Here’s a crazy paradox for you.
When pollsters ask people about the biggest problems we face today, poor leadership in government ranks number one. Polls on confidence in government date back 70 years. Four in five people had confidence in the 1950s. Today it’s not even one in five. It’s been an epic crash. Trust is nearly gone.
At the same time, people keep feeding the machine. You are being hounded daily from every angle to give and give to politicians. People go along. Giving and spending on political elections have ballooned beyond belief. The next presidential campaign will likely cost the winner $1 billion. The total campaign including the primaries will add another half-billion. Some estimates put the total cost of the effort to become president as high as $10 billion.
It’s not just PACs. About half that is donated by individuals.
The paradox is this: people continue to give of their own free will to an enterprise that they are pretty certain is going to fail in governance even if their candidate wins.
What motivates these donations? People don’t usually decide to give to candidates mainly because of the good it will do. It’s all about fear of the opposition candidate. People give money to the person most likely to beat the person they fear the most. They fund the lesser evil.
In order to inspire donations, then, the candidates have to strike terror in voters’ hearts. That’s what drives people to give up their hard-earned money to politicians.
But honestly, money donated to the lesser evil is still…not good.
It’s remarkable, if you think about it. People are buying but not getting. It is neither philanthropy nor charity. It’s not even about doing good. It’s a kind of psychological shakedown. And this is heartbreaking in some way. So much good money being thrown at bad results, season after season, with no end in sight.
Meanwhile, there is only so much discretionary income for philanthropic ventures. Americans are the most generous people in the world, but politics is devouring more than its merited share. Meanwhile, symphonies, churches, museums, and real charities that serve those in need are hurting for resources. To my mind, this represents a tragic misdirection of scarce resources.
Here’s something else we desperately need: sound economic research and education. E.C. Harwood founded the American Institute for Economic Research in 1933 because he knew that sound economics needed a permanent home. He knew that we couldn’t count on government, academia, and the media to do it. We need an independent voice that would also stand for integrity, good theory, and strong principles in the study of markets.
Today, AIER stands as a beacon for all this and more. You have undoubtedly noticed that our public profile has been going up. Our website is reaching millions. Our books are coming out in a continuous stream. Brilliant authors are contacting us daily. We’re running as many as 200 events around the country and the world. Almost daily, one of our researchers and scholars makes a media appearance.
The reach we are getting right now thrills us and humbles us daily.
It’s fair to trace all this activity to the day Edward Peter Stringham, the president of this organization, was tapped to lead a revival of AIER. When he took over, he already had a stellar academic reputation thanks to his vast publishing record that includes a pioneering work on private governance that remains a standard and widely cited work.
The message of Stringham’s book: politics doesn’t work but markets do.
This is the same message that AIER founder E.C. Harwood pushed all those years ago. His idea was to build an institution based on ideas. He knew that he was on the right track when twice the office of the US presidency sent letters demanding that AIER stop publishing. Twice Harwood refused to comply. Somehow he won. It’s a great example of the power of moral courage to beat back the depredations of power.
And this is the model we follow daily in our work at AIER.
In the coming weeks, we will release a new video that features a rap battle between Marx and Mises. The response in early screenings is remarkable. My prediction is that you are going to have all your friends writing you to tell you to watch it. You will say, yes, I’ve seen it now 10 times and I love it! And the good it will do! My goodness, it’s about time we had a serious debate in this country about freedom vs. control.
So here’s a question. If what concerns you is the future of freedom, what is a good investment? I’m not prepared to say that every dollar spent on politics is a waste. Sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes you have to settle for less to prevent a great evil. But this cannot be all we do to prepare for the future. We also have to think about the long term. We have invest in ideas.
AIER is a fabulous investment right now. We have the history. We have the platform. We have got the passion, the principle, the integrity, and the dedication to push through the opposition. We write and publish daily on economics, sound money, culture, foreign relations, policy, history, and deep theory, but the theme is always the same: the solution is more freedom.
What happens when the next deep recession hits? Who will be there to intelligently explain why socialism is not the answer? The advocates of more government have been preparing for years for this moment. We too have to be ready.
So here’s my suggestion. Instead of feeding a political machine that isn’t working, feed the answer to our plight. Donate not out of fear but out of love. Give to AIER.
For every gift of $50 or more, we’ll send you The Best of Ludwig von Mises, a wonderful collection of the great economist’s more penetrating work. It’s a fabulous book to read or to give to your friend who is confused about economics. It’s been a smash hit since we put it out only a few months ago. It goes with our video and speaks to the core of our mission.
Yes, we would be thrilled for any amount of a donation – it all goes to the great cause of human freedom – but the crucial thing is to get involved now in supporting the good. We need partners in this great cause. We need each other.
The idea industry – and especially the champions of freedom in the marketplace – are wildly outnumbered and crowded out by various political obsessions. And it’s true that politics can be fascinating like any competition. But let’s please be clear: politics is not building our future. Only ideas do that.
People tend to participate in politics out of fear. But people share ideas out of love. Which one would you rather do?
Now is the time to invest in the right ideas. Donate to AIER today. We’ll send you your thank you gift of The Best of Mises right now.
P.S. If you can’t donate today, it’s okay. We value you as a reader most of all. Subscribe to our daily email. Share the content. Remember that you have to thank those who make our work possible, via philanthropy. Donors to AIER know that it is not enough to fund the lesser of two evils; we also need to donate to the good to make the world a freer and better place.