a while the postwar ideological climate seemed to be the same as
during the war: internationalism, statism, adulation of economic
planning and the centralized state, were rampant everywhere. During
the first postwar year, 1945–46, I entered Columbia Graduate School,
where the intellectual atmosphere was oppressively just more of
the same. By early 1946 the veterans had come back from the war,
and the atmosphere on campus was rife with the heady plans and illusions
of various wings of the Old Left. Most of the veterans had joined
the newly formed American Veterans Committee (AVC), a group confined
to World War II vets with the high hope of replacing the old and
reactionary American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. During
these years, the AVC on campus was split between the Social Democrats
on the right and the Communists and their allies on the left, and
these factions set the parameters of political debate on campus.
It was in this
stifling atmosphere that I first became aware that I was not totally
alone; that there was such a thing as a libertarian "movement,"
however small and embryonic. A young economics professor from Brown
University began to teach at Columbia in the fall of 1946: George
J. Stigler, later to become a distinguished member of the free-market
"Chicago School" of economics. Tall, witty, self-assured,
Stigler strode in to a huge class in price theory, and proceeded
to confound the assorted leftists by devoting his first two lectures
to an attack on rent control, and to a refutation of minimum wage
laws. As Stigler left the classroom, he would be surrounded by moving
circles of amazed and bewildered students, arguing with his point
of view that seemed to them to be deposited all of a sudden from
the Neanderthal Age. I was of course delighted; here at last was
a free-market viewpoint of intellectual substance, and not simply
couched in the lurid and confused tones of the Hearst Press! Professor
Stigler referred us to a pamphlet (now long out of print, and still
one of the few studies of rent control) jointly written by himself
and another young free-market economist, Milton Friedman, "Roofs
or Ceilings?" and published by an outfit called the Foundation
for Economic Education (FEE), in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.
Stigler explained that he and Friedman had published the pamphlet
with this obscure outfit because "nobody else would publish
it." Enchanted, I wrote away for the pamphlet, and for information
about the organization; and by that act I had unwittingly "entered"
the libertarian movement.
FEE had been
founded during 1946 by Leonard E. Read, who for many years was its
president, ruler, line-setter, fundraiser, and guiding light. In
those years and for many years thereafter, FEE served as the major
focus and the open center for libertarian activity in the United
States. Not only has virtually every prominent libertarian in the
country of middle age or over served at one time or another on its
staff; but by its activities FEE served as the first beacon light
for attracting innumerable young libertarians into the movement.
Its earliest staff was focused around a group of free-market agricultural
economists led by Dr. F.A. ("Baldy") Harper, who had come
down from Cornell, and who had already written an antistatist pamphlet,
"The Crisis of the Free Market," for the National Industrial
Conference Board, for whom Leonard Read had worked after leaving
the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Among the young economists
coming to FEE from Cornell with Harper were Doctors Paul Poirot,
William Marshall Curtiss, Ivan Bierly, and Ellis Lamborn. Coming
to FEE from Los Angeles along with Read was Dr. V. Orval Watts,
who had been the economist for the Los Angeles Chamber.
One of the
important but unsung figures in the early postwar libertarian movement
was Loren ("Red") Miller, who had been active in municipal
reform movements in Detroit and elsewhere.
In Kansas City,
Miller joined with William Volker, head of the William Volker Company,
a leading wholesale furniture specialty distributing house for the
Western states, in battling against the corrupt Pendergast machine.
The charismatic Miller was apparently instrumental in converting
many municipal reformers throughout the country to laissez-faire;
these included Volker and his nephew and heir Harold W. Luhnow.1
head of the Volker Company and his uncle's William Volker Charities
Fund, had been an active isolationist before the war. Now he became
an active supporter of FEE, and was particularly eager to advance
the almost totally neglected cause of libertarian scholarship. Another
Red Miller convert was the young administrative genius Herbert C.
