Liberty Against Power by Roy A. Childs, Jr.
Posted 16 October 2006 - 12:06 AM
by Joan Kennedy Taylor & Roy A. Childs
foreword by Thomas Szasz
Fox & Wilkes, 1994, paperback
Roy Childs' great passion and eloquence for liberty
reviewed by Ralph Raico, November 1994 (Laissez Faire Books
Veteran readers of Laissez Faire Books know Roy Childs very well. From 1984 to his death in 1992, Roy was Laissez Faire Books: he was its editor, chief reviewer, and overall animating spirit. To thousands of readers of this publication all over the world, Roy's passing has meant the stilling of a unique and much-admired voice.
But some of Roy's fans may be unaware of his earlier career as a libertarian writer and lecturer, or of the immense influence his essays and talks exercised on the libertarian movement. Now Joan Kennedy Taylor has made available to us, and to future generations, the best of Roy's written thought. This is a true labor of love--Joan was Roy's dearest friend -- but it is also a work of scholarship. Roy's many devoted friends, as well as libertarians everywhere, are indebted to Joan for her many months of conscientious editorial work.
Liberty Against Power consists of nineteen of Roy's essays. They range in time from an attack on the draft written when Roy was in his late-teens, to the prelude to an unfinished "refutation" of anarcho-capitalism composed in his last years.
The theoretical essays -- on libertarianism and its traditions, on authentic capitalism, on civil liberties as property rights, and on behalf of the totally voluntary society as against Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick -- are powerful polemics. Other essays deal with more specific topics on which Roy was a recognized libertarian authority, such as aspects of U.S. foreign policy and the war on drugs. Ayn Rand's death in 1982 furnished the occasion for a thoughtful analysis of her enduring legacy and her place in the libertarian movement perennial concerns of Roy's. The editor has appropriately included pieces on music -- Roy's great love -- and on a couple of his favorite authors. Like all the essays in this exciting book, they brim with what Joan Kennedy Taylor rightly calls Roy's "unquenchable enthusiasm". The volume is accompanied by a perceptive preface by another of Roy's friends, Dr. Thomas Szasz, and an informative introduction by the editor, sketching Roy's life and career.
Liberty Against Power is a fitting memorial to a great libertarian and a great man. In its pages you will hear Roy's voice. Whether you knew him in the flesh or not, listening to Roy speak out in the cause of liberty will be an illuminating, moving, and ever-fresh experience. To use one of Roy's favorite reviewer-expressions: This book sizzles.
"Little in life is more tragic than the shooting stars, the brilliant lights who illuminate the truth and brighten people's lives, only to flame-out before the history books take notice. Roy A. Childs, Jr. was one such phenomenon. A leading libertarian writer, editor and activist, Roy was also a good friend, tough intellectual sparring partner, and generous mentor for people ranging from the famous, like Milton Friedman, to the obscure, like any number of college students. "Alas, Roy's heart gave out in May 1992, saddening his many friends and admirers. It also seemed likely to deny him credit for helping to revive classical liberalism in the age of the welfare state. Although his words had boomed forth at a multitude of conferences, seminars, and speeches, and leaped off the pages of Libertarian Review, Inquiry, movement newsletters, and mainstream newspapers, he never authored a book. Thus, we lacked this most important kind of permanent record of his prodigious thinking. "But no longer, Joan Kennedy Taylor has collected some of his best writings and speeches in a new volume, Liberty Against Power. The book makes for a wonderful read.... It ranges across the philosophical and policy waterfront.... The lead article is the book's title essay, setting the philosophical tone for not only this volume, but Roy's life. Over the last century, he observes, 'we have seen a massive growth in state power at the expense of what Albert Jay Nock called "social power."' To what result? 'Honesty calls upon us to proclaim that power everywhere is impotent in the face of' today's problems. And that he does eloquently and often.
"A fitting tribute to someone who gave so much so long to so many."
