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Give Yourself the Gift of Liberty

December 17, 2004

     Today is the day to become a member of the Mises Institute. Annual membership: $40. (Go here for larger gifts)

     As a reader of the Mises Institute's site, you know about the high quality of work we publish. You have helped in promotion, and sending articles and books to others. We appreciate this so very much. In a crowded web world, you have helped make Mises.org the number one most read site of its kind.

     As for our long-term plans, we have a workable strategy, which we sometimes liken to guerilla warfare. Our faculty and staff are highly dedicated. What we have above all else is a fiery message of truth, a great intellectual heritage, and a passion for getting the word out. And now the time has also arrived. Our message of free markets, sound money, peace, and scholarship in the defense of liberty, is getting a hearing on campus and in public life like never before.

     To be sure, many intellectuals and politicians talk about freedom. But at the Mises Institute, our understanding of its meaning is tied to an embrace of secure property rights and a free-market economy with absolutely no government meddling. It is our conviction that there is nothing the government can do that the market cannot do better.

     Or, to put it another way, government messes up everything it touches, achieves the opposite of its stated goals when it attempts a fix, and crowds out private solutions. This means rejecting not only socialism but also Keynesian-style management of the economy — contrary to what is still being taught in most university courses. Our view rejects the idea that bureaucracies, politicians, and courtrooms ought to be permitted to make economic decisions for us and our families, or society as a whole.

     This message of ours has been unchanged since our founding. When we first said it — in books, articles, journals, films, and every other means we could think of — it was criticized as outlandish and unworkable. But that was before the collapse of socialism abroad, the technological revolution of digital technology, and the advent of private communities, private roads, and even private space travel.

     These days, as it turns out, young people are very receptive to the idea of a purely free capitalistic economy. They know that government offers no hope for their future. Politics may have some glamour, but they aspire to private sector positions. And the students who come to us provide the most inspiration: they want to dedicate their talents to scholarship and teaching in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard.

      The Mises Institute started with a simple idea — to rovide a boost for the ideas to which Mises had dedicated his life — and a strong conviction that ideas can make the difference between freedom and despotism. Over time, we have become the key educator, publisher, supporter, and promoter of libertarian ideas in the world today. For we have never stopped challenging the omnipotent state.

     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 (yes, even the gold standard), amity among nations, inviolate private property, and freedom for the entrepreneur, the laborer, and all of us.

     What we oppose is statism, whether it's called Bolshevism, National Socialism, Fascism, Fabianism, or New Dealism. Mussolini hailed his system as meaning: "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 sanctuary.   

      He left immediately for Geneva, and for six years, until he emigrated to America, he worked very hard. The result was the book which was to become 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 — that sanctuary for principled ideas — not existed?  

      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 confined 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, places to publish, and professional conferences.

      And we need your help now more than ever. The times are right. The young are listening. We have the faculty. We have the intellectual backers. We have the facilities. What we need is the financial means — a solid capital base on which to build a permanent series of programs, faculty positions, publications, and communications network. We dream of an endowment that will permit us to plan long term.

       We are a private Institute with no connections to powerful elites; you are our one hope. We refuse government money. The big foundations and corporations are uninterested. But you have shown that you care, and that you understand the difference ideas can make. The big news today is that we are not far from that tipping point in which the Austrian School and libertarian theory--the full intellectual apparatus in defense of freedom--can make a huge impact on our future.

      The future of liberty does indeed depend on the ideas people hold. If we allow the ideology of statism to have a monopoly in academia and the public mind, despotism would be inevitable. But by supporting and advancing the ideas of liberty, we give civilization a fighting chance, even for victory.

      We have seen the influence of the Institute grow. In the marketplace of ideas, our ideas are gaining market share. 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. 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.

      The time for our ideas is arriving. Call it a tipping point. Call it a paradigm shift. It could come, and soon. We want so badly to be prepared. And when that time comes, we need to be able to withstand all the pressures that will be brought to bear.

       Now is the time to prepare for the exciting days to come. Please join us as we forge ahead, stick to principle, and teach tomorrow's intellectual leaders. Together we will work to vindicate, validate, and fully realize the ideas to which our forebears dedicated their lives. Please help us with your most generous contribution.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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