Freefall: The Rest of
by J. H. Huebert
When my article, “A Great Institution in Freefall,” was first published, it detailed the rapid decline of the Foundation for Economic Education under Mark Skousen’s leadership.
The decline of FEE was evidenced, inter alia, by providing a platform to Rudy Giuliani as the keynote speaker for its fall Trustees’ Dinner.
FEE has now removed its name from the Giuliani event, although Mr. Skousen will still be ringmaster for the affair.
That’s the news, now here’s the rest of the story.
In response to my initial article, Mr. Skousen wrote that it contained “falsehoods and misrepresentations.”
Mr. Skousen, however, has failed and refused to back up his defamatory accusations, although he was given more than ample opportunity to do so in a private written invitation that he ignored.
Then I was personally invited by Doug Casey and other friends of Mr. Skousen’s to “debate” Mr. Skousen at the Eris Society on this matter. Because the organizers failed to provide the proposed resolution to be debated, together with a copy in advance of the precise rules of that debate and the identity of the judges and their qualifications, I declined their offer.
I did, however, provide Mr. Skousen with an opportunity to furnish any defense or claim that he wished to make in regard to his accusations against me, when he stated that my article contained “falsehoods and misrepresentations.” If Mr. Skousen had any proof to support such patently defamatory allegations, he could have and should have provided it. But he failed and refused to do so.
In all fairness, and to go the extra mile, my offer to Mr. Skousen is still open. If he can furnish any details that demonstrate in any way that anything I wrote in "A Great Institution in Freefall" is a falsehood or misrepresentation, then I invite him to do so publicly right now.
If Mr. Skousen fails and refuses to respond to this opportunity to clarify what he means, and is unwilling to at least make a sincere non-Clintonesque public apology for his highly defamatory accusations against me, then my friends in the legal profession advise me that it may be time to file suit and consider several depositions of the FEE trustees, together with requests for production of documents (including Trustee meeting minutes), requests for admissions, some interrogatories, and a coup de grace motion for summary judgment. After all, Mr. Skousen may have made FEE as well as each member of the FEE Board of Trustees legally liable individually for his defamatory remarks against me by signing in his capacity as president of FEE, as directed by the Board of Trustees.
Although I don’t like to disappoint the gung ho group of my fellow University of Chicago law students and several attorneys who are chomping at the bit to get it on and do battle in court over the months and years ahead with Mr. Skousen, his wife, the new FEE, and each individual FEE Board member who may have been used by Mr. Skousen, or vice versa, to be named as defendants, I do not intend to pursue that avenue.
As a libertarian, I don’t believe in any right to sue for defamation, because one cannot own a reputation. Libel and slander certainly may be immoral, but—like drug abuse, gay porn, and bad manners—they shouldn’t constitute a cause of action. So instead of pursuing a legal remedy, I’ll leave the matter to Mr. Skousen’s conscience, and let him be thankful that he didn’t defame a less rigid “free-market” adherent, although it has been suggested that I may want to change my mind before the statute of limitations tolls.
In any event, Mr. Skousen, if permitted to continue at FEE, will probably just go about the business of the new FEE. And a visit to FEE headquarters in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, reveals what that business is: the Mark Skousen business, of course.
Proof of this can be seen as soon as you walk through the front door. In the lobby where once hung a painted portrait of Ludwig von Mises, there now hangs a photo of Mark Skousen, posing with that internationally famous libertarian thinker, George W. Bush.
One has to wonder: does Mr. Skousen even have the highest and best interests of FEE in mind at all? Or is he more interested in using FEE as a fill-in part-time job while he enjoys the prestige and opportunities it provides with its mailing list and free time to advance his own personal business interests, including trips to Europe for him and Mrs. Skousen? It appears that the extra walking around money from FEE, along with a free residence, which is 30 seconds across FEE’s back lawn to his office where he can also operate his other enterprises, may certainly be something that he has put to its highest and best use—in advancing the Skousen business agenda.
Based upon an investigation of these matters, I can only conclude that Mr. Skousen's personal business agenda is not aligned with FEE's original purpose as established by Leonard Read.
Of course, if you’ve been following this story, you already know that Mr. Skousen’s agenda is anathema to what once made FEE great.
And unless things change at FEE in the very near future, that’s not only the rest of the story, it’s the end of the story, at least as far as I’m concerned. A young libertarian like me can’t waste his time trying to resuscitate a dead organization that has strayed so severely, and that under its current leadership can only stray further.
Leonard Read didn't want to operate a reform school, and neither do I.
2002 J. H. Huebert