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Year-End Contributions to the Mises Institute

December 1, 2005

 

What a great year this has been for the Mises Institute! New books, productive conferences, more students than ever, and new ways to get the message out, all to advance the cause of economic freedom in academia and public life.

As we look forward to a super-productive 2006, with more programs and outreach of all sorts, can we count on your support? The Mises Institute is funded entirely by private donations from readers like you who make it all possible.

If you enjoy the resources on the site, and understand why our programs for students, faculty, and everyone are invaluable for the cause of free markets and human liberty, please consider a year-end donation to our work.

Has your support in the past made a difference? Yes. There was a time when one mention of Mises in the popular press or an academic journal caused shock and celebration. Now it is a daily event. Time was when we were dazzled when a single Austrian economist got a university position. Now they are teaching all over the world.

No, socialist and Keynesian ideology has not disappeared. Liberty and property are not secure. The government hasn't melted, the dollar isn't sound, and the regulatory apparatus is far from crumbling.

But that only means that our work is not done. We know that the ideals of liberty require a culture-wide commitment. So we work to develop an idea machine that combines the ideals of the sanctuary with the tactics of intellectual guerilla warfare.

Of course, this bothers some people. They say we are too radical. We don't play the lobbying game. We're extremists for opposing the whole apparatus of government control. We should drop such ideas as the gold standard, free trade, and laissez-faire. We should stop talking about all these dead economists.

But even attacks have their purpose. They can cause people to examine what we stand for. And thanks to support from leaders like you, this year we have been able to do so much.

We provided scholarships for the world's most promising, freedom-minded students to study with the current masters in the Austrian School of economics.

We held pioneering conferences on the economics of fascism, money and banking, American history, taxes, and Austrian economics, and published three wonderful new books. We've distributed these and other books to tens of thousands of individuals and institutions in 50 countries.

We've discovered recorded lectures by Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard and produced remastered versions so they can teach the world again through the web. We've inaugurated a home study course and online classroom to provide the future of economic education.

That just scratches the surface. There are also our three academic journals, popular web networks and student forums, a program for visiting scholars, hundreds of commentaries to keep the free-market part of public debate, and the best-read economics research website in the world.

Students, faculty, and researchers from all over the world tell us that they see the Mises Institute as their sanctuary and alma mater, a true home for liberty and a model of genuine learning.

As we near our 25-year mark, the names and works of the great Austrians, once near extinction, are driving the debate in many areas of academia, Wall Street, and Main Street. On campus, thousands of students are not only reading books and journals, but wearing t-shirts featuring the images of Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, Hazlitt, and even Mises's teacher, the great anti-Marxist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk.

The inspiration for all this work comes from the confidence that supporters like you have shown in us, and from the example of the freedom fighters like Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard. They spoke boldly and truthfully, and when they were threatened and told to shut up, they refused. They paid a professional price — Mises was drummed out of his country — but their influence is for the ages.

Note what they did not do: lobby for new government programs, join political parties, hold cocktail parties for Fed officials, shine the shoes of bureaucrats, curry favor with politicians, seek grants from the Department of This and That, or call for a new cabinet seat in free-market economics. Government is not what they were about. It is not what we are about.

Mises taught that all societies in all times, and their governing structures, are the result of the ideas prevalent in the culture. He took it for granted that no government is classically liberal by nature. They all want maximum power and wealth, which they can only obtain at the direct expense of the people. How much will they agree to give? It is the public belief in liberty — originating with the intellectual class — that ultimately restrains the state's ambitions.

Totalitarianism is not an aberration, in this view, but the expected result of any state that is not so restrained. After all, the state can use any ideological excuse. In ancient times, it claimed to be a god, as with Pharoah. In more recent years, the excuses have included the need for community (communism), national greatness (fascism), central economic planning (the New Deal), or homeland security.

If the population is passive and uninformed by contrary voices, the state can succeed in its aims. Yet if cultural convictions are intolerant of power, and embrace the inviolable right to person and property, liberty prevails. That's why the most important work for liberty is idea-based. An ideological resistance needs backing to thrive. Intellectuals committed to liberty must be supported. They need the freedom to write and speak and research. Then there must be the means to disseminate their ideas, influence people, and attract young thinkers.

Murray Rothbard always looked to the new generation as the source of intellectual fire in the movement for liberty. They are prepared to look at the world a new way. The impulse toward freedom — implanted in their hearts — leads them to be open to libertarian ideas, and to be critical of the apparatus of statism into which they are born.

Our students in Europe are vexed by the persistence of communist ideology. The older professors in their universities are still enamored with the deranged visions of Marx, and his society without class, families, religion, or property ownership. The communists are still powerful politically, preventing reform of corrupt and decaying welfare states.

For this generation of American students, the decisive events involve not only the socialism of the Left. They get political hypocrisy of the worst sort: the language of freedom but the reality of statism with crisis as a pretext.

First it was terrorism, that supposedly required two wars and the abolition of more of our privacy. Then there as the flooding of New Orleans, after the federal floodwalls broke, which supposedly required stupendous welfare, martial law, and all-around economic regimentation.

What's the next pretext? Perhaps "bird flu." The government says it needs $7 billion to handle it, and claims the right to shut down our schools and businesses, and restrict our right to travel, as part of martial law.

