Leonard Read’s Vision of a Liberty-Loving Government

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In a dramatic contrast with political candidates’ promises to violate moral principles and other people’s property, Leonard Read recognized that “Nothing is in our nation’s capital except that which is taken from individuals.”
Gary M. Galles

In Richard Ebeling’s “This Is What a True Liberty-Loving Politician Would Look Like,” he provides a sharp contrast between politicians as we know them and politicians who would advance liberty. But there is another little-remembered source that provides a similarly inspirational example of a politician “who loves liberty better than power” rather than panderers who love power better than liberty. That is Leonard Read’s 1948 Pattern for Revolt, written for that year’s presidential campaign. Revisiting some of his insights also remind us of how invaluable our liberties, and all the blessings they provide, are.

The all-authoritarian state marches on…abetted by an ever-increasing number of gravy-trained citizens.

The people [have] no choice except between power-seeking personalities and groups, each offering a superior administration of government-as-master. Such a choice…is no choice at all.

The voice of expediency…must mislead because it represents the rejection of moral principles for the hope of temporary gain…a truly liberal party would have been asking “How can we liberate the individual from the tyranny of the State.”

Transfer of power from one party to the other is important only if the ascending party has principles which it is important to substitute for the principles of the party in power.

Government should not be so expanded…Men in government, therefore, should be those who aim at making government as unnecessary as possible.

In every field where arbitrary authority is imposed we shall inquire how it may be removed and replaced by a reliance on the initiative and enterprise of individual citizens. We must give to the art of self-government its American renaissance.

The only way to guard freedom is to remove, to destroy, unwarranted restrictions and coercion.

Governments should have only limited powers and functions…[but] Opponents of freedom…have pre-empted the language of freedom.

Our plunderstorm economy…[arises from] conviction on the part of millions that they have…a right to share in the property of others…this is a wholly immoral notion.

This group-thirst for political plunder…calls for an understanding of where personal rights end and infringement on the rights of others begins.

In the hope of plundering more from others than others succeed in plundering from us, we have voted away the inestimable benefits for which government and law were originally instituted.

We founded our government…on the premise that the individual citizen has certain inalienable rights and that government and law should protect those rights…we should restore government and law to their proper functions, limit them as we originally intended they should be limited.

This nation has legalized plunder…we seek prosperity by the fruitless process of picking each others’ pockets.

No man…[is]competent enough to apply [coercion] justly and wisely, to any responsible adult person.

Given freedom of opportunity, protection from fraud, violence and predation…we can and will look out for ourselves better than will any other person or any government agency.

[Government] failures…[derive from] their guarantee to meet “human needs” and their inability to meet the ever-growing demands and impossible responsibilities to which they thus exposed themselves.

The real reasons for most of the present and recent distress inhere in the suppressions of liberty, in the sabotaging…of the free competitive economy, which alone produces general prosperity. Re-establishing a free economy is the only road to progress…by the repeal of those laws, rules and regulations which impede it.

The American philosophy of government is premised on our countrymen being free men. This is what our birth as human beings gives us a right to be…it is the object to which our Constitution commits us.

I do not desire to reorganize the lives of other people under the pretext of doing them good…turn your hopes from this place on the Potomac…It is the most unproductive spot in these United States…May your Federal Government no longer be condemned for what it plunders from some. And may it never have applause because of the loot it bestows on others.

In a dramatic contrast with political candidates’ promises to violate moral principles and other people’s property, Leonard Read recognized that, “Nothing is in our nation’s capital except that which is taken from individuals.” That is why his Pattern for Revolt is a bracing reminder of what has been lost, which complements Richard Ebeling’s outline of true liberty-loving politicians. It merits attention from anyone who, “If given the opportunity…would revolt against all of those political devices and ideas incidental to government in the role of master.”

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.