Emilio Pacheco: The Pursuit of Learning

Emilio Pacheco

We are not the custodians of the answers, nor are we the keepers of a doctrine. We know how much we need to learn and the pursuit of this ideal is what we celebrate.

The Value of Gratitude

Among the seven Christian virtues, theologians may have forgotten one of the most important ones: gratitude.

When one has received as many underserved blessings as I have, I must give thanks to the many people who have supported me in more ways than I can remember or mention.

Unlike  Leporello in Don Giovanni, I shall not sing the full list of all the names of all, but I cannot continue without first thanking tonight’s sponsors, Vienna Insurance group represented by Peter Thirring, the Board of Trustees of the Hayek Institut, in particular, present tonight, Emil Hierhold, Florian Krenkel, Úrsula Schäff, Markus Tomaschitz, George Vetter. I am also immensely grateful to the team who makes everything run well and on time and last but by no means least, I want to thank the President of the Hayek Institut Barbara Kolm. Please take a minute and join me in expressing our thanks to all.

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It gives me much joy to introduce to you tonight, very good friends from Indiana who defied weather, airlines, and airports to join me tonight: Dan Fowler and Colleen Quirk; Terry Anker and Carolyn Anker; Nate Feltman; and Sean Shelby.

My wife Isabel,  my love and my companion of forty-five years, is back home, but she is also here in one of her more beautiful incarnations, my daughter Inés Pacheco Moss (and her husband Adam Moss).

I accept this award on behalf of Liberty Fund, of its present and past Board of Directors (represented here by Terry  Anker, Nate Feltman, and Sean Shelby), and on behalf of all my colleagues who for more than thirty two-years have worked with me at Liberty Fund, and who have made possible the publication of the books this award celebrates.

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The Discovery of Hayek’s Thought

Since I received the news of this award, I have been piecing together the twisting and improbable road that brought me to Vienna tonight.

I grew up in Venezuela,  once a stable and prosperous democracy, transformed today in an abject and cruel dictatorship.

In 1979, my wife and I left Venezuela for what we thought would be a brief interlude in England, pursuing first a Masters’s degree at the University of Sussex and then a Dr. Phil. at the University of Oxford.

In Oxford, in the deep Winter of 1980, I met John Gray, then a Fellow of Jesus College, who was writing a book on Hayek, and who was also supervising two students who were writing their dissertations on Hayek’s thought (Hannes Gissurarson and Chandran Kukathas).

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From that small group (which included two other friends, Steve Macedo and Andrew Melnik) Hannes organized an intellectual dining club named the “Hayek Society.” Our activities were modest: we invited scholars to come and give a paper and then took them to dinner. Hannes wrangled the money to pay for it all.

In 1983, Hayek came to visit Joh Gray in Oxford and I joined the group that took Hayek to a Chinese restaurant. I don’t remember much of that evening,  and it was not because I consumed too much Chinese beer, but I suppose I was awestruck to be with an intellectual legend.  I do remember that at the end of the evening Hayek urged us never to become “Hayekians.” A few years latter, in the Summer of 1985, Hayek came to London. We met him again, this time at his favorite hotel, The Ritz. It was a long dinner, which included a violinist playing a few of Hayek’s favorite Viennese tunes.

After that night at the  Ritz,  I never saw Hayek again. Each of the “founding members” of the Hayek Society continued, in our different careers to study and develop the study of what Hayek so aptly named The Constitution of Liberty.

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Arrival at Liberty Fund

In  April 1990,  my wife Isabel and our two daughters—Isabella and Inés— landed in Indianapolis. I  was hired by Liberty Fund to expand our educational programs in Latin America. But my duties soon expanded to Europe and beyond.

I have worked in almost every aspect of our educational programs. First, the conference program, then publishing, and later overseeing the creation of our online programs (EconLib, The Online Library of Liberty, and Law and Liberty).

When I am asked what it is that I do, my response is simple: I am one of the trustees of Pierre F. Goodrich’s legacy and of his wish to keep the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

In 1960, Mr. Goodrich established The Liberty Fund “to the end that some hopeful contribution may be made to the preservation, restoration, and development of individual liberty through investigation, research, and educational activity.”

