality. Here again the author ignores or downplays contrary evidence, such as the fact that in 1763 Franklin visited the Negro School of Philadelphia, which he helped establish, examined the students, and discovered “a higher opinion of the natural capacities of the black race . . . Their apprehension seems as quick, their memory as strong, and their docility in every respect equal to that of white children.”

Franklin was never much of a slaveholder — compared, for example, to Washington or Jefferson — and the few slaves he held as servants were freed in London before he returned to America in 1775. Two years before he died, he became president of the Philadelphia Society for the Abolition of Slavery and helped introduce legislation in Congress to abolish slavery once and for all.

Franklin has been blamed for abandoning his devoted wife, Deborah, and becoming a lecher in London and France. There is plenty of evidence to support a charge like this. He wrote several risqué bagatelles, such as “Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress,” and “The Speech of Miss Polly Baker,” which defends a single mother who was prosecuted for the fifth time for having an illegitimate child. Franklin himself had a “natural” son, William. In his “Autobiography” he confessed that, as a young man, his “hard-to-govern’d passion of youth” led him into “intrigues with low women.” (This paragraph was censored in grade schools until the early 20th century, when, presumably, it was realized that children no longer understood what this usage of “intrigues” might mean.) Carl Van Doren says that “he went to women hungrily, secretly, and briefly.”

In 1730, Franklin entered into a common-law marriage with Deborah Read, whose husband abandoned her without a divorce. Together they raised William and had two children of their own: Franky, who died of smallpox at age four, and Sally, who cared for Franklin in his final years. Despite all the rumors, there is no hard evidence that Franklin sired any other illegitimate children. He settled into a faithful relationship with his wife in Philadelphia and focused on his printing business.

The relationship changed in the last 18 years of their marriage, when they lived separate lives. But he did not by any means abandon her. When he was made a colonial agent in 1757 and moved to London, he begged her to come with him, but she had a mortal fear of crossing the ocean and repeatedly refused. “I have a thousand times wished my wife with me, and my little Sally,” he wrote from London. Over time, they drifted apart emotionally, corresponding largely about mundane household matters and local gossip. Claude-Anne Lopez, a Franklin expert, notes that “it strains credulity to imagine that so vigorous a man was never unfaithful in all that time.”

Deborah died in late 1774, when Franklin was still in London. Two years later, as a widower, he was back in Europe. The French lionized the American ambassador, who developed a considerable friendship and correspondence with several beautiful French women, including Madame Brillon, who was an artist and musician, and the wife of a diplomat. Their relationship supposedly never went beyond friendship, although Franklin admitted to a friend, “I sometimes suspected my heart of wanting to go further.”

Their letters are intimate and flirtatious, and fun to read. (See chapter 6 of “The Compleated Autobiography.”) He considered flirtation a legitimate “amusement” and refuge from a grueling schedule of diplomacy. Gossip spread about him and Madame Brillon. Her husband once found them kissing; they played a game of chess in her bathroom; she sat on his lap at a dinner party attended by John and Abigail Adams, puritans who were “disgusted” by Franklin’s behavior. Jefferson observed that “in the company of women . . . he loses all power over himself and becomes almost frenzied.”

One of his critics wrote this ditty:
Franklin, though plagued with fumbling age,
Needs nothing to excite him,
But is too ready to engage,
When younger arms invite him.

The old doctor was 70 years of age when he arrived in France in 1776. During his long stay he suffered severely from gout and kidney stones. Sometimes he could hardly walk. It is doubtful that he fulfilled his sexual fantasies in any meaningful way. As historian Robert Middlekauff suggests, “Reading his correspondence of this period and remembering what we know of his physical condition, we might conclude that Franklin’s sex life was very much like Jane Austen’s novels — all talk and no action.”

Franklin was often criticized by contemporary Christians for his heretical religious views. He was not a churchgoer, and had doubts about the divinity of Jesus. But he believed in God. A deist for most of his life, he supported a pragmatic religion that favored good works and charity more than simple faith and hope. And by “good works,” he said, “I mean real good works, works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit; not holiday-keeping, sermon-reading or hearing, performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.”

Franklin is justly famous for engaging in innumerable civic and charitable causes throughout his adult life — and into the afterlife, by means of his perpetual fund, established in his will, for the benefit of young tradesmen in Boston.

But to return to the heart of libertarian concerns about Franklin, it can be said that, in many ways, he was America’s first champion of free enterprise. Economists of the “Austrian” school, who have been so influential on modern libertarian thought, would be pleased with his emphasis on entrepreneurship, industry, and thrift. Eugen Böhm-Bawerk and Max Weber recognized his genius, and so did American capitalists Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Mellon, who were deeply influenced by the “Autobiography.” Franklin anticipated the incredible material and technological progress that America has made in the centuries since its founding. An incurable optimist, he was always bullish on America, and life in general. At the end of the War for Independence, he predicted, “America will, with God’s blessing, become a great and happy country.” The United States, he said, is “an immense territory, favored by nature with all advantages of climate, soil, great navigable rivers and lakes . . . [and] destined to become a great country, populous and mighty.” More importantly, he told potential immigrants that the country “affords to strangers . . . good laws, just and cheap government, with all the liberties, civil and religious, that reasonable men can wish for.” (He underlined the word “cheap.”)

What were his politics? Franklin was opposed to a strong central executive. In his original draft of the Articles of Confederation, he proposed twelve members of the executive instead of one president, to disperse political power. He opposed public “offices of profit.” As Bernard Fay concludes, “They [Congress] were directly opposed to Franklin’s philosophical tendency, which might be summed up in this formula: the least government possible is the greatest possible good.”

Certainly he was no social libertarian, despite his image as a libertine and free thinker. While he is famous for reading books in the nude, frequenting the salacious Hell-Fire Club in London, and flirting with French ladies in Paris, he wrote stern letters to his daughter Sally chastising her for wanting to wear the latest fashions while a war was going on, and he refused to buy his grandson Benny a gold watch while in France. He dressed plainly and constantly preached economy. He always promoted frugality and industry in both public and private life. Readers might be surprised by his attack on the growth of taverns in Philadelphia upon his return from England in 1762. Though a defender of free speech, he railed against scurrilous newspaper reports.

There is nothing special about this side of Franklin. His distinctive contribution is not found in his lectures on the more conventional virtues but in his openness to the new, entrepreneurial, can-do spirit. He lambasted privileged public offices and aristocracies of birth, and told European immigrants that “in America, people do not inquire concerning a stranger, What is he? but What can he do?”

He illustrated what an individual could do by doing it himself, helping to finance good causes with his own business profits. He was civil-minded early in his career, involving himself with the nation’s first fire company; the nation’s oldest property insurance company; and Philadelphia’s own hospital, library, and militia. All were created with mostly private funds. “America’s first entrepreneur may well be our finest one,” concludes John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard family of mutual funds.

Like all the founders, he had his share of foibles. How should one weigh his mammoth achievements against his inscrutable flaws? Before you make up your mind, I suggest you spend a few days reading Franklin’s own accounts of his life. You may see a different Franklin from the man his critics and I have described.

Libertarians are not used to winning. They prefer being in the minority. They figure that if they are victorious, they must be compromising their principles. That may be what galled Murray Rothbard: Franklin was so damned successful as a scientist, businessman, and diplomat. To libertarians, it may help to know that he wasn’t always successful. He had his share — and perhaps more than his share — of enemies. Here’s his philosophy about his critics: “As to the abuses I have met with, I number them among my honors. . . . The best men have always had their share of this treatment . . . and a man has therefore some reason to be ashamed when he meets with none of it. Enemies do a man some good by fortifying his character. I call to mind what my friend good Rev. Whitefield [the famous evangelist] said to me once: ‘I read the libels writ against you, when I was in a remote province, where I could not be informed of the truth of the facts; but they rather gave me this good opinion of you, that you continued to be useful to the public: for when I am on the road, and see boys in a field at a distance, pelting a tree, though I am too far off to know what tree it is, I conclude it has fruit on it.”

Now that’s a saying that all libertarians can appreciate.

1. H.W. Brands, “The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” (Doubleday, 2000), jacket.

2. Michael H. Hart, “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History,” 2nd ed. (Kensington, 1992) 516–17.

3. Joyce E. Chaplin, “The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius” (Basic Books, 2006) 1.

4. Gordon Wood, “The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin” (Penguin, 2004) 196.

5. “The Compleated Autobiography, by Benjamin Franklin,” compiled and edited by Mark Skousen (Regnery, 2006) 189, 300.

6. “Compleated Autobiography” 148.

7. “Compleated Autobiography” 357.

8. “Compleated Autobiography” 298–99.

9. Murray N. Rothbard, “Conceived in Liberty” (Arlington House, 1975) 2.64, 67, 172; 3.273; 4.358. My disagreement with Murray Rothbard on his assessment of Franklin, as well as Adam Smith, does not diminish my admiration of Rothbard’s tremendous contributions to economics, including “America’s Great Depression,” “Man, Economy, and State,” “Power and Market,” and “What Has the Government Done to Our Money?”

10. Rothbard, “Conceived in Liberty” 4.359, 4.43–44.

11. Rothbard, “Conceived in Liberty” 3.218, 4.34–35

12. “Compleated Autobiography” 65, 120.

13. “Compleated Autobiography” 80.

14. Rothbard, “Conceived in Liberty” 4.232–33.

15. Cecil B. Currey, “The Franklin Legend,” Journal of Christian Recon­struction (Summer 1976) 143.

16. Cecil B. Currey, “Code Number 72: Ben Franklin, Patriot or Spy?” (Prentice Hall, 1972) 12, 266.

17. “Compleated Autobiography” 130–32.

18. “Compleated Autobiography” 26. Waldstreicher ignores this passage.

19. Carl Van Doren, “Benjamin Franklin” (Viking Press, 1938) 91.

20. Claude-Anne Lopez and Eugenia W. Herbert, “The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family” (Norton, 1975) 26–27.

21. “Compleated Autobiography” 162.

22. Quoted in “Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writ­ings,” ed. Kenneth Silverman (Penguin, 1986) 206.

23. Hugh Williamson, “What Is Sauce for a Goose Is Also Sauce for a Gan­der” (1764).

24. Robert Middlekauff, “Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies” (University of California Press, 1996) 115–16.

25. “Compleated Autobiography” 387.

26. “Compleated Autobiography” 290.

27. Bernard Fay, “Franklin, Apostle of Modern Times” (Little, Brown, 1929) 504.

28. Some libertarians are critical of Franklin for opposing the notorious “outlaw” John Wilkes, a defender of free speech who was imprisoned for libeling the king of England in 1768, and the “drunken mad mobs” supporting “Wilkes and Liberty.” This is another case of Franklin’s so­cial conservatism before the American Revolution. Interestingly, after the war, Wilkes’ sister and mother came over to America and stayed at Franklin’s home in Philadelphia. See “The Compleated Autobiogra­phy” 59–62, 349.

