Leonard Read’s 1978 seminar for his Australian friends

Ron’s audio recording:

Transcript:
[Ron’s intro, louder than Read’s speech:] I’m in Hong Kong on Thursday, September 7th. It’s Leonard Read accepting an invitation to speak to a group of Australian delegates to the Mont Pelerin Conference. And he’s going to talk mainly about the methods of introducing free enterprise / limited government concepts.

Let me begin by answering your question you raised in here. You said, it is time for commerce and industry to call a halt to excessive government and clearly express views about where the line should be drawn. Let me give you my idea of where we should draw the line.

What should government do and what should government not do? Now you cannot possibly tell what government should or should not do, unless you know what government is and what government is not.

I’ve been saying for years that the essential nature of government is organised force. In other words, they issue edicts and there’s a constabulary that backs them up. Force, huh? I’ve been saying it so long that I thought it was original with me, until one day one of my associates threw a book on my desk, that thick, entitled The State, published in the year 1900. And the author of the book was Professor Woodrow Wilson. He got a bigger job later. Well, anyway, I’ve been saying that so, the old boy plagiarised Read, don’t you see? You’ll see as I go along. Well, once you understand what government is and what government is not. In other words, it’s a physical force.

Constabulary is a physical force and I can symbolise a physical force by this: a clenched fist. If you find out what a physical force can and cannot do, you will know what government should and should not do; not necessarily what it will or will not do, but we are talking about the ideal here.

And, well, what can it do? I know what it can do. It can inhibit. It can restrain. It can prohibit. It can squelch. It can penalise. Right? Now, the next logical question is: what should be squelched, penalised, and so forth? Well the answer to that question comes clear and clean in your moral philosophies, long before Christianity: you should inhibit destructive actions. Predation, stealing, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not, so forth and so on, steal and so forth. Okay, now that’s all this force can do. And, it can’t even do that when it’s doing this other stuff, as you know.

Okay, what you must recognise is what this physical force cannot do. This physical force is not a creative force. The creative force in every single instance is a spiritual force, in the sense that an idea is spiritual, or a discovery, an invention think of that intuitive flash, etcetera etcetera. Everything by which we live shows forth in the spiritual before it manifests itself in the material.

Example, take this thing here. This is absolutely inconceivable had not some cave-dweller aeons ago discovered how to harness fire. Correct? Or take that jet plane you flew here on. That’s inconceivable, had not some Hindu a thousand years ago invented the concept of zero. All modern chemistry, all modern physics and so forth would be utterly impossible if you had to do it in Roman numerals. Correct?

So how do I draw the line? Just as simple as falling off a log. I limit government to inhibiting the destructive actions of men, invoking the common justice, keeping the peace. And I leave all creative actions, without exception, education or whatever, to men acting freely, voluntarily, competitively, cooperatively, privately. That’s how I draw the line. Want any questions on that?

[Ron responds:] I like it too much to question.

Okay then. All right, now I’m going to get into another bit here. It has to do with methodology. If you want to work effectively in this field. You must be consistent in your positions. In other words, don’t leak. I think I’ll tell you a story. It’s a true story. There are five characters in it, all of whom are here.

In this one evening, nine years ago this month in Caracas. …

Anyway, after a couple of these things, I made something of a free market affirmation. And Max Thun said to me, Leonard, I take it from what you said you would not believe in the Vienna Opera. And I said, I would not. And it shocked him. He said, why Leonard. And I made an explanation for why. He said, well I’ll agree with you in principle, but. I said, well if you agree with me in principle, Max, we have nothing more to talk about. Well that ended it for the night. Next morning in the lobby of the hotel, he was there when I came down. He said, Leonard, I laid awake all night, thinking about what you said to me. And I still agree with you in principle, but I find that I am so emotionally committed to the Vienna Opera, In this case, I have to make an exception. So when I got back home, I wrote a chapter in one of my books entitled, “Sinking in a Sea of Buts.”

My final conclusion was watch your buts buddy.

Well, enough of that. Now, you can’t possibly, there are very few people who will recognise this. You can’t possibly be consistent in your positions unless your doing your reasoning logically and deductively from the basic premise, that is, a fundamental point of reasoning. I realised this about 27 years ago. So I set out to get myself a basic premise. I think I did one thing right. I asked myself the hardest question I could think of, which was: what is man’s earthly purpose?

