Founder of the Foundation for Economic Education
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  • Leonard Read

    Leonard Edward Read (26 September 1898 – 14 May 1983) was the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which was one of the first modern libertarian institutions of its kind in the United States. He wrote 29 books and numerous essays, including the well-known "I, Pencil" (1958).

    Reference

    Read, Leonard E. (1898-1983), by Donald J. Boudreaux, Nick Slepko, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "Leonard E. Read, an activist, a fundraiser, and an administrator, is best known for originating the oldest existing free-market nonprofit in the world, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). ... Read also was known for his writings in moral philosophy and as a gourmet chef and curling enthusiast, all of which he pursued avidly. Not surprisingly, statists disparaged him. Eleanor Roosevelt even commented that she was 'struck' by FEE's insinuation that there was some similarity between the welfare state and communism. But even with those who ordinarily allied with him against the welfare state, Read was uncompromising in his defense of the truth."

    Born

    26 Sep 1898, Leonard Edward Read, in Hubbardston, Michigan

    Died

    14 May 1983, in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York

    Associations

    Foundation for Economic Education, Founder and first President, 1948-1983

    Web Pages

    Leonard E. Read (1898 - 1983): Founder and First President (1948 - 1983)
    Short profile on an early version of the Foundation for Economic Education website, lists 17 of Read's books
    "... as a result of New Deal programs and war-time collectivism, socialist ideas were taking root in the United States. It was Leonard Read's mission to confront this ideological invasion. Together with a few friends and kindred souls he launched the Foundation for Economic Education, on March 7, 1946, just a few months after the Japanese surrender. ... For 37 years Leonard Read labored to promote freedom, individual liberty and responsibility, the rule of law, and self-improvement. He was a natural leader who, at a crucial moment in American history, roused the tired forces defending individual freedom and private property."

    Articles

    Classical Liberalism in Argentina: A Lesson for the World, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Jul 1994
    Recounts highlights of Argentine history from the 1810 revolution to the late 20th century, arguing that the period from the ouster of Rosas in 1852 to the military coup of 1930 demonstrated the validity of Adam Smith's writings
    "The year 1958 ... a small group of Argentineans, led by a man named Alberto Benegas Lynch ... invited two Americans to deliver a series of lectures in Argentina. ... Read was the founder of The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which had been established in 1946 with the express aim of reestablishing economic liberty in the United States. ... Read's lectures were published in a book entitled Why Not Try Freedom?"
    Iraqi Death by Political Abstraction, by Sheldon Richman, 5 Jun 2006
    Examines the causes of the 2005 Haditha killings, reflecting on Leonard Read's notable essay "Conscience in the Battlefield"
    "In 1951, during the Korean War, the libertarian Leonard E. Read, a veteran of World War I and founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, looked at this issue in a particularly moving way. In his essay 'Conscience on the Battlefield,' Read imagined a dialogue between himself as an American soldier dying on the battlefield and his own conscience. His conscience asks, 'Did you kill these people as an act of self-defense? Were they threatening your life or your family? Were they on your shores, about to enslave you?' ... 'But, my Conscience, I had no choice. ... I acted in response to my government.'"
    Leonard E. Read (1898-1983), Religion & Liberty, Jul 1996
    Biographical sketch, part of the series "In The Liberal Tradition"
    "Leonard E. Read was the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, one of the original pro-freedom think tanks. Through his tireless efforts in that organization, as well as through his twenty-seven books, countless essays, and extensive speaking schedule, he was largely responsible for the revival of the liberal tradition in post-World War II America. ... Another cornerstone of Read's thought was that the free market is a moral institution, not just an efficient means of production. ... Thus, Read thought, defenders of the free society can take the moral high ground over the proponents of the coercive state power."
    Leonard E. Read: A Portrait, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Sep 1998
    Memorial and biographical essay, focusing mostly on Read's life before founding FEE; written for the centennial of his birth
    "Leonard started out as a farm boy in the small town of Hubbardston, Michigan. ... Leonard learned early on that time was not to be wasted. ... when Leonard evolved a strong belief in something, a mysterious alchemy would somehow transform his vision into reality. ... After the talk Carver approached Leonard and said, 'Mr. Read, you sound like Frederic Bastiat.' ... Leonard has said that the unique stance of FEE was inspired by reading ['Isaiah’s Job'] essay by Nock. ... He firmly grasped the profound truth that the advancement of human liberty is a learning process and not a selling problem."
    Leonard Read - Hero of the Day, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    Excerpt from Mary Sennholz's "Leonard Read, the Founder and Builder", The Freeman, May 1996
    "Leonard's passion had not always been for ideas and ideologies. For much of his adult life (1928-1945) he had been ... a vocal Chamber of Commerce spokesman who faithfully defended the official Chamber position, which at that time was sympathetic to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal ... His moment of reformation and conversion came in the fall of 1933 when ... he arranged a visit [with] W.C. Mullendore, an official of Southern California Edison Company ... Until his dying days Leonard swore this explanation had been his best lesson ever—it had removed the blinders from his eyes."
    Leonard Read, the Founder and Builder, by Mary Sennholz, The Freeman, May 1996
    Biographical essay written by Read's secretary in the early days of FEE, as well as author of Leonard E. Read : Philosopher of Freedom
    "Leonard was a self-educated man who learned much not only from books but from a great deal of experience. Leonard's practical education began when most children are still preoccupied with mastering the Three R's. Already by the age of twenty he had faced an unusual share of challenges which shaped his lofty spirit, empowered him with knowledge, and became the kernels of an industrious adult life. ... When Leonard was barely eleven and his sister Rubye nine ... Their father died ... His death changed the life of the family dramatically, leaving Leonard the man of the family who now faced adult responsibilities."
    Spotlight: Founding Father, by Patrick Cox, Reason, Aug 1980
    Brief profile of Leonard Read, his accomplishments, his influence and his outlook for the future of liberty
    "It is difficult to get Read to talk about his accomplishments. He would rather discuss his shelty collie, whose ragged picture he is quick to produce from his shirt pocket, or his favorite golf course in Scotland. His goals in life include a fifth hole-in-one and seeing Halley's Comet a second time. The word integrity seems to come up whenever his friends talk about him. F.A. Hayek, Henry Hazlitt (the only original trustee of FEE still living), Benjamin Rogge, Hans Sennholz, and Antony Fisher are better sources of information about Read than Read is."
    The Early History of FEE, by Henry Hazlitt, The Freeman, Mar 1984
    Excerpted from Hazlitt's remarks at the Leonard E. Read Memorial Conference on Freedom, November 1983
    "It must have been sometime in 1944 or 1945 that a handsome man dropped in to see me at the New York Times, where I was then writing the economic edi­torials, and introduced himself as Leonard Read, gener­al manager of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. The free-enterprise philosophy had already become almost a religion with him. He told me he was looking for a wider audience to which to explain that philosophy, and was thinking of setting up a libertarian foundation of his own."
    UpdThe Foundation for Economic Education: Success or Failure?, by Benjamin A. Rogge, Can Capitalism Survive?, 1979
    Chapter 3 of Part IX, "a tribute to one man and the organization he created—to Leonard Read and the Foundation for Economic Education"; delivered on FEE's 25th anniversary
    "If any of you have seen FEE's mission as that of winning now and winning big, then you have no choice but to label it a failure. But as I have understood him, his thinking, and the organization he brought into being, I have always believed that Leonard Read saw his mission as something quite different from (and quite superior to) that of winning tomorrow’s election or next week's idea popularity poll. ... Stop worrying about such things, he tells us; 'the readiness is all.'"
    The Legacy of Leonard E. Read, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Sep 1991
    Reflects on the influence of Read on the author and other "freedom devotees", recounting two illuminating examples of Read's "deep dedication to integrity and principle"
    "Leonard Read took an absolutely uncompromising approach to the principles of freedom. He argued that man's purpose on earth, whatever it is, requires the widest possible ambit for human growth and maturation. Therefore, he believed, a person should be free to do whatever he wants in life as long as it is peaceful. ... Central to Read's philosophy was an unbending devotion to truth and integrity. A person must always be true to himself, he often said, and to the principles in which he believes. Duplicity, double-dealing, deceit, and lying could never be countenanced — no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the justification."

