Higgs’s Tocqueville Award Acceptance Speech

by Don Boudreaux on November 28, 2011

in Civil Society, Current Affairs, Myths and Fallacies, Reality Is Not Optional, Risk and Safety

Earlier this month, the incomparable Bob Higgs received this year’s Tocqueville Award from the Independent Institute.  His acceptance speech is brief, eloquent, and powerful.  Among his many important points is this one:

Therefore, for those of us engaged in research, teaching, and public dissemination of our knowledge with regard to the operation of just, peaceful, and prosperous societies, much work remains to be done. Indeed, even after a great number of people seem to have achieved an understanding of freedom’s importance, the gains may be largely swept away in the panic of a national emergency, when political leaders invariably come forth promising relief and protection, if only we will sacrifice more of our liberties to accommodate their exercise of new powers.

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vidyohs November 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

I believe the quote addresses the same thing as the old blues tune “You don’t miss your water til the well runs dry”.

We never pay attention to what have that is good, til we lose it some how. Then it’s too late.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

It’s never too late.

Fred November 28, 2011 at 9:34 am

We passed the point of no return a couple generations ago.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Well, no point in fighting it any more. The trolls have won. Time to shut down the blog, everyone go home, and wait to die.

C’mon, man! If the point of no return was generations ago, then what are we doing here? Are we all just old men and women, barking in the dark? No! We are freedom loving people! And as long as that spark is still alive then there is still hope. It is always darkest before the dawn and in that darkness the torch of knowledge and freedom grows ever brighter. We cannot give up now. Victory is close at hand. It may not seem like it is, but the tide is turning. This may be just one blog run by two freedom-loving professors, but it is a light. There is a single light of knowledge and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere. That that is what we are doing here. Don’t give up, my friends. Keep spreading the word in thoughts and in deeds. It is important to defend all kinds of freedom, even those which we do not like. Otherwise, we are nothing. Buck up, keep the blog posts coming, and always keep freedom in your heart.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

The fight for liberty is never done. What has been lost can be regained. The liberty we enjoy now is so much greater than in the rest of the world today and so much greater than it has been during most of the world’s history.

I’m with you, Jon Murphy! Never stop fight till the fight is done. And, the fight for freedom is never done.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Wow..really Greg? All I did was throw together some cliches while coming off my morning sugar rush. If that’s all it takes to inspire you, then my job will be easy to rouse this rabble.

Nah, just kidding :-P

Fred November 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Once power has been taken from the people it is not given back. It may be taken by another ruler, but it is not given back to the people. This is aided by the false idea that the government and the people are one in the same. So the people demand more power be given to the government in the name of empowering the people, not realizing that that power is being taken from them.
Tyranny is sold under the banner of freedom, and people flock to it in droves.

The blip of liberty known as the American Experiment has failed.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Such a pessimist, Fred! One could have argued the Great Greek Experiment in Democracy was over after the Great Peloponesian War. Or when Rome became an Empire. Or in the face of Nazi hordes or the Reds.

Freedom never dies. Men die. Tyrants die. But Freedom, no, she is immortal. Even now, as we find ourselves besieged by those with one hand in our pocket and another on our heart, who talk to us with a silver tongue and disdain in their eyes, Freedom lives. They may take our homes, turn their once honored words into poison darts, rob us blind and then lay the blame on someone else, but good people, rational people, freedom loving people will always know better. But we cannot remain silent anymore. Fred, we cannot give up hope just like that. Then they have won. Stand with us, Fred. We must do everything we can to advance freedom and take back what is rightfully ours (non-violently, of course).

Fred November 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I’m with George Carlin on the subject of hope.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Heh, fair enough. I think, when I am Supreme Emperor of Humanity, you’ll be in charge of morale. :-P

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

“The blip of liberty known as the American Experiment has failed.”

Nope. Get over your depression. If you think this is bad, you don’t know world history. It can get much, much worse. The American Experiment lives!

As Thomas Paine so wisely wrote, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.”

You have it easy compared to the founders. Quit being a summer soldier and sunshine patriot, and continue the fight. For taxation at this level is slavery. It was wrong then, as it is now. But, tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered. And, freedom is always worth fighting for.

Greg Webb November 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm

“my job will be easy to rouse this rabble”

No, it won’t. But, continue your good work, sir, and I will continue mine.

Jon Murphy November 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

Congrats again to Bob Higgs!

ettubloge November 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

There is always a calamity that compassion with a price tag can cure. That price tag and the solution always creates the next calamity.

Over the weekend I watched a number of Milton Friedman videos (thanks to Don and Mark Perry’s Carpe Diem website) .

He was wonderful in explaining that the government solution would always set the stage for the next travesty. He missed the real estate meltdown. His enunciated principles still apply.

Will November 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

“when political leaders invariably come forth promising relief and protection, if only we will sacrifice more of our liberties to accommodate their exercise of new powers.”

In the words of a politician, “Never let a good disaster go to waste” … or something like that.

Randy November 28, 2011 at 9:43 am

The panic of a national emergency, sure, but the problem is bigger than that now. The political organization has become so overwhelming that it employs thousands full time to do nothing but think up possible future national emergencies.

The Other Eric November 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

Randy you are frustratingly, absolutely, right.

Seth November 28, 2011 at 11:31 am

Exactly. And convince us that uncertainties (“whims of the market”) or struggles (“food deserts” and “meal insecurity”) constitute national emergencies that require government intervention.

If you question the first set of premises (about the emergency), you’re an uncaring, selfish fool.

If you question the second premise (that gov’t intervention is required), you’re hopeless and just can’t see the big picture.

Martin Brock November 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm

For those too lazy to read:


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