29. “Compleated Autobiography” 292.

30. John Bogle, Introduction, “Benjamin Franklin: America’s First Entrepre­neur,” by Blaine McCormick (Dallas: Entrepreneurial Press, 2005).

31. “Compleated Autobiography” 44–45.

A Year at FEE

February 2003

by Mark Skousen

Is the sun setting on the world’s oldest freedom organization?

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is often called “America’s oldest freedom organization.” It predates the Institute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute, and the Libertarian Party; its monthly magazine The Freeman (now Ideas on Liberty), was published for years before Reason or Liberty began publication. FEE was founded in 1946 by Leonard Read, a libertarian businessman and prolific writer most famous for his book Anything That’s Peaceful and his essay “I, Pencil.” For almost 60 years, the Foundation has been located in a 35-room mansion on a five-acre estate in Irvington-on-Hudson, just 20 miles north of Manhattan. Through its books, student seminars, and The Freeman, FEE has been associated with some of the biggest names in the freedom movement: Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and Milton Friedman, among others. Even Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, and Lawrence Welk wrote letters of support to Read. (Go to for a delightful color photograph of Ronald Reagan reading The Freeman, while his wife, Nancy, rests on his shoulder.)

Yet since the passing of its founder in 1983, FEE has fallen into obscurity while the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and Hillsdale College have become household names. It has struggled to survive financially and The Freeman has dropped to only 5,000 paid subscribers. A series of presidents, including Hans Sennholz and Donald Boudreaux (now chairman of the economics department at George Mason University), worked hard to resurrect the glory years of FEE. Their efforts were valiant. But despite these valiant efforts, when I became president of FEE in August, 2001, many of my friends in politics and finance had never heard of it.

So now it was my turn to take on the challenge of resurrecting FEE. I thought my background had prepared me well. I hold a Ph.D. in economics from George Washington University. I’ve been a professor of economics and finance at Rollins College for 16 years. I’ve edited a very successful investment newsletter and spoken on economics and liberty to a wide variety of audiences. Having written over a dozen books, including three textbooks, The Structure of Production, Economic Logic, and The Making of Modern Economics, I felt it was time to focus my efforts on spreading the word.

And I had a long experience with FEE. I have been an avid reader of The Freeman since the 60s, a columnist since 1994, and a financial supporter of FEE. I knew Leonard Read and have lectured at the FEE mansion many times over the past two decades. FEE published my Ph.D. dissertation, Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, in 1988 and a pamphlet, What Every Investor Should Know About Austrian Economics and the Hard Money Movement, in 1995. For many years, I have recommended FEE in my investment newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies as the one organization worthy of a tax-deductible contribution. Most importantly, economic education has always been as much my passion as the world of investing.

So when Gary North, a longtime FEE supporter, urged me to apply for the job as president in early 2001, I jumped at the opportunity. When the FEE board approved my name, our family suddenly dropped our easygoing lifestyle in Florida and moved to New York, with less than a month’s notice.

Attract Attention!

FEE has fallen into obscurity while the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and Hillsdale College have become household names.

I immediately went to work to restore the glory days of FEE, telling the board that my plan was to think big and make FEE a household name. I read everything I could about FEE, including Leonard Read’s private diaries and essays. My wife, Jo Ann, and I worked twelve-hour days, including weekends, to turn a candlestick (Leonard Read’s favorite symbol of liberty) into a lighthouse. I paid my respects to Andrew Carnegie, the legendary financier buried a few miles away in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, by following his advice to “attract attention.” The first thing I did upon arriving was to replace the 50-year-old sign at the Broadway entrance with an impressive new sign. Here are some of the other FEE accomplishments in my first year:

• We acquired Laissez Faire Books, the largest distributor of books on liberty in the world.

• We created the annual Leonard E. Read Book Award for Excellence in Economic Education.

• We publicized FEE by obtaining complimentary exhibit booths at the Money Shows and other major investment conferences around the country.

• We created the James U. Blanchard III Memorial Scholarship Fund to finance scholarships for needy international students to attend FEE seminars. We raised over $60,000 in our first year and eight international students were recipients of the Blanchard scholarships this summer.

• We updated our primary website,, and created a daily news service,, with Ron Holland as editor. He did a terrific job and FEE won an award for this new daily news service. This past summer, was averaging 30,000 new visitors each month — not “hits,” visitors.

• We dramatically expanded our high school and college outreach program, with Dinesh D’Souza serving as our spokesman on college campuses, and Greg Rehmke expanding his debate program into the homeschool arena.

• We invited Nobel Prize economist Milton Friedman to write an article for Ideas on Liberty (a first).

The FEE National Convention: First Time on Nationwide TV

Perhaps our greatest achievement was the FEE National Convention (“FEE Fest”) at Las Vegas in early May. It put FEE on the map and people are still talking about it. We attracted nearly 900 paid attendees, 100 exhibitors, and 80 speakers (including Ben Stein, Charles Murray, Ron Paul, Nathaniel Branden, and Dinesh D’Souza). FEE Fest was co-sponsored by Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Young America’s Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies, Leadership Institute, Goldwater Institute, Liberty magazine, and dozens of other freedom organizations. Our seminar director, Tami Holland, put together this program in only four months and Kim Githler, president of the Money Show, was able to negotiate a contract with Bally’s/Paris Resort Hotels without requiring a minimum deposit (thus minimizing our risk). We made some money — $14,000 — on the convention, but more importantly, we made FEE visible for the first time in decades, and introduced hundreds of people to free-market economics in the course of three wonderful days. “I feel an electricity that I have not felt in many years among libertarian gatherings,” commented Nathaniel Branden. We received extremely favorable comments from attendees, and even today people write us to ask when the next FEE convention will be.

As a result of the convention, FEE appeared on nationwide television for the first time when C-SPAN Book TV taped speeches by Dinesh D’Souza, Harry Browne, Michael Ledeen, Charles Murray, Tom DiLorenzo, and me. C-SPAN Book TV broadcast these speeches from the FEE convention repeatedly from May until November. C-SPAN was so impressed with the FEE convention that they wanted to bring two crews to the next one.

As an added benefit of the convention, FEE acquired two new prestigious toll-free numbers, 1-800-USA-1776 and 1-888-USA-1776. These numbers — previously owned by the U.S. Bicentennial Commission — were valued by an independent media consultant conservatively at $400,000. The toll-free numbers were donated by Terry Easton, a telecommunications expert who attended the FEE convention and was so impressed with the “new” FEE that he offered to help FEE financially in many other ways.

FEE Summer Seminars: “You Changed My Life”

The FEE convention also led to the doubling of student/teacher seminars. We sold out all of our student seminars this past summer and even had to add an additional seminar because of higher demand. Over 175 students attended. One major supporter who attended the FEE convention was so pleased that he more than doubled the number of scholarships he awarded to FEE summer seminars.

In addition, we made money on all our seminars this summer (a first). We cut costs by using staffers and trustees to teach. My wife, Jo Ann, and the staff prepared 3,200 meals in the FEE kitchen, thus saving thousands of dollars. But the best part was the response of the students. (One student wrote me, “I will be forever grateful to FEE for making this life-changing event possible. It was one of the most enjoyable and productive weeks in my life.”) Of all the things we did in 2002, the student seminars were the most rewarding.

My Most Controversial Decision: Inviting Rudy Giuliani to Speak

Every year FEE plans a fall dinner in October for trustees and supporters. My goal was to put FEE on a national pedestal, so I invited the #1 speaker in America, former mayor Rudy Giuliani, to be the keynote speaker. I didn’t think this choice would be out of character, since past speakers have included Lady Margaret Thatcher, Bill O’Reilly, and Paul Gigot (new editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal). Although not a libertarian, Giuliani had almost singlehandedly transformed the world’s most powerful city from a stifling, dirty, dangerous metropolis into a thriving, safe, and clean city. Giuliani proudly points to the recommendations of the Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank, as having influenced his decision to cut taxes, privatize, and deregulate the city’s economy. And few questioned his leadership during the terrible days after the terrorist attacks in September, 2001. I probably would not have moved to New York if Giuliani hadn’t been mayor, because the New York of ten years ago simply wasn’t safe or inviting.

In my mind, the biggest risk was financial — Giuliani gets a high honorarium and we had reserved the big ballroom at the New York Hilton. My goal was to attract the largest gathering of freedom lovers in New York history and to let them know that FEE was the place to learn more. Kim Githler again came to our aid by co-sponsoring the event and negotiating excellent terms with the Hilton. The chances of getting Giuliani were slim, however, since he turns down nine out of every ten requests. But everything fell into place when Giuliani accepted my invitation. And John Stossel of ABC News graciously agreed to be Master of Ceremonies for the event. Talk about a one-two punch! I quickly arranged pledges from supporters to buy patron tables to cover the cost of Giuliani’s honorarium, and Tami Holland went to work selling tickets. Everything was set for a spectacular extravaganza that would elevate FEE to national prominence.

However, I failed to take into account one thing — the extreme reaction of some libertarians around the country to my choice of Rudy Giuliani as a speaker at a FEE event. Many were outraged that I would select a “fascist” and a “thug” who “represents everything inimical to what FEE stands for,” to quote some of the more colorful lines from libertarians on the Internet. I was attracting attention, all right, but not the kind I was expecting. I countered by explaining that the Liberty Banquet was not an endorsement of Giuliani’s political record, but an outreach program. We wanted the general public to become familiar with FEE as the best source of sound economics, and what better way to attract the public than to invite America’s hero after Sept.11? Thousands of investors and business people didn’t know FEE from Adam, but they knew Giuliani, and by coming to a banquet with America’s mayor as speaker, they would be introduced to a powerful new organization that could change their lives forever.

The only way we are going to make a difference in this world is if we reach out to people who don’t yet agree with us. Sound economics is too important to leave only to libertarians! Henry Grady Weaver wrote in a FEE pamphlet: “I [already] believe in free enterprise. Explain it to those who don’t, not to me.” Amen!

I didn’t think choosing Rudy Giuliani to speak would be out of character, since past speakers have included Lady Margaret Thatcher, Bill O’Reilly, and Paul Gigot.

It didn’t seem to matter that John Stossel, a true libertarian hero, was willing to appear on stage with Giuliani, or that Giuliani had done wonders to restore the value of life, liberty, and property (the libertarian trinity) in the city of New York. I was amazed how closed-minded my libertarian friends were to Giuliani’s positive contributions. “It’s like inviting the devil to church,” accused John Pugsley. My response: “I already did that when I invited Doug Casey to speak at the FEE National Convention on Sunday, May 5.” Many Christian libertarians, including me, were offended by Doug’s attack on Christianity, but I was willing to listen to his opinions. I wish libertarians could be more tolerant and open-minded, more willing to have a dialogue with those whose views differ from their own. As Ben Stein, our keynote speaker at the FEE convention, said, “It’s funny how libertarians are so controlling.” (I was criticized for inviting Ben Stein, too, because he wasn’t a pure libertarian.)

