Welcome to the Moorfield Storey Institute
Longtime online friend Jim Peron launched a new project over the weekend — a blog for the Moorfield Storey Institute. Here are some highlights from the first few posts:
The classical liberal founders of libertarianism were great advocates of extending social freedom and improving the lives of the most vulnerable in society. Classical liberalism, before Smith’s Wealth of Nations was even written, fought for freedom of conscience and for the separation of church and state. Classical liberals actively opposed slavery and the slave trade and helped lead the Abolitionist cause. Similarly our philosophical forefathers fought for free trade, not merely because it was more profitable, but because it improved the well-being of the working poor and furthered the cause of world peace. The concentration of power rarely benefits the poor and powerless, but is almost always used to further the interests of the rich and powerful. […]
Depoliticized markets, where people are free to make their own decisions, are not conducive to the static society. They are dynamic. The economist Joseph Schumpeter once referred to free market forces as “creative destruction.” We see that in the death of old industries replaced by new ones, of stagnant corporations bought out by more dynamic ones. But, free societies also engage in creative destruction of social values. Old values die; new values replace them. And this process terrifies the social conservative.
The Liberal Revolution, by which I mean the revolutionary ideas of classical liberalism, changed Western society. The privileged order of centuries was overturned. Wealth was no longer a function of status, but of one’s ability to satisfy the wants and needs of others. Church and state were separated, something that terrified both the priest and the politician who relied upon one another. Feudal orders were disrupted. State monopolies were broken up. Property rights were extended to all segments of society. It was a truly revolutionary time. […]
In 1949, with World War II fresh in mind, [Felix] Morley reminded his readers that “the strength by a victorious State through war is in large part taken not from the enemy but from its own people. All the private elements in Society—the family, the church, the press, the school, the corporation, the union, and other co-operatives—are subject to special discipline by the State in wartime. . . . And it is scarcely necessary to emphasize that once an emergency control has been established by the State, all sorts of arguments for making it permanent are forthcoming.”
It is well known that in collectives individuals can lose moral restraint. A lynch mob will kill, although as an individual each member would be horrified at the thought. Likewise, state power is a collective power in which the individuals who participate in decision-making lose their normal sense of responsibility for their actions. In fact the law often explicitly denies individual culpability in those who wield power.
Who was Moorfield Storey, you ask? Possibly the greatest American you’ve never heard of. He was:
- The first president of the NAACP.
- The founder and first president of the Anti-Imperialist League, the leading antiwar group of its time.
- The man who litigated the Supreme Court case Buchanan v. Warley, which struck down housing segregation laws — in 1917!
- A dedicated supporter of free trade, freedom of contract, and — yes — the gold standard.