Before I was to deliver a speech at a recent conference in Virginia, a young woman introduced herself and told me that a quotation of mine, which she had read on the Internet when she was in the 8th grade, had shifted the course of her life by leading her to explore libertarianism. She was so struck by the quotation that she translated it into Spanish so that she could discuss it in her Spanish class. She told me that today she is a libertarian, a freshman at Harvard, and fluent in Spanish. The conference, which was sponsored by the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, set forth the principles of a libertarian foreign policy. That young woman’s story goes to the heart of FFF’s mission and methodology.
As longtime supporters of FFF know, our mission is to present an uncompromising moral, philosophical, and economic case for the libertarian philosophy. Ever since our inception 27 years ago, there have been people who have periodically suggested that we moderate our message with the aim of finding greater acceptability and expanding our financial support. We have always steadfastly resisted that advice. At times, we have paid a big price for our uncompromising approach.
After the 9/11 attacks, our firm, uncompromising stance against the federal government’s interventionist foreign policy and the impending invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq cost us dearly. We received hate mail and cancellations of financial support. In fact, after we presented an array of speakers against foreign interventionism, empire, and the national-security state at a large student conference a couple of years ago, we ceased receiving a $10,000 annual grant from a conservative grant-making foundation.
Nonetheless, year after year, we have carried on, and our positions have succeeded in finding support from those who have found our uncompromising defense of libertarianism to be attractive and important.
Why do we refuse to compromise libertarian principles? Because we want a free society! A free society necessarily entails the repeal, not the reform, of infringements on liberty. If all we end up doing is reforming or modifying the welfare-warfare state’s infringements on liberty, we will have failed to achieve our goal of a free society.
To succeed, we need to garner a critical mass of people who question and challenge the legitimacy of those infringements on freedom and who are committed to repealing them, not reforming them.
Our methodology is far-reaching. We do not target any particular group with our message on liberty. Instead, we rely on the power of ideas on liberty to work their way through society and into the minds of people who are receptive to them. Our methodological quest is to find different ways — such as the Internet, ebooks, op-eds, videos, college tours, lectures, and conferences — to inject our perspectives into the marketplace of ideas.
When that young woman told me how that quotation had changed the direction of her life, my reaction was, “Yes! That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we don’t compromise. That’s why we have faith in the power of ideas on liberty.”
Why do I have this deep and abiding conviction regarding our principles and methodology? Because that’s the way I discovered libertarianism! In 1977, I was a young lawyer in Laredo, Texas. I was totally disillusioned with politics, especially since all my candidates in the 1976 political races had lost. I went to the Laredo Public Library to look for something to read and discovered four little differently-colored books entitled Essays on Liberty, which had been published by The Foundation for Economic Education in the 1950s.
Those essays were uncompromising perspectives on liberty. That is why they had such a powerful impact on me. They shattered the shell of falsehood and deception that years of public-school indoctrination had formed around my mind. The unvarnished truth in those essays freed me to discover the principles of freedom and a free society.
If Leonard Read, FEE’s founder, had been asked back in the 1950s to provide the measure of success of those four little books, he could not have responded, “Twenty years from now, those little books are going to influence a young man to discover libertarianism and ultimately give up the practice of law to come to work at FEE as program director and later to found an uncompromising libertarian educational foundation known as The Future of Freedom Foundation.”
That is why I so firmly believe in the power of ideas on liberty. They worked on me, just as they worked on that young libertarian woman who is now a freshman at Harvard.
Today, we are facing the same sort of situation I was facing in the late 1970s. If anything can be said about the 2016 presidential race, it is that millions of Americans are discontented and disillusioned with the political process and know that something is wrong with America. Many of them still can’t pinpoint the cause of their unease, but it is a good and hopeful thing that many of them are searching for answers.
That’s where we come in. We provide the diagnosis of what ails the body politic — the abandonment of America’s founding principles of free markets and limited government in favor of socialism, interventionism, and imperialism. And we provide the prescription for what is necessary to put our nation back on the right track — economic liberty, free markets, and a limited-government republic.
Can we prevail? When I started FFF in 1989, libertarians were pretty much the only ones calling for drug legalization. People thought we were crazy. Yet, today there are people from all walks of life, including judges, prosecutors, parents, law-enforcement personnel, and newspaper editorial boards, calling for an end to the drug war. They are recognizing what a horrible, deadly, destructive, ruinous, racist, immoral force it has been, not to mention a major destroyer of people’s liberty and privacy. In fact, with several more states now having legalized marijuana in the 2016 election, the push toward bringing this horrific program to an end has accelerated. The drug war is teetering. We have to just keep pushing it until it falls over the precipice. That’s what ideas on liberty have accomplished.
On the foreign-policy front, people are sick and tired of decades of military interventions, crises, sanctions, embargoes, coups, invasions, occupations, wars, death, destruction, regime-change operations, foreign aid, and the totalitarian powers that have come with all this militarism and imperialism, including arrests, incarceration, torture, surveillance, indefinite detention, and assassination without any semblance of due process of law. That’s obviously not what a free society is all about.
We are making progress on that front as well. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that 57 percent of Americans now believe that the U.S. government should “mind its own business” and let other countries work out their problems, many of which have been caused by U.S. interventionism. That is an incredible statistic. And it’s up from 53 percent just three years ago.