Cornuelle, who for a short while was executive vice president of
FEE. After the death of Volker in 1947, Luhnow began to change the
orientation of the Volker Fund from conventional Kansas City charities
to promoting libertarian and laissez-faire scholarship. He
began valiant efforts in the later 1940s to obtain prestigious academic
posts for the leaders of the Austrian School of economics, Ludwig
von Mises and F.A. Hayek. The best he could do for Mises, who had
been languishing in New York, was to find him a post as "Visiting
Professor" at New York University Graduate School of Business.
Mises also became a part-time staff member at FEE. Luhnow was more
successful with Hayek, arranging for a professorship at the newly
established graduate Committee on Social Thought at the University
of Chicago – after the economics department at Chicago had
rejected a similar arrangement. In both cases, however, the university
refused to pay any salary to these eminent scholars. For the rest
of their careers in American academia, the salaries of both Mises
and Hayek were paid for by the William Volker Fund. (After the Fund
collapsed in 1962, the task of financing Mises's post at NYU was
taken up by Read and a consortium of businessmen.)
After a couple
of years of acting alone at the Volker Fund, Harold Luhnow decided
to expand the activity of the Fund in stimulating conservative and
libertarian scholarship, and Herb Cornuelle went from FEE to the
Volker Fund as its first liaison officer.
After a brief
flurry in political agitation against rent control, Read decided
to keep FEE as a purely educational organization. For its first
decade, FEE published pamphlets by staff members and others, many
of which were collected in a book-form series, Essays on Liberty;
but probably more important was its role as an open center for the
movement, in its sponsoring of seminars, meetings, and soirees,
and in its hospitality to visiting and budding libertarians. It
was at and through FEE that I met or discovered all the previously
"underground" channels of libertarian thought and expression:
the books published during the war, the Nockians (Nock himself had
died in the summer of 1945), and the continuing activities of John
T. Flynn and Rose Wilder Lane (who had succeeded Nock as editor
of the Economic Council Review of Books), and Human Events.
It was in the
midst of this new and exhilarating milieu that I emerged from my
previous rather vague "Chamber of Commerce conservatism"
and became a hard-nosed and "doctrinaire" laissezfaire
libertarian, believing that no man and no government had the
right to aggress against another man's person or property. It was
also in this period that I became an "isolationist." During
the years when I was becoming ever more "conservative"
economically, I had done little or no independent thinking on foreign
affairs; I was literally content to take my foreign policy thinking
from the editorials of the good grey New York Times. It now
became clear to me, however, that "isolationism" in foreign
affairs was but the foreign counterpart of strictly limited government
within each nation's borders.
One of the
most important influences upon me was Baldy Harper, whose quiet
and gentle hospitality toward young newcomers attracted many of
us to the pure libertarian creed that he espoused and exemplified
– a creed all the more effective for his stressing the philosophical
aspects of liberty even more than the narrowly economic. Another
was Frank Chodorov, whom I met at FEE, and thereby discovered his
superb broadsheet analysis. More than any single force, Frank
Chodorov – that noble, courageous, candid, and spontaneous
giant of a man who compromised not one iota in his eloquent denunciations
of our enemy the State – was my entree to uncompromising libertarianism.
The first time
I came across Frank's work was a true – and infinitely exhilarating
– culture shock. I was at the Columbia University bookstore
one day in 1947, when, amidst a raft of the usual Stalinist, Trotskyist,
etc. leaflets, one pamphlet was emblazoned in red letters with its
title: "Taxation Is Robbery," by Frank Chodorov.2
This was it. Once seeing those shining and irrefutable words,
my ideological outlook could never be the same again. What else,
indeed, was taxation if not an act of theft? And it became clear
to me that there was no way whatever of defining taxation that was
not also applicable to the tribute exacted by a robber gang.
his pamphlet by stating that there were only two basic alternative
moral positions on the State and taxation. The first holds that
"political institutions stem from u2018the nature of man,' thus
enjoying vicarious divinity," or that the State is "the
keystone of social integrations." Adherents of this position
have no difficulty in favoring taxation. People in the second group
"hold to the primacy of the individual, whose very existence
is his claim to inalienable rights"; they believe that "in
the compulsory collection of dues and charges the state is merely
exercising power, without regard to morals." Chodorov unhesitatingly
placed himself in this second group:
If we assume
that the individual has an indisputable right to life, we must
concede that he has a similar right to the enjoyment of the products
of his labor. This we call a property right. The absolute right
to property follows from the original right to life because one
without the other is meaningless; the means to life must be identified
with life itself. If the state has a prior right to the products
of one's labor, his right to existence is qualified . . . no such
prior rights can be established, except by declaring the state
the author of all rights. .