Ironically, another organization, Washington Policy Center, dedicated to “advancing limited government and free markets,” promoted their own banquet in Seattle two weeks before ours. The keynote speaker? Rudy Giuliani. They had over 850 attendees in a very successful outreach program.

Mission Aborted!

It was during this ongoing debate over Giuliani that I received a startling telephone call from the chairman of the FEE board. He said the executive committee had met and decided to ask for my resignation. He did not go into details, aside from saying the board did not share my grand vision for FEE. He cancelled the Liberty Banquet and all future FEE national conventions.

I must admit that this move was the most shocking and disappointing event I’ve ever experienced in the freedom movement, and it came at a time when FEE was on the verge of once again making a real impact. Over the past ten years my wife and I had put our hearts and souls, as well as a good deal of money and reputation, into FEE and then it ended like this! It seemed unfair to us and destructive to FEE’s future. I have no doubt that the board members are good people and well-intentioned supporters of liberty. They volunteer their time, donate funds, and attend board meetings without compensation. Several board members were quite supportive of my presidency and wrote letters on my behalf. But I did not want to cause further controversy by fighting a divided board, so I agreed to resign. I still feel a great sadness about this.

Looking back, I made lots of mistakes as president, things I would do differently if I had the benefit of hind-sight. I would have worked more closely with the board and spent more time raising money. I probably tried to do too much too soon. But I think we did some things right and, in large measure, fulfilled the mandate I was given.

When I became FEE’s president, the organization was coming off a difficult year financially and charitable giving was plummeting across the country. I am pleased that in the six months before I was asked to resign, FEE’s revenues were up 30% and contributions were up 20%. And I am proud of the FEE convention and the student seminars.

When I was asked for my resignation, it was the most shocking and disappointing event I’ve ever experienced in the freedom movement, and it came at a time when FEE was on the verge of once again making a real impact.

After the executive committee cancelled the fall dinner, I was worried about the financial burden the cancellation of the Liberty Banquet would put on FEE, since it would still have the expense of honoring Giuliani’s contract while returning the patron table donations. So with the help of my publisher, Tom Phillips, and Kim Githler of the Money Show, we resurrected the Liberty Banquet and it went off on schedule Oct. 25 at the New York Hilton. It had lost momentum after the initial cancellation and a three-week delay in sending out the major promotions, but we still managed to attract 250 paid attendees. Rudy Giuliani was the perfect gentleman and quite a few libertarians gave him a standing ovation.

Jo Ann and I have appreciated the many letters and emails of support we have received during this difficult period. I continue to teach on college campuses, write my investment letter, speak at conferences, and author books. Instead of writing a column for Ideas on Liberty, I am now a contributor to Liberty magazine. I have my free time back but, to paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, I’d rather be the slave of some great cause.

Whither FEE?

Jo Ann and I will persevere, but what about America’s oldest freedom organization? An aggressive new FEE is unlikely under the current board. The new toll-free numbers have been returned to Terry Easton (upon his request), the daily news service is dormant, and the Blanchard Scholarship Fund is looking for a new home. There’s talk among a few board members of selling the FEE mansion and distributing the assets of FEE to other freedom organizations. Such an action would be most unfortunate. As one FEE supporter wrote, “it would be a crime to discontinue FEE since it was the first free-market foundation preaching in the wilderness to the business community which was then plagued with Keynes’ dogmas.”

FEE deserves to survive and prosper. Many organizations do a fine job of lobbying in Washington, researching public policies, supporting important libertarian scholarship, and fighting the enemies of freedom. But only one organization is dedicated solely to educating students, teachers, businesspeople, and citizens on the principles of free markets and sound money. And, if there’s anything the world needs desperately, it’s a strong dose of sound economics and an enthusiastic FEE. Jo Ann and I sincerely hope FEE can regain its influence.

When the Founding Fathers signed the Constitution of the United States in 1787, Benjamin Franklin, looking toward the half-sun carved on the back of the president’s chair, observed, “I have often in the course of the session, looked at that [chair] behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

In a similar vein, as I was leaving FEE at the end of my presidency, I stood before the large portrait of Leonard E. Read located above the mantel in the living room of the FEE mansion and wondered whether Len was smiling or sad. I think that, for a year at least, he was smiling.

The Troubled Economics of Ayn Rand

Published in January, 2001, issue of Liberty Magazine:

by Mark Skousen

“No creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers…”

–Howard Roark, The Fountainhead (1994:710)

Ayn Rand, author of the celebrated Capitalism: The Unknown Idea, is honored almost universally as the fountainhead of market capitalism, an impassioned proponent of reason, individualism, and rational self-interest.

There is much to praise in Ayn Rand’s novels and writings, especially her uncompromising defense of freedom and her unrelenting denunciations of collectivism. No one has written more persuasively about property rights, the right of an individual to safeguard his wealth and property from the agents of coercion. Her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have probably done more than any other works of fiction to vindicate and honor the glories of “making money.”

Yet in reading her novels and writings, I was surprised to learn that her work often portrays a strange, distorted view of the money-making process. In a perverse way, her model of business may even give aid to the cause of the enemies of liberty–by giving capitalism a bad name.

Consumer Sovereign in The Fountainhead

Take, for example, Howard Roark’s philosophy toward his architectural work in The Fountainhead. In the beginning, Roark indicates that he chose architecture as a profession because he loves his work. He seeks to set the highest standards of excellence. He tries to be creative. All of these traits are to be admired.

But then Roark denies a basic tenet of sound economics–the principle of consumer sovereignty. When the dean of the architectural school tells Roark, “Your only purpose is to serve him [the client],” Roark objects. “I don’t intend to build in order to serve or help anyone. I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build.” (1994:14) This bizarre, almost anti-social, attitude sounds like a perverse rending of Say’s Law, “supply creates its own demand,” or the statement made in the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” But supply only creates demand if the supply can be sold to customers; and people come to a new baseball field only if they want to play or watch. Supply must satisfy demand, or it becomes a wasted resource.

Now I have no problem with an architect who tries to set new standards of design, just as I would applaud entrepreneurs who seek to invent a new product or design a new process. Such actions are often highly risky and financially dangerous, and are often met with derision at first. Ayn Rand rightly points out that they are a major cause of economic progress. History is full of examples of “men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision.” (Rand 1994:710)

But the goal of all rational entrepreneurship must be to satisfy the needs of consumers, not to ignore them! Discovering and fulfilling the needs of customers is the essence of market capitalism. Imagine how far a TV manufacturer would get if he decides to build TVs that only tune into his five favorite channels, the consumer be damned. It wouldn’t be long before he would be on the road to bankruptcy.

Rand Denies the Essence of Business Enterprise

In short, Howard Roark’s conviction is irrational and contradicts a basic premise of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. For Roark, A is not A. He wants A to be B–his B, not his customer’s A. Thus, Ayn Rand’s ideal man misconceives the very nature and logic of capitalism–to fulfill the needs of customers and thereby advance the general welfare. As Ludwig von Mises writes in his book, The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, “The profit system makes those men prosper who have succeeded in filling the wants of the people in the best possible and cheapest way. Wealth can be acquired only by serving the consumers.” (1972:2) Apparently Howard Roark doesn’t believe in consumer sovereignty. As he states in his final court defense, “An architect needs clients, but he dos not subordinate his work to their wishes.” (1994:714) Really?

Talk to any architects about The Fountainhead. Yes, they will tell you that there are a few self-centered, highly-egotistical, elitist Howard-Roark types in architecture who can get away with making monuments to their egos at their client’s expense. Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect Rand deeply admired, may be one of them. But the book’s thesis is entirely unrealistic in the everyday world of commercial building. Occasionally a client values more the notoriety of living in a home built by a signature designer than getting what he really wants, but not many. Almost all of Rand’s scenarios are extreme and idealistic, a strategy that works to sell novels, but does violence to all sense of reality. Normally architects work closely with the client and make numerous changes in order to fit the client’s needs.

Compromise is a necessary element to a successful completion of a project. And this consumer-oriented approach is true in all areas of capitalistic production. An architect or producer of any product who acts like Roark in The Fountainhead is likely to be out of work. Roark’s fate is even worse–he is guilty of his crime, blowing up a much-needed housing project rather than permit the slightest alteration in his designs. The jury may have exonerated him, but the market punishes his kind of behavior.

Ironically, Ayn Rand herself compromised in the making of the movie “The Fountainhead.” She insisted that only Frank Lloyd Wright would design the models for the film, but her demand was later rejected due to Wright’s outrageous fee. In the end, the models were done by a studio set designer. Rand called them “horrible” and “embarrassingly bad.” But the film was made and released. (Branden 1986:209) Oh, the agonies of dealing with other people!

The fact that Howard Roark represents the ideal man in Ayn Rand’s novel and the fact that she denigrates other characters in The Fountainhead who “compromise” with client’s demands suggest that Ayn Rand is philosophically in denial when it comes to comprehending the nature of business. She denies the very raison d’etre of capitalism–consumer sovereignty.

Assault on the Common Man

In this sense, Ayn Rand is not much different from other artists and intellectuals. Artists often bash the capitalist system. They hate the idea of subjecting their talents to crass commercialism and the crude tastes of the common man. Yet Ludwig von Mises chastised this snobbish attitude in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality: “The judgment about the merits of a work of art is entirely subjective. Some people praise what others disdain. There is no yardstick to measure the aesthetic worth of a poem or of a building.” (1972:75) Mises adds that only through economic progress — the creation of surplus wealth — has the level of taste and art been raised to meet the criteria of the more sophisticated artist. “When modern industry began to provide the masses with the paraphernalia of a better life, their main concern was to produce as cheaply as possible without any regard to aesthetic values. Later, when the progress of capitalism had raised the masses’ standard of living, they turned step by step to the fabrication of things which do not lack refinement and beauty.” (1972:80)

The Flaw in Atlas Shrugged

This brings us to the fatal flaw in Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s basic plot violates the whole rationale of business’s existence–constantly working within the system to find ways to make money. There will never be a Galt’s Gulch, where the world’s greatest entrepreneurs isolated themselves from the rest of the world. There will never be enough principled business leaders to fight the system. The business world does not typically attract ideologues and true believers; it attracts people primarily interested in money making by whatever means. They wouldn’t give John Galt the time of day. As Mises states, “There is little social intercourse between the successful businessmen and the nation’s eminent authors, artists and scientists…Most of the ‘socialites’ are not interested in books and ideas.” (Mises 1972:19) Ayn Rand admired Mises, but apparently she didn’t learn much from his writings. Pity.

Altruism Vs. Selfishness

Howard Roark’s diatribe against consumer sovereignty is undoubtedly a way to introduce Rand’s philosophy of selfishness. There are two extremes here: The philosophy of those who serve and satisfy themselves only, and the philosophy of those who believe that they should strive at all times to serve and sacrifice for others. Rand labels the latter “altruism.” In The Virtue of Selfishness, she opines, “Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil.” (Rand 1999:80) Obviously, Rand protests against altruism and espouses the opposite extreme. As Francisco d’Anconias tells Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: “Don’t consider our interests or our desires. You have no duty to anyone but yourself.” (Rand 1992:802) No sacrifice, no altruism, just pure egotistical selfishness.

