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Follow Leonard Read's Pattern

  • Leonard Read

Americans are in the midst of heated presidential nomination battles, with leading candidates competing to buy the most votes with ever-more promises to abuse liberty for one or another special interest group. Except for occasional boilerplate obeisance to freedom, none of them are proposing anything like it. It makes one wish to hear what kind of addresses a presidential candidate who was a true lover of liberty might give.

We won't hear anything of the sort from the current crop of candidates — apart from Ron Paul. However, we can read what such addresses might be like in Leonard Read's 1948 Pattern for Revolt,PDF which followed the imagined campaign of a "true liberal" presidential candidate in that year's election.

In sharp contrast to the statist campaigns and Brobdingnagian levels of theft and invasions of rights now being promised to buy candidates' support, those addresses follow Thoreau's advice to "Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect … [as] one step toward attaining it."

Pattern for Revolt is "probably too strong for stomachs that have long fed on government pap and can't imagine how they can get along without it." But it is well worth reading for every "informed liberal who loves liberty better than power," in contrast with the many panderers who love power far better than liberty. Consider whether someone who believed the following would not command our respect more than those leading the nomination horse races.

"[T]he all-authoritarian state marches on its merry way, not only unhampered and unchecked, but aided and abetted by an ever-increasing number of gravy-trained citizens."

"The people [have] no choice except between power-seeking personalities and groups, each offering a superior administration of government-as-master. Such a choice was and still is no choice at all."

"[P]arty leaders…are asking today 'What must we say and do to win votes?' The voice of expediency…must mislead because it represents the rejection of moral principles for the hope of temporary gain…a truly liberal party…would have been asking 'How can we liberate the individual from the tyranny of the State.'"

"The mere changing of parties or personalities is not important. The transfer of power from one party to the other is important only if the ascending party has principles which it is important to substitute for the principles of the party in power."

"Choosing among numerous aspirants to office who vie with each other as sponsors of public housing, socialized medicine, the nationalization of education and a host of other socialistic items is like choosing between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. That is not an election in any significant sense…but only in an unimportant personality sense."

"Not only will [an] office-seeker resort to expediency to attain office, but, once in office, his very enterprise will prove a handicap to the nation…A man who seeks and secures public office…will try to make it a bigger and more powerful office. Government should not be so expanded…Men in government, therefore, should be those who aim at making government as unnecessary as possible. Contraction, not expansion, should be the aim."

"You said you wanted someone who believed in a Federal Government of limited powers, in free competitive enterprise, in freedom, generally, and in individualism. I am an ardent disciple of these tenets."

"Freedom is an assertion of man's God-given free will, a resurrection of man from deadening arbitrary authority…The principles which brought America to the greatest heights of freedom yet known on earth are easily forgotten…[but] what will our collectivistic opponents be able to do in extending their authority over the people if the people subscribe to the principle of liberty?"

"Our assignment is to cultivate an understanding of freedom—in ourselves and in others."

"In every field where arbitrary authority is imposed we shall inquire how it may be removed and replaced by a reliance on the initiative and enterprise of individual citizens. We must give to the art of self-government its American renaissance…We need patriots who will stand against wrong even though they cannot see the time when right will triumph."

"Our adversaries…seek for themselves human shepherds…They want to be led."

"As liberals and individualists, we can agree that we do not want to be led; that we do not want to 'lead' by force…The only way to guard freedom is to remove, to destroy, unwarranted restrictions and coercion."

"[T]here was a general acceptance of the idea that governments should have only limited powers and functions…Today, however…Opponents of freedom, in this country as elsewhere, have pre-empted the language of freedom so extensively that we how attempt to speak on behalf of freedom now find it difficult to convey our meaning."

"[O]ur plunderstorm economy is a matter of common knowledge…which none but the most reckless politician or public figure dares attack. All the signs point to a long and successful run for these legalized rackets…The first reason is a deep-rooted conviction on the part of millions that they have, by reason of their existence on this earth, a right to share in the property of others. The idea that this is a wholly immoral notion has never occurred to most of them."

"The result is this group-thirst for political plunder…there is no cure at all except to re-establish in the minds of people the normal boundaries of personal right. The present situation calls for an understanding of where personal rights end and infringement on the rights of others begins."

"In the hope of plundering more from others than others succeed in plundering from us, we have voted away the inestimable benefits for which government and law were originally instituted."

"We founded our government and wrote our laws on the premise that the individual citizen has certain inalienable rights and that government and law should protect those rights…While it is perfectly obvious that we should restore government and law to their proper functions, limit them as we originally intended they should be limited, it is equally obvious that this is not possible until false ideas are removed…As long as people entertain these false ideas about rights and property, so long will they seek their fulfillment though government and the law…The choice is only one of going on with the filthy business or getting out of it entirely."

"In a variety of ways this nation has legalized plunder…as we seek prosperity by the fruitless process of picking each others' pockets."

"Coercion is my first objection…No man has ever lived who has been big enough or competent enough to apply it, justly and wisely, to any responsible adult person, arbitrarily…Tyranny is only arbitrary coercion carried to its logical consequence."

"Using governmental coercion to protect your goods from a thief is proper. Using it to protect a thief in the taking of your goods is improper. It makes no difference whether the thief be a thug or a legally recognized pressure group, using the democratic process."

"Given freedom of opportunity, protection from fraud, violence and predation and a dependence for our welfare on our own initiative, we can and will look out for ourselves better than will any other person or any government agency."

"[Government failure arose from] their guarantee to meet 'human needs' and their inability to meet the ever-growing demands and impossible responsibilities to which they thus exposed themselves."

"The real reasons for most of the present and recent distress inhere in the suppressions of liberty, in the sabotaging, wittingly or unwittingly, of the free competitive economy, which alone produces general prosperity. Re-establishing a free economy is the only road to progress…Free enterprise can be re-established only by the repeal of those laws, rules and regulations which impede it. I stand for their destruction."

"I am a spokesman for the philosophy of government which is an American heritage… Nowhere else have men so successfully escaped from arbitrary authority…This American philosophy of government is premised on our countrymen being free men. This is what our birth as human beings gives us a right to be; that is what we ought to be; it is the object to which our Constitution commits us—all of us."

"I do not desire to reorganize the lives of other people under the pretext of doing them good…turn your hopes from this place on the Potomac as a source of livelihood. It is the most unproductive spot in these United States…May your Federal Government no longer be condemned for what it plunders from some. And may it never have applause because of the loot it bestows on others."

In a day-and-night contrast with the daily cacophony of presidential candidates promising to violate moral principles and other people's property on an indescribable scale, Leonard Read recognized that "Nothing is in our nation's capital except that which is taken from individuals."

That is why his Pattern for Revolt, though written almost four decades ago, is both a bracing reminder of what has been lost and a motivator to reclaim it. It merits attention from anyone who, "If given the opportunity … would revolt against all of those political devices and ideas incidental to government in the role of master."

And there is no better time than when the price of lost liberty is large and candidates vie for who can most rapidly inflate that price, because the benefits that would come from restoring liberty are also greater.

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