Front Page Titles (by Subject) Foreword - The Goodriches: An American Family
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Foreword - Dane Starbuck, The Goodriches: An American Family 
The Goodriches: An American Family (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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The Indiana Goodriches are an American family whose leading members, James and Pierre, helped to shape the American century. The book becomes, primarily, the necessary biography of Pierre Goodrich, but the life of such a man could never be understood were he not centrally placed within the family heritage. And, particularly, attention must be paid to the personal saga of James P. Goodrich, Pierre’s father, which, when accomplished, converts this biographical effort into the sequential narrative of two lives. James P. Goodrich was a business and political leader whose credits include a term as Indiana’s governor during World War I, official United States missions to the famine-stricken and collectivized chaos that was the Soviet Union in the 1920s, and both state and national prominence in Republican Party affairs—all of this while building the foundations for the far-flung business network that Pierre brought to fruition. In its turn, however, James Goodrich’s own history is not readily separated from that of the Goodrich brothers, who were all among Indiana’s movers and shakers during the first half of the twentieth century.
I was fascinated when I learned about the family’s early connection with Blacksburg, Virginia, my adopted hometown, and with Virginia Polytechnic Institute, an institution with which I was affiliated. And what a story! The matriarch of the clan, the widowed Rebecca Pearse Goodrich, who married at thirteen and had given birth to fourteen children by the time she was thirty-nine, set out from Blacksburg in 1831 to cross the mountains and rivers for Indiana. We can only stand in awe of such persons, who did indeed make our land.
This biography makes us recognize what is missing from the millennial setting in which we find ourselves. We have lost the “idea of America,” both as a motivation for action and as a source of emotional self-confidence. We have lost that which the Goodriches possessed.
Pierre Goodrich was a highly successful entrepreneur whose efforts were a unique combination of divergent activities (agriculture, communication, finance, law, mining, publishing, utilities) and locational concentration (Indiana). So long as politicized constraints are kept within reasonable limits, a few comparably successful business leaders will emerge in the least expected places. But who among them will appreciate the specific philosophical foundations of the institutional environment that sustains their own flourishing? Further, who among them might emulate Pierre Goodrich in the recognition that these very foundations must be continually renewed and reinvigorated in public understanding?
Liberty Fund is the permanent embodiment of Pierre Goodrich’s faith in the power of ideas and his personal belief that ideas are more exciting and more important than things. The biographer appropriately distinguishes between Pierre Goodrich as the man of ideas who both created Liberty Fund and remains its inspiration, and Pierre Goodrich as the directing force behind an extended network of business enterprises. It is both appropriate and helpful in our understanding to describe Goodrich’s own interpretation of his business activity as a “calling,” which more or less necessarily embodied the Calvinist virtues of work and accumulation, virtues that he imputed as norms and evaluative standards for others than himself. While he was not actively religious in any personal sense, it is interesting to learn that both Luther and Calvin are on Goodrich’s recommended short reading list. The family’s Presbyterian heritage was surely important in allowing Pierre Goodrich to ward off all temptations toward profligacy.
When he established Liberty Fund, however, Pierre Goodrich went well beyond his calling even as a creator of economic value. The institution has, indeed, made a difference in the world of ideas. I am cited as noting that the philosophical dialogue has shifted over the century’s last quarter. Liberty Fund’s conferences are owed at least some part of the causal credit for that shift. The “Great Books” are now exhaustively discussed, both exegetically and extensively, and well beyond the confines of a few college and university programs. And the foundational origins of the ideas and ideals of a free society are being examined in depth. Their numbers are legion: those who have, finally, been exposed firsthand to the ideas of Acton, Althusius, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Maine, Mandeville, Montesquieu, Smith, and Spinoza, along with those of their twentieth-century successors. In this skeptical age, is it not really a bit marvelous that Liberty Fund has lived up to its name? If academic, political, and public understanding fails to reckon the potential dangers of inattention to the classical norms, Pierre Goodrich and Liberty Fund have absolved themselves of any share of the responsibility.
I commenced this foreword by reference to Pierre and James Goodrich as leading members of an American family in the American century. But more precise temporal and locational identification seems to be possible here. There is only one natural setting from which such men could have emerged: the great American Midwest during the early years of the twentieth century. The contrasting cultures of the effete, elitist, establishment-minded East and the caste-bound South could never have bred and nurtured such spirits.
Personally, I recall seeing Pierre Goodrich on a few occasions at early Mont Pelerin Society meetings in the late 1950s and the 1960s. He was one of a very small number of business leaders (three or four) who seemed fully at home in the company of his generation’s classical liberals, who have now become legends: F. A. Hayek, Frank Knight, Ludwig von Mises, Karl Popper, Wilhelm Röpke. I am sure that none of these men could have made nearly so comfortable a comparative shift from the realm of ideas to that of practical reality.
I have participated in many Liberty Fund conferences. I have always been impressed at the efforts made by Liberty Fund’s program officers to adhere rigorously to the guidelines laid out in the foundation’s Basic Memorandum. In this respect, Pierre Goodrich has been posthumously blessed. In some provisional comparative reckoning, he outdistances Carnegie, Ford, Lilly, MacArthur, Rockefeller, Sage, and others in the dispositional efficiency of his legacy. The ratio between final usage and original intent is surely much greater for the Goodrich endowment than it is for many of his peers whose fortunes far surpassed his own.
It is good to have this biography, because it now becomes easier for us to understand and appreciate how Liberty Fund’s surprisingly comprehensive Basic Memorandum came into being, and to sense its intent and purpose. Pierre Goodrich was not so naïve as to think that the linkage between ideas and their consequences is direct along either the temporal or the intellectual dimension. He was, himself, no “policy wonk,” and he would have considered support of policy-oriented think tanks to be relatively less productive than alternative investment in the stimulation of discussion of basic ideas.
Should he have lived out his own full century, Pierre Goodrich would surely have rejoiced at the demise of the fatal conceit that was socialism. He would also have sensed that the postsocialist pragmatic drift that we currently experience guarantees disaster. The millennial politics of situational response demands, more than ever, attention to navigational guidepoles in the ideas and ideals of those classical liberals who laid the foundation from which America rose to greatness.
It is no fault of Liberty Fund, or of this biography, that we are left with an obvious and continuing query: Where can Pierre Goodrich’s true successors be found? Who will emerge to combine the passion for ideas and the ability to offer incentives for others to take time out to think beyond quotidian limits?
James M. Buchanan is advisory general director of the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University and a Nobel Laureate (1986) in Economics.