Sunday, August 03, 2008

The new president of the Foundation for Economic Education!

The Foundation for Economic Education held its last "Evening at FEE" was this last April, with a wonderful lecture by Walter Block. But we were shocked when Richard Ebeling announced that he was stepping down as president. Five years is a long time at FEE's helm, and he wanted to return to teaching. There had been no indication, at least outside FEE's inner circle, that he would do such a thing.

I will admit that it was with a sense of despair for FEE's future that I stopped visiting its website regularly. What was in store for the foundation? And if it couldn't find a new leader and languished or even died, would that be an indicator of our chances to restore real liberty to this country?

Maybe I do worry too much. I checked its website a couple of days ago, and there's a new announcement: Lawrence Reed has been named the new president, effective this September 1st.

Lawrence Reed, leading FEE? LAWRENCE REED! The same Larry Reed who heads the Mackinac Center, and has not only spoken at FEE but in the past has chaired its Board of Trustees.

I can think of only a few people as fine to head FEE. At that level, you're talking about lovers of liberty like Burt Folsom and James Bovard, who understand what governments do when they interfere with the free market. Reed probably won't remember when I had the privilege of meeting him four years ago, when we talked for a little about a little-spoken danger of a Kerry presidency: Robert Rubin as the new Fed chairman. If you think Greenspan and Bernanke are bad...

I will miss the Ebelings greatly. With their warmth and charm, their talent for management and cultivating contacts, their love of freedom, and especially Richard's wonderfully incessant Hillary jokes, FEE grew in the last four years I've attended its functions. The monthly "Evenings at FEE" became so popular that parking availability has been a problem! FEE made arrangements with a local school so that people could park there and be shuttled by FEE staff. The Ebelings really did so much to revitalize FEE after the disastrous Mark Skousen affair. Briefly, then-president Skousen invited Giuliani to speak at FEE's annual Liberty Banquet, and pay him a $30K honorarium! Skousen's motive was to "attract attention" to FEE and make the banquet into an "outreach program," but many members were outraged, and the Board of Trustees quickly asked for his resignation. FEE appeared in trouble for a while, and there was talk of selling the mansion and assets to be given to other groups.

I've never met Skousen and wasn't involved with FEE during his presidency, but I know the Ebelings and am proud to call them friends. What sets the Ebelings apart is that they've stayed true to their principles, even if it means FEE won't grow as much. No matter how much it might publicize FEE, they're not going to sell out by inviting a fascist to be the main speaker at the annual dinner, let alone waste a great deal of money to pay the person.

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