. . We object
to the taking of our property by organized society just as we
do when a single unit of society commits the act. In the latter
case we unhesitatingly call the act robbery, a malum in se.
It is not the law which in the first instance defines robbery,
it is an ethical principle, and this the law may violate but not
supersede. If by the necessity of living we acquiesce to the force
of law, if by long custom we lose sight of the immorality, has
the principle been obliterated? Robbery is robbery, and no amount
of words can make it anything else.3
The idea that
taxes are simply a payment for social services rendered received
only scorn from Chodorov:
for social services hints at an equitable trade. It suggests a
quid pro quo, a relationship of justice. But the essential
condition of trade, that it be carried on willingly, is absent
from taxation; its very use of compulsion removes taxation from
the field of commerce and puts it squarely into the field of politics.
Taxes cannot be compared to dues paid to a voluntary organization
for such services as one expects from membership, because the
choice of withdrawal does not exist. In refusing to trade one
may deny oneself a profit, but the only alternative to paying
taxes is jail. The suggestion of equity in taxation is spurious.
If we get anything for the taxes we pay it is not because we want
it; it is forced on us.4
On the "ability
to pay" principle of taxation, Chodorov acidly noted: "What
is it but the highwayman's rule of taking where the taking is best?"
He concluded trenchantly: "There cannot be a good tax or a
just one; every tax rests its case on compulsion.5
Or take another
headline that screamed at me from Chodorov's analysis: DON'T
BUY BONDS! In an age in which government savings bonds were being
universally sold as a badge of patriotism, this too came as a shock.
In the article, Chodorov concentrated on the basic immorality, not
simply the fiscal shakiness of the federal tax-and-bond paying process.
It is typical
of Frank Chodorov that his consistency, his very presence exposed
the far more numerous "free-enterprise" groups for the
time-servers or even charlatans that they tended to be. While other
conservative groups called for a lessening of the tax burden, Chodorov
called for its abolition; while others warned of the increasing
burden of the public debt, Chodorov alone – and magnificently
– called for its repudiation as the only moral course.
For if the public debt is burdensome and immoral, then outright
repudiation is the best and most moral way of getting rid of it.
If the bondholders, as seemed clear, were living coercively off
the taxpayer, then this legalized expropriation would have to be
ended as quickly as possible. Repudiation, Chodorov wrote, "can
have a salutary effect on the economy of the country, since the
lessening of the tax burden leaves the citizenry more to do with.
The market place becomes to that extent healthier and more vigorous."
Furthermore, "Repudiation commends itself also because it weakens
faith in the State. Until the act is forgotten by subsequent generations,
the State's promises find few believers; its credit is shattered."6
As for the
argument that buying bonds is the public's patriotic expression
of support for fighting a war, Chodorov retorted that the true patriot
would give, not lend, money to the war effort.
As a disciple
of Albert Jay Nock and thus an uncompromising and consistent opponent
of State power and privilege, Frank Chodorov
was keenly aware of the gulf between himself and the run-of-the-mill
free-enterprise and antisocialist groups. He pinpointed the difference
brilliantly in his "Socialism by Default":
of private property has been championed by men who had no interest
in it; their main concern has always been with the institution
of privilege which has grown up alongside private property. They
start by defining private property as anything that can be got
by law; hence, they put their cunning to the control of the lawmaking
machinery, so that the emerging laws enable them to profit at
the expense of producers. They talk about the benefits of competition
and work toward monopolistic practices. They extol individual
initiative and support legal limitations on individuals who might
challenge their ascendancy. In short, they are for the State,
the enemy of private property, because they profit by its schemes.