    Writings

    Conscience on the Battlefield, 1981
    Pamphlet written in 1951, during the Korean War, updated with prologue in 1981; Read recalls the 1918 incident when the troopship he was on was sunk by a German submarine and wonders about his thoughts if he were dying (in 1951) on a Korean battlefield
    "War 'as a means to peace among nations' was then, and remains, a world-wide fallacy. Today, small wars go on in various parts of the globe, and there is the possibility that a big one is in the offing. ... Nonsense? Congress declares war in which millions may be killed. But every one of those legislators would be revolted by the thought of shooting a single innocent man. The nonsense is millions times one!"
    How To Get Action, The Freeman, May 1955
    First published in the short-lived quarterly Ideas on Liberty; reprinted in the 1958 collection Essays on Liberty, Vol. III and in The Freeman Aug 1998; argues the best form of action is working on self-improvement
    "'I want less talk and more action.' Thus speak Americans when they suddenly awaken to the fact that their liberties are endangered. Talk, they say, is useless; only action counts. But perhaps talk and action aren't necessarily opposites. What if studying, talking, writing, and explaining should turn out to be the only worthwhile action there is? What then? ... Action? For authoritarians it is physical force. For libertarians it is first understanding and then explanation—the latter being 'talk,' either verbal or written."
    I, Pencil, by Milton Friedman (afterword), Leonard Read, Lawrence Reed (introduction), The Freeman, Dec 1958
    Read's most famous essay; resource page at FEE website includes PDF, MOBI and ePub versions, and MP3 recording
    "I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write. ... I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe ... Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year. ... There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being."

    Books Authored

    I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read, by Donald J. Boudreaux (afterword), Milton Friedman (introduction), Leonard Read, Foundation for Economic Education (publisher), 1999
    Read's most famous essay, in pamphlet form; electronic version at the Library of Economics and Liberty

    Videos


    Leonard Liggio on the Rise of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, by Jacob Hornberger, Leonard Liggio, 9 Mar 1995
    Talk given at Vienna Coffee Club (Future of Freedom Foundation). Liggio starts off with the New Deal and covers many events and individuals both at the core and the periphery of the modern libertarian movement

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Leonard Read" as of 29 Jun 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.