doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
I was deeply
honored to receive the Gary Schlarbaum Prize this past week. It
was presented to me – as a "lifetime achievement award"
– at the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s "Supporters’ Summit
2012" in Georgia. Not only am I thankful for the generosity
of Gary Schlarbaum in providing this award, but it reinforces
my sense of how creative change occurs in our world. I have long
been of the view that civilizations are created by individuals,
and are destroyed by collectives.
In our politicized
world, the established order has helped condition our minds to
the belief that significant social change can occur only if 51%
plus of our neighbors are first convinced of the need for such
a transformation. Such a mindset tends to neutralize our personal
efforts, to cause us to marginalize our creativity. When I write
or speak of the need for significant change in our world, I often
get the response "but what can one person do about it?"
On the basis of such thinking, those who insist on ruling others
by violent means continue to have their way.
people how the creative actions of individuals gave birth to Western
Civilization including the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the
Scientific Revolution, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution,
among other epochs. These creative periods were largely prefaced
by one Johann Gutenberg, whose invention of movable type made
possible the mass printing and distribution of ideas that fostered
the intellectual development of humanity. Nor can we overlook
such relatively recent contributors to Western Civilization as
Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and other individuals
too numerous to list.
I think it
is correct to say that Western Civilization has collapsed; its
creative, liberating, and humanizing foundations destroyed by
the collective forces of institutionalized violence. American
and European countries – long the seats of Western culture – are
at the end of an entropic decline. At the same time, however,
I have long suspected that we are in the early stages of a transformation
in thinking that is producing major changes in how we live and
work with one another in society. The vertically-structured systems
of centralized authority are being replaced by horizontal networks
that interconnect in decentralized, voluntary ways. The Internet
– which has expanded the liberating and creative capacities inhering
in Gutenberg’s invention – is the most visible expression of what
I think of as the "unfolding civilization."
It is this
social transformation that is the "terror" against which
the institutional order now wars. As our world reorganizes itself
into peaceful and productive systems that respect the inviolability
of all persons, and relies upon spontaneous and informal processes
for generating order; the political systems that now dominate
mankind with their powers of death, destruction, imprisonment,
torture, brutality, and other forms of violence, will lose their
is in the spirit of fostering the kinds of paradigm shifts essential
to human well-being, that Gary Schlarbaum so generously created
this award. There are numerous other individuals working on behalf
of rethinking what it means to live in society. The Ludwig von
Mises Institute – along with LewRockwell.com – is one of many
organizations dedicated to living in a world of peace and liberty.
I have written
of the etymological history of our language, in which I discovered,
years ago, that the words "peace," "freedom,"
"love," and "friend" share an interconnected
history. Perhaps our ancestors knew what our collectivist thinking
has caused most of us to forget; memories that are being restored
to our minds by such people as Gary Schlarbaum, Lew Rockwell,
Ron Paul, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and other
individuals who know that men and women are capable of rediscovering
what it means to live as human beings in civilized societies.