A Letter to Fred Reed

You have written that you will no longer write Fred on Everything. “No longer” is a long time. For a writer, it is an unlikely period of time.

At about the time you were composing your Farewell Address, I was thinking: “Maybe I should have my wife send a check to Fred Reed for $1,000. Well, maybe $500.” I probably would have neglected this, but at least it crossed my mind.

Why send money? Because you are the most gifted scribbler that I read these days, now that Mike Royko has gone to his reward. The thought of the demise of Uncle Hant disturbs me as much as the demise of Slats Grobnick.

Sometimes, you are funny. Sometimes, you are serious. Mostly, you are on target. You are the only columnist I read every time, as soon as it arrives.

I make a good living by writing. I work in a field where people are willing to pay me. Most people aren’t. But a lot of what I write is for free. It always has been.

You wrote the following:

Books need my reading when I again can, sunsets my supervision, Padre Kino my drinking. Nepal, I am persuaded, cannot survive without my doing some serious trekking over it. I cannot let an entire country die for want of my attention. There are crazy friends from distant times and far places with whom I need to eat noodles in various remote back streets and tell lies. Equally crazy daughters require my time. And I require theirs.

So, you want to read more books. I encourage this. But what good is reading them if you can’t put the information to work? Write book reviews. Post them. You will get a better handle on the books if you do. So will your readers.

Tour Nepal. Write it up for the rest of us, who will not get the opportunity. Take pictures. Post them. It’s cheap.

Swap lies with old friends. Share the best ones with us. Unlike Congress, your lies won’t cost us.

You want to write for money. So do I. But some things are worth saying in full public view for free.

You suffer from frustration.

The civilizational changes we now see are both irremediable and beyond control. The peasantrification and empty glitter of society, pervasive hostility to careful thought, onrushing authoritarianism, and distaste for cultivation are now endemic. I do not know where these lead, but we are assuredly going to get there. Fuming buys nothing.

I understand your concern. Nevertheless, for four decades, I have lived by this motto: “You can’t fight city hall, but you can pee on the steps and run.”

The World Wide Web is an unprecedented gift for those of us with distended verbal bladders.

February 13, 2009

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

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