Their only objection to the State is its inclination to invade
their privileged position or to extend privileges to other groups.7
Chodorov pointed out that if the "free-enterprise" groups
sincerely favored freedom, they would call for the abolition of:
tariffs, import quotas, government manipulation of money, subsidies
to railroads, airlines and shippers, and farm price supports. The
only subsidies which these groups will attack, he added, are those
"which cannot be capitalized" into the value of corporate
stocks, such as handouts to veterans or the unemployed. Neither
do they oppose taxation; for one thing, government bondholders cannot
attack the income tax, and for another, the liquor interests oppose
the abolition of taxes on stills because then "every farmer
could open a distillery." And, above all,
is undoubtedly the greatest waste of all, besides being the greatest
threat to the freedom of the individual, and yet it is rather
condoned than opposed by those whose hearts bleed for freedom,
according to their literature.8
It was largely
through Chodorov and analysis that I discovered Nock, Garrett,
Mencken, and the other giants of libertarian thought. In fact, it
was Chodorov who gave this young and eager author his first chance
to break into print – apart from letters to the press –
in a delighted review of H.L. Mencken's Chrestomathy in the
August 1949 issue of analysis. It was also my first discovery
of Mencken, and I was dazzled permanently by his brilliant style
and wit; and I spent many months devouring as much of H.L.M. as
I could get my hands on. And as a result of my article, I began
to review books for Chodorov for some months to come.
of 1949–50, in fact, witnessed the two most exciting and shattering
intellectual events of my life: my discovery of "Austrian"
economics, and my conversion to individualist anarchism. I had gone
through Columbia College and to Columbia's graduate school in economics,
passing my Ph.D. orals in the spring of 1948, and not once had I
heard of Austrian economics, except as something that had been integrated
into the main body of economics by Alfred Marshall sixty years before.
But I discovered at FEE that Ludwig von Mises, whom I had heard
of only as contending that socialism could not calculate economically,
was teaching a continuing open seminar at New York University. I
began to sit in on the seminar weekly, and the group became a kind
of informal meeting ground for free-market-oriented people in New
York City. I had also heard that Mises had written a book covering
"everything" in economics, and when his Human Action
was published that fall it came as a genuine revelation. While
I had always enjoyed economics, I had never been able to find a
comfortable home in economic theory: I tended to agree with institutionalist
critiques of Keynesians and mathematicians, but also with the latters'
critiques of the institutionalists. No positive system seemed to
make sense or to hang together. But in Mises's Human Action I
found economics as a superb architectonic, a mighty edifice with
each building block related to and integrated with every other.
Upon reading it, I became a dedicated "Austrian" and Misesian,
and I read as much Austrian economics as I could find.
While I was
an economist and had now found a home in Austrian theory, my basic
motivation for being a libertarian had never been economic but moral.
It is all too true that the disease of most economists is to think
solely in terms of a phantom "efficiency," and to believe
that they can then make political pronouncements as pure value-free
social technicians, divorced from ethics and the moral realm. While
I was convinced that the free market was more efficient and would
bring about a far more prosperous world than statism, my major concern
was moral: the insight that coercion and aggression of one man over
another was criminal and iniquitous, and must be combated and abolished.
to anarchism was a simple exercise in logic. I had engaged continually
in friendly arguments about laissez-faire with liberal friends
from graduate school. While condemning taxation, I had still felt
that taxation was required for the provision of police and judicial
protection and for that only. One night two friends and I had one
of our usual lengthy discussions, seemingly unprofitable; but this
time when they'd left, I felt that for once something vital had
actually been said. As I thought back on the discussion, I realized
that my friends, as liberals, had posed the following challenge
to my laissez-faire position:
What is the legitimate basis for your laissez-faire government,
for this political entity confined solely to defending person
Well, the people get together and decide to establish such a government.