The Adam Smith Solution

The founder of modern economics, Adam Smith, takes a different approach by trying to incorporate both concepts in his “system of natural liberty.” Smith and Rand are in agreement about the universal benefits of a free capitalistic society. But Smith rejects Rand’s vision of selfish independence. He teaches that there are two driving forces behind man’s actions–in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, he identifies the first as “sympathy” or “benevolence” toward others in society, while in his Wealth of Nations, he focuses on the second, “self interest,” the right to pursue one’s own business. Smith believes that as the market economy develops and individuals move away from their community, “self interest” becomes a more dominant force than “sympathy.” But both are essential to achieve “universal opulence.” (Smith 1965:11)

Adam Smith is famous for making a statement that sounds Randian in tone: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” (Smith 1965:14) But this statement is often taken out of context. Smith’s self-interest never reaches the Randian selfishness that ignores the interest of others. On the contrary, in Smith’s mind, an individual’s goals cannot be fully achieved in business unless he appeals to the self-interest of others. Smith says so in the very next sentence: “We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.” (Ibid.) Moreover, he writes earlier on the same page, “He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour….Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the mean of every such offer.” (Ibid.) Smith’s theme echoes his Christian heritage, particularly the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (See Matthew 7:12)

Perhaps a true capitalist spirit can best be summed up in the Christian commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39) Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises would undoubtedly agree with this creed, but apparently Howard Roark and John Galt — and their creator — would agree with only half. And that’s a great tragedy for the greatest novelist of the 20th century.


* Branden, Barbara. 1986. The Passion of Ayn Rand. Doubleday.
* Mises, Ludwig von. 1972 [1956]. The Anti-Capitalist Mentality. Libertarian Press.
* Rand, Ayn. 1992 [1957]. Atlas Shrugged. Dutton Books.
* Rand, Ayn. 1994 [1943]. The Fountainhead. Penguin Books.
* Rand, Ayn. 1999. The Ayn Rand Reader, ed. by Gary Hull and Leonard Peikoff. Penguin Books.
* Smith, Adam. 1965 [1776]. The Wealth of Nations. Modern Library.

The Other Austrian

LIBERTY Magazine

The Other Austrian
By Mark Skousen

Swashbuckling corporate raiders take heed, here’s another Austrian economist offering advice.

Peter F. Drucker once walked into the boardroom of a major company in crisis and bluntly demanded, “Gentlemen, what is your business?” Most of the executives thought it was a sophomoric question, but Drucker kept pushing. He repeated the question over and over again. “What is your business?” It took them an hour to figure out what Drucker was getting at: they had lost their vision. Once they returned to fundamentals, they found their way back to profitability — all because Drucker asked a “dumb” question.

Drucker is eclectic, independent and unpredictable. Although he is known as Mr. Management, he is a lone wolf, operates without a secretary, and has no supporting organization. He is an outsider. In the words of one admirer, he is an “iconoclast–the smasher of idols, seeker of proof, demander of evidence, gadfly, thorn in the side, tough and hard-nosed commentator on problems faced by our society.” 1

Nearly everyone in the business world is familiar with Drucker, either through his books or his columns in The Wall Street Journal. He is a household name among MBAs, corporate executives and business students. Drucker is the world’s most sought-after business consultant. His vitae are multifarious: lawyer, journalist, political theorist, economist, novelist, futurist, and philosopher extraordinaire. Now in his eighties, with 25 books under his belt, he is still active in writing and consulting, though he does not travel much anymore.

Business students and executives have often told me that Drucker’s ideas have a certain “Austrian” streak to them. They say that his emphasis on entrepreneurship, innovation and investment capital as well as his denunciations of big government, excessive taxation and Keynesian economics, has right in harmony with the ideas of Bohm-Bawerk, Mises, Hayek and the Austrian school of economics.

So: is Peter Drucker a closet Austrian?

Viennese Roots

In the very literal sense, Drucker is an Austrian. He was born in 1909 in Vienna, during the heyday of the Austrian school. But he was too young to attend Ludwig von Mises’ famous seminar. When he graduated from gymnasium in 1927, he went to the University of Frankfurt, where he got his LL.D. in the early 1930s. But his roots remained Viennese. He refused a job offer from the Nazi’s Ministry of Information. Instead, he wrote a 32-page monograph on the 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Julius Stahl. There is as much to learn about Drucker as there is about Stahl in this paper. Stahl was paradoxical: a Jew by birth, a Protestant by conversion, and a conservative opposed to absolute monarchy.  Not surprisingly, Drucker’s paper was banned by the Nazis. Like Mises, Hayek, and other enemies of the Nazi state, Drucker immigrated to the West before the war broke out. He traveled to England in 1933 and the United States in 1937.

The Manager’s Manager

Of course, the question of whether Drucker is an Austrian is not a question about his birthplace. It is a question about his economic theory. If one limited the question to his management approach, the answer is clearly in the affirmative: Drucker’s style of management is Austrian through and through. Time, expectations, new information, and potential change in production processes–all Austrian focal points–are constantly emphasized in his writings and consultations. The manager must be an entrepreneur, not just an administrator. Innovation is essential. In 1985, he wrote an entire book on the subject, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

He criticizes management for engaging in short-term planning, what he labels “industrial Keynesianism.” Long-term planning is more risky, says Drucker, but is essential for survival, especially for large corporations. Owners and managers must be future oriented, he stresses. “Tomorrow’s vision is today’s work assignment.” The Japanese have been so successful, Drucker asserts, because they’re so long-term oriented.

In Search of a New Social Order

It was his life in America that turned his interest to business management. During the late 1930s, Drucker began searching for a new social and industrial order. He became disenchanted with “unbridled” capitalism as the Great Depression wore on and on. But socialism, fascism, and communism seemed even worse alternatives to society’s ills.

He finally found his answer in the only “free, non-revolutionary way”–the large corporation. He was enthusiastic about his discovery: big business could provide a superior alternative to socialism and big government. According to Drucker, the large corporations should be the conduit through which economic stability and social justice would be established. Only big business could afford to assume social responsibilities such as job security, training and educational opportunities, and other social benefits. Such an alternative was absolutely critical in an age when free enterprise was on the defensive around the world.

After the war, Drucker got a consulting contract with General Motors, which gave him an opportunity to develop his thesis more fully. His exhaustive study of GM culminated in the 1946 publication of Concept of the Corporation. Drucker came to the unshakable conviction that the large corporation should be the “representative social institution” of the postwar period and that major American companies such as GM should take the lead in building the free industrial society.

Top officials at General Motors resented the book and scoffed at the idea that a large corporation should assume social responsibilities. But Drucker’s reputation as a management expert grew despite GM’s cold shoulder. By 1950, he was professor of management at New York University, and in 1973 he was appointed Clarke Professor of Social Science at Claremont Graduate School in California.

Drucker maintains that a company is more than an economic entity. “Even more important than economics are the psychological, human, and power relationships which are determined on the job rather than outside it. These are the relationships between worker, work group, task, immediate boss, and management.” 3 A company’s administrators have a moral purpose and social responsibility beyond making short-term profits. Drucker envisions the large corporation as the social institution, far superior to government in providing a retirement income, health care, education, childcare, and other fringe benefits. He argues that corporate welfarism should replace government welfarism. Drucker acknowledges that such social activity could undermine economic performance, but he rejects Milton Friedman’s admonition that business’ only legitimate responsibility is to increase its profits. A lethargic government has created a “vacuum of responsibility and performance” which big business must fill.

A Moral Dimension

Drucker’s attitudes toward business management and government may not be economic in origin, but religious. “The only basis of freedom is the Christian concept of man’s nature: imperfect, weak, a sinner, and dust destined for dust; yet man is God’s image and responsible for his actions.”‘ He calls for a return to spiritual values, “not to offset the material but to make it fully productive.”

But how far he is willing to carry this insight is open to question. Drucker has been criticized as an apologist for big business. And it is true that he has been reluctant to discuss big business as a special interest lobbying power. Drucker usually envisions business and government in an adversarial role rather than a cooperative one. In his massive volume, Management, his chapter on “Business and Government” fails to mention how big business often uses its power to gain special tax breaks, subsidies, monopoly power and restrictions on foreign competition.

Paul Weaver, a former Ford executive, describes the extent of corporate statism as follows: “From the beginning it [big business] has worked aggressively and imaginatively in this spirit, and over the years it has won a dazzling array of benefits — tariffs, subsidies, official monopolies, tax breaks, immunity from certain tort actions, government-supported research and development, free manpower training programs, countercyclical economic management, defense spending wage controls, and so on through the long list of the welfare state’s indulgences and beneficences.”6 Unfortunately, the master is oddly silent on this critical issue.

Drucker Qua Economist

Drucker is much more than a management consultant and writer. He is also a commentator on politics, economics and culture. Here Drucker is less easy to categorize.

His economic views are often in line with Mises and today’s Austrians; other times they are not. He often rejects notions that Austrians consider essential. Ludwig von Mises and he were colleagues at New York University in the 1950s, but they did not see much of each other. “Mises considered me a renegade from the true economic faith,” Drucker says, and “with good reason.”‘ Drucker became disenchanted with pure laissez faire capitalism during the Great Depression. Today he supports a Hamiltonian approach to government — small, but powerful. He believes in a strong president and a central government that plays a serious role in education, economic development, and welfare. Furthermore, he rejects the gold standard and favors a central bank.

At the same time, however, Drucker advocates many positions that free market economists would applaud.

Inflation is a “social poison.” Government has gotten bigger, not stronger, and can now only do two things effectively — wage war and inflate the currency. The state has become a “swollen monstrosity.” He continues, “Indeed, government is sick–and just at a time when we need a strong, healthy, and vigorous government.” 8 Drucker advocates privatization of government services as a way to reduce a bloated bureaucracy. Indeed, Drucker claims he invented the term, calling it reprivatization in his 1969 book, The Age of Discontinuity. 9 Social Security should be gradually replaced by private pension plans. The corporate income tax, says Drucker, is the “most asinine of taxes” and should be abolished (but replaced with a value added tax). Defense spending is a “serious drain” on the civilian economy, and should be cut sharply. The costs of “free” government services are “inevitably high.” 10 Echoing Hayek, Drucker claims that no public institution can operate in a businesslike manner because “it is not a business.”

Drucker is largely optimistic about he future. He talks excitedly about an expanding global economy and the collapse of Communism. Multinational corporations, both large and small, are far more important than foreign aid or domestic spending programs by the state, and will lead the way into a new nirvana. The more firms become “transnational,” the healthier the world economy will be.

