Why I Fight Write
By Art Carden
This is my last post of my my guest blogging stint for EconLog. I want to thank everyone at Liberty Fund who helped make this possible, and I especially want to thank EconLog permanent bloggers David Henderson and Bryan Caplan for their mentoring and kind suggestions. I especially appreciate David’s kind words from yesterday.
My major project for 2014 will be the book I’m writing with Deirdre McCloskey, but I will continue contributing to the conversation via my Forbes columns and via once- or twice-monthly contributions to DepositAccounts.com. If you want to keep up (and really, I’m honored), you can follow me on Twitter (@artcarden) or on Facebook (facebook.com/artcardeneconomist).
The end of my time at EconLog has given me a few moments to reflect on why I write, blog, review books, appear in LearnLiberty videos and do other stuff for the Institute for Humane Studies and other organizations, and lecture in various places. It helps pay the bills, which is pretty nice. I also get a lot of satisfaction out of it: writing and speaking are fun, I get to meet new and interesting people, I get to encounter cool new ideas, and I get to put my own beliefs on trial every day.
There’s more to it, though. I live a life of incredible privilege relative to pretty much everyone else who has ever lived and billions of people who had the misfortune of being born on the wrong side of lines drawn in the dirt by politicians. It would be (in my humble opinion) a life wasted if I just spent it indulging myself. I have to remind myself quite often that we’re dealing not just with interesting questions but with ideas that have consequences for real, flesh-and-blood people around the world.
My children are among those real, flesh-and-blood people. My daughter was disturbed after her nap a few days ago. She and my wife had watched The Sound of Music a few days ago, and she was disturbed at how scary the bad guys in the movie–the Nazis–are. I don’t think I’ve seen the movie since I was in sixth grade, but I stopped in the living room and watched with them a scene in which the von Trapp family was trying to evade the Nazis. It impressed me with just how dear–and how fragile, and how unappreciated–liberty actually is. Chattel slavery in the United States happened. Jim Crow happened. Communism in Asia and Eastern Europe happened. Steven Pinker is right that we live in a peaceful and prosperous age, but history is soaked in blood and littered with the corpses of the starved and slaughtered. I don’t want to repeat it. That’s why I learn from it. That’s why I write about it. That’s why I teach it.
Sinclair Lewis is alleged to have said “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” As Emperor Palpatine is announcing the beginning of the Galactic Empire near the end of Revenge of the Sith, Queen Amidala remarks Bail Organa “So this is how liberty dies. To thunderous applause.” We can counteract this: finally, Thomas Jefferson said that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” I beseech thee: stay vigilant. Our children’s lives and fortunes depend on it.