But if "the people" can do that, why can't they do exactly
the same thing and get together to choose a government that will
build steel plants, dams, etc.?
in a flash that their logic was impeccable, that laissezfaire
was logically untenable, and that either I had to become a liberal,
or move onward into anarchism. I became an anarchist. Furthermore,
I saw the total incompatibility of the insights of Oppenheimer and
Nock on the nature of the State as conquest, with the vague "social
contract" basis that I had been postulating for a laissez-faire
government. I saw that the only genuine contract had
to be an individual's specifically disposing of or using his own
the anarchism I had adopted was individualist and free-market, a
logical extension of laissez-faire, and not the woolly communalism
that marked most of contemporary anarchist thought. On top of Mencken
and Austrian economics, I now began to devour all the individualist
anarchist literature I could dig up – fortunately as a New
Yorker I was close to two of the best anarchist collections in the
country, at Columbia and the New York Public Library. I raced through
the sources not simply for scholarly interest but also to help me
define my own ideological position. I was enchanted particularly
with Benjamin R. Tucker's Liberty, the great individualist
anarchist magazine published for nearly three decades in the latter
part of the nineteenth century. I was particularly delighted by
Tucker's incisive logic, his clear and lucid style, and his ruthless
dissection of numerous "deviations" from his particular
line. And Lysander Spooner, the anarchist constitutional lawyer
and associate of Tucker, enchanted me by his brilliant insight into
the nature of the State, his devotion to morality and justice, and
his couching of anarchistic invective in a delightful legal style.
to Grover Cleveland I discovered to be one of the greatest demolitions
of statism ever written.9 And for my own personal development,
I found the following passage in Spooner's No Treason decisive
in confirming and permanently fixing my hatred of the State. I was
convinced that no one could read these beautifully clear lines on
the nature of the State and remain unshaken:
is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: "Your
money, or your life." And many, if not most, taxes are paid
under the compulsion of that threat.
does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon
him from the roadside and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed
to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery
on that account, and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime
of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim
to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit.
He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired
impudence enough to profess to be merely a "protector,"
and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable
him to "protect" those infatuated travelers, who feel
perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his
peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make
such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money,
he leaves you as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following
you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful
"sovereign," on account of the "protection"
he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you by
commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to
do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more
money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to
do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy
to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute
his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman
to be guilty of such impostures, and villainies as these. In short,
he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either
his dupe or his slave.10
in fact, was in the air in our little movement in those days. My
friend and fellow Mises-student, Richard Cornuelle, younger brother
of Herb, was my first, and willing, convert. Anarchist ferment was
also brewing at no less a place than FEE. Ellis Lamborn, one of
the staff members, was openly referring to himself as an "anarchist,"
and Dick smilingly reported from his own stay at FEE that he was
"having increasing difficulty in coping with the anarchist's
arguments." Dick also delightedly reported that, amidst a lengthy
discussion about what name to call this newly found pure-libertarian
creed – "libertarian," "voluntaryist,"
"individualist," "true liberal," etc. –
this pioneering staff member cut in, with his Midwestern twang:
"Hell, u2018anarchist' is good enough for me." Another leading
staff member, F.A. Harper, on one of my visits to Irvington, softly
pulled a copy of Tolstoy's The Law of Love and the Law of Violence
from under his desk, and thereby introduced me to the absolute
pacifist variant of anarchism. Indeed, it was rumored that almost
the entire staff of FEE had become anarchists by this time, with
the exception of Mr. Read himself – and that even he was teetering
on the brink. The closest Read ever came publicly to the brink was
in his pamphlet "Students of Liberty," written in 1950.
After expounding on the necessity of keeping the violence of government
strictly limited to defense of person and property, Read confessed
that even these proposed limits left him with two telling questions
to which he had not been able to find satisfactory answers. First,
"can violence be instituted, regardless of how official or
how limited in intention, without begetting violence outside officialdom
and beyond the prescribed limitation?" And second,
Is not limitation
of government, except for relatively short periods, impossible?
Will not the predatory instincts of some men, which government
is designed to suppress, eventually appear in the agents selected
to do the suppressing? These instincts, perhaps, are inseparable
companions of power. . . . If there be criminals among us, what
is to keep them from gaining and using the power of government?11
It is scarcely
a coincidence, in fact, that the Tolstoyan influence, the contrasting
of the "law of love" with the "law of violence"
that constitutes government, appears as a leitmotif throughout the
idyll at FEE came abruptly to an end in 1954, with the publication
of Leonard Read's booklet Government – An Ideal Concept.