Drucker is encouraged by events in developing countries, especially efforts to privatize and denationalize and open up domestic economies to foreign capital. The worst move a developing country can make is to adopt Marxism. “Communism is evil. Its driving forces are the deadly sins of envy and hatred. Its aim is the subjection of all goals and all values to power; its essence is bestiality; the denial that man is anything but animal, the denial of all ethics, of human worth, of human responsibility.” 11 Drucker debunks Soviet-style central planning, which only produced “disdevelopment.”  He rightly concludes that Soviet economic growth rates are largely figments of the bureaucratic imagination.

Search for the “Next Economics”

Drucker expresses a withering contempt for the economics profession, which he says is still largely Keynesian in nature. Economists are too concerned with the equilibrium theory of a closed economy rather than the growth, innovation and productivity of a global economy. Drucker claims that contemporary economics is where medical school or astronomy was in the 17th century. “There are no slower learners than economists. There is no greater obstacle to learning than to be the prisoner of totally invalid but dogmatic theories.” 12

He blames Keynesianism for an unhealthy anti-saving mythology, causing “undersaving on a massive scale” among the western nations, especially the United States. Moreover, “Keynes is in large measure responsible for the extreme short-term focus of modern politics, of modern economics, and of modern business … Short-run, clever, brilliant economics — and short-run, clever, brilliant politics — have become bankrupt.”

The management guru is also discouraged by today’s popular schools of economics, including the monetarists and the New Classical school. They too ignore entrepreneurship, uncertainty and disequilibrium. Drucker calls for the “next economics” to be “microeconomic and centered on supply,” not aggregate demand, and should emphasize productivity and capital formation.”

Contemporary Austrian economics seems very much like Drucker’s vision of the “next economics.” Somewhat surprisingly, Drucker’s writings do not mention the work of today’s Austrians, like Murray Rothbard, Israel Kirzner and Roger Garrison. When I asked him his opinion of contemporary Austrians, he told me that he was not familiar with their writings. He had not heard of Kirzner’s major work, Competition and Entrepreneurship, even though Kirzner and Drucker both taught at NYU in the sixties.15

Drucker’s favorite economist is Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian-born Harvard economist. In a 1956 article, Drucker advocates privatization of government services as a way to reduce a bloated bureaucracy. Indeed, Drucker claims he invented the term, calling it “reprivatization” in 1969.

“Modern Prophets: Schumpeter or Keynes?,” he clearly sides with Schumpeter, predicting that of these “two greatest economists of this century … it is Schumpeter who will shape the thinking … on economic theory and economic policy for the rest of this century, if not for the next thirty or fifty years”16 Drucker likes Schumpeter’s emphasis on dynamic disequilibrium and innovation by entrepreneurs who engage in “creative destruction.” In his 1985 book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, he emphasizes the impact of technological change, innovation, the unexpected and new knowledge on business and the world economy.

But, of course, Schumpeter was an enfante terrible and renegade from the Austrian school as it developed under Mises and Hayek. In this sense, Drucker fits more into the Schumpeterian mode, although he does not share Schumpeter’s pessimism about the future of capitalism.

In the final analysis, Peter Drucker is his own man.

Drucker’s mind is like a rough diamond, providing flashes of insight at every turn. He is able to analyze complex subjects so that his readers and clients catch Drucker’s vision, seeing the essential simplicity behind the apparent chaos.

Sooner or later, every student of business discovers Peter Drucker. Now it is time for economists and social scientists to discover him too.


1 Tony H. Bonaparte, Peter Drucker: Contributions to Business Enterprise (New
York: NYU Press, 1970), p. 23.

2 Peter F. Drucker, Preparing Tomorrow’s Business Leaders Today (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1969), p. 290.

3 Drucker, The Unseen Revolution (New York: Harper 6r Row, 1976), pp. 134-35, 168.

4 Quoted in John J. Tarrant, Drucker: The Man Who invented the Corporate Society (Boston: Cahners Books, 1976), p. 30.

5 Drucker, The Landmarks of Tomorrow, p. 264.

6 Paul H. Weaver, The Suicidal Corporation: How Big Business Fails America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), p. 18.

7 See Drucker’s autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander (New York: Harper k Row, 1979), p. 50. In an interview in 1991, Drucker told me that on the few occasions they met, Mises was always depressed. “He was one of the most miserable men I ever met.”

8 Peter F. Drucker, The Age of Discontinuity (New York: Harper k Row, 1969), p· 212

9 ibid., p. 234.

10 Drucker, The New Realities (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), p. 215.

11 Drucker, The Landmarks of Tomorrow (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), p. 249.

12 Drucker, The Frontiers of Management (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), p. 13. 13 Drucker, The Unseen Revolution, pp. 114-15.

14 Drucker, Toward the Next Economics and Other Essays (New York: Harper k Row. 1981), pp.1-21.

15 Israel M. Kirzner, Competition and Entrepreneurship (University of Chicago Press, 1973).

16 The Frontiers of Management, p. 104.

Oscar Shrugged

LIBERTY – The First Galt’s Gulch Film Festival
Special report from the First International Libertarian Film Festival.

By Mark Skousen

GALT’S GULCH, COLORADO–What better location for the first libertarian film festival than Atlas Shrugged‘s Atlantis, the hidden valley high in the Rockies to which the world’s most productive individualists repaired when they went on strike?

Ragnar Danneskjold, the philosopher turned pirate, was the first to suggest the idea. “Gentlemen, we’ve been stuck here in this boring place for over 30 years, and the world still hasn’t begged us to return.” He closed the book he was reading, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, and stood up. “Fellow libertarians, or classical liberals, or Objectivists, or whatever we are, I’m sick and tired of sitting around reading philosophic tomes and self-help manuals. Let’s have a film festival! Every night we’ll see a different picture.”

Francisco d’Anconia, the industrialist turned playboy turned revolutionist, seconded the motion. “Great idea, Rag! If I hear one more note from Richard Halley’s Fifth Concerto…”

It was the first time in years that everyone had agreed on anything. John Galt, puffing madly on a gold cigarette, insisted that each film be strictly benevolent and life affirming in nature. “Our standards must be objective!” he shouted. “A is A!”

Word quickly spread, and Galt’s band of industrialists, scientists, doctors, and philosophers met at Midas Mulligan’s private theater the next evening. His library consisted of several thousand films; most of them pirated by Ragnar Danneskjold. The theater was a cozy little screening room that held approximately 50 guests. Surrounding the theater were photographs and posters of famous stars, including Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Farrah Fawcett (signed “Please, Ayn, let me play Dagny”).

By 7:00, the place was packed. Luminaries included industrialist Hank Rearden, oil magnate Ellis Wyatt, composer Richard Halley, movie actress Kay Ludlow, and Dr Thomas Hendricks. The last to appear was Dagny Taggart escorted by John Galt. She was still in an arm sling, recovering from another airplane accident. “I’m completely helpless without you, John,” she whispered, staring dreamily into his blue eyes. “I’11 pretend you never said that,” Galt responded, blowing smoke in her face.

Ragnar Danneskjold started things off. To qualify as a libertarian film, he said, a movie should offer protagonists who are rugged individualists and non-conformists, questioning the rules of society. They must be independent thinkers who unabashedly support their own self-interest and are reluctant to meddle in the affairs of others. Naturally, they will be skeptical of organized religion. Libertarian heroes should be uncompromising defenders of laissez-faire capitalism. They should champion the right to pursue the creation of wealth without guilt. Finally, they must oppose state power in all its forms, including the evils and injustices of war.

“Given these qualities, it may not surprise you to learn that most libertarian films have unhappy endings,” he warned the audience.

“Isn’t that a contradiction?” asked Rearden. “Don’t we believe in a benevolent, life-affirming universe?” The others remained silent.

Ragnar announced that he had uncovered a dozen films in the Atlantis library that in his judgment contained libertarian themes. A film was shown each night, followed by discussion and sometimes-heated debate.

First Night: Shenandoah (1965), 105 min., color. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. Starring Jimmy Stewart, Doug McClure, Katharine Ross, Patrick Wayne, and George Kennedy.

“This is a superb film that contains all the libertarian themes,” asserted Ragnar.

The storyline: The Andersons are hardworking, honest, independent farmers minding their own business, when the Civil War breaks out. The father (Jimmy Stewart) is a widower who honors his wife’s last request to attend church every Sunday and to say grace at dinner every night. While Anderson is skeptical of religion, he believes in honoring a contract, whether verbal or written. His libertarian prayer is a classic:

“Lord, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed and harvested it, and we cooked the harvest; it wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank the Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

This prayer is repeated at the end of the movie, but it seems rather hollow after the Andersons have suffered the pains of war.

The Andersons are anti-war, anti-draft, and anti-state. They are Virginians, so they won’t support the North, yet they don’t own slaves, so they refuse to fight for the South. They don’t believe in the draft, although they are free to volunteer: “My sons don’t belong to the state.” They don’t believe in the government: “We never asked anything of the state, and we don’t figure we owe anything to it either.” They are anti-war: “Like all wars, the undertakers are winning it. The politicians talk about the glory of it, the old men will talk about the need of it. … The soldiers, they just want to go home. ” They are isolationists:

“They’re on our land?” asks Mr. Anderson.

“No,” responds a visiting Confederate officer.

“Then it doesn’t concern us.

“When are you going to take this war seriously?”

“This war is not mine.”

The audience greeted this dialogue with thunderous applause. “Bravo!” shouted Hank Rearden.

When Federal agents come on the Andersons’ property to confiscate their horses, using authority granted by an Act of Congress, one of the Anderson boys asks his dad, “What does confiscation mean, Pa?” He answers, “Stealing.” The Andersons refuse to turn over the horses and a fight ensues. The federal agents are driven off. Eventually, the Andersons feel obligated to enter the war when the youngest son is taken prisoner by the Northerners. At the end of the film, they get a taste of the horrors of war. Two sons are killed and a daughter-in-law is brutally assaulted.

“In short,” Ragnar summarized at the end, “it is nearly impossible to escape the evils of war, even if you try to mind your own business.”

No one could argue with that, and the film festival adjourned with everyone giving Shenandoah five stars.

Second Night: The Americanization of Emily (1964), 117 min., black & white. Directed by Arthur Hiller. Starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, James Coburn, and Melvyn Douglas. Screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky.

The second film was more controversial.

“This is the best anti-war movie ever made,” proclaimed Richard Halley.

“How can you consider cowardice a moral imperative?” Again, it was Rearden who spoke.

