Latest posts by Joe Bast (see all)
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[The following essay is based on remarks delivered at CPAC-Chicago on June 8, 2012.]
In June, the world celebrated the 68th anniversary of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy, one of most courageous and important military events in all of recorded history. The largest amphibious operation ever conducted, it led to the greatest military victory for freedom in world history.
In a speech commemorating that event in 1984, President Ronald Reagan asked what motivated the soldiers who landed on those beaches to fight so bravely and against such terrifying odds. He said it was four things: faith and belief, and loyalty and love. He explained,
- Faith in a just God who would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next;
- Belief that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest;
- Loyalty to one’s country, believing that it is worth dying for;
- And love of liberty, a willingness to sacrifice everything to fight tyranny.
Truly American Values
Have you come across a better description of truly American values? I have not.
Faith in a just God played a huge role in the birth of Western Civilization. We owe it to religious faith that individual freedom and equal rights became ideals powerful enough to overcome slavery and tyranny. It motivated many of the Founders to pursue and persevere. Faith still does these things today.
Belief in the moral difference between the use of force as aggression and in self-defense defines the libertarian wellspring of our political thought. It is wrong to use force to achieve a social or economic end, and the fact that large groups of people may vote to use force doesn’t make it any less wrong. Americans seek voluntary solutions to social and economic problems because they are the only route that is truly moral.
Back in 1984, “loyalty to one’s country” was mocked on college campuses and said to be obsolete in the era of globalism. But patriotism’s power burst forth five years later in Europe with the Velvet Revolution in Prague, then the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then the liberation movements that swept away the former Soviet Union and its puppet regimes.
Patriotism was reborn here in the U.S. on September 11, 2001 when nearly 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks on American soil. In the years that have followed, hundreds of thousands of America’s finest young men and women went to war, like their grandfathers did 57 years earlier, willing to die for their country.
Love of Liberty
The Heartland Institute was founded the same year Reagan delivered his remarks. We embody these values, and in particular we strive to promote his fourth value, the love of liberty.
A great inspiration was Milton Friedman, the Nobel Laureate economist at The University of Chicago, who was present at our birth and served as an active advisor and booster for many years. During his famous appearance on the Phil Donahue Show in 1979, Friedman put forward the case for free enterprise:
“The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way.
“The only cases in which the masses have escaped from …. grinding poverty … the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, … it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that.
“So the record of history is absolutely crystal clear,” said Friedman, “that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.”
The Power of Ideas
The Heartland Institute is indebted to another great thinker, also a Nobel Laureate economist, Friedrich Hayek. According to Hayek,
“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage …
“Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practical in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide.
“Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark.
“But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best,” Hayek said, “the battle is not lost.”
If The Heartland Institute has one message that surmounts and captures all others, it is that the battle indeed is not lost.
The Heartland Institute
Allow me, if I may, to say a few more words about my organization, The Heartland Institute.
We are not a cult, or a front group, or astro-turf, or related in any way to any insurance company, hedge fund, restaurant, spa, or real estate company that bears a similar name. We are not right-wing extremists, anarchists, reactionaries, or deniers of anything. We are not sitting on a big chest of money. And we are not paid to lobby you on any topic.
Twenty-eight years ago, I was asked by David Padden, the owner of a small business here in Chicago, to be the first employee and executive director of a new nonprofit organization, a think tank to be called The Heartland Institute.
Our mission would be to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems, not in Washington DC but at the state and local levels here in Illinois and eventually throughout the country.
We started with almost nothing. Our first year budget was $24,000. Today we have an annual budget of $7 million and a full-time staff of 37.
About a month ago, The Economist called us “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change,” and we wear that label proudly. But we also are on the front lines of the fight for lower taxes, entitlement reform, school choice, and repealing Obamacare.
Still Fighting for Freedom
Nearly three decades after Ronald Reagan’s Normandy speech, we are still here fighting for the values he named. Now, we are joined by literally millions of Americans who share those values and, more importantly, share an understanding that they are under attack.
In 2010, we compiled, condensed, and updated the best of our 26 years of research and writing in a book titled The Patriot’s Toolbox: One hundred principles for restoring our freedom and prosperity. It’s a remarkable book because it was produced specifically to be a guide for Tea Party activists, a new force on the political scene.
We cut away the rhetoric, the rambling digressions, and the throat-clearing that so many other books have. We identified ten major issues, and for each issue, ten principles that need to be understood for good policy to be adopted. We didn’t talk down to our readers or assume to tell them what to think. Each chapter has a bibliography citing scores of books, studies, and articles for further study.
The response has been astounding. We have sold and given away nearly 80,000 copies of The Patriot’s Toolbox, mostly to Tea Party activists who give them to their fellow activists. We are working on a fourth edition.
And so the battle of ideas goes on. Remember: Faith and belief, and loyalty and love. And free enterprise and the power of ideas, too. We can win this battle, but only with your help.
Joseph L. Bast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of The Heartland Institute.