Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Reasons To Rejoice, Be Rejoiced, Be Rejoicing, and Be the Rejoicer...

The Secrets of Mises.org are revealed in a remarkable speech given by Jeffrey Tucker at the 2003 Mises Institute Supporters Summit...

There once was a time, not too long ago, that in order to have light, one had to rely on the sun or a burning flame to provide it. So too, there was once a time when, in order to read a text of anything, you had to have a physical copy in your hands. It had to be sent through the mail or delivered in person. There was no way that one copy could be read by multiple people at the same time.

The generation now being raised finds this nearly impossible to believe. "How did the system work?" my 9-year old daughter asks. I explain that the internet became consumer accessible only ten years ago, but she hears that as before her lifetime, so it might as well be before cars, electricity, and indoor plumbing. It's all the dark ages to her.

In some ways, it was. Before Mises.org went online on October 2, 1995, the mail and hand delivery were the only two ways that the material we produced could be distributed and made available. How well we recall spending hours every day searching through back issues of our publications, finding just the article that a caller on the phone needed, copying it on the copy machine (at least we had those), and putting it in an envelope to give to the government employee who took the envelope by truck, and eventually stuck it in a box at the person's home or office. The advent of the fax machine, which was the size of a washing machine in those days, was a stunning breakthrough.

In some ways, it is remarkable to think that dissident ideas ever got a hearing. In order to discover their existence, you had to have heard a speech somewhere, stumbled on a book in the library, or searched the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature and found unusual publications listed among the millions upon millions, and then take the further step of contacting the publisher.

It was particularly difficult for students, who were and are our primary target audience. Unless a professor assigned a reading or warned students not to read Mises or Rothbard (censorship being the best form of advertising), it was very likely that students would go through many years of schooling, even in economics, without ever having heard about the Austrian School of economics or libertarianism, much less have contacted the Mises Institute about these ideas.

Yet somehow, we managed. But rather than focusing on the bad old days, let us talk about the age when the information lights came on. Our first site was put online by our adjunct scholar Peter Klein, and then our membership coordinator Susan Thomas took it over. Later it became a group project, and remains so today, as it must be, because Mises.org is far more than a website. It is a city, even a civilization, unto itself.

With the web, it became possible to:

Put every word ever written by the Austrian economists online so that the magnificence of this tradition of thought can be made available to the entire world, thus amplifying and extending the hard work of thousands over the period of more than a hundred years.
Provide instantaneous delivery of every publication ever put out in the history of the Mises Institute.
Provide a running commentary on world affairs, written by the best scholars and writers in the Austrian tradition, and thereby compete even with the major news organizations (indeed Mises articles are frequently featured on the Google news page, and Moreover.com feeds our articles to tens of thousands of topical sites).
Provide interactive research guides and bibliographies, reducing from months to minutes the time it used to take to assemble these, and with far more accuracy.
Share files and whole books across the world with only a few clicks.
Listen to the voices of Ludwig von Mises, Margit von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and all our scholars, and any recording we have ever made, just by pointing and clicking.
Deliver news of the Austrian School on a ongoing basis, and, with the RSS news feed, any changes to the web log or available articles, can be mirrored on thousands and millions of sites and blogs anywhere in the world, all thanks to a few lines of computer code (this is how Mises.org mirrors LewRockwell)
Most fundamentally, Mises.org does the most important thing extremely well and efficiently: it lets the world know that these ideas exist. Interested students don't need to scour the libraries to find out about our work. They can know in an instant. One search and the world opens up to you.

Before getting into what is available, just a few comments on the usage. In September 2003, Mises.org logged 1,209,295 page views. This is individual users examining a particular URL in the site. Mises.org also logged a total hit count in September of 11,255,668. A commercial site would gladly pay a high price for this level of interest.

At any one time, day or night, every day, year round, between 300 and 600 people are on the Mises Institute site, reading short articles or whole books or listening to lectures, or doing research of one sort or another. It's like an ongoing seminar that is three times the size of anything we would be able to fit into our seminar room, and it goes on constantly and globally.

Who are the users? Students, some on their own initiative, others because their professor links to Mises.org from a syllabus; faculty; financial professionals; business owners; clergy; newshounds; government employees, some looking for respite, others for evidence of the enemy; and every manner of individual and institution from more than a hundred countries. Users go directly to content, bypassing all gatekeepers. It's no wonder that governments the world over fear the web.

In fact, Mises.org's daily traffic dwarfs any government agency you can name. It exceeds that of the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank. It beats the Fed, the American Economic Association, the National Bureau of Economic Research, Brookings, American Enterprise Institute, and all the rest. In fact, if there is a more trafficked institutional site focusing on economics or liberty, I don't know of it.

  • Read All of Jeff Tucker's Speech at Mises.org
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