--Doug Bandow, author of Politics of Envy
"Roy was a kind, loving, generous and benevolent man. He was gifted intellectually to a very high degree.... I cannot think of him without warmth and affection."
"Roy always reminded me of the great 19th century journalist-writers, a kind of combination of Walt Whitman and William Leggett: a self-taught man with a huge appetite for life, for experience, for art, for truth, for the well-turned phrase and the polemical thrust."
--David Kelley, President, The Objectivist Center
"Roy desperately, passionately wanted the forces of freedom and liberty to prevail. . . . He had a soul of pure gold and we shall miss him dearly."
--Ed Crane, President, Cato Institute
"Though I seldom saw Roy, I often communicated with him, always to my benefit. He was a rare human being whose contribution to our common cause will be greatly missed."
--Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist
"Everyone I know, who knew Roy, has asked the same question. 'Who can replace him?' And everyone has said 'No one can replace him'. . . . They meant that he is not replaceable in the oceanic depth and width of his knowledge of the literature of liberty."
--Karl Hess, author of Capitalism for Kids
"Roy was not like us. He valued neither health nor wealth. Roy loved liberty like a lover loves his beloved. The lover finds happiness in loving rather than in being loved. Roy found happiness in loving liberty. It was not possible to love liberty, to know Roy, and to not love him."
--Thomas S. Szasz, author and critic of psychiatry
Remembering Roy, by Thomas S. Szasz
Roy A. Childs: A Biographical Sketch, by Joan Kennedy Taylor
Liberty Against Power: An Introduction to the Traditions, Ideas and Promises of Libertarianism (1975)
The Practice of Power
Big Business and the Rise of American Statism (1971)
The Iranian Drama (1980)
El Salvador: The Myth of Progressive Reform (1981)
Crime in the Cities: The Drug Connection (1981)
Politics: The New Authoritarians (1982)
Toward a Theory of Liberty
The Defense of Capitalism in Our Time (1975)
Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand (1969)
The Invisible Hand Strikes Back (1977)
Anarchist Illusions (1989)
Land Reform and the Entitlement Theory of Justice (1977)
Property Rights/Civil Liberties: Two Sides of One Coin (1978)
Education and the Draft (1967-68)
Regulating the Poor (1971-72)
Giovanni Sgambati, Piano Concerto in G Minor, Op. 15 (1973)
Alliances Are Tripwires (1982)
Kay Nolte Smith: Introduction to One Hell of a Storyteller (1983)
The Discovery of Freedom (1985)
Ayn Rand and the Libertarian Movement (1982)
Posted 16 October 2006 - 12:15 AM
San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes • 1994 • 290 pages • $24.95 cloth; $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by Doug Bandow
The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty - June 1995 (Vol. 45 No. 6)
Little in life is more tragic than the shooting stars, the brilliant lights who illuminate the truth and brighten people's lives, only to flame out before the history books take note. Roy A. Childs, Jr., was one such phenomenon. A leading libertarian writer, editor, and activist, Roy was also a good friend and tough intellectual sparring partner to the famous, like Milton Friedman, and a generous mentor to the obscure, like any number of college students.
Alas, Roy's heart gave out in May 1992, saddening his many friends and admirers. It also seemed likely to deny him credit for helping to revive classical liberalism in the age of the welfare state. Although his words had boomed forth at a multitude of conferences, seminars, and speeches, and leaped off the pages of Libertarian Review, Inquiry, movement newsletters, and mainstream newspapers, he never wrote a book. Thus, we lacked this most important kind of permanent record of his prodigious thinking.
But no longer. Joan Kennedy Taylor, Roy's close friend and a former editor of Libertarian Review, has collected some of his best writings and speeches in a new volume, Liberty Against Power. The book makes for a wonderful read. It also reinforces the sense of loss that so many of us felt at Roy's passing. If only his unbounded passion for freedom were still burning. If only he had been alive to spotlight the hypocrisy and mendacity of the Clinton administration over the last two years. If only he Were here to direct his penetrating wit and relentlessly logical analysis against today's newly ascendant Republicans. If only ...
