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Why You Should Support the Mises Institute

Mises Daily: Monday, December 08, 2003 by

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France is a socialist country, and so is its most important newspaper, Le Monde. When its editors grew concerned over the global rise of the Austrian School and pro-free market ideas, they sent a reporter to spend a week at its source: the Mises Institute. The result was a full-page story about our work and ideas.

For a newspaper, it was pretty fair. At least it recognized the power of ideas to shape history.

As a reader of Mises.org, you recognize the centrality of ideas in history too, which is why I'm asking you to consider supporting the Mises Institute with a year-end contribution to our work. (Click here to do so online.)

Indeed, this year brought new attention to the ideas embodied in the Mises Institute—a welcome advance in times of government omnipotence, when the voices that favor private property, free enterprise, and human liberty are in the minority. 

But not quite as much of a minority. This time last year, political trends were – frankly – terrifying. At least for those of us who believe in liberty. Government was spending and inflating like LBJ's ghost, creating new welfare programs, and marching its troops around in the world. And there seemed to be little opposition.

Those dangers are still with us, of course, but this year, there's a difference: the feds are on the defensive. There is growing outrage at drunken-sailor spending. Protests against government expansion are mounting left and right. And the wars everyone saw as successes turn out to be wildly expensive government programs in themselves.

In state elections, tax increases are going down by landslides. Politicians who rode the government-expansion wave are going down too. The polls suggest that most people think the government is making us less, not more secure, less, not more prosperous. Again, people are willing to say that they do not trust the government to do the right thing.

The governing class and its friends on campus and in the media were sure that the surge of central planning after 9-11 could be made permanent. Not necessarily. Many people are seeing the huge, new bureaucracy running flight security as typical. They take our money, they take our freedom, and they give us nothing in return.

The watchwords of our times are once again private initiative, markets, and enterprise. And just look at trends in education. Disgust at government schools is growing. Homeschooling and private schooling are booming. When they are free to do so, private institutions replace the failures of government operations.

At the Mises Institute, applications for our programs are at an all-time high. Instead of just accepting what they are fed in the official classroom, young people are asking the Institute to provide them a real education.

The leviathan state, so sure-footed and confident last year, is being challenged at every level. It goes to show that there is never good reason to give up hope, and I'm convinced that the forces of freedom will eventually prevail. What's made the difference? Advances in the war of ideas.  

There is a reason governments from time immemorial have tried to censor and even jail dissenters. The tax-eaters are always threatened by unapproved ideas. Dissent, after all, can weaken power. It can even lead to regime change.

Who are the real dissidents today? Those who challenge the omnipotent state, and the Mises Institute is the major educator, publisher, supporter, and promoter of libertarian ideas in the world today. Founded in 1982, the Mises Institute has led the astonishing revival of the Austrian School of economics around the world. But the ideas we encourage and promote do not exist in a vacuum: they are constantly bolstered by government failures and freedom's successes.

To provide the intellectual backup, the Institute publishes journals, supports students, holds conference, and maintains a website that draws more traffic than the UN. Our influence with students, and now even faculty, makes us competitive with the American Economic Association or any government bureaucracy you can name.

Our mission has three parts. The first is scientific. We encourage study and research in the tradition of the Austrian School of economics. Economic and historical truth offers hope for lasting change, even if it doesn't make the headlines.

The second part of our mission deals with human liberty itself. We seek political decentralization, free trade, a sound dollar, amity among nations, inviolate private property, and freedom for the entrepreneur and all of us.

What we oppose is statism, whether it's called Bolshevism, National Socialism, Fascism, New Dealism, or Fabianism. Mussolini hailed his system: "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." Under statism, the intellectuals of freedom must be able to tell the truth, and have a refuge from which to tell it.

This gets to the heart of the third part of our mission: to provide a safe house for the ideas of liberty. Mises depended on such an institution at a crucial point in his life. He was known all over the Continent for his pioneering contributions to economic theory, his personal integrity, his tenacity, his love of liberty, and his dogged opposition to all forms of despotism.