Well I couldn’t find any answer to that without bumping head-on into three of my, might not be yours, but my fundamental assumptions. My first assumption is that man did not free himself. Of course, perfectly obvious that man knows practically nothing whatsoever about himself. So my first assumption is the primacy and supremacy of what I refer to as an infinite consciousness. Some people call it some people call it God, and blah blah blah, but I call it infinite consciousness.

My second assumption is also demonstrable, namely that it is possible, but it may be difficult, for a man to gain an awareness or perception of consciousness.

My third assumption, I cannot demonstrate it; I only know it to be a truth: namely, the immortality of the human consciousness. This earthly moment not being all the way through it, it’s consciousness that survives. You want to read a book on that, I’ll tell you what it is. Anyway, when I get through with all these assumptions then what is man’s earthly purpose?

It is to see how close you can come during your mortal moment to expanding your own consciousness into a harmony with infinite consciousness. Or if you want to put it in lay terms, to see how close you can come to realising those potentialities which are uniquely yours. We’re all different, don’t you see?

To summarise what is man’s earthly purpose: It is growth, development, evolution, emergence or a very expressive term is hatching. There was an old Greek philosopher by the name of Heraclitus who said, “Man is on earth as in an egg.” Which inspired CS Lewis to write, “You can’t go on being a good egg forever, you must either hatch or rot.”

Well there is your premise, well how do you use it? Well you take anybody’s idea, your own or anybody else’s. Stack it up against that premise, and if it’s antagonistic to it, you’re against it; but if, on the other hand, it is promotive of it, in harmony with it, you are in it’s favour.

Now, if you have a sound premise, and if you’re doing reasoning logically and deductively from that premise, every one of your positions will be consistently sound.

Now, this has proved to be of great value to me. For instance, I no longer argue with anybody. You can say to me, Leonard, I don’t agree with you, and my reply would be, “I couldn’t care less.”

But it has another value, too. I no longer discuss ideological or philosophical questions with anyone, unless that person is seeking light from me or I from him, and that cuts out an awful lot of talk doesn’t it?

Now you guys asked me here this morning. I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t asked me. I wouldn’t have asked you to be here.

Well I think I can give you a good idea as to whether or not you have a sound premise. Number one, if it does not require individual liberty, I think you’d better take another look. And number two, if you cannot stand up before God and man alike and pronounce your premise as proudly as I have mine this morning, again, I think you ought to take another look at it.

I’ll give one more idea of the premise before you. A very wealthy and scholarly man in Indianapolis gave me a book. He was great friend of mine. “Leonard, you must read this book.” Well the title of the book itself would scare the devil out of you, The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, by this German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

This guy was an absolute pro at being obscure. I read the book and didn’t know what I’d read. And so I threw it up on the library. Six months later, I’d been writing a piece entitled, “Importance of the Premise.” And on the second reading, the whole book tumbled into sense. And all Kant was talking about was importance of a premise. And he had some very nasty things to say about people who deigned to talk in ideological, philosophical subjects unless they were doing their reason from the basic premise. I do not speak German but the translator called him a shallow-pate which is not exactly a complimentary word.

Anyway he had a premise and his premise he called “good will”. Now by “will” he didn’t mean what we usually mean by “good will”. It had nothing to do with intentions. By “will” he meant the individual’s ability rationally to will his own actions. And you could apply the adjective good, now listen to this, only if you could apply the principle of universality to your ideas. Well I didn’t know what that meant, the principle of universality. But I’ve learned over the years if you lean up against the door long enough, it’ll cave in. And I leaned up against that one long enough for it to cave in, so I’ll give you an example on this business.

Let’s take: Leonard Read has a right to his life, his livelihood, his liberty, is that good? According to Kant, that is good, if you can concede that same right to every individual on the face of this earth. Universality, don’t you see?

Now reverse it and watch it come through. Leonard Read has the right to take the life, the livelihood and liberty of another. Is that good? That’s good only if you can concede the right of murder, of theft, of enslavement to everybody else on earth. Can I do it, ergo it is not good, huh? Well, can’t you see how, I like my premise better than Kant’s. But, I didn’t go to school either.

Anyway, can’t you see how I feel using Kant’s premise? Never doing anything that you couldn’t concede to everybody else on Earth doing, you’d be in pretty good shape. Okay, now that’s enough of the premise, huh?

Now, when it comes to methodology, I do these lectures, and whole seminars with it. And it takes me about an hour to do it, and I have to have a great big blackboard because I use a lot of drawings, but what I do in these lectures is to make the point that this is not a numbers problem. If this were a numbers problem, getting 51% of the people to agree with us, I wouldn’t spend a moment of my life in this work, it’d be so absurdly futile.