At issue was the personal philosophy of Charlie Madison (James Garner). The story is about  “dog-robbers,” personal valets to American generals and admirals, in Britain during World War II. The plot focuses on the relationship between American Commander Madison, personal assistant to Admiral Jessup, and Emily, a British Navy staff member. Madison is a promiscuous opportunist who has no interest in the war and is, in fact, a complete cynic. Emily (Julie Andrews), on the other hand, represents the traditional view — that the Allies are fighting an honorable and virtuous war against the evil Axis and that all good citizens and soldiers must be willing to sacrifice for the good of the war. When Charlie offers Emily some Hershey candy bars (unavailable to the general public), she refuses. When he makes advances, she slaps him. “I think it’s profane to enjoy this war,” she tells Charlie. She notes that Charlie does whatever is necessary, including bribery, to get his way or provide black-market goods (filet mignon) and services (prostitution) for his admiral. “You’re a complete rascal,” she says. In response, Charlie calls Emily a “prig. ”

“This film reminded me of the book, Overpaid, Oversexed, and Over Here,” commented Rearden. “It’s a book about American GIs in World War II Britain. I’d hardly call them heroes. Does Charlie Madison have any scruples, any admirable qualities?”

“Yes, I’11 defend him,” Richard Halley said. “Charlie Madison is to be honored for his eloquent condemnation of war, the stupidity of war. Besides, I like the music.”

In response to Emily’s self-righteous stance, Madison states, “I’ve had Germans and Italians tell me how politically ingenuous we are, but we haven’t managed a Hitler or Mussolini yet. This war … is the result of 2,000 years of European greed, barbarism, superstition, and stupidity. Don’t blame it on our Coca-Cola bottles.” In a conversation with Emily’s mother, he declares, “I’m not sentimental about war. I see nothing noble in widows.”

“What are your religious views?” Emily’s mother asks.

“I’m a practicing coward. ”

Madison condemns war. “We must resist honoring the institution of war. … We must condemn the traditional heroism of self-sacrificing soldiers.” Rather, Madison elevates selfishness and self-preservation as supreme virtues. “It’s not greed and ambition that makes wars, it’s goodness. … As long as valor remains a virtue, we shall have soldiers.”

Later he proclaims the value of an amoral lifestyle: “Life isn’t good or bad or true, it’s merely factual. It’s sensual, it’s alive…. I want to know what I am, not what I should be.” As he leaves Emily, he tells her that he wants to be remembered as one “unregenerately eating a Hershey bar. ”

Most of the audience roared with approval. Dagny stood up in the darkened room, and it was her lips that said, “He is the ideal man!” John Galt remained silent.

In the end, Emily is “Americanized.” She adopts his philosophy regarding war. She goes to bed with him. Speaking fondly of Charlie’s memory, she says, “We no longer take pride in death in this house. What was admirable about Charlie was his sensation of life, his cowardly, selfish, greedy appreciation of life.”

As the applause died down, Rearden took exception to Charlie Madison’s character. “Despite Madison’s eloquent condemnation of war, what about Charlie himself? Is his denunciation of war simply a justification of his cowardice? The Andersons in Shenandoah were never chicken. They were willing to fight for what they believed in. Moreover, when he miraculously survives Normandy, will Madison be faithful to his bride? Or will he remain a wheeler-dealer in civilian life? Libertarianism must not be equated with a libertine lifestyle! Liberty does not mean license! Charlie Madison is not my kind of hero.”

But even as Rearden spoke, the audience was giving The Americanization of Emily a standing ovation.

Third Night: Hombre (1967), 111 min., color. Directed by Martin Ritt. Starring Paul Newman, Fredric March, and Richard Boone.

“I saw this movie years ago,” commented Midas Mulligan. “Hombre is my favorite western.”

The storyline: John Russell (Paul Newman) is an Apache-raised “hombre” returning to a white man’s world. Russell is not afraid to defend his honor or to use a gun.

“He’s not a coward like Charlie Madison,” yelled Hank Rearden.

“Hush!” shouted Quentin Daniels, clutching a bag of popcorn in one hand and a cigarette in another.

Russell doesn’t believe in getting involved in other people’s affairs. When a gunslinger threatens a man, demanding his stagecoach ticket, Russell does nothing to help the innocent man. After the event, a witness turns to Russell and says, “You should have done something.”
“Wasn’t my business.”
“But if he had taken your ticket?”
“He didn’t.”
“That soldier would have helped you.”
“I didn’t ask him for any. … I didn’t feel like bleeding for him, and even if it isn’t all right with you.”

On the other hand, Russell, raised by Apaches, defends the rights of Indians. “They live where they don’t want to live.” In the beginning of the film, when a cowboy insults a fellow Indian, he hits him with the butt of his gun.

Hombre does not live by the rules of gentlemen and society. He is an outsider. He feels no obligation to assist other passengers on the stagecoach when they are robbed and left helpless. He shoots two of the robbers, one armed, the other unarmed. He takes off immediately, leaving the others behind complaining that “we are all together. ” They finally catch up with him.

“Now that’s my kind of libertarian,” exclaimed Midas Mulligan. His eyes were wistful again.

When the remaining robbers return to exchange a hostage for money, Russell is uncooperative. They threaten to shoot the hostage. Hombre is undisturbed.
“All right, shoot her…. She’s nothing to me.
“What about the others!”
“They say what they want.

Russell has a code of ethics, however. He keeps the saddlebags of bank notes, which had been stolen from the Indians, not for himself, but to be returned to the Indians, the rightful owners.

At the end of the film there’s a stalemate between the robbers and the passengers. Everyone except Russell turns out to be a coward, unwilling to exchange the money for the hostage. Finally, the stalemate is resolved when Russell takes the risk and sacrifices himself. His heroic, selfless act results in his demise. He is killed.

“You see what happens when men abandon their self-interest and sacrifice for humanity? Is that what you call virtue?” It was John Galt who spoke, and three hours later he was still speaking. The others remained silent.

Fourth Night: Cool Hand Luke (1967), 126 min., color. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Starring Paul Newman and George Kennedy. Screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank R. Pierson, based on the novel by Donn Pearce.

Ragnar introduced the film, another Paul Newman appearance as a nonconformist libertarian. “In this case, the film tells the tragic — no, I mean the benevolent and life-affirming story of an individualist who, like many freedom loving souls, has tremendous potential yet fails to achieve it.”

“I’ve never planned anything in my life,” comments Lucas Jackson (Newman). His record indicates that he started as a buck private in the army, earned a Purple Heart in World War II, yet ended his stint the same way he started — as a buck private. Why did he tear off the heads of parking meters in a small town, landing him in a prison camp? “Settling an old score,” he responds, implying an act of revenge against the state, perhaps motivated by the war years. Lucas Jackson’s problem is that he can’t conform to official authority, which he characterizes as “lots of guys laying down a lot of rules and regulations.” The rules are often bureaucratic and nonsensical. When Luke is put into the one-man box overnight, after his mother passes away, a guard tells him, “Sorry, Luke, I’m just doing my job.” Luke responds, “Calling it a job don’t make it right.”

In prison, Luke quickly becomes a leader. He’s the best poker player among the prisoners. He meets incredible challenges (“I can eat 50 eggs”) and never gives up, even when he’s beat (the boxing match).

Luke doesn’t blame others for his problems. “What I’ve done I’ve done myself” he tells his distraught mother. “Man’s got to go his own way.” Luke must work out his own salvation. But the unrepentant prisoner is skeptical of God and religion. He goes into a church alone. “Anybody here?” he yells. There is no answer. Life is unfair, he concludes.

“You’ve got to learn the rules,” he is told. But Luke is a social misfit–opposed not to ordinary people, but to the state. “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” says the warden in a famous line. Luke disrupts the state prison system and pushes state officials to the limit of tolerance. Finally, they destroy him.

“I remember someone like that,” said Hank. “Back at Rearden Steel.”

“I’m not sure I understand this film’s ideological context.”

The hesitant voice was that of Dr. Thomas Hendricks, the famous surgeon. “In Hombre, the libertarian is killed when he finally comes to the rescue of someone who needs help. In Cool Hand Luke, just the opposite occurs: the libertarian is killed when he refuses to conform to society. Libertarians can’t win no matter what.”

Galt’s eyes narrowed. “We never said our lot would be easy,” he said. “Here, Doc, have a cigarette.”

The evening’s performance ended with a question. “Which actor has done more libertarian movies than anybody else?” asked Ragnar.

Nominations included Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, and Farrah Fawcett.

“Sorry, you’re all wrong,” Ragnar said. “It’s Paul Newman! Tomorrow we’ll be seeing his third libertarian film.”

Fifth Night: Sometimes A Great Notion (1971), 114 min., color. Directed by Paul Newman. Starring Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, Michael Sarrazin, and Richard Jaeckel. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey.

“If you think last night’s film puts libertarians in a bad light,” commented Ragnar, “Wait until you see this evening’s picture. You’ll see what Paul Newman really thinks of libertarians.”

“Newman isn’t a libertarian!” yelled Kay Ludlow, the movie actress. “He isn’t even a good actor!”

“Perhaps so,” Ragnar replied. “As a matter of fact, in this film the Henry Stamper family, imbued with the libertarian philosophy, is placed in a highly unfavorable light.” The lights went down and the film began.

Henry Fonda plays an irascible, stubborn father who lives by the family motto, “never give an inch.” He heads an independent family logging operation in Oregon that is anti-union, anti-socialist, and anti-feminist (the women have little or no influence, and hardly ever talk). But they are hard working men of their word who don’t violate their contracts. Consequently, they become scabs when the rest of the community joins in a union strike.

The Stamper family is against anyone telling them what to do, whether a “commie, pinko” government or a threatening labor union. Hank (the oldest son, played by Newman) sardonically talks back to the union leaders: “You’re going to tell us when to stop cutting, who to sell to, and pat our little bottoms and tell us what good little boys we are.

In the final analysis, the family never gives an inch, but as a result Hank loses a father, a brother, and a wife. He also fails to help a theater-owner who later commits suicide. Despite paying this high price, Hank is defiant to the end.

“You must never compromise your principles,” declared John Galt at the end of the movie, “no matter what the price.”

“I’m afraid the price is too high for me.” Everyone turned and stared at the face of Francisco d’Anconia.

Sixth Night: Brazil (1985), 131 min, color. Directed by Terry Gilliam. Starring Robert De Niro, Jonathan Pryce, and Rim Greist. Screenplay by Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown.

“This surrealistic story is the best dystopian film I’ve ever seen,” declared Ragnar. “The plot, full of black comedy, is far more entertaining and exciting than the stereotyped attempt to put George Orwell’s classic on the silver screen. The cinematography and production designs are dazzling. It’s a visual feast of imagination and creativity.”

Instead of being ruthlessly efficient, the central authority in Brazil gropes incompetently through a nightmare of paperwork, unreliable services, and a bloated and incredibly complex infrastructure. Nothing works — a vivid reminder of the old Soviet Union. Despite the government’s hoard of advanced weapons, the ubiquitous spy machines, and federal police galore, the underground survives and even thrives. The black market engineer (De Niro), referred to by state operatives as a “terrorist,” is never caught. However, a government clerk (Pryce), who holds fast to his ideals and his Dream Girl (Greist), is tortured and destroyed.

“Brazil paints a picture of the future that is much more believable than Nineteen Eighty-four,” Ragnar commented at the end of the presentation.

