My good friend John Hyde shares a birthday with Ayn Rand. This is a speech I delivered on his 68th birthday.
Two greats born on the one date
Birthdays are a joyous occasion, mostly because when you stop having them then you’re in big trouble. That’s Ayn Rand’s major difficulty, and that reminds me of the epitaph on a lady’s grave in our Goldfields region; it reads simply:
“Never been found.”
I was naturally curious to see that written on the headstone so I made some enquiries. It turned out that she had been the mother of a large family, a family that had more love than money and for 30 years she had been caring for them and serving them the traditional “leftovers”. The epitaph meant a lot to the family who felt that despite having 30 years of “leftovers”; the original meal had “never been found”.
The wisdom of Ayn
Ayn Rand, the Russian born writer and philosopher is the subject of many books, one titled It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand, which highlights how effective she has been at bringing quite complex economic and philosophical theories to a broad audience. She still is the most effective spokesperson for free-market ideas when directed to non-academic business people.
She pungently reminds business people, that they can only defend themselves, if they first identify what’s actually being done to them. As she puts it:
“The greatest inspirational leadership this country could ever find rests in the hands of the typically American group, the businessmen. But they [can] provide it only I they acquire philosophical self-defense and self-esteem.”
Here are another three very short, sharp quotes from Ayn Rand’s work:
“Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.”
“Man is not the property, not the servant of the tribe … a man works in order to support his own life.”
“Power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lot of an empty mind.”
Happy birthday to John
It’s impossible to do justice to Ayn Rand so briefly but it is now my pleasure to move onto the “alive and well” member of our birthday duo tonight. Fortunately, no epitaph for John Hyde, but talking of epitaphs Justice George Sutherland once said:
“For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished freedom is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand, while there was still time.”
That’s an appropriate theme to connect with John Hyde. As you all know he has devoted many years of his life to doing just that, “stretching forth a saving hand while there was still time.” If you want to discover the real character of a man, just ignore what he says about himself and look instead at his dealings with other people.
The same is true of governments, ignore what their extensive and expensive propaganda departments say about themselves, and judge them instead on how they deal with their own people. Do they steal from some and give it to others? Do they indulge in such acts that would be illegal for individuals?
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s John, with a small band (approximately 10 in number) called the “Dries”, became alarmed at the way government policies almost always resulted in impoverishing further, the Australian public. They set about to devise ways of reversing that trend.
They orchestrated a whole range of policies to revitalize Australia but were astonished how their own party, the Liberal Party, treated these ideas. The ideas were treated the same way that the human body treats strange proteins; it rejected them.
This agenda was ready-made and awaiting the ALP when they were swept to power in 1983. The ALP claimed these policies as a momentary alternative to their full-frontal socialism. The details are well documented in John’s book Dry: In Defence of Economic Freedom.
Lew Rockwell has recently written a similar book from the US point-of-view, Speaking of Liberty. In describing his book, he also accurately describes John’s book:
“What possible difference can another book make? Why should anyone care about the message of one book as compared with its many millions of competitors? It comes down to this.
Though there is an astounding proliferation of words in our time, there is a drastic shortage of something that is essential to the survival of civilisation — defences of property against its ubiquitous enemies and its main enemy, the State. Core principles contain within them the power to slice through billions of other words based on trivia and fallacy. Though we are out-numbered and out-gunned on every front, we believe in the power of ideas to make a difference. This is why we libertarians write.”
Australia’s Economic Freedom Hall of Fame
John Hyde has made a difference, by bringing ideas to the threshold of people’s consciousness, with his book, with his 745 newspaper articles, but more importantly with his consistency in putting principle before politics.
Because of this I would like to propose him as the first inductee to Australia’s Economic Freedom Hall of Fame. What are the criteria for an inductee to be selected? Well let’s settle on that tonight and may I suggest that we keep it simple, along the following lines:
- A person who acknowledges that the free-market economy has a record like no other of offering morally based economic advancement to everyone, in all walks of life.
- Having recognized the above fact, they have then proceeded to do something about it, and in doing so, have made a significant difference.
Now, having proposed John as the initial inductee, I’ll throw the meeting open for anyone else to speak for or against this resolution, before taking the vote.
It was unanimously proposed that John Hyde be inducted to Australia’s Economic Freedom Hall of Fame.