Episode #151: Memorable Mentors - Leonard Read

Art of Value and VeraSage Symposium

We are excited to announce the details of these two events. Check out the Agenda and register at: http://artofvalue.com/conference/


Leonard Edward Read (September 26, 1898 – May 14, 1983) was the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which was one of the first modern libertarian institutions of its kind in the United States. He wrote 29 books and numerous essays, including the well-known "I, Pencil" (1958).

Read and Henry Hazlitt founded the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946. In 1950, Read joined the board of directors for the newly founded periodical The Freeman, a free market magazine that was a forerunner of the conservative National Review, to which Read was also a contributor.

Read received an Honorary Doctoral Degree at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in 1976. He continued to work with FEE until his death in 1983. Join Ed and Ron as they discuss FEE’s free book, The Essential Leonard Read.

Our discussion is on the free ebook, The Essential Leonard Read, available from the Foundation for Economic Education. It contains 12 chapters, which we discussed as follows.

1. I, Pencil

G.K. Chesterton: “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

In our Episode #4: The Economy in Mind, we discussed Leonard Reed’s essay, I, Pencil, and the book The Toaster Project, by Thomas Thwaits.

2. Neither Left nor Right (January 1956)

Libertarians are neither left or right since liberty has no horizontal relationship to authoritarianism.

“Left” and “right” is a semantic graveyard for libertarians.

3. A Break with Prevailing Faith

 The Freeman was “too conservative” for a high school library.

There’s no such thing as a broken commitment. A man has a commitment to his own conscience.

What is man’s earthly purpose: expand one’s own consciousness.

4. Socialism Is Noncreative

Socialism is operative only in wealth situations brought about by modes of production other than its own.

Socializing means and results of productions are two sides of the same coin.

Soviets are alive because they don’t practice 100% socialism (3-5% of land consists of private plots, yet they produce 47% meat, and most of other consumable food).

Ludwig von Mises said, "Production is spiritual…What distinguishes our conditions from those of our ancestors who lived 20 thousand years ago is not something material, but something spiritual. The material changes are the outcome of the spiritual changes.

5. How Socialism Harms the Individual

Does anyone ever benefit by the removal of self-responsibility?

6. How Socialism Harms the Economy

The more interdependent we are on each other, the more trust that is required. “Are we over specialized, and dangerously interdependent? I believe we are.” Much specialization is government forced and artificial (unnatural specialization, whose origin is not in consent). The Moon Project was his example.

7. The Most Important Discovery in Economics

H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells

Socrates: “This man thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas I, as I do not know anything, do not think I do either.”

Egotist: Hitler, Stalin

H.G. Wells: “A high-brow is a low-brow plus pretentiousness.”

Man is not really knowledgeable, only teachable. Subjective theory of value, greatest discovery in economic science. Labor theory, sentimental, poor, hard-working farmers, set political stage for AG subsidies.

8. The Greatest Computer on Earth

Market enormously complex computer. Computer can’t exercise judgment: GIGO (Guy-go).

9. The Service Motive

Founder of Panasonic. Focused on service, rather than profitability.

10. Why Freedom Works Its Wonders

Because of what we don’t know. If no one can make a pencil, try a Boeing 747, with 4,500,000 parts. And the private sector isn’t capable of delivering the mail?

12. In Pursuit of Excellence

Economic education is not enough! Teaching virtue and morals more important. Kakistocracy—a government by the worst men—or a natural aristocracy founded on virtue and talents? If no one person can make a pencil, can anyone design or draft a good society? US Constitution?

Reason magazine conducted an interview with Leonard Read in April 1975, which you can read here.

Listener Emails

Listener Vair Ellison sent us this hysterical article from The Washington Post, “Forget robots—the goats are coming for our jobs,” in response to our Memorable Mentor show on Frederic Bastiat.

Hector Garcia asks Ron is he still believe that Total Quality Service is still the “final frontier” of business? And thanks, Hector, for the Fortis Cab, from Pine Ridge!


Ed Kless

Ed Kless joined Sage in July of 2003 and is currently the senior director of partner development and strategy. He develops and delivers curriculum for Sage business partners on the art and practice of small business consulting. Courses include: Sage Consulting Academy, Business Strategy and Customer Experience Workshops. Ed is the author of The Soul of Enterprise: Dialogues on Business in the Knowledge Economy, a compendium of a few of the episodes of his VoiceAmerica talk-show The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy with Ron Baker, founder of the VeraSage Institute where Ed is also a senior fellow.