The book sent shockwaves reverberating through libertarian circles,
for with this work Read moved decisively back into the pro-government
camp. Read had abandoned the leadership of the anarcho-capitalist
camp, which could have been his for the asking, in order to take
up the cudgels for the Old Order.
publication of this book, not one of the numerous essays from FEE
had ever said a single word in praise of government; all of their
thrust had been in opposition to illegitimate government action.
While anarchism had never been explicitly advocated, all of FEE's
material had been consistent with an anarchist ideal, because
FEE had never positively advocated government or declared that it
was a noble ideal. But now that tradition had been liquidated.
and lengthy manuscripts poured into FEE in protest from anarchist
friends across the country. But Read was unheeding;13 among
the anarchists, the cry went up that Leonard had literally "sold
out," and gossip had it that a major factor in Leonard's backsliding
was an objective and thorough report on FEE by an organization that
studied and summed up institutes and foundations for potential business
contributors. The outfit had cogently called FEE a "Tory anarchist"
or "right-wing anarchist" organization, and the rumor
was that Leonard was reacting in fear of the effect of the "anarchist"
label on the tender sensibilities of FEE's wealthy contributors.
of Read's book also had a long-lasting impact on the productivity
and scholarship at FEE. For until this point, one of the working
rules had been that nothing got published under FEE's imprint except
with the unanimous consent of the staff – thus insuring that
the Tolstoyan concern for individual conscience would be preserved
as opposed to its suppression and misrepresentation by any social
organization. But here, despite heavy and virtually unanimous staff
opposition, Read had highhandedly broken this social compact and
had gone ahead and published his praise of government under FEE's
imprimatur. It was this attitude that launched a slow, but long
and steady decline of FEE as a center of libertarian productivity
and research, as well as an exodus from FEE of all its best talents,
led by F.A. Harper. Read had pledged to Harper at the start of FEE
in 1946 that the organization would become an institute or think-tank
of advanced libertarian study. These hopes had now gone a-glimmering,
though Read was later to deny his failure by serenely calling FEE
a designed "high school of liberty."
of 1949–50 was indeed a momentous one for me, and not only because
I was converted to anarchism and Austrian economics. My adoption
of Austrianism and my attendance at Mises's seminar were to determine
the course of my career for many years to come. Herb Cornuelle,
now of the William Volker Fund, suggested in the fall of 1949 that
I write a college textbook boiling down Mises's Human Action
into a form suitable for students. Since Mises didn't know of
me at the time, he suggested that I write a sample chapter; I did
a chapter on money during the winter, and Mises's approval led the
Volker Fund to give me a multiyear grant for an Austrian textbook
– a project which eventually snowballed into a large-scale
treatise on Austrian economics, Man, Economy, and State,
on which I began to work in early 1952. Thus began my association
with the William Volker Fund, which continued for a decade, and
included consulting work for the fund as a reviewer and analyst
of books, journals, and manuscripts.
Indeed as FEE
slipped from its high promise of productivity and scholarship, the
Volker Fund began to take up the slack. Herb Cornuelle soon left
the Fund to launch a brilliant career in top industrial management
– a gain to industry but a great loss to the libertarian movement.
His place at Volker (which by now had moved from Kansas City to
Burlingame, California) was taken by his younger brother Dick, and
soon other liaison officers were added, as the unique Volker Fund
concept took shape. This concept involved not only the subsidizing
of conservative and libertarian scholarship – conferences,
fellowships, book distributions to libraries, and eventually direct
book publishing – but also the granting of funds to individual
scholars rather than the usual foundation technique of granting
funds en masse to Establishment-type organizations and universities
(such as the Social Science Research Council). Granting funds to
individuals meant that the Volker Fund had to have a liaison staff
far larger than funds many times its comparatively modest size (approximately
And so the
Volker Fund eventually added Kenneth S. Templeton, Jr., a young
historian teaching at Kent School, Connecticut; F.A. Harper, one
of the exodus from FEE; Dr. Ivan R. Bierly, a doctoral student of
Harper's at Cornell and later at FEE; and H. George Resch, a recent
graduate of Lawrence College and a specialist in World War II revisionism.
