Do Ideas Really Have Consequences?
Richard Weaver’s book “Ideas Have Consequences” was widely
read in the early days of the Foundation for Economic Education and especially
by subscribers to the Freeman where Leonard Read gave it a strong
endorsement. I think many of us readers
of the Freeman can remember when something we said to a left-leaning friend or
associate about liberty or free markets seemed to begin to change their
thinking. These experiences are very satisfying
but let me tell you about a major consequence of ideas skillfully
explained by Leonard Read.
It was in 1975 that Reason magazine arranged an interview
with Ronald Reagan. Near the end of the
interview Reason’s editor Manuel Klausner asked, “Are there any particular
books, authors, or economists that have influenced your intellectual
development?” Regan answered, “I’m an
inveterate reader – Bastiat, vonMises, Hayek and Hazlitt, I’m one for the
classical economists.” Now stop and
think about this. How was it possible
that this former radio sports announcer, actor, union president and politician
ever came to know about these great scholars?
It is quite a story that begins in the 1950s. On one of my early visits to FEE, Leonard
told me about his interesting and recent experience. He had been invited to Los Angeles to speak to some business and
community leaders. This would be an
opportunity to expose this group to FEE’s purpose and the philosophy of freedom
so he was glad to accept. In Los Angeles a good crowd
gathered for this luncheon meeting. As
Leonard was being introduced, a man came in a back door and sat down
quietly. As he got into the substance of
his speech he noticed that this man was listening very intently. When he finished several of the audience came
to the podium to greet him and then the man came forward to talk to him. He asked several very thoughtful and
penetrating questions about the freedom philosophy. By this time Leonard knew that his interest
was sincere. He also was sure that the
man was Ronald Reagan. Their
conversation continued and Leonard answered more questions about limited
government, the rule of law, etc. Reagan
subscribed to the Freeman for many
years as he continued his reading and
interest in the philosophy of freedom.
At the foundation’s home in Irvington-0n-Hudson, hanging on a wall, is a
photograph of the Reagans riding on a plane or train, Ronald is reading a
Freeman and Nancy
is sleeping with her head on his shoulder.
There is another link between Ronald Reagan’s growing
interest in the philosophy of freedom and FEE.
Soon after Reagan became known as an inspirational speaker, the General
Electric Corporation hired him to give a number of speeches around the
country. A Vice President of the
company, Lemuel Boulware, was put in charge.
Coincidently, he was a friend of Leonard and FEE. Bouleware wanted to be sure that Reagan’s
speeches were consistent with the freedom philosophy so he asked Leonard to
check advance copies of these speeches and send his thoughts to Reagan.
So, ideas do have consequences. Leonard Read, by first answering Reagan’s
questions in a well reasoned, logical way, triggered Reagan to pursue these
ideas. This led to his series of talks
for General electric where he exposed thousands of people to this philosophy. And, lastly, led to his Presidency where his
inspirational speeches on America
being like “a shining city on the hill” gave the people a new feeling of pride
and patriotism. His reading built his
confidence in the idea that individual liberty and free markets are morally
right and communism is morally wrong, and evil.
He had the courage and conviction to reject the advice of those around
him and tell Gorbachev to “Tear Down That Wall” which, at the very least,
hastened the crumbling of the Soviet Empire.
Ideas do have consequences!
(Ernest Hancock, Publisher FreedomsPhoenix - As much as Chet witnessed in his life and observed the abandonment of the US Constitution by American government at all levels, Chet was still very encouraged by individual people and was always looking for the positive signs of change. Chet was very encouraged by the Ron Paul Revolution. I am very glad that he was able to witness how all of his decades of hard work had helped lay the foundation for the revolution that finally manifested itself in the minds of the young.)
(Letter to Chet's Children)
September 16, 2008
Mr. Bob Anderson
1744 W. Coconino Dr.
Chandler, AZ 85248
Ms. Barbara Anderson
13414 W. Prospect
Sun City, AZ 85375
Ms. Kelly Momsen
7812 Donegal Rd.
Wichita, KS 67206
Dear Bob, Barbara and Kelly:
It is with great sadness that I learned a few days ago of
your father’s passing on September 7. On behalf of all of us at the Foundation
for Economic Education (FEE), I want to extend deepest condolences.
Though I met your father perhaps only once, I’ve long known
of his reputation as a man of character and an apostle of liberty. He was a
long-time stalwart supporter of FEE and a good friend of our late founder,
Leonard Read. Chet’s article, “A Fair Wage,” reprinted in volume 4 of our Essays on Liberty in 1958, showed how
deeply he understood the workings of the free economy.
I also know that Chet was for a long time a very important
part of an influential circle of FEE friends in the Milwaukee area. I was
talking by phone just this morning with Mary Law, who has many fond memories of
If only more Americans would exhibit half the understanding
of (and devotion to) the principles of liberty as Chet did, America would be a
much freer, happier and prosperous place. Be assured that FEE will continue to
work to bring that about. We will forever be inspired by the example your
father so ably set before us.
Lawrence W. Reed
cc: Mary Law