I grew up as a Democrat in Laredo, Texas. I campaigned for John Kennedy when I was in the fifth grade. My dad took me to a political barbecue at the LBJ ranch, where I personally met Lyndon Johnson. As a local representative of Lady Bird Johnson’s beautify America campaign, I visited the White House.
In 1975, I returned to my hometown of Laredo, Texas, to practice law in partnership with my father. I was still a Democrat, a liberal one. Even though I had graduated from The Virginia Military Institute and had been commissioned as an infantry officer, I had turned against the Vietnam War in 1970 during my third year at VMI. Having grown up in one of the poorest cities in the United States, I believed in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. I believed that a principal role of government in society was to take care of people, especially the poor and downtrodden. I served on the board of trustees of the Laredo Legal Aid Society and was the local representative for the American Civil Liberties Union.
One day I was rummaging around the local public library looking for something to read. I was despondent and disillusioned. All my political candidates had lost their races. The political process had left me empty. Something seemed dreadfully wrong, but I didn’t know what. And then I discovered four little different-colored books that changed the course of my life. They were entitled Essays on Liberty, volumes 1-4.
It was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. It was a real road to Damascus experience. I discovered libertarianism. It was here that I began learning the principles of liberty from Ludwig von Mises, Frédéric Bastiat, Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard, F.A. Harper, Clarence Manion, Dean Russell, Frank Chodorov, Edmund Opitz, Ben Moreell, Hans Sennholz, Bettina Bien Greaves, and other giant libertarian thinkers, all of whom took an absolutely uncompromising approach to the principles of liberty. It was their uncompromising approach that had such an enormous impact on me. They helped me to break through to the truth.
I learned that I had been lied to since the first grade. Like everyone else, I had been taught that I was living in a free country. It was a lie then, and it is a lie now. Freedom entails much more than political, intellectual, religious, and civil liberties. It also entails economic liberty.
I also learned that liberals were wrong about the welfare state. It doesn’t help the poor and downtrodden. It ensures their impoverishment and their dependence on the state. It destroys the freedom, hope, and dignity of those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Those four little books ignited a fire of liberty within me that will remain burning until my dying day. From the time I discovered libertarianism in the late 1970s, there have been few things more important to me in life than to be free.
That’s why I founded The Future of Freedom Foundation in 1989 — because I want to be free. I want to know what it’s like to live in a genuinely free society.
Our methodology is based on presenting an uncompromising case for freedom. I am not interested in some warmed-over version of the welfare-warfare state way of life that has come to characterize our country. I want to be free. And freedom necessarily requires the removal, not the reform or reduction, of infringements on freedom. That’s why FFF has always called for the repeal, not the reform, of government programs, departments, and agencies that infringe on freedom.
All great movements in history have been led by a minuscule minority of people, ones who have remained committed to their ideals and principles through thick and thin. In the beginning, ideals attract a small number of people, who then attract a few more, and then more, until a critical mass is ultimately reached that tips the rest of society. That’s how mankind achieved such grand and glorious aspects of liberty as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and due process of law. It’s because there were advocates of liberty who refused to compromise their principles and settle for anything less than the ideal.
Make no mistake about it: We can do the same with respect to economic liberty and the restoration of a constitutionally limited republic to our land. We can restore prosperity, peace, and harmony to our land because — unlike socialism — freedom, free markets, and limited government really do work.
Look what statists have done to our country to destroy freedom, privacy, and prosperity:
- A welfare state that has converted millions of Americans into dependent wards of the state, scared to death that their dole might be taken away.
- A vicious and brutal drug war that does nothing more than destroy lives and enrich drug lords and public officials.
- A Federal Reserve System that has debauched our currency.
- Economic regulations that lock countless Americans out of the labor market.
- Trade restrictions and immigration controls that only make people poorer.
- A national-security state and overseas military empire that engage in invasions, wars of aggression, occupations, coups, regime-change operations, support of dictatorships, assassinations, sanctions, and embargoes, converting ever-growing numbers of people overseas into enemies and terrorists, and then using those manufactured threats to destroy our own freedom and privacy here at home.
That is not a free society. It is tyranny.
There are those who say that the task is too difficult. The welfare-warfare state is just too big and too powerful, they lament.
Nonsense. Achieving freedom may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Libertarian ideas have the power to inflame the hearts and minds of those who discover them, just as they did for me.
We must continue advancing liberty: It’s the right thing to do and, despite what is happening in the political world, we might soon see a sudden shift in society toward peace, prosperity, and freedom. One thing is for sure: If we give up, we cannot succeed.
Will you help us bring our nation ever closer to a free society with a generous tax-deductible donation to The Future of Freedom Foundation?
If you would like to mail your donation, you can use this reply card.
Yours for liberty,
P.S. Highlights of what your support enabled us to do in 2017 include our drug-war conference at Florida A&M University (a historically black university); our conference “The National Security State and JFK;” our weekly Internet show The Libertarian Angle (with Richard Ebeling and me); our 13-part “Time to End the War on Drugs” video series; our monthly journal Future of Freedom; our daily Internet publication FFF Daily; the publication of two ebooks (Freedom Frauds: Hard Lessons in American Liberty by James Bovard and The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom by Laurence Vance); and speeches and appearances at Ron Paul’s conference on Peace and Prosperity, Northwood University’s Freedom Week, and various Internet and radio shows.
P.P.S. Join our FFF Freedom Club with a $250 donation and receive my monthly video message on FFF and liberty.