For over a decade now, I have enjoyed the books published by Liberty Fund, especially the works of Ludwig von Mises. Only recently did I attend my first Liberty Fund colloquium, at which we discussed Herbert Spencer. From the Fund’s site:
Liberty Fund was founded in 1960 by Pierre F. Goodrich, an Indianapolis businessman and lawyer, with the mission of encouraging a deeper understanding of the requisites for restoring and preserving the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals. Upon his death in 1973, Mr. Goodrich left most of his estate to the Foundation for the purpose of exploring the many dimensions of liberty. Fifty years after its founding, Liberty Fund remains uncompromisingly committed to individual liberty in all of its dimensions.
Liberty Fund today conducts an impressive range of work towards achieving the ideals of a free society:
- Publishing a fabulous selection of books, including the works of Acton, Leoni and Mises.
- Holding scholarly conferences, which are attended by invitation.
- Making available educational resources: The Library of Economics and Liberty, Goodrich Seminar Room and Interactive Tour (which is wonderful to explore), The Online Library of Liberty and The Online Library of Law and Liberty.
I find their logo deeply moving. It is the earliest known expression of the word “liberty”. It is cuneiform from the Sumerian city-state of Lagash in about 2300 BC, predating Moses by a thousand years. From their site, “the Lagashites found that a change in political power had stripped them of their political and economic freedoms and subjected them to heavy taxation and exploitation by wealthy officials.”
I’m grateful to Liberty Fund for the opportunity to attend a conference and to Dr Alberto Mingardi of Istituto Bruno Leoni for extending the invitation. Exploring Herbert Spencer’s work was fascinating, much as his philosophy was ultimately ambiguous. I shall certainly return to the writing of his follower, the MP Auberon Herbert, who served as President of the fourth day of the first ever Co-operative Congress in 1869. Auberon Herbert’s essay, A Politician in Sight of Haven shows that some things have not changed. The following part of a conversation is reported:
“What course is open to a man,” he asked, “who wishes, above all, to be honest and to speak the truth; who wishes neither himself to be corrupted nor to corrupt the people; who has no desire to preserve any privileges for the richer classes, but yet will not go one step beyond what he believes to be just in gaining favor of the masses? The common theory of modern government seems to be that we have given power to the people, and therefore, whatever may be our own opinions, we must acquiesce in their wishes. We may dexterously pare a little off here and there, at this or at that point, but, having placed power in their hands, we must accept and act upon their views. Should it happen that we can add a little semispontaneous enthusiasm on our own account, why, so much the better. Now, with this theory I cannot come to terms. I stick at the old difficulty. Shall a man look first and foremost to his own sense of what is right, or shall he follow his party?”
I recommend the whole essay, with many thanks to Liberty Fund, one of the great institutions in defence and advocacy of freedom.