Like many Americans, I loved liberty without much thought to its origins or utility, and then I encountered the great authors of liberty: Hayek, Bastiat, Rothbard, Von Mises and Friedman.

Revealed by these authors was a simple truth: liberty is one of the few values that is both a means and an ends.  Knowing the value of liberty as an ends is easy stuff.  We compare the oppression of fascism and communism to the joys of Democracy and limited government.  It’s true a few radicals fail to grasp this, but most normal Americans cannot escape the truth that it is better to enjoy liberty than oppression.

The great contribution Professor Friedman makes to society is to focus on liberty as a means – a means to a just and prosperous society.   Our belief that free people are more likely to be prosperous people is ultimately the defining difference between classical liberals and today’s progressive left.  The question of the utility of liberty is therefore the battlefield on which most all public policy is ultimately fought.

The great man’s work Free to Choose frames the debate in a way meant to be most persuasive to the left.  Something to remember is that today’s progressive movement has shifted far from the utopian and sometimes anarchic roots of the peace movement of the 70’s.   I urge you to read books from this period such as EF Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and Human Scale by Kirkpatrick Sale.  You will find much to admire in these books – and you will note the deeply disturbing shift in the left’s intellectual energy away from human liberty and towards affirming the power of the state.

As we acknowledge Professor Friedman on the anniversary of his birth I hope we all remember that the intellectual challenge of defending the utility of liberty will always be with us.   Good luck and Godspeed in this work.

Alex Hays is the descendant of Washington’s earliest pioneering families who settles in what is today Olympia in pre-territorial days. He serves as the President of the Justice for Washington Foundation, the Executive Director of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington and leads the youth leadership organization, Action for Washington. He attends St. Patrick Catholic Church in Tacoma and hopes to become a competent sailor sometime after Rob McKenna is elected Governor.