“Even more believable than Atlas Shrugged?” The darkened theater was too thick with smoke for anyone to recognize who said it.

Ragnar’s eyes narrowed, but he continued. “The storyline includes no-knock break-ins by federal SWAT teams, national ID cards required for all citizens, constant monitoring through X-ray machines, everyone living in tall apartment complexes, etc. But you also witness bureaucratic mix-ups, thriving black markets, and underground opposition. You can see it coming. It’s eerie.”

“Eerier than Atlas Shrugged?” But the theater was still too thick with smoke.

Seventh Night: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), 102 min., color. Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley. Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Patric Knowles.

Ragnar bravely introduced the film. “Several pictures have been made about Sir Robin of Loxley, the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, including a recent effort by Kevin Costner, but nothing compares to the original, dynamic Errol Flynn version. He’s my kind of hero!”

“He’s the ‘hero’ that we tried to kill!” It was Francisco’s voice that protested.

“I remember that movie,” said Midas Mulligan.

Francisco remained silent.

Robin Hood’s oath, “To take from the rich and give to the poor,” sounds more like standard fare of the Clintonistas than a libertarian creed. But, like many libertarian heroes, Sir Robin is misunderstood–even by Ayn Rand. The real story, clearly revealed in this film version, is that Sir Robin of Loxley is not simply an outlaw who stole from the rich, but a fighter against unjust taxation and other acts of oppression by the forces of the state, Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Conforming to the legend, the twelfth-century Norman authorities impose unbearable fares on the Saxons, beating and torturing them, raping their women, and confiscating their property when they refuse to pay. A law is passed making it a capital crime to kill the king’s deer in Sherwood Forest, even if the hunter is starving. Robin’s band of merry men oppose this oppression, and their efforts to “steal from the rich” are in reality aimed at recapturing the tax monies that are rightfully theirs in the first place. The bold rascal Robin Hood isn’t a reckless outlaw, but a brave patriot. “I’II organize revolt,” he proclaims before Prince John and his entourage. “I’II never rest until I strike a blow for freedom.”

“You speak treason,” asserts Maid Marian.

“Fluently,” replies Sir Robin.

“There’s only one problem with this picture,” muttered Lawrence Hammond, the automobile magnate, glancing warily at Midas Mulligan, who had saved Hammond’s non-competitive business with a well-timed loan of a hundred pounds of gold. “What does Robin Hood do with the tax money he seizes? Does he keep it himself or does he return it to its rightful owners?”

“Better ask Ragnar about that,” said Mulligan. Ragnar had recently opened his own bank.

In this version, King Richard the Lion Hearted is being held for ransom in Europe, and the merry men decide to use the money to pay it off Richard is viewed as a benevolent king who ousts Prince John and reestablishes peace and liberty when he returns. Yet this is the same King Richard who has left England to lead the Crusades against the “infidels.”

Dagny ground her cigarette into her popcorn. “This is an unjustifiable act of religious intolerance and imperialism, an act that no libertarian can justify,” she declared. “Under these circumstances, The Adventures of Robin Hood, however well-performed, cannot be viewed as an entirely satisfactory libertarian film.”

“Aw, pipe down,” said John Galt. “I’11 do the talking in this family.”

“All right,” replied Ragnar, “if you don’t like this version of Robin Hood, you still might enjoy tomorrow night’s alternative. Stay tuned!”

Eighth Night: The Mark of Zorro (1940), 93 min, black & white. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Starring Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, and Linda Darnell.

“The story of Zorro has been produced on the silver screen numerous times, but nothing beats the 1940 version with Tyrone Power,” said Ragnar.

“That’s your opinion,” said John Galt.

Diego Vega, son of a rich plantation owner, returns from Spain to learn that his honorable father has been deposed as Alcalde of Los Angeles and replaced by tyrants who “make the people more industrious” by imposing heavy taxes (shades of Bill Clinton). Those who can’t pay are tortured and jailed (shades of Janet Reno). His father is an old traditionalist, a stickler for law and order, and refuses to fight back. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.

But the young, debonair, and tepid Diego becomes the brave, resourceful outlaw Zorro at night, recapturing the gold that the rulers have stolen from the “peons.” What does he do with the money?

“That’s what I’d like to know!” exclaimed Midas Mulligan. Ragnar remained silent.

“This gold was wrung from the peons, he tells the local padre. “It’s up to us to restore it to them.”

The story ends when the peons, under Zorro’s leadership, storm the mayor’s headquarters and reappoint Diego’s father as Alcalde.

“Fantastic!” exclaimed Midas Mulligan. “Clearly, Zorro does not suffer from bad motives, as is the case with Robin Hood — and some other people I might mention. I give The Mark of Zorro five stars.”

Ninth Night: Cash McCall (1959), 102 min., color. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Starring James Garner, Natalie Wood, and E.G. Marshall. Based on a novel by Cameron Hawley.

Ragnar stood in front of the crowded theater. “Attention all you unrepentant greedy capitalists Hank Rearden, Ellis Wyatt, Lawrence Hammond, Dwight Sanders! This is your kind of show!”

“And you too, Midas!” shouted Francisco. Francisco had a childlike, benevolent, life-affirming innocence, despite his enormous debts.

Cash McCall (Garner) is the quintessential misunderstood business tycoon. As a takeover artist and financier, a cross between Howard Hughes and Michael Milken, he is feared and loathed by the public, the media, his business partners — even school kids, who have made up a nursery rhyme about him. He is viewed as a vulgar, fast buck, unscrupulous, cold-hearted robber baron that takes over companies, lays off workers, and sells the enterprises at a hefty profit. At the beginning of the picture, McCall is being investigated by the IRS for tax evasion. Later he is accused by his fiancée, Lory Austen (Natalie Wood), of being unfaithful.

“I’m a thoroughly vulgar character, Cash McCall says, playing on his public image. “I enjoy making money. “So do I!” said Kay Ludlow.

“When the hell did you ever make any money?” asked Dagny. “You wouldn’t have gotten to your auditions if I hadn’t given you a railroad pass!” “Aw, pipe down!” interjected John Galt. “Give ‘er a break, will ya’?” Kay Ludlow smiled.

But the reality of the man is completely different from appearances. Cash McCall is, in fact, an efficient, shrewd businessman with a high standard of personal and business ethics. He admits that he is not a “company man.” As an independent financier, he likes to “buy old companies, whip them into shape, and sell them.” But there is nothing shady about him. He honors his commitments and doesn’t try to hide things. He gives potential sellers a chance to get out of his deals. Cash has an opportunity to take advantage of Lory when they first meet, but refrains.

Unlike many other libertarian films, this one actually has a happy ending.

“That’s the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen,” said Kay Ludlow. Dagny remained silent. She was remembering all the times John had refused to take advantage of her.

Tenth Night: Ben Hur (1959), 212 min., color. Directed by William Wyler. Starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Hugh Griffith, and Martha Scott.

“How in the devil could you include a religious film, Rag?” demanded John Galt. “You never really were one of us, were you?”

“But it’s so romantic,” said Kay Ludlow. “And so realistic, too!”

“Well, maybe you’re right,” said John Galt. “It might be benevolent and life-affirming.”

Dagny Taggart suddenly stood up. “Religion is the opiate of the masses. I’m leaving!” She put out her cigarette and exited the theater, followed by Francisco.

“Have an open mind,” pleaded Ragnar, oblivious to John and Kay’s increasingly harmonious ideological trends. “This movie actually has an underlying libertarian theme.”
The hero, Prince Juda Ben Hur (Heston), is the wealthiest man in Jerusalem, having obtained his wealth honorably as a merchant. He treats his servants as friends and stewards, not as slaves. When Ben Hur is confronted by the new Roman commander Messala (Boyd), his boyhood friend, he defends his country’s right to be free from foreign oppression: “Withdraw your legions, give us our freedom.” Ben Hur is opposed to violence, but will not turn informer and reveal the names of dissident Jews. “They are not criminals — they’re patriots” he explains.

Messala offers Ben Hur power and protection if he will betray his people, but he cannot be bought. “I’d rather be a fool than a traitor.

Ben-Hur has personal integrity. He refuses to kill Messala in cold blood, even though he has the opportunity. He becomes a Roman citizen when he saves the life of the Roman fleet commander Quintus Arias. But he returns his adopted father’s ring after coming back to Jerusalem. He will not take part in the Roman policies of slavery and tyranny.

“Still, he is a thorough-going, practicing Jew, a member of an irrational faith,” Rearden asserted after the film was over.

“It is the only thing that keeps him alive,” explained Ragnar. “The Jewish demand for revenge. It’s life-affirming.”

“Religion denies an objective, rational world — and requires faith in things you cannot see or feel,” insisted Galt. “That’s right,” Kay murmured.

“Granted, Juda Ben-Hur is a true believer in God, but he bases his belief on real evidence — such as the event at Nazareth where he is miraculously given water by the carpenter. That’s one of the most moving scenes ever filmed. And note how skeptical he is about the new Christian religion. He does not believe until he actually sees a miracle his mother and sister are healed of leprosy. Only then do bitterness and hatred leave his soul, allowing him to become a happy man again.”

The debate continued into the night in the midst of a smoke-filled room, although John, Dagny, Francisco, and Kay were no longer present.

Eleventh Night: Dark of the Sun (1968), U.K, 101 min., color. Directed by Jack Cardiff. Starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Yvette Mimieux, and Kenneth More. Based on the novel by Wilbur Smith.

Ragnar Danneskjold was excited about the eleventh night’s presentation. “It’s my favorite movie — an action film full of violence, intrigue, and romance!”

“Better than Rambo, Dirty Harry, and Rooster Cogburn?”

“Much better!”

This is the story of four mercenaries, men who fight and die for anybody, for any cause, anywhere — if the price is right. In this story, they hunt diamonds, they hunt cannibals, and they hunt each other. Ostensibly, they are paid to rescue a community deep in war-torn Congo under threat of attack by vicious rebels, flesh-hungry cannibals; but they also have a clandestine objective of bringing out a load of priceless diamonds. The action is fast-paced, the music is haunting, and the train scenes ale unforgettable.

“This is my kind of life,” proclaimed Ragnar.

“I’d love to be on that train right now,” exclaimed Dagny Taggart.

“Me too,” said Francisco, taking the empty seat next to her.

The mercenaries are men without hope who discover that it is never too late. One finds the strength to die like a man, although he has lived his whole life in fear. Another rediscovers self-respect and the chance to start over again, and the third (Bruce Curry, a role magnificently performed by Rod Taylor) finds that he can love again. Still, the story line ends in violence and tragedy. He who lives by the sword must die by the sword. The question is, can there be any salvation for men who commit the vilest of sins?

“I told you most libertarian films have sad endings,” commented Ragnar.

“Can we expect anything different for us?” Richard Halley asked. Everyone knew the composition of his new opera, Frank O’Connor, was not going well.

Twelfth Night: The Fountainhead (1949), 114 min., black & white. Directed by King Vidor. Starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, and Raymond Massey. Screenplay by Ayn Rand, from her novel.

