While there have been days I have said to myself, “I just don’t have any more words to describe how I feel,” as I watch the federal government march on to snatch away the liberties we cherish and employ spending and tax plans which are crushing the wealth generation of our nation and ultimately the world.
Tonight I found encouragement from a man whom I respect, although I don’t personally know him, for his brilliance, personal achievement and contributions to individual liberty, Thomas Sowell.
In his book, A Man of Letters, which traces the life, career, and commentaries on controversial issues of Thomas Sowell over a period of over four decades, I found this particular letter (with a small introduction) relevant to the times we are facing right now. I hope that Dr. Sowell’s words encourage all of you, as they did me, who are engaged in the battle of ideas.
Dr. Sowell writes:
Despite many discouraging trends in many aspects of contemporary society, I tried to keep my pessimism from turning to despair. [Now to the letter]
September 12, 1992
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jurvis:
Thank you for your kind remarks and for sharing some of your experiences with me.
At times, I too get depressed about the future of this great country. However, more that two hundred years ago, Adam Smith wisely observed: “There is much ruin in a nation.” Once I asked Friedrich Hayek if he were optimistic or pessimistic about the future. “Optimistic!” he said, with great surprise at the question, and recalled that when The Road to Serfdom was published back in 1944 his was a lonely voice in the wilderness, while people and publications with similar ideas have since proliferated around the world. I have in fact visited free market think tanks form Jamaica to Australia.
Think too of all those brave souls who bucked the intellectual tide by opposing Communism during all the decades when it enjoyed all kinds of sympathy and support among the Western intelligentsia. I was so happy that Sidney Hook, for example, lived to see the collapse of the system and movement he opposed for half a century, despite suffering all sorts of attacks, smears, and ridicule.
Few things are more discouraging than the American public school system, as I have learned from research for a book on education that will be published early next year….However, the battle goes on , even on this front. Things may look bad at times, but it’s not over until it’s over.
As to why I have not been involved in politics, that is partly a matter of temperament. However, I have also long believed that whatever influence ideas have on Washington is likely to be indirect, by influencing the voting public. Ronald Reagan, after all, was elected on very much the same ideas with which Barry Goldwater was defeated 16 years earlier. What happened in between was a spread of ideas by people like Milton Friedman, preparing the way for a changing climate of opinion that made political change possible.