And number two, this is not a selling problem, but it is a learning problem, that’s what it is and that’s all it is. And what you must try to do is to see if you can get so good at this philosophy that other people will seek your tutorship. Don’t try to sell anybody. That’s like trying to sell the idea of creation to an atheist or something, it’s impossible, forget it. So what you do, in other words, this is purely a matter of self-improvement.

Maybe I can draw a little chart here to show what I mean. This is my book, “The Point of Cure,” it’s a chapter in that book of mine, Love of Liberty. But here’s this chart, now this chart is similar to the statistician’s normal curve. If you can see this thing, you see, now, this is to symbolise, shall we say, the adult population of our country. So I’m going to divide it into segments, a little bit of a segment here, and here’s a little bit of a segment here.

Now this little bit of a segment here is to symbolise the very few people who are real true believers in socialism. Call it what you will, it’s all the same kettle of fish. And in this one over here is to symbolise the very few of us in the world who have some understanding of, and can explain the free market, private ownership, limited government philosophy with its moral and its spiritual antecedents.

In between exists the countless minions who couldn’t care less. These people in here may be great computer designers or they may be great this or this or thats. But when it comes to this subject, they don’t know any more about it than I know about how to compose a grand opera. That’s quite a ways off, in case you don’t know.

Now the point is, these people in here do nothing in the world except lean toward one of these camps or the other. And today, in Australia, United States, Hong Kong, every place on the face of the earth they’re leaning in that direction, correct?

Okay. But don’t overlook the importance of these people. They are the ones who make the final decision. Now, all I’m trying to do, in other words, this is the way they’ve been leaning for the last couple of decades. If they continue going this way we’re going to end up being like Red China or Russia.

So, you see, there is an enormous responsibility on the few of us who are fortunate to be over here in this game. So, what we have to do, is to cause it like that.

They don’t know. They won’t know. But, these people today, these minions who are following the lefty direction. They are unaware of it. And if we succeed in a year, they’ll be just as unaware. They’ll to this or that, that’s all. But it depends on how well we do our work.

Now I try to say that this is not a numbers problem. Let me point out something to you. Every good movement on the face of the earth has been led by an infinitesimal minority. Go back 2000 years, our perfect exemplar, Christ. How many helpers did he have? 12, and one of them was a bum. Anyway, going on to England following the Napoleonic Wars: mercantilism presided. Mercantilism is the same thing as we have in our welfare state and the planned economy. Don’t you see? And go on to the USA, the number of people who actually, with their brains, understand our declaration independence, the constitution, the bill of rights, are nothing but a handful. It follows that this is a leadership problem. That’s what it is and that is all it is.

Now, there are as many different levels of leadership as there are persons among us, and that’s too many to talk about. So I’ll confine myself to touch three ascending levels of leadership. Take your choice as to which one you aspire.

The first level of leadership requires absolutely nothing of the individual except that he or she do no ideological wrong. That’s all. In this first level of leadership  it does not require the individual understand this philosophy. Well, you understand it, but, this first level of leadership does not require that he or she be a creative thinker, writer, talker of it; only do no ideological wrong. You’d think that was quite simple, just to do no wrong or give any wrong any support; but based on my 45 years of experience in this field, there isn’t as many as one in 10,000 who can get in. [To] do no ideological wrong or lend any support to it, you must know what a ideological wrong is.

Now here, socialism or communism, call it what you will. Go out and ask the people in your orbit, are you a socialist? You better get your hand up, or you’re liable to get socked in the snoot, right?

But the person, to do no ideological wrong must know what the ideological wrong is and here is what it is, and this is all it is. It’s a double-barrelled definition. Socialism, communism, call if what you will. It’s the state ownership and control of the means of production. That is your planned economy, that’s your interventionist state. And it is the state ownership and control of the results of production, which is your welfare state. That’s what it is and that’s all it is.

Now the person, in order to do no wrong, must not only be able to repeat that definition, but must be able to apprehend it clearly in his or her own mind, don’t you see? And that’s what it is, and that is all it is.

But don’t overlook the effects of individuals who do no wrong. It has an enormous radiating influence. Well that’s the first level of leadership.

Now we come to the second level of leadership, which is something quite different. This level of leadership requires an individual that he or she be actually a creative thinker, writer, talker of this philosophy.

This level of leadership requires the individual, he or she, to give a pretty high priority to this subject above other activities. This level of leadership requires the individual, he or she, know the subject. You when I say know the subject, that’s more than the first meets the eye. Let me give you an illustration.

