I confess I never cared much for Leonard Read’s books—what a friend calls “grandfather libertarianism.” My eyes glaze over at meaningless, pop or cutesy titles like To Free or to Freeze, The Freedom Freeway, Talking to Myself, and How Do We Know? I never could finish them; the little hardbacks, not much longer than pamphlets, cost only a dollar or so, and have sat on my shelf for over a decade now, collecting dust. (The same goes for Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine, and Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, which I could just not get through. Patterson’s too-dated over-reliance on proto-New Age metaphors of “circuits” and “energy” drove me, as an electrical engineering student, batty.)
Not that I frown on those who come to libertarianism through Read or others; the more, the merrier. In any event, though Read may be boring, the same can hardly be said of FEE in recent years. Most recently, there was whole Mark Skousen presidency debacle.
There was also an interesting episode in the late ’90s. At the time Hans Sennholz was President. The November 1996 issue of The Freeman (now Ideas on Liberty) contained a Book Review by Hans-Hermann Hoppe of The Failure of America’s Foreign Wars (edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob G. Hornberger).
In the review, Hoppe pointed out that Hitler was relatively benign before World War Two compared to Stalin; Stalin had killed 20 million of his own people before the war, whereas Hitler did not start killing many people until after the war started. This true statement, unsurprisingly, angered certain people, including Israel Kirzner, then on the FEE Board of Trustees.
Next came Robert W. McGee‘s article Arab Terrorism: Causes and Cure, in the December 1996 issue of The Freeman, about the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights by the Israelis. McGee merely pointed out that Palestinians have been having their land stolen and have been subjected to numerous other human rights abuses since the 1940s, with the help of American taxpayers. As McGee wrote:
The Palestinians’ property right, one of the most basic of all human rights, was systematically disparaged. The disparagement continues to this day, as evidenced by the West Bank settlement policies of the present Israeli government. Russian Jews and others are being given Palestinian land to live on, and the Palestinian owners are being driven from their land without compensation. … The land grab is only one of many human rights abuses that the Palestinians have endured. … [N]o government should ever condone or financially support a regime that systematically disparages them. Once U.S. support stops, Arab terrorists (some of whom may legitimately be called freedom fighters) will be far less likely to attack U.S. property and citizens. … Muslims, Jews, and Christians can live in peace, but only when human rights, including property rights, are respected.
Kirzner, angered over the two articles, resigned from the Board of Trustees. Hans Sennholz, then the president of FEE, fired Larry White, the editor of the November issue in which Hoppe’s book review appeared; Robert Batemarco, the book review editor; and Robert Higgs, the editor of the December issue, in which McGee’s article apeared.
So at this point it appeared that Hoppe, McGee, White, Higgs, and Batemarco were persona non grata with FEE, and Kirzner had quit. It’s said that several FEE supporters were outraged by Sennholz’s craven, politically-correct actions. Some theorize that Sennholz felt compelled to act this way partly to atone for his serving as a Luftwaffe pilot for Hitler during World War Two.
And I haven’t even gotten to the part about the father-in-law having an affair with his daughter-in-law, who ends up committing suicide. Wait, woops, I think that’s Hillsdale (( See, in Liberty magazine: Is It True What They Say About Hillsdale?; The Truth About Hillsdale; The Lessons of Hillsdale, R.W. Bradford; Hillsdale as an Ordinary College, Robert Campbell; Hillsdale and the Standards of Liberty. )) I’m thinking of. Nevermind.