Wow! What a great tour in the American Southwest spreading ideas on liberty. That’s where I was all last week.
The trip began with a reception on Monday evening sponsored by the Freedom Library, a fantastic organization that for many years has been teaching students and adults the principles of freedom and free markets. In fact, the head of the organization, Howard Blitz, has been a big inspiration for me owing to his dedication and perseverance.
The Monday evening reception was for people who helped sponsor the main event on Tuesday evening. After everyone had socialized for a while, Howard called me to the front to deliver some remarks and initiate a group discussion. Well, it turned out to be a lively one, covering such topics as the welfare state, the nature of freedom, foreign policy, the war on terrorism, federal spending and debt, and immigration. Everyone seemed to enjoy the exchange.
Near the end of the discussion, we were joined by the other speaker for the events, Dick Cheatham, who I have known since my days at VMI. He was two years ahead of me there. Dick discovered libertarianism while at VMI and actually went to events at which Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Carl Hess, and other libertarian luminaries were speaking. Dick gave some remarks to close the Monday evening program. That was followed by a photo session, and then we adjourned for the evening.
The next morning, Howard took Dick and me to a local high school where we spoke to four different classes in two sessions. The classes were in government and in economics. Dick’s profession is to portray prominent figures in U.S. colonial history, and he incorporates libertarian free-market principles within his presentation. In Yuma, he portrayed John Rolfe, who was one of the principals at the Jamestown colony in the 1600s.
Rolfe explained how requiring the colonists to place all the colony’s earnings into a common storehouse had resulted in starvation. When the colonists changed the system to permit people to own what they themselves produced, there was bounty.
I then presented the students with basic principles of libertarianism, with a focus on two examples: one, people being free to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it and, two, freeing employers to hire anyone they want, including foreign citizens.
Dick and I spoke for 10 minutes each and then the rest of the hour was for discussion. As you can imagine, both sessions were extremely lively, with hands going up all over the place. It was great!
That night was the big event, an annual program in which the Freedom Library awards scholarships to students. There were about 150 people in attendance. Appearing as John Rolfe, Dick delivered an expanded version of the talk he gave at the high school. I gave a talk on solutions to America’s economic problems. Since Yuma is near the Mexican border, I made my talk revolve around poverty and the keys to wealth, drawing upon my experience of having lived on the border in Texas for some 25 years of my life.
The next evening, FFF hosted an evening session in Phoenix, at which we touched base with lots of old friends and supporters and made some new friends as well. FFF’s vice president, Sheldon Richman, and I delivered talks on economic principles and on the problems associated with the welfare-warfare state. The discussion part of the evening was extremely lively. One of the highlights of the evening was when a woman stood up and said, “I learned about this meeting from a website and decided to come with my daughter. I have never heard these ideas before and I am so excited to be here learning about them. Thank you!”
Then it was on to Dallas, where we had another nice evening sharing ideas on liberty with old friends and new ones. Some people even drove in from Austin, which is about 2 hours away. Again, the discussion part of the evening was the most enjoyable and stimulating. Included among the attendees were three students from the organization Students for Liberty, and they impressed everyone with their comments.
As I told the various audiences, ideas matter. They have consequences. They move people to action. That’s the point of transmitting ideas on liberty. That’s the point of sharing libertarian perspectives with others, through speeches, letters, email, political activity, articles, op-eds, and the like. We’re planting seeds and we’re looking for libertarians, especially those people who don’t yet know they’re libertarians and say, “That’s exactly the way I feel.” That’s the way to reach a critical mass of people that then brings about a fundamental shift in American society, one that leads America, and indirectly the world, to the highest reaches of freedom that mankind has ever seen.