Can you remember when you were a child learning penmanship? You had to think your way around the letter A and the other letters of the alphabet. In other words, you never … until you relegated those physical movements like you’re doing right here, relegated into the condition reflexes, the only thing you had to think about is what you want to write. That’s when you know. Or take driving an automobile: you don’t know how to drive an automobile if you have to think when you do this or that with the wheel or this or that to the accelerator or the brake. You don’t know how to drive an automobile until you, again, relegate the physical movements to the conditioned reflexes. The only thing you have to think about is where it is you want to go and how not to get hit.

Or take playing the game of golf. I hate to admit this. I don’t know how to play golf. When I stand up at the tee, I have to think about my stance. I have to think about getting some of the weight on my heels. I have to think about flexing my knees. In my condition I have to think about sucking in. I have to think about the straight left arm. I have to think about the grip. I have to think about the back-swing. I have to think about the position of the club …. I have to think about starting slowly then speeding it up. I have to think about the follow-through, I have to think about not swearing, I have to think where it is I want the ball to go and when I get through with all that damn thinking I miss the ball.

Now the person who knows how to play golf, like Jack Niklaus, for example, or some of the other guys we know in the world. All they think about is where it is they wanted the ball to go. They relegated all those physical movements to conditioned reflexes and the only thing they have to think about is where the ball will go.

Memory muscle as one English pro called it, muscle memory. And they, I got news for you, they do better than I do. Now, why am I giving you these illustrations? Just to make the point as to when you know this subject. You know this subject when you can explain the fallacies of socialism and the principles of freedom with the same ease that you can say 42 is 6 times 7.

You know, I got news for you. There isn’t anything that works that well. But anyways, but that is the ideal, don’t you see. No, then there is this second level leadership is a comment I’d like to make: over the years ever since we started 32 years ago, I get letters from people: Leonard, the socialists are winning and we’re losing. Why don’t you use their methods?

Well the point is that these poor people don’t understand that you use different tactics to destroy a free society than you do to create a free society. That ought to be obvious to anybody.

Let’s take an example of a low objective. Suppose my objective is your demise. Ever stop to think what low methods I could use? Well, let’s move up a little bit in the hierarchy of values. My ambition is to make poets out of you. Well this begins to get slightly absurd.

Number one I don’t know anything about poetry myself and number two I don’t know how many of you are potentially poets. But is it not perfectly obvious that, were that my ambition, I would have to be a great poet or not one of your would pay any attention… is that not right?

Now we go up into the third category. This category, I don’t know anything about it accept its definition and a few of its imperative. But this level of leadership requires of the individual that he will achieve that degree of excellence which will cause others to seek his tutorship.

That’s what it is, and that’s all it is. And I’m going to suggest to you that there’s no limits to how far you can go in this tutoring business. … Saint Augustine. An autobiography entitled, Confessions. He passed away nearly 16 centuries ago. I’m reliably informed that that is the mostly widely purchased autobiography in the world today.

In other worlds, people are still seeking the tutorship of that man, you see? I’m not suggesting that any of us will get there, but that’s what it is. Now when you get up into this level of leadership, you are in the highest hierarchy of value there is. This correlates with wisdom and understanding; and, by the same token, the method must be commensurately as high.

What is this method? I suggest it to you is getting so good that others will seek your tutorship. So learning properly. You can’t inject your idea into the head of another. If you folks haven’t publicised or reprinted that piece by Albert Jay Nock entitled, “Isaiah’s Job”, for goodness sakes, do it.

In other words. Nock was an old friend of mine. One of the greatest thinkers and writers I ever knew. And I read this piece first in 1936, appeared in the Atlantic, I’ve reprinted hundreds and thousands of copies of it, but it changed my life.

Up until then, I was one of these guys who was going out and beating the hell out of people in the room and calling names and that sort of stuff. That was the thing that changed my life entirely. I don’t do that at all. Isaiah’s job.

In other words, these people who count. You see, you don’t know who they are. For instance, on this tour yesterday, I didn’t get off the bus, because I’m not a tourist. I stayed on where there is air-conditioning and so forth. In Macau, this little in this little stewardess, or whatever you call her, said, aren’t you going down?

I said, no, sir. She sat and talked with me for half an hour while all the people are taking pictures and blah, blah, blah. And moving on, you would be amazed at the extent to which she is interested in this sort of thing. You never know as the Bible says, out of mouths of babes.

