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Mises at 25

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I'm blogging only because I couldn't get a seat at the Ron Paul luncheon today, held as part of the 25th anniversary celebration in New York. It seems that hundreds of people have been hanging out in the streets outside the hotel here in Grand Central station, in hopes have seeing Ron. It is only a slight look at the excitement that his campaign has generated. As regards the luncheon today, it was schedule long before anyone knew of his intentions concerning the nomination.

In any case, indoors here, we've had the most wonderful conference. Last night, Robert Higgs, now the Schlarbaum laureate, gave a speech worthy to be considered among the great libertarian speeches in all history.Really, it was a classic on that level: packed with detail about the expansion of government in our time, and comparing it to previous periods, and explaining it all in light of Austro-libertarian theory. The crowds sat in amazement and then rose for a standing ovation at the end. Dr. Higgs says that he will be sending this speech in for publication on Mises.org, so we do look forward that. Perhaps it will be up in only a few days.

This morning, David Gordon explained how dangerous neoconservative ideas on war have become and put them into perspective, Peter Klein spoke on the merits of the business firm as an instrument of social advance, Mark Thornton talked about his own history with the Mises Institute and, in particular, about what it means for the world that the Mises Institute has become such an important source for new research, and Jeffrey Herbener spoke on the history of education from the ancient world to the present and how it has been one long struggle between public and private sources. All wonderful.

The most recent speech was my own, in which I had 20 minutes to explain about what is happening at Mises.org -- 1995 to the present. Of course this was impossible, so I tried to give a casual overview as best I could. It did give me a chance to back away from it a bit and see the big picture. Then after I step down from the podium, I immediately remembered 100 things I forgot to say.

In any case, it has been a great conference--a celebration really--from last night through today, and we still have the afternoon and evening to go.

Coda: The conference kept its high standards through the remainder of the day and evening. The dinner was packed--perhaps 350 people?--and it was great to see so many old friends and contributors. The only topic was the work of the Mises Institute, so it is something like a dream for me, since this is always my favorite topic. I spoke with many people about our publishing bonanza, conferences upcoming, website structure and traffic, as well as new works forthcoming.

The dinner speeches were opened by Burt Blumert who introduced John Denson, who provided interesting insight into the early years of the Mises Institute: how it came to Auburn, the economics faculty at the time, our move from building to building on campus until we finally built our own spot. Next came the man of the hour, Guido Hulsmann, who talked about the spread of the Austrian School around the world.

He made an interesting point concerning the ongoing question of who is the next Mises or Rothbard or Hayek.He pointed out that these men were only widely known as the geniuses they were late in life -- at 65 or 70 years old, During the largest part of their careers, they were considered accomplished and insightful but not figures of historic importance. This struck me as an interesting insight, and he followed up by saying the next great figure on this level could be among us today but we will not know it for another few decades.

It's interesting how we look back at history with the biases of the present, isn't it? Truly, even after Mises's death in 1973, it was not clear that he and his works would emerge as the defining statements of liberalism and the Austrian tradition. And this topic provides the backdrop to the most awaited speech of the conference: Lew Rockwell's 25th anniversary speech.

Lew asked the question: why must there by institutions that are dedicated to an ideal such as liberty or a scientific body of thought like economics. He answered the question in several parts, first distinguishing what the institute does from the activities of a conventional "think tank" that serves political parties. Independent institutions are ever more necessary in times of rising statism, to give the ideas of liberty room to breath. In addition, if Mises is right that the protection and advance of liberty depends on the ideals being widely held in society, it is the obligation of liberals to spread their ideas throughout society.

He discussed this by analogy to the marketplace itself. An invention is useless if exists only in the mind of the creator. It must also be made economically viable and marketed.so that it can make a change in society. It is the same with ideas. It is not enough that we hold ideals. We must takes steps to propagate these ideals and work to seem them put into place, and in this regard, institutions are essential.

Lew's speech will be on Mises.org this week, and the other speeches appearing in time.

Jeffrey Tucker is Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research. He is author of It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes and Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail.

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