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Leonard Read (1898-1983). Courtesy the Foundation for Economic Education.

Leonard Read
Austrian School
Born September (1898-Template:MONTHNUMBER-26)26, 1898
Hubbardston, Michigan, United States
Died May 14, 1983(1983-Template:MONTHNUMBER-14) (aged 84)
Nationality American
Institution Foundation for Economic Education (founder)
Influences Frédéric Bastiat
F.A. Hayek
Henry Hazlitt
Ludwig von Mises
Albert Jay Nock
Ayn Rand

Leonard Edward Read (September 26, 1898 – May 14, 1983) was the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which was one of the first modern libertarian institutions of its kind in the United States. He wrote 29 books and numerous essays, including the well-known "I, Pencil" (1958).


Business career[]

After a stint in the United States Army Air Service during World War I, Read started a grocery wholesale business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was initially successful but eventually went out of business. He moved to California where he started a new career in the tiny Burlingame Chamber of Commerce near San Francisco. Read gradually moved up the hierarchy of the United States Chamber of Commerce, finally becoming general manager of the Los Angeles branch, America's largest, in 1939.

Libertarian activism[]

During this period his views became progressively more libertarian. Apparently, it was in 1933, during a meeting with William C. Mullendore, the executive vice president of Southern California Edison, that Read was finally convinced that the New Deal was completely inefficient and morally bankrupt. Read was also profoundly influenced by his religious beliefs. His pastor, Reverend James W. Fifield, was minister of the 4,000-member First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, of which Read was also a board member. Fifield ran a "resistance movement" against the "social gospel" of the New Deal, trying to convince ministers across the country to adopt libertarian "spiritual ideals." During the period when he worked for the Chamber of Commerce, Read was also deeply influenced by more secular figures, such as Albert Jay Nock, and, later, by Ayn Rand and the economists Ludwig von Mises and Henry Hazlitt.

In 1945, Virgil Jordan, the President of the National Industrial Conference Board (NICB) in New York, invited Read to become its executive vice president. Read realized he would have to leave the NICB to pursue full-time the promotion of free market, limited government principles. He resigned as a result.[1][2]

One donor from his short time at NICB, David M. Goodrich, encouraged Read to start his own organization. With Goodrich's aid, as well as financial aid from the William Volker Fund and from Harold Luhnow, Read and Hazlitt founded the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946, which, in turn, helped to inspire Friedrich Hayek to form the Mont Pelerin Society the following year. For a period in the 1940s, philosopher Ayn Rand was an important adviser, or "ghost," as they called it, to Read.[3]

In 1950, Read joined the board of directors for the newly-founded periodical The Freeman, a free market magazine that was a forerunner of the conservative National Review, to which Read was also a contributor. In 1954, Read arranged for the struggling magazine to be transferred to a for-profit company owned by FEE. In 1956, FEE assumed direct control of the magazine, turning it into a non-profit outreach tool for the foundation.[4][5][6]

He continued to work with FEE until his death in 1983.


Read received an Honorary Doctoral Degree at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in 1976.[7]


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

See also[]



  1. North, Gary. (August 7, 2002) "Leonard E. Read's Small Tent Strategy",
  2. Template:Citation
  3. Burns, Jennifer, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, 2010, Oxford Univ. Press, pp. 115–120.
  4. Poirot, Paul (Jan 1, 2006). "Consistently and Continuously Standing Against the Fallacies and Clichés of Politics". The Freeman. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  5. Hamilton, Charles H. (1999). "Freeman, 1950-". In Lora, Ronald; Henry, William Longton (eds.). The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 321–327. ISBN 0-313-21390-9. OCLC 40481045.
  6. Doherty, Brian (2007). Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. New York: Public Affairs. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-1-58648-572-6. OCLC 76141517.
  7. Honoris Causa Doctaral degrees at University Francisco Marroquín
  8. Search results = au:Leonard E. Read, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Mar. 7, 2015.

External links[]

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