I had a letter a while ago from a ten year old boy. He was more brilliant on our philosophy than 99% of the business leaders in their life. You never know. You never know. So, let’s go back and show how this works when you achieve this excellence.

I’ll take you back to the golf course again. When I go out to my club Saint Andrews, the members out there do not say to me, Leonard, will you please show me how to swing a golf club? Why, because by now they are aware of my incompetency as a golfer.

But you wave a magic wand and let me be as good as Jack Nicklaus or Gary Player. Every member of that club will tag me around and try to learn from me, will they not? For example, one of my hobbies over the years has been cooking. And let’s suppose I couldn’t scramble an egg. Would your wives ask me for recipes? I doubt it. But now make the assumption that I’m good, as I really am. Then, not only would your wife but all the aspiring chefs in the world seek the tutorship. Is that not right?

That’s the way this thing works.

The first best meeting we ever had as a society was 1947, just 36 of us. That was by far the best meeting. It’s been getting worse ever since. I mean, I hear a lot of, if I may say so, crap, over here. And I think I know the reasons, but I don’t want to bore you with that.

So many of these people are agnostics or atheists. They don’t say it, but you can tell by what they say that they are. They are not doing their reasoning. Their actions from a basic premise. Name one of them that is, huh?

Well, I have a lot of fun in this business.

One of the things is this. I’ve been in this business so long that I’ve seen a great number of flip-flops. That is, I’ve seen out-and-out communists turn out to be some of the best people on our side of the fence. So you never know where they are.

I have a rule that I try to follow: Go only where you are called. But do everything in your power to qualify to be called. If I hadn’t done any homework from the see you and invited me here this morning, is that not right?

We, in our foundation, we use this principle, all the way through. We never put anybody on earth on the mailing list unless they request it. Or unless you take the responsibility and tell us to do it and pay for it. That’s your name used. We use that in raising more money. I don’t ask anybody for anything. Are we doing all right?

Mises was on our payroll from the day we started FEE thirty two years ago until he died. I would have disagreements with Mises on some things, but he’s one of the greatest on this philosophy that ever lived. And of course, his greatest book, and the most difficult to read, is Human Action. That would not have been brought out had I not given the university press a check for $7,500 for that many copies at the wholesale price.

…. And I’ll tell you a story about how difficult it is. I was out in Los Angeles over the summer with my friends the Englebrandts. He was the only one that ever graduated with straight As from Stanford Law School, I’ll never forget, his wife is one of my favourites.

Anyway, October 1949, I was explaining how difficult Mises was, and to make my point I turned to the beautiful Dorothy, and I asked her a question, using a chapter heading in the book. I said Dorothy dear, how would you like to indulge with me, in the praxeological aspects of polylogism. Dorothy looked up and said, “Len, would it hurt?” Well, he has written some other books though that are quite simple. That’s all on our literature of freedom list.

When you’re talking about books. We have a whole 125 books on literature freedom. It’s the best freedom library in the world.

The best starteroffer books. I don’t know how this would work in another country. But in the United States, the best starteroffer book is Weaver’s Mainspring of Human Progress. But it does discuss the principles don’t you see? [CROSSTALK] You know what I mean. And then, I would put in the next book, not best, but, Hazlitt’s Economics In One Lesson. And then one of my favourites of all time is Frederic Bastiat’s The Law. That’s 79 pages of just pure stuff. He was a great man.

Here’s another point that I’d like to make. Being in this business all these years, I’ve seen a great number of people after a seminar. What they do they try to go out the next morning and set their dumb friend straight. But I got news for you. Their dumb friends run around the corner when they see them coming. And their dumb friends don’t invite him to dinner any more.

Now what is the right method? The right method is to share your ideas with others as distinguished from ramming it down their neck. The more you share your ideas with others, share. I mean, assuming they’re interested, the better and higher grade will your own ideas be. And that’s fairly plain why that’s true.

When you are, in other words, as I say, I said a moment ago, go only where you’re called, but do everything in your power to qualify to be called. When you’re called they’re listening, and the more ideas you have. In other words, when I refer to callS, I mean when they’re seeking your tutorship.

It’s easy to see why it is: the more you share, the more you receive. You’re going to make a speech, or you’re going to write a book. Share. What do you do? Do you not put your best foot forward? That’s what you do, don’t you see? Well, that’s when you are at your best.

I ride about 100,000 miles a year on airplanes. It’s always someone sitting there to my left, literally and figuratively. I do not know who the person is, but I know how to start a conversation with this person and get them to ask, “Mr Read, what the hell do you do?”

