Document:Memoir 2020 Michael Morrison on Early Days of Party
“It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand” was the name of a popular book by Jerome Tuccille, probably in the mid-to-late 1960s. The title was a good summation of the libertarian movement up to that time.
But, it was not entirely accurate because a lot of libertarians had come out of the conservative movement, that part of the movement that had stressed free enterprise.
Pioneers in that effort included Leonard Read, Frank Chodorov, Albert Jay Nock, Isabel Paterson, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Leonard Read published “The Freeman,” which still exists as the organ of the Foundation for Economic Education, and in my not-at-all-humble opinion, it is one of the very best liberty-movement publications ever. And a wonderful tool for introducing people, perhaps especially young people, to the ideas of liberty.
In about 1961, young people, mostly college age, created Young Americans for Freedom, which more than any other organization, kicked off the conservative movement that eventually led to [[Barry Goldwater's nomination as Republican presidential candidate and finally to the Ronald Reagan presidency.
Alas, it pretty well died after that, having sold its soul to neo-cons and establishment Republicans in exchange for victory and power.
In the meantime, Young Americans for Freedom began an amoeba-like splitting, with the major division occurring at a national convention in 1968.
The sides were the “trads,” the traditionalist conservatives, followers of William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, and the “lazy fairies,” as the trads called the libertarians, advocates of Laissez Faire free enterprise.
The big issue? The military draft. Conscription. “Selective Slavery.”
David Friedman, the brilliant son of Milton and Rose, wrote in “The New Guard,” magazine of YAF, how the conventioneers raved about obeying the law and those evil draft-card burners should be jailed, or something, then went out and broke the local laws about under-age drinking.
Liberty-oriented Republicans got thoroughly disgusted with their party, especially with Richard Nixon as its “leader,” and at the invitation of David Nolan gathered in Colorado in late 1971 to form a new party, the Libertarian Party, which nominated the great philosopher Professor Doctor John Hospers for president and the astonishing Theodora “Tonie” Nathan for vice-president.
Dr. Hospers wrote the Statement of Principles, and the early party said it wouldn't have a platform, just that statement. That, it said, would prevent getting bogged down in trivialities and needless controversies. [[[This is my memory, but other people contradict it. I’m not sure. ]]]
The early party had its headquarters in San Francisco and swore it would never, like all those inferior parties, move its HQ to the Belly of the Beast, Washington, D.C.
Both those promises were broken.
So much for organizations. What about the ideas?
Ayn Rand continued to dominate the intellectual and philosophical influences, but a previous century's Lysander Spooner began to gain adherents. Frederic Bastiat's influence spread from conservatives to libertarians, and those others mentioned above were joined by such liberty stalwarts as Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess, to name just a few.
In fact, today there are hundreds of libertarian speakers and thinkers and writers who are influential, and thousands more of us who help keep the ideas in public but to whom no one pays serious attention.
Writing rapidly, I'm sure I've missed something or somebody significant so urge anyone with additional or corrective information to let me know. Thank you.
Sent by Michael Morrison via email to Caryn Ann Harlos on 19 October 2020.