Everyone applauded when Ragnar announced the festival’s last film. “It’s about time!” said Dagny Taggart.

“It’s about time!” added Francisco d’Anconia.

Ragnar agreed. “A libertarian film festival would not be complete without showing the movie version of Ayn Rand’s philosophical novel about Howard Roark, the iconoclastic architect,” he said.

Roark, like Van Gogh or Michelangelo, refuses to give in to popular artistic design: “I don’t care what they think of architecture, or anything else.” Roark’s standards are so demanding and provincial that he has great difficulty in finding work. “I don’t have clients in order to build, I build in order to have clients.”
“I don’t get it” Quentin Daniels interrupted. “I thought capitalism works because the producer responds to consumer needs. Is Howard Roark anticapitalist?”

“You have a lot to learn, young man,” responded Galt. “Roark sets the highest standard. If the public doesn’t buy it, he will do something else — just as all of you are doing other things here in Atlantis.”

“That’s right!” said Kay Ludlow.

“And what are you doing, my dear?” inquired Dagny.

“The Fountainhead is supposed to be symbolic,” Richard Halley added. “It’s about the moral strength of the individual against the mediocrity of the masses.”

“That’s right — mediocrity,” said Dagny.

“That’s right — mediocrity,” said Francisco.

Roark is the unbridled individualist, the “supreme egoist,” opposed to all forms of self-sacrifice or charity: “I don’t give or ask for help.” The final speech of Howard Roark, “The Individual vs. the Collective,” is delivered with great fervor.

“In a true libertarian society, there would be no government welfare system, that I know,” said Hank Rearden. “But are there to be no charitable organizations, no churches to help the needy?”

“Of course not, Hank. What’s got into you anyway? You’re starting to sound like your wife!” Kay smiled smugly at Galt’s words.

“It’s obvious that Hank is right!” shouted Dagny, snuffing out two cigarettes.

Francisco d’Anconia was disturbed about another aspect of the film. “Frankly, fellow libertarians, the sex in this movie stinks!  Dominique Francon appears incapable of showing real feeling and love. Sex with Roark is impersonal — only afterwards does she discover who he is. Who would want that kind of relationship?”

Dagny looked nervous as Francisco continued talking. “Can you imagine spending weeks alone in an empty country house? What a bore! To Dominique, freedom is empty; it is to want nothing, to depend on nothing. If this film were in color, there would still be no warmth.”

“Oh, who the hell wants color?” Dagny interjected.

Ragnar interrupted. “You might be interested in knowing that Miss Rand didn’t like the outcome of the film either, even though she wrote the screenplay. She wanted Greta Garbo to play the part of Dominique, and she hoped Frank Lloyd Wright would do the architectural designs. Some rank amateur produced some horrible modernistic work instead.”

“You mean she compromised her principles?” asked Rearden. No one replied.

On the thirteenth night, the audience gathered by the light of kerosene lamps. “How romantic!” said Kay Ludlow, but Galt did not reply. Dagny, too, remained silent.

After protracted debate about the morality of voting, an informal poll showed Cash McCall barely topping Shenandoah for Best Libertarian Picture. Paul Newman was voted Best Actor and Farrah Fawcett won Best Actress in a Future Libertarian Film.

John Galt reluctantly congratulated Ragnar Danneskjold for his choice of movies. “But of course,” he added, “the search for the ideal libertarian film won’t end until Atlas Shrugged has been produced.”

“And we can all play ourselves, Kay Ludlow sighed.

The throng of individualists trailed out into the fresh night air. In the distance could be seen the yellowish sign _ of a gold dollar, hovering high in the valley. A man appeared out of nowhere and approached the house, his glossy eyes looking straight ahead at John Galt.

He asked simply, “Who is Cash McCall?”


No More Political Labels, Please

LIBERTY Magazine

By Mark Skousen

A rose is a rose is a rose. But a conservative is a libertarian is a liberal. When labels confuse rather than clarify, they should be dropped.

RESOLVED: That we use political labels as little as possible when describing
people’s ideologies. When somebody asks me, “Are you a liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? I answer, “What’s the issue?” Categorizing someone’s ideas as either “liberal” or “conservative” is often used to avoid real thinking about actual issues.

I refrain from referring to political positions as either “left” and “right” in my writing. I generally use the word “liberal” to describe a person’s spending habits, as in the case of a “liberal” spender–one who is generous or possibly overly lavish. I also occasionally refer to a person who is open-minded and tolerant of other people’s views as being “liberal” minded. “Conservative” on the other hand, seems best used in the context of investing–I call a person who is prudent and moderate in his choice of investments a “conservative investor” (as opposed to “speculative”)–though it also seems reasonable to describe one who wants to conserve time-honored values as a “conservative.” Not surprisingly, I like to be called “liberal” or “conservative” depending on the issue, the action or the mind-set. I dislike being called either if it is a method for throwing me into a convenient ideological box.

The three main reasons why labels are best avoided in political discussions are: (1) Labels are often an inaccurate description of a person’s or group’s views. (2) Labels often become pejorative terms used in character assassination (3) Labels put people into political boxes and keep them there, preventing individuals from objectively considering alternative opinions and changing their minds.

Obsolescence, Left and Right

The terms “left” and “right” came into use after the French revolution. In the French National Assembly, the “liberals” sat to the left of the president’s chair, the “moderates” in the center, and the “conservatives” to the right. Those on the left were designated “liberals” and “radicals” because they wanted to make major reforms in politics and the economy. Their opponents on the right became “conservatives” and  “reactionaries” because they were aristocratic nationalists who wanted to return to the status quo of the ancien regime. Those in the center were the “moderates” who were looking for a compromise. This political spectrum has often been used in describing the signers of our Declaration of Independence. Still, though Thomas Jefferson has often been called a classical liberal, calling him a left-winger seems out of place.

This dichotomy may have made sense during the American and the French revolutions. But once the principles of freedom and constitutional law were established (in America, at least), the “liberals” gradually became “conservatives” by defending the new status quo of liberty and limited government. Turnabout being fair play, in the 20th century the collectivists who pushed to eliminate economic freedom and expand the role of the state became the “liberals” or “progressives.” Having adopted the favorable titles of “progressive,”  “modern” and  “advanced,” they scorned the opposition as  “right-wing” and  “reactionary.” Thus, in the twisted world of political labeling; what the 19th century liberals supported–free enterprise capitalism and laissez faire government–the 20th-century liberals opposed by pushing for big government and interventionism in the marketplace.

Label confusion has reigned ever since, and the political spectrum has become a rhetorical version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” routine. The 19th century liberal ideals became the policies of some (but by no means all) 20th century conservatives.

Marxists, Communists and other international collectivists became the “radical left,” while the Fascists of the 1930s in Italy and Nazi Germany were designated “right wingers” simply because they opposed the “Reds.” But the only difference in their politics was nationalism vs. internationalism. The fascists were every bit as collectivist as Stalin.

Believers in economic and political liberty had a hard time dealing with label stereotypes in the 1950s. They opposed the New Deal and wanted a return to laissez faire, so they were dubbed “reactionary conservatives.” Because they were ardent “anti-Communists,” they were linked closely with the Fascists and Nazi-era “rightists.” Many conservatives responded by saying they were “old fashioned liberals,” but this didn’t mean anything to anyone in the torrent of nebulous labels.

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I resented these and other pejorative labels. It was nearly impossible to convince anyone of the virtues of free enterprise capitalism, laissez faire government, and opposition to communism if my views were always called “reactionary,”  “old fashioned’ and “Neanderthal.” The conservatives responded in kind by calling the New Deal liberals  “radicals,”  “pseudo progressives’ and “communist sympathizers.”  Only the  “moderates” sounded “responsible,” and depending on their position on an issue, they usually got hit by traffic going both ways. There was a lot of bad blood, and very little sharing of ideas. Conservatives refused to read John Kenneth Galbraith and The Washington Post, and liberals eschewed Milton Friedman and National Review.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the labels became more complex and less enlightening as the political stereotypes began to crack. We now witness dictatorships of the left and the right, market economies of the left and right, revolutions of the left and right, and totalitarianisms of the left and right. We have socialist left-wing parties privatizing public services, and conservative rightwing governments imposing tariffs and higher taxes. We have extreme liberal Democrats supporting deregulation of the airlines and decontrol of natural gas. We have the nation’s most liberal newspaper, The New York Times, coming out against the minimum wage. We have a right-wing anarchocapitalist endorsing radical left-wing land reform in Latin America and legalization of drugs in the United States.

In the Middle East we have right-wing Christians killing left-wing terrorists. Soviet opponents of perestroika and glasnost are called “conservatives” by the American press, as are South African racists. Political analysts are having a devil of a time labeling an old “liberal” publication, The New Republic, because its views are no longer predictable. Politicians are now starting to run as individuals and not as members of a political party. And what’s this about conservative lobbyists joining hands with liberal lobbyists to fight IMF funding? None of this makes sense if we insist on dividing the world into the standard left-right divisions.

But, alas, instead of scrapping the entire phony nomenclature, everyone seems to be making up more labels. There’s the New Right and the Old Right, the Southern Conservative Democrats and the Northern Liberal Democrats, the Neo-Conservatives and the Paleo-Libertarians, the Post-Keynesians, the Neo-Marxists, and the  Neo-Liberals. The list goes on and on, growing like topsy and confusing everyone except the most stalwart who spend all day reading everything from every point on the political compass.

Fortunately, some editors and publishers have recently recognized the misleading and counterproductive nature of labeling and have largely discarded it. Reason magazine is one example. Eschewing ad hominem political tags, Reason analyzes issues on their own merits, not based on who espouses them.

For the Scrap-Heap of History

It’s time to make a change in our political lexicon. The national press and the political analysts need to stop using the outdated and misleading leftwing liberal/right-wing conservative dichotomy. When someone’s philosophy is labeled and compartmentalized, thinking stops and name-calling begins. Once an economist is labeled a Marxist, only the Marxists listen. When a political analyst writes a column called “On the Right,” no one except the “right-wing” faithful reads it. Dividing ideology into camps on two sides of the political spectrum tends to elevate both sides to an equal status, as if both policies hold equal sway and are equally justifiable. Then the moderates whisper, “Perhaps we should compromise!”  We are left with the erroneous impression that “the extreme left is just as bad as the extreme right.” Categorizing philosophies leads toward political nihilism and away from the desire to find the truth.

In short, it is high time that political pundits and the national media put away their cold-war mentality and endorse a new standard where each person stands on individual merit and not in some political box. Left and right, liberal and conservative, radical and reactionary–all are words of the past that divide people. I say scrap them. When adjectives are absolutely necessary, let’s at least try to be more specific. Use adjectives and nouns that are meaningful, accurate and unbiased. If we don’t, the war of political ideas will be decided on the basis of an axiom of my colleague, Larry Abraham: “Those who control the adjectives win.”