Foundation for Economic Education
|The dismal science|
|The Worldly Philosophers|
The Foundation for Economic Education (or FEE) is the one of the oldest libertarian think tanks in the United States. It was founded in 1946 by an American economist influenced by the Austrian school, Henry Hazlitt, Leonard Read of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and David Goodrich of B.F. Goodrich. John Birch Society founder Robert Welch was also a member of its board of trustees. Leonard Read headed FEE until his 1983 death. They are most known for their print and online magazines, The Freeman and The Freeman Online.
Originally they were funded by large business interests, whose profits had been fattened by World War II, as a way to provide intellectual justifications for their preferred policies, complementing their official lobbying group activities, and are credited with founding the libertarian ideology. They were revealed in 1950 by the Congressional Buchanan Commission on illegal lobbying as nothing but a front group for business; the Commission highlighted a deal between the FEE and a real estate lobbying group by which the latter paid the former so that it would publish a Milton Friedman-authored anti-rent control pamphlet, distributing 500,000 copies through realtor waiting halls.
Like most libertarian think tanks, they occasionally run interesting articles on civil liberties and influential libertarian thinkers and philosophers, but churn out the usual tripe about anti-environmentalism (e.g., DDT is awesome, global warming is a vast scientific-environmentalist-socialist conspiracy) and how we ought to be freed from the tyranny of regulatory agencies like the FDA. Speaking of fundamentalism, FEE has also published works by proponents of Christian economics including R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North.
There also seems to be a somewhat incestuous relationship between FEE and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which should come as no surprise, although the Mises Institute is largely anarcho-capitalist while FEE has long taken a minimal-government position. Under Leonard Read's watch, FEE was an early promoter of both Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but he was taken aback by both Rand's atheism and by the anarchism of Rothbard and others as early as the 1950s. His 1954 book Government — An Ideal Concept was a rebuttal against anarcho-capitalism. More recently FEE's invitation of Rudy Giuliani to be their keynote speaker at their annual 2002 banquet led to a revolt by FEE's trustees against then-president Mark Skousen who was asked to resign by trustees not pleased with the choice of Giuliani.
FEE is headquartered in a sizable mansion in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York and used to be known for sending free and low-cost books on request. Their most widely circulated books include an English translation of Frederic Bastiat's 1850 book The Law, Henry Weaver's 1947 The Mainspring of Human Progress, and Leonard Read's essay I, Pencil. The latter describes in great detail how the manufacture of the lowly pencil is the result of many different sources that can only work in synergy under a free market.
Some people who wrote for The Freeman or had work published in it.
- Gary North
- R.J. Rushdoony
- Mark Skousen, nephew of W. Cleon Skousen
- Thomas Szasz (responsible for many of their screeds on mental illness denial and related quackery)
From the archives
FEE has been spouting insanity (some clearly not very libertarian) since the 1940s, which can be found in their archives. Here are some highlights:
- Founding president Leonard E. Read's compares African Americans to wild animals:
- There would be no tigers in zoos if they remained as ferocious as when first captured There never would have been any Negro slavery in the United States had the Negroes remained as intractable as when first taken from their African habitat. But, like the tigers, most of them soon lost consciousness of a freedom greater than the enslavement into which they were plunged. They became accustomed to their lot and, for the most part, accepted it.
- Is not this opinion clearly discriminatory against the Negro race? It is, beyond question, based on the idea that the exclusive company of Negroes in school is somehow lacking in educational opportunity.
- There is something about encountering homosexuality in its militant and pugnacious form that touches a deep, almost reflexive anger, even among most heterosexual liberals. That is why attempts at “mainstreaming” gay culture, even when holding an olive branch, are bound to fail.
- They are still against women's lib, but their older articles are funnier than newer ones.
- Given the opportunity of serving under a woman holding a B.A. or a man holding a B.A., most women, I think it is safe to say, would choose the man (assuming similar personalities and competence of the competing candidates). If the men of a corporation had the choice, an even larger percentage would be likely to prefer masculine superiors. This is a fact of life, unlikely to change in the near future.
- FEE believed that protesting against the Vietnam War was equal to violence.
- Violence is too common for mention. One need only glance at the newspaper headlines to realize that the seeds of revolution are being sown throughout the country today. The assault on a single day last April of 185,000 demonstrators against the Vietnam War with displays of hatred for our country and contempt for its laws and institutions is example enough.
They now operate a Youtube channel with videos regarding economics, and have hired Seamus Coughlin from FreedomToons (another libertarian) to animate their videos. These videos are usually biased with a libertarian slant, but they do a good job explaining economics.
- Ludwig von Mises Institute
- Health freedom, because it wouldn't be a free market without unrestricted quackery
- Mark Ames (November 16, 2012): "When Congress Busted Milton Friedman (and Libertarianism Was Created By Big Business Lobbyists)", NSFWCORP.
- Environmental Protection: The New Socialism! (So let's move to China, then?)
- Global Warming: Hot Problem or Hot Air
- Abolishing the FDA
- Read was a devout member of the Congregational Church, today the United Church of Christ, and many early FEE publications were of the 'free market outreach to mainline Protestants' sort.
- Why is Slavery Possible?
- A Decree Of Racial Inferiority
- Homosexuality's Legal Revolution
- The Feminine Mistake
- Leaving the Problem to Others
- Official Youtube channel
- Seamus Coughlin