Imagine what would happen if we were able to end the war on drugs and bring all the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Suddenly, we would be witnessing a sea change in American society. No more spending and debt to fund those two federal programs. And when people see the positive results from ending those two massive federal programs, they might well be more disposed to consider other libertarian proposals, especially those relating to economic liberty.
We just have to keep keeping on. The worst thing we could ever do is to succumb to the siren’s song of despondency, depression, despair, and defeat. We need to keep spreading ideas on liberty far and wide with the aim of achieving the genuinely free society for which we libertarians yearn.
We need your financial support to enable us to continue advancing liberty in the year ahead. For 27 years, the generous support of our donors has kept us going. Will you help us with a generous end-of-year (tax-deductible) donation to The Future of Freedom Foundation?
Yours for liberty,
Jacob G. Hornberger
P.S. Join our FFF Freedom Club with a $250 donation and receive my monthly video message on FFF and liberty.
P.P.S. The quotation that young woman referred to was: “If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.”
FFF ACTIVITIES FOR 2016
1. Our monthly journal Future of Freedom, now in its 27th year of publication, consists of articles that cause people to think about liberty at a deeper level, reflecting on such questions as: What is the nature of a free society and what is the role of government in a free society?2. Our FFF Daily, published for some 16 years, consists of original FFF articles, my daily blog/article, links to libertarian-oriented articles in the mainstream press, and upcoming events at FFF. On Saturdays, we link exclusively to articles published by other libertarian organizations to expose people to the depth and breadth of the libertarian movement.
3. Our website, which includes all the items in FFF Daily and Future of Freedom, most every article we have published for the last 27 years, video presentations from conferences and speeches, FFF books, champions of liberty, and more, thereby serving as a resource for people who wish to explore liberty more deeply.
4. Richard Ebeling (the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at the Citadel, former president of FEE, former Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College, and former vice-president for academic affairs for FFF) and I co-host “The Libertarian Angle” Internet show. It is a great experience for both of us to use this vehicle to disseminate libertarianism within the context of the burning issues of the day. It’s almost as if we are having the same type of conversations that we had back in Dallas some 30 years ago when we first met. 5. A 9-part video series of lectures entitled “An Introduction to Austrian Economics” by Richard Ebeling is posted on our website and YouTube channel (with the option for closed caption). The series is being translated into Polish and Portuguese. In conjunction with the video series, we published a new ebook by Richard on Amazon entitled Austrian Economics and Public Policy: Restoring Freedom and Prosperity. The book has reached #1 on Amazon’s best-selling ebooks on Economic Theory.
6. We have published three other ebooks this year: The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War by Jacob Hornberger, CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, and Monetary Central Planning and the State by Richard Ebeling. All three books have done very well. The first one is currently ranked #70 in Kindle’s top 100 short reads on Politics and Social Sciences; the Morley book is ranked #66 in Kindle’s top 100 best-selling books on 20th-century American history; and the Ebeling book is rank #183 on Kindle’s list of books on economic theory.
Our ebook project continues to do well overall. Almost two years after publication, my book The Kennedy Autopsy is still ranked #6 on Kindle’s top 100 best-selling ebooks on 20th-century American history.
Douglas Horne’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment, which also was published two years ago, is ranked #119 on that same list. My ebook Regime Change is listed #168 on that list. Owing to the success of those ebooks, we also are now offering some of our ebooks in audio or print formats.
7. Last fall we held a conference at Morgan State University, a major historically black college, entitled “The Drug War Against Black America.” At a similar program at the University of Texas, we noticed that there were no African-Americans within our audience of around 700-800 people. We took the program to Morgan State and with the help of a MSU professor and the Pre-Law Association, the conference was a success, drawing about 100 interested students. Our booklet “Economic Liberty and the Constitution” and a Future of Freedom issue were distributed to all the attendees to expose them to the economic aspects of libertarianism.
8. We had two panels at FreedomFest in Las Vegas — one on immigration and the other on monetary policy. The panelists consisted of Richard Ebeling, Jeff Tucker, and me. FFF’s vice president, Bart Frazier, and I had the opportunity to visit with lots of people and to distribute materials to attendees.
9. Scott McPherson and I did a panel on the tyranny of gun control at the annual Porcfest in New Hampshire, sponsored by the Free State Project. Bart and I manned a booth where we talked to people about liberty.
10. Several months ago, we instituted Hornberger’s Video Tidbit, a 2-minute commentary on the presidential race, which is included in FFF Daily and posted on our website.
- John Stossel’s show on the subject of immigration.
- Ron Paul Report to discuss NATO.
- Speech on foreign policy at Texas Christian University sponsored by the Texas Millennial Institute.
- Speech on the national-security state for the Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Milwaukee.
- Talk on libertarianism and free markets for Liberty.me.
- Variety of radio, television, and Internet shows, including Liberty Talk Radio, the Scott Horton Show, the Ernie Hancock Show, and a local television show entitled The Square Circle.
- Scott Horton and I co-hosted, for much of the past year, a weekly 30-minute talk program at Liberty.me.
- Delivered a speech entitled “Republic, Not Empire” to a conference on foreign policy in Virginia sponsored by the Ron Paul Institute.
- Speech on ending the drug war to students at Northwood University as part of their annual “freedom week.”
- Speaking tour in Phoenix, where I delivered talks to the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Arizona State University, the Read-Anderson Discussion Club, and two economics classes at ASU.
12. Our new video series on why we should end the drug war, which features an array of different speakers.