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Home | Wire | A Message From Lew Rockwell

A Message From Lew Rockwell

  • Lew with student 2

The Mises Institute is in high gear. Publications, students, scholars, conferences, seminars, media exposure, professorships: all are soaring to new heights. Despite some dire trends in the world, there’s great cause for optimism about the future of liberty.

It is our 35th year; how privileged we’ve been to work for the ideas of liberty, for libertarianism and the Austrian school. And how grateful we are for your help in making it possible. Of course, we can't go forward without you.

Just look at the results. So many people from all over the world have been drawn to a school of thought — a cause, really, that was in the process of dying 35 years ago. Today, the name of Mises is known throughout the world, and his books sell more than ever. But it was not so in 1982. His books were out of print and his name was nearly lost to history. The same was true of his great student Murray Rothbard, who worked brilliantly and hard, but with little support.

The Mises Institute changed that. All the smart students, the  creative scholars, the influential journals, the marvelous Mises.org, the conferences that attract attendees from around the world, the growth in the Austrian school worldwide, the new visibility of the libertarian tradition in colleges and universities, the videos and podcasts, the spinoff reading groups and blogs, and the essential books, all combine to make a revolution in ideas.

Academics had written off these ideas in the 1930s, not just in the United States but around the world. The future, they said, belonged to socialism or fascism or democratic central planning. Mises was considered a has-been. And now? It’s completely changed.

Nearly every day, the financial press references the Austrians as providing the answers in our precarious financial world. Central bankers find that when they promise utopia through lower interest rates, journalists ask them to deal with the view of the Misesians that this only creates false prosperity. Mises wrote his book on money more than 100 years ago, but it’s back in a big way.

None of this happened by accident, as you know. It is the product of great generosity by men and women of vision — and very hard work by good teachers and students. For the future we need more of all of these. 

Ironically, the Marxists had a harder job of it. They were selling a package of nonsense. What we offer is logical, liberating, and truthful. It conforms to the reality all around us, the reality in which the State is constantly failing while the market is performing miracles. What is needed is a structure of ideas that makes sense of this, and points the way forward.

Then the next step is to change the world as we know it. That comes when we least expect it, and only when all the philosophical and ideological groundwork has been laid. A people that believes in statism will never restore liberty. A people that believes in liberty will never be finally lorded over by a cruel State. What makes the difference is ideas. As Mises said, ideas are real. They control the past, present, and future. Good ideas build up civilization; bad ones destroy it.

A dramatic change in the political and social landscape can happen almost overnight, but only when the ideological conditions are right. As Mises said, then, no power on earth can stop it.

Think of the collapse of socialism. State power couldn’t stop it. History turned on a dime. The enforcers lost conviction, and the rebels won. But decades of intellectual change preceded this. Eventually, the people stopped believing the lie.

Mises lived through Progressivism, World War I, Communism, Nazism, the Great Depression, New Dealism, World War II, and the Cold War. He saw statism sweep the US. Yet he never despaired. He knew that the right ideas could prevail under the right conditions.

He wrote: “Prophets who in their heart know themselves to be false cannot prevail against those filled with the power of sincere conviction. Nothing can corrupt ideas. Neither by money nor by other rewards can one hire men for the fight against ideas. ... What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.”

That is why, before his death, he longed for an Institute to carry on his work. We started in 1982. Today the Mises Institute is leading the world fight for liberty through teaching programs, books, journals, the web, and scholarships for students. How? It all comes down to your support.

When we consider all the enemies of free markets, it’s possible to feel overwhelmed. The special interests who brazenly live off interventionism are everywhere. Anticapitalist intellectuals score points at the expense of our liberties. The State, with its ravenous appetite for our taxes and our freedom, is insatiable. When you consider the odds against liberty and private property, it is a wonder that the darkness of tyranny hasn’t been permanent.

But consider the flowering of civilization in ancient Greece, in the High Middle Ages, in the Renaissance. Think of the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. Look at the reforms in Russia and China, the opening of trade in East Asia, and the booming prosperity of former Soviet clients. Freedom can beat power, and the results are thrilling to behold.

There is also the startling success of our ideas, which no one would have predicted 35 years ago. Freedom can prevail, statist ideology can be overcome, even the State itself can be beaten back. Oppression is not a permanent condition. Thanks to people like you.

When we look at each case in history when revolutions happened, we find something in common to all of them. Intellectuals dedicated to liberty were out front and ready to make the case. They took risks. They told the truth without fear. They worked to see their visions realized in their lifetimes.

The Mises Institute is the home of such people. Just this year, we’ve published books and scholarly journals, held conferences in Auburn and around the country, taught hosts of students about capitalism and freedom, and welcomed scholars from around the world to our seminars, archives, and library.

