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The Compromise of Silence

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Accompanying this article is the April issue of Freedom Daily. All of the articles in this issue are devoted to the immorality and destructiveness of the government’s war on drugs.

People have recently said to me, “Why don’t you people at FFF take it slow? Why are you immediately tackling such tough freedom issues as the war on drugs? Don’t you know that you are just going to alienate donors and readers at the inception of your operations?”

Another example: A friend of mine recently asked me why we are advocating a total separation of school and state. He suggested that other freedom organizations were attracting a wider audience of donors and readers by advocating such things as the voucher system, tuition tax credits, choice in public schools, etc. My response was that if we ever have to abandon what we know is right — the elimination of government involvement in the field of education — for the sake of donations or readership, then I would rather go out of business and go back to practicing law.

It is possible, but I believe doubtful, that the safe route, with respect to donations and readership, would be to focus only on those issues which are generally popular among freedom devotees; i.e., the inefficiencies associated with rent controls, welfare, and other aspects of the welfare state. The problem with this approach is that readers and donors inevitably become bored with essays and articles which cover these same subjects, time and time again. Many people inevitably shift their attention and support to organizations which are not afraid to break new ground in the advance of liberty.

Furthermore, addressing the usual infringements of freedom associated with the welfare state/planned economy should be a goal, but not the goal, of freedom organizations. The ultimate goal should be to attack all forms of political infringements of individual liberty, especially those which find favor with a majority of the population.

I learned long ago that principles can never be compromised; they can only be abandoned. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is not survival. Its mission is the advancement and achievement of freedom. This is the reason that, in our first few issues of Freedom Daily, we have focused on such significant infringements of freedom, private property, and limited government as drug laws, flag laws, U.S. government aid to Poland, the Federal Reserve System and legal tender laws, and the invasion of Panama.

If this approach costs us donations, and ultimately our existence, then so be it. To abandon principle for the sake of expediency is too high a price to pay.

There are, of course, freedom organizations whose principals honestly favor drug laws. My only criticism as to these organizations is that they are intellectually wrong. But I do not fault them for arguing their position. In fact, I have only the utmost respect for people who stand up for their true beliefs.

However, there are other freedom organizations whose principals privately acknowledge the wrongfulness of drug laws but who refuse to publicly state their position for fear of losing donations and readers. This conduct constitutes the “Compromise of Silence.” It is the utmost of disgraceful conduct. It is moral cowardice at its best. To sacrifice one’s convictions for the sake of money or any other personal interest constitutes the abandonment of every principle of truth and integrity.

And the results are tragic. The welfare state and planned economy create misery in thousands of lives in the United States. But drug laws are causing deaths. Therefore, there is no excuse whatsoever for freedom devotees to hide their true convictions on the wrongfulness of this type of government intervention. In a sense, by compromising through silence for the sake of donations or readership, these persons must share the moral responsibility for the destructiveness associated with drug laws.

I recall once seeing two freedom devotees being interviewed by a television reporter. They were asked whether their organization favored taxes to support the limited functions of government. I had heard one of them repeatedly state, in private, that there was no moral justification for forcing people to support the limited functions of government and that people could be trusted to voluntarily support their government in the same way they do their churches. Yet, the response of both of these individuals to the television reporter was that of course their organization favored taxation as the means to support limited government.

I later asked them about this position and the inconsistency between what had been stated in private and in public. Their response was that it was important to falsify some beliefs in public in order to maintain credibility among the general public.

Many years ago, Leonard Read, the founder of The Foundation for Economic Education, wrote an essay entitled the “Penalty of Surrender” in which he addressed this type of conduct. He said:

“. . .Principle does not lend itself to bending or compromising. It stands impregnable. I must either abide by it, or in all fairness, I must on this point regard myself as an inconsistent, unprincipled person rather than a rational, reasonable, logical one. . . .

“Intellectual integrity simply means to reflect in word and in deed, always and accurately, that which one believes to be right. Integrity cannot be compromised. It is either practiced or not practiced. . . .

“Perhaps it is timidity that prevents many a man from standing squarely on his own philosophy and uttering nothing less than the highest truth he perceives. He fears the loss of friends or position. Actually, the danger lies in the other direction, in settling for less than one’s best judgment.

“Does it take courage to be honest? Does one have to be brave to express the truth as he sees it? Indeed, it is not dangerous to be honest, but rather a mark of intelligence. Being honest and adhering to principle requires intelligence more than courage. . . .

“Life in a physical sense is a compromise, a fact that need not concern us. But when vast numbers of people surrender living by what they believe to be right, it follows that they must then live by what they believe to be wrong. No more destructive tendency can be imagined.

“Honesty — each person true to his highest conscience — is the condition from which revelation springs; from which knowledge expands; from which intelligence grows; from which judgments improve. It is a never-ending, eternally challenging — a thoroughly joyous — process. Indeed, it is living in its highest sense.”

Another friend recently suggested to me that the proper approach to freedom was to begin with the easy issues — welfare, social security, etc. — rather than with such controversial issues as drug laws. I disagree. In order to convince people of the consistency of moral principles of freedom, it is imperative that we not shirk from tackling the toughest issues. After all, if people can understand these principles in their application to the hardest cases, they will understand them with respect to the easy cases.

Some of the older, well-established and well-endowed freedom organizations have the luxury of compromising through silence. If some donors become dissatisfied over the silent approach to freedom, there is still plenty of money in the till to finance operations.

The advantage of being the new kid on the block is that we don’t have this “luxury.” Each month, we have enough money in the bank to pay the publication costs of about two more monthly issues of Freedom Daily (please do not get the impression that we like it this way!). So, we know that we do not have the “luxury” to compromise. If we lose any financial support whatsoever, even a relatively small number of $25 donations, we go out of business. So, in a sense, by being the young upstart in the freedom movement, our feet are constantly kept to the fire; we either perform or we’re gone! But isn’t this the way it should be in the market place of ideas on liberty?

Someone recently asked me to give a short description of FFF. My response: “We Don’t Compromise.” And this is our pledge to you: Never will we compromise, through silence or otherwise, that which we consider to be right or true. You might not always agree with us on particular issues, but you will have no doubts that we are expressing, without any reservations, our deepest convictions about freedom. As a subscriber or donor to any freedom organization, you are entitled to nothing less.

We appreciate the confidence which so many of you have placed in us without first seeing what we can do. But we know that we must earn your support. Our goal is to have each one of you saying: “The people at FFF certainly don’t compromise, and they are fighting harder for my principles than any other freedom organization.” After all, as the new kid on the block, we can’t afford to compromise, and we know that we have to fight harder for your support. But we wouldn’t have it any other way! We have no doubts that we are going to earn your trust and support. We just appreciate your giving us the opportunity to do so!

February 23, 1990

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.