Desire for Security

Howard Buffett, Warren Buffett’s father, was a U.S. Republican representative from Nebraska (1943–1949 and 1951–1953). In December 1956 Howard gave a lecture at Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. This is an excerpt from that lecture that I found to be just as relevant now as it were then.

 Defending liberty from the encroachment of an ever expanding overreaching government is nothing new. It is my belief we need not search for new ideas or new avenues in which to travel in order to stop the loss of liberties, but to only look back and learn from those whom faced these fights before. Howard Buffett gives insights that need remembrance.  

 In an age in which congressmen call for the prosecution of those who engage in freedom of the press and in which senators claim that “if you have nothing to hide” you have nothing to worry about from government that spies on its own citizens; Buffett’s words are a fresh reminder that principled men once stood in the halls of Washington.  


Desire for SecurityHoward Buffett 1956

Any discussion of the status of the economic foundation of freedom is incomplete without some attention to a historic human urge—the desire for security. This intense human desire is reflected in the so-called social legislation politicians have placed on our statute books.

Will this legislation fulfill its promises? If you think so, consider this rarely mentioned fine print clause. If the government is to guarantee you what the consequences of your actions will be in this case, security, then the government must take control of your activities. For with responsibility—even self-arrogated responsibility—must go authority.

This means that if politicians are to supply your security, they must control your work, your spending, and your saving. Witness crop controls. In that event you have traded the reality of liberty for the promise of security.

History elsewhere indicates that government-provided security is a mighty poor mess of pottage in exchange for man’s birthright of freedom. There is, I suggest, no valid reason to conclude that modern man or modern conditions have changed any of the eternal verities concerning power and liberty.

In his book, The Promises Men Live By, Harry Scherman, organizer and long-time president of the Book-of-the-Month Club, has set out a course of action that deserves the attention of Americans concerned about the future of their country. Here is his suggestion:

If, as an individual, you really have some concern about the best way to change our present world to a better one, not a bad principle is to identify the enemy.

It should not be true, but unfortunately it is, that your immediate enemies remain, as they always have been, your rulers—your government. At all times, it is a wise thing to suspect both their intellectual honesty and their intelligence in economic matters.

Nothing can be lost, everything can be gained, by doing so. Make them prove themselves in these respects, and be utterly ruthless in your judgment.

When they seem most plausible, in your particular interests, it is not a bad course to suspect their economic intelligence the most. They are, in these days, the managers of a highly complex world.

You have placed them in this management, and you acquiesce in it. But, unfortunately, they give not the slightest indication of being any more capable in handling the affairs of masses of men than rulers have been all through history. . . .

 Scherman’s challenge closes with a plea that citizens make a vigorous and untiring effort to understand the economics of the world we live in. Without that understanding the citizen has no competence to judge the actions of his rulers, which also means he is unable to vote competently.

Without intellectual competence the citizen is controlled by his emotions. People controlled by their emotions in political matters have always been, and are today, easy prey for tyrants.


 IRS, NSA, EPA, DOJ, DHS….. As time goes on the many will learn, these so called “scandals” are everything but. They are the consequences of a Progressively Bigger Government. Should we have expected anything less?

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