"Are you alarmed by the lack of critical thinking and rampant irrationality in society today? Are you disturbed by the unwillingness of most people to think for themselves? Are you skeptical of the status quo? So are we and we're trying to do something about it!"
That's the clarion call to arms of Independent-Thinker Sharon Presley, the founder and Executive Director of Resources for Independent Thinking.
RIT provides tools to help people think for themselves—critically. The organization publishes a periodical, Independent Thinking Review; offers workshops, seminars, and courses; and sells books that encourage independent and critical thinking.
A passionate libertarian writer, speaker and activist since 1964, Sharon Presley was the co-founder and co-proprietor, with John Muller, of Laissez Faire Books; and editor of their flagship publication, Laissez Faire Review, from 1972 to 1977.
"I saw the job of Laissez Faire books to be, as Nock puts it, taking care of the Remnant, the Remnant who care about freedom, individual rights, individualism, the Remnant who want to build a new society with 'liberty and justice for all,'" says Sharon. "To build a new society requires changing ideas. Not laws, not voting, not just political activism, but changing ways of thinking. And to change ideas, you need ideas, and arguments, and information, and, most of all, a moral and philosophical framework."
"I knew the ideas and information were out there, languishing in dusty libraries or on the shelves of obscure publishers. There were Albert Jay Nock, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Voltairine de Cleyre, John Henry Mackay, Frank Chodorov, Suzanne LaFollette and so many more forgotten libertarians; Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard and so many more undeservedly obscure economists and social philosophers. And eventually, during the years of the bookstore, new libertarian voices—Karl Hess, David Friedman, Robert Nozick, Peter Breggin and so many more, with great ideas waiting to be read, digested, used, expanded. If only the Remnant could know that these ideas existed, and had a way to obtain them."
"Laissez Faire Books played and is still playing a crucial role in disseminating these ideas. I am convinced that no other libertarian organization has distributed as many libertarian ideas of such high quality to so many people as Laissez Faire Books has done over the years."
"There's no real way to measure the impact that the people who bought books from us are having. But I know that many whom I remember—budding economists, would-be writers, soon-to-be professors and publishers and many more—have gone on to disseminate the ideas in many ways. To be a part of that is to be a part of something very important."
Sharon is also a professor who has lectured and written widely on scholarly themes. Her research includes the study of political resisters to authority, women resisters, and Mormon feminists. She was a founding member and National Coordinator of the Association of Libertarian Feminists from 1975 to 1982, and is now the West Coast Coordinator and Publicity Director of the group.
As director of Resources for Independent Thinking, Sharon is fighting a battle for greater respect for—and more consistent practice of—the virtues of rationality and reasonableness. She's doing it by teaching people how to question premises, be independent thinkers and tolerant listeners, and encourage independent, critical thinking in colleagues, friends and family.
Sharon Presley is making sure that reason will indeed be the "only oracle of man"—and, of course, woman.
Copyright © 2000, The Daily Objectivist - Reprinted with permission of The Daily Objectivist and Davidmbrown.com.
1 May 2009