As the storm clouds gathered in the early 1930s, he realized that Austria would fall to the Nazis. Then in 1934, a letter arrived. It was from an independent academic institute in Switzerland, offering Mises a position. It meant a two-thirds cut in pay, but it also meant sanctuary.

He left immediately for Geneva, and for six years, until he emigrated to America, he worked very hard. The result was Human Action, the greatest economic treatise of the 20th century. Meanwhile, the Nazi armies did arrive in Austria, marched to Mises's apartment, and stole everything, including all the books and papers he had not taken with him to Geneva.

People ask what would have become of the idea of liberty had Human Action not been written. But another question is just as important: what would have become of Mises had that institute not existed?  

When I think of the value of the Mises Institute to the world, I think of the scientific work we support and the human liberty we believe in. But I also think of our predecessors in the 1930s, and the need for a sanctuary today.

Independent sectors of thought have never been more essential. Instead of taking government money, or otherwise being hooked into the state machinery, we go full-speed ahead with our work, which is in more demand than ever. In that, we need your help.

At the Mises Institute, you will find seminars in history, economics, philosophy, and law. You will find teaching conferences that students clamor to attend. You will find faculty members writing wonderful books and articles. You will find an astonishing library filled with works that regular academic libraries deem too old-fashioned.

But the message of the Mises Institute is not contained within our walls. Instead, our students go on to receive advanced degrees and become teachers themselves. Our publications, journals, and books are distributed the world over. Our electronic media reach every corner of the globe.

Never before has the network of freedom-minded intellectuals been larger. Unlike Mises and his students after World War II, our scholars and students do not work in isolation, but rather enjoy colleagues, publication outlets, and professional conferences.

That's why Mises wanted an independent institute for liberty. In a private memo circulated in the 1960s, he urged friends and colleagues to help him create just such an organization. He died in 1973, nine years before its creation. He did not know that it would bear his name.

How thrilled Mises would have been. His widow, Margit von Mises, was our chairman. F.A. Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, and Ron Paul were founding advisors. Professors from around the world joined the Institute staff of adjunct scholars. Above all, Murray N. Rothbard worked tirelessly as head of academic affairs.

There was another essential ingredient, of course: men and women like you, who have helped the Institute make such great strides in its first two decades. 

This is important because the future of liberty depends on the ideas people hold. If the ideology of statism is permitted to have a monopoly in academia and the public mind, despotism is inevitable. But by supporting and advancing the ideas of liberty, we give civilization a fighting chance, even for victory.

Mises was one of a kind, but today, there are hundreds, even thousands, of professors and students who share his ideals and moral courage. Through the Mises Institute, they are given a home and the backing they need to carry on their work.

Thanks to the sort of help leaders like you give the Institute, we are able to be a life-support system for the worldwide libertarian movement, the top source for scholarship in the Austrian School tradition, the leading publisher of free-market materials, and a promoter of the best new books on history, economics, and philosophy.

Working one-on-one for more than two decades, we have seen the influence of the Institute grow. We've even had to double up on our conferences to meet the demand. In the marketplace of ideas, our ideas are on the march. The journals, the books, the students, the daily work of our faculty and staff, all add up to create something much larger than we ever dreamed all those years ago.

Anyone who works with or for the Mises Institute can confirm that we never set out to build a great institution as an end in itself. The goal, the driving passion, has been to create the conditions for truth to be told, to make available a setting where freedom is valued and practiced.

The times in which we live are a reminder that hard work for liberty yields wonderful fruit. But our mission is far from complete. The forces of statism are always waiting for an opportunity to rob us of the blessings of prosperity and liberty. Mises believed that the best way to defeat them was to say what is true. Against the idea of liberty, he said, the fiercest sword of the despot is finally powerless.

Please help with your most generous contribution. The form on Mises.org makes it easy. Know that in doing so you are assisting the greatest cause of all, that of human freedom itself. Thank you so much.

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Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is founder and president of the Mises Institute. His archive of daily articles is  here. Write him at rockwell@mises.org