Working within a framework of old Mr. Volker's injunction for anonymous
philanthropy, the Volker Fund never courted or received much publicity,
but its contributions were vital in promoting and bringing together
a large body of libertarian, revisionist, and conservative scholarship.
In the field of revisionism, the Fund played a role in financing
Harry Elmer Barnes's mammoth project for a series of books on the
revisionism of World War II.
By the early
1950s, all this libertarian activity forced mainstream opinion to
sit up and take notice. In particular, in 1948 Herb Cornuelle and
the William Volker Fund had helped Spiritual Mobilization, a right-wing
Los Angeles-based organization headed by the Reverend James W. Fifield,
to establish a monthly magazine, Faith and Freedom. Cornuelle
installed William Johnson, a libertarian who had been his assistant
in the Navy, as editor of the new magazine. Chodorov, who merged
his analysis into Human Events in March 1951 and moved
to Washington to become an associate editor of the latter publication,
began to write a regular column for Faith and Freedom, "Along
In 1953, the
first mainstream recognition of the new libertarian movement appeared,
in the form of a vituperative "brown-baiting" book by
a young Methodist minister denouncing "extremists" in
the Protestant churches. The book, Ralph Lord Roy's Apostles
of Discord: A Study of Organized Bigotry and Disruption on the Fringes
of Protestantism,14 had been a thesis written under
the high priest of Left-liberalism at Union Theological Seminary
in New York, Dr. John C. Bennett. This work was part of a popular
genre of the time that might be termed "extremist-baiting,"
in which the self-evidently proper and correct "vital center"
is defended against extremists of all sorts, but most particularly
right-wingers. Thus, Roy, devoting one perfunctory chapter to attacking
pro-Communist Protestants, spent the rest of the book on various
kinds of right-wingers, whom he divided into two baleful groups:
Apostles of Hate, and Apostles of Discord. In the slightly less
menacing Ministry of Discord (along with pro-Communists and various
rightists) was, in chapter 12, "God and the u2018Libertarians,'"
placed for some reason in quotation marks. But, quotation marks
or not, under attack or not, we had at least gained general attention,
and I suppose we should have been grateful to be placed in the Discord
rather than the Hate category.
the intellectual "façade" of Spiritual Mobilization
and its Faith and Freedom, as well as FEE, Nock, and Chodorov.
His treatment was fairly accurate, although the Volker Fund managed
to elude his notice; however, his inclusion of FEE under Protestantism
was highly strained, based only on the fact that Leonard Read was
a member of Spiritual Mobilization's advisory committee. Also attacked
in the Roy chapter was Christian Economics (CE), a
bimonthly free-market tabloid edited by the veteran Howard E. Kershner,
who had set up the Christian Freedom Foundation and begun publishing
the CE in 1950. Kershner had been a deputy to Herbert Hoover's
food relief program after World War I, and a long-time friend of
his fellow Quaker. Working as columnist in CE's New York
office was long-time economic journalist Percy L. Greaves, Jr.,
who was becoming a faithful follower of Ludwig von Mises in Mises's
seminar. Before coming to New York to join CE in 1950, Percy
had been a leading staffer of the Republican National Committee
in Washington, and was the minority counsel to Senator Brewster
of Maine, and the Pearl Harbor Congressional investigating committee.
This experience made Percy one of the outstanding Pearl Harbor revisionists
in the country. Percy was a rare example of someone with both political
experience and interest in economic scholarship. While still in
Washington in 1950, he thought seriously of running for U.S. Senate
from Maryland in the Republican primary. Since that turned out to
be the year in which the seemingly impregnable Senator Millard E.
