In every person’s life there are key turning points. I believe this is also true of nations and civilizations. These turning points have meaning only in reference to long, uneventful periods of conventional day-to-day activities. That is the whole meaning of a turning point. It turns us into a new path after years of stability. We go about our daily affairs as if nothing will ever change. Women run a seeming endless stream of boring errands. Men trudge off to work to make their little deals, or put out the daily fires that any business generates. And then, almost without warning, comes a turning point. We remember them.
Some of them are obvious. Getting married, having the first child, deaths of key people in our lives. Maybe a business deal that pays off big. Some turning points are not always obvious until years later. But once experienced, they profoundly influence what we do, how we are regarded by others, and how we view ourselves. I want to talk about one of these forks in the road. For some of you, this newsletter will turn out to be a major fork.
There have been several such overnight transforming experiences in my life. The first that I remember was in October of 1956. I attended a lecture by Dr. Fred Schwarz. He was in the process of setting up his Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. In a one-hour lecture, he transformed my thinking. He focused my attention on a political problem. At age 14, I joined the conservative movement. Twelve years later, Marx’s Religion of Revolution, my book on Karl Marx, was published. It is presently out of print, but I do intend to revise it next year. Of course, I say this every year. That single speech shifted my concerns from boyhood problems to adult problems. I went into the conservative movement’s trenches.
In the summer of 1959, a friend of mine shared the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I decided to turn my life over to an invisible Person, that changed my life. That led me to a detailed study of the Bible. This has been in progress now for over a quarter of a century. I came across a copy of The Freeman at some stage, probably that same year, though perhaps in 1958. (Do we ever remember when we first saw The Freeman? I doubt it). It led me into the free market philosophy. By age 18, I decided that I would have to find a book on the link between free market economics and the Bible. By age 20, I had decided that I would have to write it.
In 1967, The Freeman published my first nationally published essay as its lead piece. That event also turned my life. I had been trying to break into writing nationally for six years. That gave me confidence. I literally wrote my way into a full-time staff position at the Foundation of Economic Education, which publishes The Freeman.
In1972, I got married. Since I had met my wife nine years earlier and had been in her home hundreds of times, this was less of a turning point than a kind of round-up. It was a good thing that she came back to New York and suggested that we get married. I probably wouldn’t have thought of it. We hadn’t had a date in three years, and we had only had one.
Then, in 1974, came another of my major turning points. I never cease to be amazed that I chose the proper path. It would have been so easy to have missed it. It is the one that I call to your attention.
The Question I Couldn’t Answer
Back in early 1974, I was attending a monetary conference. I was a speaker. As I walked through the lobby, a man I had never met spoke to me. He was a newsletter writer and publisher, and a gold coin dealer. His name was Rene Baxter. I had read his letter from time to time.
He asked me a question. That question changed my life, but only because I couldn’t answer it. He asked: “Why don’t you publish a newsletter?”
I had been writing in The Freeman since 1967. I had written for perhaps two dozen magazines and newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal. I had helped finance my years in graduate school by writing. But never had it occurred to me that I should get into the newsletter business. I was writing a monthly column in a newsletter, but it was published by a non-profit foundation, so it was a “free” letter. The money came in from donations. That was very different from a profit-seeking investment letter.
I went home from that meeting with a new vision. Someone had proposed an opportunity to me. Maybe I could make something of it. It would mean major changes in my life.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)