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The Legacy of Pierre Goodrich

The story of how Mr. Goodrich came to establish Liberty Fund is worth retelling. Born in the town of  Winchester, Randolph County, Indiana (population around 3,000),  Pierre Goodrich was the only son of James P. Goodrich, Governor of the State of Indiana between 1917 and 1921. The Governor and his four brothers established and grew a family business including local banks, farms, grain elevators, coal mines, newspapers, and public utilities. When the Governor passed in 1940,  his son Pierre became the leader of the business. Over the next thirty-plus years, under Pierre’s leadership the Goodrich’s business grew and prospered making the family one of the largest private fortunes in the Midwest.

Pierre Goodrich’s formal education started in Wabash College, a small private liberal arts men’s college founded in 1832.  From Wabash, Pierre F. Goodrich went to Harvard Law School, a period  in his education interrupted by his service in what he often called “Mr. Wilson’s war.”

In looking for a short expression to characterize Pierre Goodrich I could not find a better one than presenting him as a  Socratic Businessman: A practical man who never stopped asking himself “What am I?,” “Can I?” “Ought I?” He knew that the success of the family business was the result of intelligent practice in a society where individuals were both free and responsible for their actions.  That society was the American ‘republican experiment” established in 1776. Goodrich’s whole life  and his legacy to us was in the most literal sense “an examined life.”

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When Goodrich created the Liberty Fund in 1960, he wanted to provide the means “of relating and combining ideals, experience, and business practice.”  Goodrich’s time at Harvard Law School provided him with  “a starting discipline of mental process.” But his true education just started after his formal studies were finished.

This continued education was helped by his “business associates, men, and women . . . by discussions which . . . occurred in arriving at business decisions and business activities.”

Goodrich’s vision for Liberty Fund was inspired by his association with three organizations, the Great Books Movement,  The Foundation for Economic Education, and the Mont Pelerin Society. And it was through the Mont Pelerin Society that he met with the scholars who we celebrate today, including F. A. Hayek, Wilhelm Röpke, Ben Rogge, John Van Sickle and Ludwig von Mises.

During his lifetime, Mr. Goodrich sponsored ten Socratic Seminars, not very different than those we organize today all over the world. With these conferences, Mr. Goodrich wanted to provide “the means for people to come together to discuss their ideas both in an ordered meeting with a presiding individual, and in the causal discussion of smaller voluntary groups in connection with those meetings.” It was Mr. Goodrich’s hope that such activities “will tend to produce more and better thinking.”

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Mr. Goodrich also financed the Library of Liberal Arts published by Oskar Piest in the late forties and early fifties, making available classics that had been out of print for decades.

Since 1973, when Mr. Goodrich passed, we have organized close to six thousand conferences and published 480 titles.  And as the citation for tonight’s award says, it is that collection of books which we celebrate as the achievement, not of one individual, but of all the professionals and scholars who have contributed to produce that catalog of books which includes:  the complete works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, and Frederick Bastiat;  the Collected Works of Ludwig von Mises, and of F. A. Hayek; the collected works of James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Israel Kirzner, Henry Manne, and Armen Alchian.

We have also brought back into print, many of the essential books that are the foundation of the ideal of a free society: Algernon Sidney, John Locke, David Hume, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, Benjamin Constant, Germaine de Stael, Francois Guizot, Herbert Spencer. We have also published forty-one titles in the series of Natural Law and Enlightenment, Classics including Grotius, Bellarmine, Suarez, Pufendorf, Hutcheson, Lord Kames, Cumberland,  Bayle, Thomasius, Wolff, Burlamaaqui, Vattel, James MacIntosh.

My colleagues at Liberty Fund’s Board and the staff are the custodians of the books which with many voices have asked the hardest questions about what it means to live in a society of free and responsible individuals.  We are not the custodians of the answers, nor are we the keepers of a doctrine. Like Mr. Goodrich, the “Socratic Businessman” who created Liberty Fund, we have nothing we want to teach, but we know how much we need to learn.  The pursuit of this ideal is what we celebrate tonight with this award.

Thank you!

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