Tydings lost to the unknown John Marshall Butler because of Joe
McCarthy's battle against him, Percy could well have become Senator
that year instead of Butler. As a result, and because of his general
demeanor, our group in the Mises seminar affectionately referred
to Percy as "the Senator."
aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time
in my memory, we, "our side," had captured a crucial word
from the enemy. Other words, such as "liberal," had been
originally identified with laissez-faire libertarians, but
had been captured by left-wing statists, forcing us in the 1940s
to call ourselves rather feebly "true" or "classical"
liberals.15 "Libertarians," in contrast, had
long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is
for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or
syndicalist variety. But now we had taken it over, and more properly
from the view of etymology; since we were proponents of individual
liberty and therefore of the individual's right to his property.
such as Frank Chodorov, continued to prefer the word "individualist."
Indeed, what Frank thought of as his major legacy to the cause,
was his founding of an educational Intercollegiate Society of Individualists.
Frank devoted a special October 1950 issue of analysis to
"A Fifty-Year Project" to take back intellectual life
from the predominant statism in America. Chodorov attributed the
"transmutation of the American character from individualist
to collectivist" to such turn of the twentieth century organizations
as the Intercollegiate Socialist Society; what was needed was an
antipode to educate and take back college youth, the future of the
country. Chodorov reworked his approach in "For Our Children's
Children" to a wider audience in the September 6, 1950 issue
of Human Events. As a result the Intercollegiate Society
of Individualists was founded in 1953, with the aid of a $1,000
donation from J. Howard Pew of Sun Oil, in those days the leading
contributor to Old Right causes, and with the help of the mailing
list of FEE. After the first year in Human Events' offices,
Chodorov moved the headquarters of ISI to the Foundation for Economic
Education, when he left Human Events in the summer of 1954
to take up his duties as editor of a new monthly magazine, The
Freeman, published by FEE.
- On William
Volker, see Herbert C. Cornuelle, "Mr. Anonymous":
The Story of William Volker (Caldwell, Id.: Caxton Printers,
- Frank Chodorov,
Taxation Is Robbery (Chicago: Human Events Associates,
1947), reprinted in Chodorov, Out of Step (New York: Devin-Adair,
Out of Step, p. 217.
- Ibid., pp.
- Ibid., pp.
- Ibid., p.
- Frank Chodorov,
One Is a Crowd (New York: Devin-Adair, 1952), pp. 93–94.
- Ibid., p.
Spooner, A Letter to Grover Cleveland, On His False Inaugural
Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and
the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance and Servitude of the People
(Boston: Benjamin R. Tucker, 1886).
Spooner, No Treason (Larkspur, Colo.: Pine Tree Press,
1966), p. 17.
E. Read, Students of Liberty (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.:
Foundation for Economic Education, 1950), p. 14.
- Read's "On
That Day Began Lies," written around the same period, begins
explicitly with a quotation from Tolstoy and is written as a Tolstoyan
critique of organizations that repress or violate the consciences
of individual members. See "On That Day Began Lies,"
Essays on Liberty (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation
for Economic Education, 1952), vol. 1, pp. 231–52.
- One of the
protesting manuscripts circulating among libertarians at the time
was written by Mr. Mercer Parks. Parks wrote,
the use of coercion to collect any reluctant taxes by contending
that government "is merely performing its proper role of
defending its members" . . . is evasively inconsistent
with the published beliefs of FEE staff members. So, coercion
is no longer coercion, says this essay. But coercion is always
coercion if it uses force to make one do something unwillingly.
No matter whether the tax is equitable or inequitable, if it
is taken from an unwilling person through force or threats of
force by government, no matter if it be only one cent, it is
secured by the use of coercion. (Mercer H. Parks, "In Support
of Limited Government" [unpublished ms., March 5, 1955])
A sad commentary
on the size and influence of the anarcho-capitalists at the time
is the fact that such critiques as Parks's could not be published
for lack of any sort of outlet, outside of FEE, for the publication
of libertarian writings.
Beacon Press, 1953).
word captured by statists was "monopoly." From the seventeenth
through the nineteenth centuries, "monopoly" meant simply
a grant of exclusive privilege by the State to produce or sell
a product. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the
word had been transformed into virtually its opposite, coming
to mean instead the achievement of a price on the free market
that was in some sense "too high."