Leonard E. Read

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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).


The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson.
  • There is really nothing that can be done except by an individual. Only individuals can learn. Only individuals can think creatively. Only individuals can cooperate. Only individuals can combat statism.
  • Whenever government assumes responsibility for the security, welfare, and prosperity of citizens, the costs of government rise beyond the point where it is politically expedient to cover them by direct tax levies.
    • I Prefer Security to Freedom (1962)
  • Assuming the market is free from fraud, violence, misrepresen­tation, and predation, the economic failure or success of any individ­ual is measured by what he can obtain in willing exchange—fair­ness being a state of affairs that is presupposed in the assumption. Everyone, according to any moral code I would respect, is entitled to fairness in the sense of no special privilege to anyone and open op­portunity for all; no one is entit­led to what is implied by a fair price, a fair wage, a fair salary, a fair rent, or a fair profit. In mar­ket terms, one is entitled to what others will offer in willing ex­change. That is all!
  • The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed.
  • Were it necessary to bring a majority into a comprehension of the libertarian philosophy, the cause of liberty would be utterly hopeless. Every significant movement in history has been led by one or just a few individuals with a small minority of energetic supporters.

Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism[edit]

  • Once an activity has been socialized, it is impossible to point out, by concrete example, how men in a free market could better conduct it. How, for instance, can one compare a socialized post office with private postal delivery when the latter has been outlawed?
  • The more complex our economy, the more we should rely on the miraculous, self-adapting processes of men acting freely. No mind of man nor any combination of minds can even envision, let alone intelligently control, the countless human energy exchanges in a simple society, to say nothing of a complex one.

Anything That's Peaceful (1964)[edit]

  • Statism is but socialized dishonesty; it is feathering the nests of some with feathers coercively plucked from others - on the grand scale. There is no moral — only a legal — distinction between petty thievery and political Robin Hoodism, which is to say, there is no moral difference between the act of a pickpocket and the progressive income tax or any other piece of socialization.
  • Socialism depends upon and presupposes material achievements which socialism itself can never create. Socialism is operative only in wealth situations brought about by motes of production other than its own. Socialism takes and redistributes wealth, but it is utterly incapable of creating wealth.

The Complete Works of Leonard E. Read (1976)[edit]

  • It should be noted that people in the free market rarely bear false witness; integrity is the rule. The morning mile, phone calls, planes the airlines buy, autos by the millions - no one could list the instances - are as represented. We have daily, eloquent, enormous testimony that the Ten Commandments can be and are observed by fallible human beings. Contemporary politics is the most glaring of all exceptions.
  • A fact rarely suspected, let alone understood, is that businessmen are by no means the chief beneficiaries of the free market, private ownership, limited government way of life. Many business ventures fail entirely. Who then are the beneficiaries? The masses!

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