Legends and Prodigies
I just got back from the Ludwig von Mises Institute's 25th Anniversary Celebration. What a truly wonderful event. But, I have to make one point clear: Do not believe for a moment that name of the event implies that the movement started by Mises is 25 years old. It's not. In fact, the movement is much, much younger.
Certainly the ideas and ideals of Mises are a century old, and the institute itself has existed for the 25 years as stated, but the movement's center of mass, its standard-bearers — the next generation – were widely visible in the audience, and, to my great satisfaction, they were more than a couple of years younger than 25.
The movement is growing and getting younger every year. And, that's what made this event so very exciting and hopeful.
In 1976, the rock group The Band decided to retire from years of relentless touring. In order to celebrate, The Band invited some of rock's legends to gather for one final evening. That event, filmed by Martin Scorsese, became the documentary The Last Waltz.
In New York City over the weekend, the legends of Liberty met for a few days of celebration. However, this event was no last waltz. It was, instead, a time for folks like me to hear and meet some of the real rock stars of the free market. In particular, we watched Robert Higgs receive a well-deserved Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Defense of Liberty.
Personally, I felt a bit of irony in finally meeting Higgs. Our paths had crossed once before – when he was writing Crisis and Leviathan oddly enough. Higgs was a professor at Lafayette College during some of the period that I was a student there. Sadly, my realm was a fraternity across the Quad from where Higgs wrote his seminal treatise.
To think, I could be saying today that I was a student of the winner of the 2007 Schlarbaum award. Alas, instead of scholarship, I was wasting those years of my youth on less erudite pursuits. (Note to young readers: Do not waste this stage of your intellectual journey. At every opportunity, take advantage of Higgs and the rest of the legends of Austrian Economics.)
Rock guitar hero Jorma Kaukonen – of '60s San Francisco group Jefferson Airplane fame – has a guitar and music camp in, of all places, the Appalachian hills of Southeastern Ohio. The Fur Peace Ranch is not some fantasy camp where folks get to live out a lifelong dream as a weekend rock star. The camp is simply a place where a man who loves the guitar is able to transfer some of his knowledge to others.
This is exactly what the Mises event was about: a chance for the legends to share their wealth of knowledge and years of scholarship with everyone in the room, especially the students.
You see, the students are the key. They are the ones who have the time and energy to grab the standard that reads, Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito. And, they are the ones to introduce subsequent generations to the essentials of Liberty that run through Mises to the legends in attendance at the event. In short, they are the ones who decide whether the movement of Liberty lives or dies.
I am reminded of the shampoo commercial from a few decades ago where the announcer says, 'And she'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on.' All the while, the TV screen is dividing to show how quickly a good idea can spread.
We have a good idea, and now we have students who have the knowledge and desire to tell two friends, and so on, and so on. Based on both the number and the energy of the students in attendance, the future looks bright indeed.
Some final notes …
To the legends (both those in attendance and those who could not make the event): The Mises movement exists today only because of your efforts and sacrifice. Thank you.
To the students in attendance: I expect you to be leading the movement over the next 50 years. And, I expect to be reading your books and articles; scholarship that advances the cause of Liberty no matter how dark the times.
To the students who could not attend: Grab any opportunity you have to learn from the legends. They truly want to teach you all that they have learned and discovered.
To those who gave generously in order to sponsor students at the event: You have done a great service for the cause of Liberty. It is the youth in the audience who will devote their lives to challenging government, as well as the ideas that allow government to continue to grow and consume.
To Lew Rockwell and the rest of the Mises organization: Your prodigies are top notch. Job well done!