At least we now have Liberty Against Power. It ranges across the philosophical and policy waterfront, demonstrating Roy's extraordinary teaming, despite his never having finished college. The lead article is the book's title essay, setting the philosophical tone for not only this volume, but Roy's life. Over the last century, he observes, "we have seen a massive growth in state power at the expense of what Albert Jay Nock called 'social power'." To what result? "Honesty calls upon us to proclaim that power is everywhere impotent in the face" of today's problems. And that he does eloquently and often.
In another prescient essay, written two decades ago, Roy complains about the lack of debate over basic principle, at least regarding any "issues or policies beyond those which fit cozily into power's framework." His alternative? Liberty. Freedom to life, conscience, and property. Freedom to think and speak. To worship God and live in peace. Particularly noteworthy is Roy's unabashed willingness to make moral arguments. This argument on principle runs throughout Liberty Against Power. In a prize-winning essay presented at the Mont Pelerin Society, Roy emphasizes the importance of defending the morality of capitalism. Market economies long ago won the "bathtub" test by providing better bathtubs, but, in Roy's view, that doesn't provide a sufficiently solid ground for the market's defense. Warns Roy: "If wider philosophical issues are ignored, then we run the risk of seeing not only liberty disintegrate before our eyes, but the very foundations of civilization itself. And from that, recovery may not even be possble."
Other essays criticize Ayn Rand's and Robert Nozick's defenses of limited government. Interestingly, Roy moved away from anarchism near the end of his life, but he never finished his attack on "anarchist illusions," included in Liberty Against Power. Other insightful chapters include a critique of the New Right, which has at times eschewed not only social tolerance but also market economics; the role of business in promoting regulation, rather than laissezfaire; and the relationship between property rights and civil liberties.
His speech on the latter topic, printed for the first time in Liberty Against Power, is particularly illuminating. Ultimately, Roy argues, many contentious civil liberties issues—crying "fire" in a crowded theater, for instance—should be resolved on the basis of property rights. Roy resolutely defends people's right to discriminate "because they have a right to their property and their self-ownership." And Roy, who was grossly overweight, did not let personal interest get in the way of principle: before his death he appeared on the program 20/20 arguing against proposals to penalize discrimination on the basis of weight.
However, Roy was not a starry-eyed, ivory-tower philosopher. Among the best essays in Liberty Against Power are his writings on current policy. Even before the Reagan and Bush administrations escalated the war on drugs, Roy wrote "Crime in the Cities: The Drug Connection." Although now 14 years old, the article remains a path-breaker, demonstrating, through rigorous analysis and research, how it is drug prohibition, not drug use, that fuels the crime wave enveloping cities across America.
Similarly impressive are his analyses of foreign policy—El Salvador and Iran, for instance, as well as America's expansive alliance network around the globe. He wants the United States to "abandon the foreign policy which has brought us to the state where Americans are vilified and damned and held hostage" abroad, and instead return to a noninterventionist stance, when we "once again become a beacon of hope and liberty for all the people of the world."
Liberty Against Power contains much more. Roy assesses Ayn Rand's role in the libertarian movement. He reviews books on welfare and pays tribute to novelist Kay Nolte Smith. He reviews his much-loved classical music. Through all of these he reveals himself to be consistently interesting, knowledgeable, and opinionated; reading each additional essay reinforces the sense of sadness at his passing.
Roy Childs was a treasure to all who knew him. But his life has benefited, and continues to benefit, many more people than just those who had the pleasure of meeting him. The publication of Liberty Against Power will create a permanent record of his ideas and work, thereby helping to provide him, in death, the recognition that he richly deserved when he was alive. In this way, Liberty Against Power is a fitting tribute to someone who gave so much for so long to so many. 
Mr. Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology (Transaction).
©2005 Foundation for Economic Education. All Rights Reserved.
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