… then I know how to respond so I can tell whether it’s in the interest or not, and it doesn’t always work. I don’t know this mean anything to you or not, but I was flying out of Chicago into New York. Here’s a guy up in first class sitting on my left. About 30 minutes from touchdown, I began this routine of mine, which is actually to start a conversation and never finish it. I was having lunch several weeks ago in Hong Kong where Henry … and stopped and I was playing golf at Legionnaire with Arnie Palmer last week, and then just shut up. And just go onto a lot of things where everybody tried to pigeon hole you see? So by two minutes, their curiosity burst, what the hell do you do? You see, I’ve been called. Its kinda funny. Well that’s the way this thing works.

Okay. I’ll show you how it works. Oh this about 20 years ago, I wrote a piece entitled, “There is No Moral Right to Strike,” and it went out to 50,000 people. In about three weeks, I receive, on the letter head of the sailors’ union of the pacific, that’s when Harry Bridges outfits. And the writer of the letter was William Bens, organizer, meaning the strike organiser. Three pages of just pure vitriol. You dirty S.O.B cuz he didn’t wanna spell my name. I’ll say one thing, it did have a lot of spirit in it. So instead of throwing it in the waste basket as you might be prone to do, I called in my associate and I said Eddie I’m gonna be away for three days and what I’d like you to do is to write this gent a letter using our method. Well, I’ll tell you what our method is.

Our method is that of turning the other cheek. In other words, write the guy as high-grade a letter as you’d write the Lord. When I came back from those three days, it was absolutely beautiful and I sent it to this guy.

That’s where we got into it. And as fast as an air letter can go to Portland Oregon and back again. I received the most abject apology I have ever read in my life. He was absolutely crushed to think that he’d written his kind of a letter to a kind of a person to who he had made me out to be you see.

So I responded and thanked him and I sent him a couple of books, Harper’s Why Wages Rise. And the Argentine Lectures, and Why Not Try Freedom? And pretty soon I got a letter from him, he said this is the best stuff I’ve ever read in my life please send me more.

It seemed kind of fun for a guy like that, so I sent him about a half a dozen books. If you want to get some free literature from me, write Read a nasty letter. After he’d read these, he wrote me, and here’s what he wrote me: “Mr Read, I hereby make you my director of reading. I authorise you to purchase any book at any time which in your judgment will help me with my thinking and send me the bill.” Did you ever hear a turnaround like that?

I never had more wonderful correspondence than I did with this fellow. And then about six months after this first event, I had the occasion to go to Portland. And I wrote him a letter and said, I’d like to meet you, how about meeting me Monday morning? And Monday morning there he was, great big fellow. Obviously a lot of energy. 47-48 years old. And went off to the breakfast table and sat down. And he made several confessions to me. Number one, he hadn’t, he never quite finished the second grade.

And number two, until he met us, FEE, our works, every moment of his life had been lived in hate. And then, he caught me looking at his, looking at his right hand, and a finger was off. Just to show you the kind of life he had. He said, oh that, that fight, the son of a bitch bit it off.

Well, anyway. I went to luncheon that day and I had to make a speech and he went with me and brought another labour official. He said, may I drive you to the airport?

And so I thought I’d have a little fun on the way to the airport. And by this time I was calling him by his nickname, Whitey. I said, “Whitey, do you remember that first letter you wrote me?” I bet it was the first time in his life he ever blushed.

And he said humbly, “Yes I remember”. And I said suppose that I had replied in kind, would we … let me show you what I did do to you.

I took my airplane to get out of my pocket, and I held it up against the windshield, and said what holds it there? Its the tension of your finger. I said, you are right. Now I want you to watch what happens when I remove the tension. Take the finger off, the thing it came down didn’t it?

Then I recited him an old Arab proverb. He who strikes the second blow starts the fight. Whitey you struck the first blow, I did not strike the second. You and I are buddies. And he got the point.

And this correspondence went on all for another year or two. Then all of a sudden, bang, I thought he defected. In about three months, I get a letter from him. Mr. Read, I never thought it would happen to me, but I bought a new car and I was out in the headway, on the highway. And I had a head on, and I’ve been in this hospital for three months while these doctors try to splice me together again, and Leonard, Mr Read, he didn’t call me Leonard, Mr Read, you should see what I have done on behalf of our philosophy with these MDs.

Now, you’ve got there a real story. Suppose we had had no books, no ideas, huh? Could we turn that man’s life around?

Well, if what we did is right, it’s right for your organisation. I’d rather put it another way, it’s right for each of you as individuals.

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