From the time of its founding to the present day, FEE has lived through the drama and been a leader in shaping opinion. Here is a short presentation of the highlights.
1946: FEE is founded by Leonard E. Read as the first “think tank” dedicated to free markets. “The job of economic education must be undertaken now while those who appreciate the value of liberty are still in a position to support it,” the founding trustees wrote, planning an “integrated program of production, promotion, and distribution” of the ideas of liberty. Trustees were Dave Goodrich of B.F. Goodrich, economist Henry Hazlitt, Donaldson Brown of General Motors, Fred R. Fairchild of Yale University, Leo Wolman of Columbia University, and Claude Robinson of Opinion Research. Among FEE’s first publications was Milton Friedman and George Stigler’s “Roofs or Ceilings?,” an influential blast against rent controls that inspired young thinkers such as Murray Rothbard.
1946: The first edition of founding FEE vice-President and economist Henry Hazlitt’s classic Economics in One Lesson is published, and this book serves as an economics manifesto of the new organization. It remains in print by FEE to this day, and is FEE’s largest-selling publication.
1946: FEE purchases its first headquarters in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. It was built in the 1880s when Grover Cleveland was President of the United States. It was designed and inhabited by the Rockefeller family’s personal physician.
1946: Ayn Rand writes to Leonard Read, congratulating him on FEE’s founding. “I broke through on my own, and I don’t want that struggle to be as hard for other writers of individualism as it was for me. Let’s clear the way for them…. I will fight by your side with everything I’ve got.”
1947: Leonard Read and Ludwig Von Mises, an emigre from Austria then teaching at New York University, team up to bolster the philosophical orientation of FEE. “Lu had been put on the payroll by Leonard from the first year of the Foundation,” writes Henry Hazlitt. Mises taught seminars at FEE until his death in 1973. This year, FEE commissioned Ludwig von Mises to write what became “Planned Chaos,” his most powerful essay on politics until that point in history.
1947: F. A. Hayek, impressed with the FEE example, gathers leading classical liberal intellectuals to found the Mont Pelerin Society.
1949: FEE purchases the first print edition of Ludwig von Mises’s masterpiece Human Action, enabling its publication by the Yale University Press. Mises worked with FEE staff to type up the manuscript at FEE’s headquarters.
1949-1983: Ludwig von Mises conducts weekly seminars in New York City that were sponsored in part by FEE trustees Lawrence Fertig and Henry Hazlitt. The seminars are regularly attended by long-time FEE employee Bettina Bien Greaves and many aspiring scholars of the period.
1950: FEE is subpoenaed by the U.S. Congress to investigate whether FEE should register as a lobbyist. Congressional staff spend a week at FEE’s headquarters examining records, and Read himself is called to testify before Congress. “The organization which I represent is a non-profit research and educational institution,” he said. “Its sole purpose is a search for truth in economics, political science, and related subjects. It is that, and nothing more – an institution for learning.”
1951: Eleanor Roosevelt bitterly attacks FEE in her syndicated column. “The mere tying together of communism and socialism,” she wrote, “is dishonest. They are two quite different things.”
1952: FEE publishes three texts that became cornerstones of the free market educational effort: The Law by Frederic Bastiat, The Mainspring of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver, and The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane.
1953: FEE publishes The Tariff Idea by W.M. Curtiss, which becomes a popular tract for free trade. FEE Trustee J. Howard Pew, CEO of Sun Oil, resigns from FEE to protest FEE’s opposition to tariffs. “We’ll miss you, Howard,” wrote Read, but insisted that FEE would stick to its principles. Pew then changed his mind.
1954: FEE acquires The Freeman, a journal about liberty, and publishes it through Irvington Press. Frank Chodorov was its editor. Leonard Read begins writing books on human freedom, for a total of 34 until 1982 (he died May 14, 1983).
1955: FEE begins publication of Ideas on Liberty, a new quarterly magazine. Later that year, the decision was made to combine The Freeman and Ideas on Liberty into a monthly magazine, The Freeman. The first issue appeared January 1956.
1955: FEE trustee Dean Russell, writing in The Freeman, proposes the term “libertarian” as a viable replacement for “liberal,” which had lost its meaning. Leonard Read agreed and the new term came into use.
1956: FEE hosts its first summer seminar. At the end of the seminar, participants are presented with a peck of potatoes and the assurance that they wouldn’t starve even if they refused to steal or accept government handouts. Over the years, nearly 20,000 people have attended these seminars. Add the attendance at shorter FEE events (including two-day and one-day and single speech presentations and the number likely exceeds one million. FEE seminar alumni include the late Congressman and Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp, Koch Industries chairman Charles Koch, Acton Institute founder Fr. Robert Sirico, The Fund for American Studies president Roger Ream (who also served as director of seminars and is our current chairman), Cancer Treatment Centers of America founder Richard J Stephenson, Atlas Economic Research Foundation president Alex Chafuen, former Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner, and countless others of note. Attendees have come from at least 98 nations.
1958: In the December issue of The Freeman, Leonard Read’s essay, “I, Pencil” appears in print for the first time.
1961: FEE staffer F.A. “Baldy” Harper establishes the Institute for Humane Studies.
1983: Leonard Read dies, prompting an outpouring of condolences. President Ronald Reagan writes that Mr. Read was “a man whose dedication to our cherished principles of liberty burned brightly throughout his life. Our nation and her people have been vastly enriched by his devotion to the cause of freedom, and generations to come will look to Leonard Read for inspiration.”
1984: John Sparks becomes FEE’s 2nd president
1985: Robert Love becomes FEE’s 3rd president
1988: Bruce Evans becomes FEE’s 4th president
1992: Hans F. Sennholz becomes FEE’s 5th president
1996: Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the guest of honor and keynote speaker at FEE’s 50th-anniversary banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
1997: Donald Boudreaux becomes FEE’s 6th president
2001: Mark Skousen becomes FEE’s 7th president
2003: Richard Ebeling becomes FEE’s 8th president
2008: Lawrence W. Reed becomes FEE’s 9th president
2012: FEE’s new strategic plan refocuses the organization’s educational demographic and commits the organization to adopting state-of-the-art technology and marketing methods to dramatically expand outreach.
2014: FEE completes its move from its ancestral headquarters in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, to a modern office space in Atlanta, Georgia. The move substantially reduces operating and future maintenance costs, makes FEE more accessible to the world (and vice versa), and exemplifies “the new FEE” -- a revitalized institution committed to making ideas of liberty credible and exciting to new generations of young people.
2015: FEE inaugurates online courses, with nearly 20,000 downloads in the first year. FEE’s classroom workshop, “Economics in One Day,” is translated into German, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Sinhalese, and Spanish.
2016: FEE.org readership reaches 50,000 readers per day, exceeding the monthly circulation of The Freeman magazine at its height in the 1970s. The online FEE Community is founded.
2017: FEE becomes a top-performing website for economic freedom in the world. In May 2017, to the web site break the two million page view mark on a monthly basis. The first FEEcon, an annual event for freedom lovers the world over, takes place in Atlanta, Georgia.
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