Conservatives in DC are giving a pass to all this, the very people who used to denounce Clinton's big government programs.

And so it goes throughout the whole of federal policy. Hardly a day passes when a massive new program isn't proposed. Spending is out of control. The regulatory state is attempting price management through anti-gouging laws, antitrust activity is more reckless than ever, the Fed runs the printing presses fulltime, and innocent entrepreneurs like Martha Stewart are doing jail time.

People with a partisan mentality overlook or defend these disasters. But to people who have studied and learned, and begun to think independently about the true meaning of freedom, these are outrages that must be resisted.

How can we stop the insanity? By encouraging ever-more people to think clearly and understand how freedom works. This is never more important than in a crisis. We saw in New Orleans how private enterprise succeeded where statism fell flat on its face. We've seen how extensive trade protects peace whereas protectionism and sanctions bring conflict and war.

To discover the ideas of freedom is to steel oneself against the statist temptation for an entire lifetime. The student who has read and mastered a book like Mises's Human Action or Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State is prepared to understand the world in a completely different way.

Sometimes it only takes one well-placed quotation or a mention in a scholarly article or a news story. Sometimes it can even come from a professor who warns the student: "Whatever you do, don't bother with what the Austrians have to say!"

Our 23-year experience suggests that people who first encounter the Mises Institute are drawn in out of curiosity, and then stay to learn because of the explanatory power of our ideas, and the vision of a prosperous, peaceful world. This is what carries the day.

Calling our offices last week was a man who had studied under Mises at NYU. He told us that the free economy has more enemies than ever before. But Mises argued that good ideas are more powerful than armies. For this reason, he said, the work of the Mises Institute is absolutely essential.

After all, he noted, even the media increasingly turn to the Mises Institute as the most reliable voice of dissent. When Ben "Printing Press" Bernanke was appointed as head of the Federal Reserve, hardly anyone objected. But the Mises Institute was there with an explanation of what's wrong with this man's love of inflation. Our views were reported worldwide.

So it has been for a hundred issues in recent years. The Mises Institute has stood against despotism on issue after issue, offering rock-solid analysis and riveting free-market opinion, even in times of government advance.

Much more important, we have been able to offer students access to and teaching about the classics that they are not supposed to read. We have made sure that good professors have also had support: colleagues and classroom materials, and a means of publishing. Teachers, as well as journalists, pastors, business and financial professionals need access to often-suppressed wisdom. Everyone does.

We want them to share the vision that we already do: an economy unencumbered by government controls, a society permitted to live and thrive in freedom, a money untainted by central banking, scholars and students who appreciate the workings of liberty, and everyone educated in the truth of freedom.

We believe that this vision can be the future, for ourselves and our descendents. The message of free markets, sound money, peace, and libertarian scholarship and learning, is getting a hearing on campus and in public life as never before.

The solution lies not in the political grind nor in far-flung schemes. Real change requires patient work in the area of education. Start with students, cultivate professors, generate impeccable arguments and articles, publish and distribute books and journals, build a great library, sponsor research, and pursue and say what is true. This was the path of Mises, and this is the path of the Mises Institute.

Daily there are signs of success. Applications to our programs are high in number and quality. Mises.org has soared to the top of all search engines, and our online store has broken all our sales records. Worldwide traffic on the site is so large that we need ever larger-systems to keep up.

Particularly inspiring are the students. Their diligence and imagination are impressive. They combine idealism with a drive to succeed. Their curiosity is intense. Their ability to devour information and make new discoveries is inspiring. Thanks to the resources and opportunities the Mises Institute can provide them, they are able to study the great masters of economic science and liberty.

Their main lesson is this: freedom brings prosperity and civilization, whereas government wrecks much, achieves the opposite of its stated goals, and crowds out private solutions.

The Mises Institute's message has not changed since our founding in 1982. We were told it was outlandish and unworkable. But that was before the collapse of socialism abroad, the technological revolution, and the advance in private communities, roads, and even space travel.

Whatever is glorious in the world today comes from the private sector, not the government. It's no wonder that people of all ages are receptive to the idea of a laissez-faire capitalistic economy. Young people in particular tend to oppose the tired nostrums of state control.

How thrilled Mises would have been. When we started, his widow, Margit von Mises, was our guiding light. Murray N. Rothbard, F.A. Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, and Ron Paul helped as well. Professors from around the world joined the Institute. Above all, Murray worked tirelessly to build our academic programs.

Of course, there was another essential ingredient: supporters like you, who have made everything possible. And now we need your help now more than ever. The times are right. The young are listening. We have the faculty. We have the ideas. We have the facilities.

What we need are the financial means — a solid capital base on which to build a permanent series of programs, more student scholarships, more faculty positions, more publications, and better communications networks with even greater reach. We dream of an endowment that will permit us to plan long term. As a privately funded Institute with no connections to powerful elites, we have only one hope: you.

We only need imagine a world in which there are no advocates of liberty, no support for dissident intellectuals, no teaching for students to learn an alternative, and no sanctuaries that keep the flame alive in dark times. Instead, our ideas provide a brake on power and a bright light for the future.

Now is the time to prepare for the exciting days to come. Please: join us as we forge ahead, fight for truth, proceed against evil ever more boldly, and teach tomorrow's intellectual leaders. Help us with your most generous contribution for 2006 and beyond.
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