The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty

By Poirot, Paul L. | Freeman, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview

The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty


Poirot, Paul L., Freeman


Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993), on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, most deservedly was designated "journalist of the century." He also was the last survivor of the founding trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education. The fortnightly magazine The Freeman began publication in 1950 with Hazlitt and John Chamberlain (1903-1995) as co-editors. Hazlitt continued writing for the magazine after it became the Foundation's monthly journal of ideas on liberty in January 1956. John Chamberlain, until shortly before his death in 1995, contributed a lead book review each month. So it is fitting and proper that these two giants of liberty, along with Leonard Read, be commemorated in this story of The Freeman, published continuously since 1950, and by FEE since 1956.

As a biweekly "subscription" magazine in the early 1950s, The Freeman was operating at a loss of about $100,000 annually. In order to save it, several of the trustees, also serving on the Board of FEE-Henry Hazlitt, Leo Wolman, Claude Robinson, and Lawrence Fertig-brought Leonard Read into the picture. With enthusiasm and self-assurance and the support of his board, he offered to purchase the magazine.

For a year and a half The Freeman appeared monthly in an 8'' x 11'' format under the editorship of Frank Chodorov. The circulation rose from 14,000 to 24,000 in that first year in Irvington, but there continued to be heavy losses for the "subscription" magazine.

At a special meeting of the trustees in November 1955, The Freeman was merged with FEE's Ideas on Liberty journal.The mailing lists were combined, and in January 1956, in a new digest size with 64 pages, the first issue of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty appeared. It has been published regularly since that time, offered to all FEE donors and others who want it in the expectation that most of them will want to help cover expenses with donations to FEE.

The Freeman is the oldest and most widely circulating periodical devoted to the study of free societies. One of the principles of freedom Leonard Read brought into the Foundation was a primary emphasis on ideas rather than personalities. No name-calling or blanket condemnation of persons and organizations but a clear, non-technical explanation of the ideas underlying the free market and limited government. Among students of liberty, the teaching would be by example and without coercion, all learning and acceptance strictly voluntary. So The Freeman at FEE became primarily an attractive presentation of the ideas and principles of freedom more than a news report of U.S. and international economic and political affairs. Leonard Read's ideal role for government was to police the market to keep it open, and to protect private property, leaving individuals otherwise free to do anything that's peaceful.

For the economics of freedom, Read, FEE, and The Freeman relied heavily upon the Austrian School writings and teachings of Dr. Ludwig von Mises. In 1938, Hazlitt introduced Mises to American audiences in a NewYork Times review of the book Socialism-"the most devastating analysis of the system ever written."

When Mises moved from Europe to NewYork City in 1940, he became a close friend of Hazlitt, of Leonard Read, and of the Foundation. Among the followers of Mises are outstanding professors such as Hans Sennholz and Israel Kirzner and a host of their students whose works also have graced The Freeman.

Leonard Read was the author most frequently seen in The Freeman, though his name appeared on the masthead not as editor but as President of FEE. The managing editor, of course was free to accept-or reject-the Presidents offerings. Roughly half of the articles and reviews in a typical issue would have been written by the staff of FEE, a few on some special topic by commission, and others chosen from the many free-lance submissions. Now and then an entire monthly issue might be devoted to a single topic, various authors each offering his or her special expertise, but never invited or encouraged by the editor to present opposing views.

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