Of course, our work is hardly done. The ideals of liberty require a culture-wide commitment, even on a worldwide scale. That is why we work to develop an intellectual machine based on scholarship, but also use the tactics of intellectual guerrilla warfare. No wonder that students, faculty, and researchers from all over the world see the Mises Institute as their alma mater, a true home for liberty, a model of genuine learning in an age of official lies.

If you make it possible, we want to continue to keep the literature of liberty available, and add massively to it. Mises.org hosts the largest digital collection on liberty in the world, so that all these great minds can speak to us again. Our research resources, including hundreds of books online, are increasing by the day. But they must grow more quickly, in volume and variety, and in different languages.

We’ve been using the newest technologies in the service of freedom for 35 years, and we must continue to do so. Students, and leaders for liberty, benefit the world over.

Our inspiration comes from two sources: the confidence that supporters like you have shown in us, and the example of freedom fighters like Mises and Rothbard. They spoke boldly and truthfully, and when they were threatened and ordered to shut up, they refused. They paid a high professional price, but their influence is for the ages.

These men did not lobby for new government programs, hold cocktail soirees for the central bank, shine the shoes of bureaucrats, curry favor with powerful politicians, seek grants from the Department of Spend-the-Dough, loiter outside the executive mansion, nor call for a new cabinet seat in economics. Government is not what they were about. It is not what we are about.

Mises taught that no government is classically liberal by nature. They all want maximum power and wealth, which they can only obtain at the expense of the people. And it is only the public belief in liberty — originating with the intellectuals — that can ultimately restrain 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. In the last century and this, the excuses have included the need for community (communism), national greatness (fascism), central economic planning (the New Deal), and homeland security.

If the population is passive and uninformed by contrary voices, the State can succeed. If cultural convictions are intolerant of power, and embrace the inviolable rights to person and property, liberty can prevail. That’s why the most important work for liberty involves ideas.

But an ideological resistance must thrive and have a voice. Intellectuals committed to liberty must be supported. They must have the freedom to write and speak and research. There must be the means to disseminate their ideas, influence people widely, and attract young thinkers. Thus the Mises Institute.

Murray Rothbard always looked to the new generation as the source of intellectual fire. And through the work of the Institute, which he revelled in, the new generation is looking at the world in a new way. The yearning for freedom — already present in their hearts — makes them open to libertarian ideas: and to being skeptical and then critical, of the apparatus of statism into which they are born.

How can we stop the bird of prey called Washington, DC? By encouraging ever more people to think clearly and understand how freedom works. That steels a person against the statist temptation for a lifetime. The student who reads and masters 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.

Our 35-year experience suggests that people who encounter the Mises Institute for the first time are drawn in out of curiosity and then stay with our program of learning because of its explanatory power, and its vision of a prosperous, peaceful world. You share this dream with us: an economy unencumbered by government controls, a society permitted to live and thrive in freedom, entrepreneurs able to create, people able to keep the fruits of their labor, a money untainted by central banking and its business cycles, true scholars who appreciate the workings of liberty, and individuals across society who are educated in the truths of freedom.

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

Daily there are signs of success. Applications to our programs are high in number and quality. Traffic on Mises.org continues to soar.

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 at the feet of the great masters of economic science and the cause of liberty.

The main lesson they learn is this: freedom breeds prosperity and civilization, whereas government makes us poorer, achieves the opposite of its stated goals, and crowds out private solutions. Whatever is glorious in the world today comes from the private sector. It’s no wonder that people of all ages are receptive to the idea of a laissez-faire capitalistic economy.

How thrilled Mises would have been. When we started, his widow, Margit von Mises, was our chairman. Murray N. Rothbard, F.A. Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Hans F. Sennholz, and Ron Paul were founding advisors. Professors from around the world joined the Institute faculty as adjunct scholars. Above all, Murray worked tirelessly to build our academic programs.

Then there is the really essential ingredient: supporters like you who have made it possible for our ideas to make great strides. And 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 campus. We have the passion and the strategy. We have the tools. Now we need to push the frontiers of education, publishing, media, and every other area of society.

But we need the financial means to become an institution for the ages — one that will protect a future of liberty from all onslaughts. This requires a solid capital base on which to build a permanent series of programs: more student scholarships, more faculty positions, more publications, and more digital communications with ever-greater reach.

As a privately funded Institute with no connections to powerful elites, we have no hope but you. Every dollar you send is a nail in the coffin of oppression. By the way, that goes for Bitcoin and gold, too.

P.S. As Mises wrote:

Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders: no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. No one can stand aside with unconcern: the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us. 

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of LewRockwell.com.

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