It was an average sized college classroom with round tables and cheap plastic chairs. People of all kinds filed their way into the crowding room, glancing around, searching for seats. By the time the modest program began, the room was full, with people standing in the doorway. There should have been more. Thousands more.
Had the speaker been addressing issues of entitlement, or government handouts, or the easy money policies of socialism and central planning, no doubt, the place would have been mobbed. Instead, this speaker was giving truth: proven economic principles time-tested again and again. Truth may not be so quick to attract throngs, but it burns purer, and eventually, brighter. What happened tonight in a classroom at Florida Gulf Coast University was an indication of the tiny fires being lit by understanding around the country. It was warming, to be sure.
Lawrence W. Reed, the President of the Foundation for Economic Education, first came to my attention through my friend Terry Woychowski, who gave me a publication authored by Mr. Reed and entitled Great Myths of the Great Depression. It's clarity and research were sparkling. I was an instant fan. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he would be making a public speaking appearance within an easy drive of my home! That's how I happened to find myself in a cheap plastic chair with other concerned citizens of southwest Florida.
I was not to be disappointed. Mr. Reed's talk was excellent; filled with clear illustrations and well-researched commentary. Most importantly, it presented the complicated and oft-misrepresented Great Depression in clear economic terms. My twelve year old, in attendance with me, totally understood it. His notes read like those of a college kid majoring in economics. That's the beauty of a good teacher: the complicated becomes clear. This, in a very unarguable way, is exactly what Mr. Reed accomplished this evening.
If you have not yet become acquainted with the work of FEE, I encourage you to view their website and download the many free materials available. By all means, get your hands on a copy of Great Myths of the Great Depression, and prepare to throw away the falsehoods of "conventional wisdom" you've likely been taught about one of the most trying times in world economic history. As usual, the official spin is totally wrong.
By the way, getting informed about economics is not an academic exercise. Proper understanding of economics is germane to the preservation of freedom. We cannot defend what we don't understand.