The Interview Issue: Chris Talley and Emilio Pacheco

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Columnists Cecil Bohanon and Bill Styring interviewed the leaders of the Indianapolis-based Liberty Fund, a libertarian-leaning foundation that encourages freedom and responsibility among individuals.

The columnists talked with CEO Chris Talley, 69, and Chief Operating Officer Emilio Pacheco, 62, about the Liberty Fund’s new building, its activities and its founder.

Liberty Fund has traditionally kept a rather low public profile. It is now building a new headquarters. Will this increase your profile? Liberty Fund is known in academic circles for annually sponsoring 120 or so small invitation-only conferences on specialized intellectual topics and for publishing high-quality books of academic interest. Are there other activities?

talley-chris-mug Talley

C.T.: Let me address the first part of your question on our profile. Our real motivation is a building that will communicate to the community, to Indiana, to Carmel, to people who travel up and down the highway, our programs by making our library and our conference facility visible. 

We also want it to make a statement: It’s a building being built for the long term. In-house, we call it a 50-year project plus. It’s meant to strengthen the roots we have in Indiana from our founder and from his family, that trace all the way back to 1830.

pacheco-emilio-mug Pacheoco

We have expanded our conferences to almost 200 a year. We do about 100 of those in a traditional format that you reference in your question, but we also do another 100 or so. We partner with 16 other institutions, domestic and international, that reach high school teachers, undergraduate students, graduate students, young professionals, businesspeople and people in the clergy.

We have also had several open-to-the-public events in the last few years: a Capitalism and the Good Society symposium at Butler, a Constitution Day panel at the Landmark Society Building in Indianapolis, and the Adam Smith panel at Ball State in Muncie. We’ll continue to do those things. The new building will facilitate those sorts of meetings much better than our current one.

Tell us some details about your new headquarters? What is its design concept?

C.T.: The design concept is that of a campus-like environment built around a chevron-shaped courtyard and that has four wings.

Obviously, the entry wing is one. We need office space, so we have an office wing with two floors to house our 50 or so people. The other part of the building is specifically designed to support educational programs. It will face Meridian Street and U.S. 31. People will see a rather nicely developed aesthetically pleasing library.

The founder and benefactor of Liberty Fund, Mr. Pierre Goodrich, had many intellectual and civic interests. Why did he devote most of his fortune to the pursuit of understanding liberty?

C.T.: Around the time Mr. Goodrich took the helm of his operating companies in the 1940s, he also became interested in expanding his own education, his own understanding of history, religion, and political issues, things of that nature. He began to read widely in the Great Books and was responsible for growing a Great Books organization in Indiana.

He was influenced by his affiliation with the Foundation for Economic Education. He learned from that experience the importance of political freedom if there was to be economic freedom. He also served on the board of trustees at Wabash College. Those experiences, combined with his ideas about education, led him to develop a foundation that would promote the study of the ideals of a society of free and responsible individuals.

E.P.: I would like to add some things: first, his religious upbringing and theological concerns. He was not a religious man; he was a lapsed Presbyterian. His father was a very devout Presbyterian, taught Sunday school in Winchester, Indiana. We have a wonderful photograph of James Goodrich in his Sunday class.

But Pierre read very deeply in the Protestant tradition, particularly the Calvinist tradition. For him, the conception of liberty—what it is for a man to be free in his own conscience and the responsibility he has for his own actions—was very central.

He was conflicted about it because he knew that Protestant Calvinism had given way to a stern and rigid political regime in Geneva and he knew how intolerant Calvinism could be. At the same time, he knew that, at the center of Calvinist theology was the idea of man’s free will but also free will that was marred by predestination.

In Goodrich’s writings, there is a word that reoccurs again and again: That [word] is hope. He described the mission [of] this institution—that it will make a hopeful contribution.

You cannot understand Goodrich if you take him out of Indiana. It is that experience, that Midwestern experience, which is in one sense very conservative but in another sense open to industry, open to achievement, open to meritocracy.

I think this is the unique combination that makes Liberty Fund a creature of Goodrich’s own experience.

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