Gary Galles in the Orange County Register: Karl Hess reignited libertarianism

Gary Galles writes in The Orange County Register:

Today is the anniversary of the birth in 1923 of Karl Hess – someone called the “most beloved libertarian.” Credited with the famous line from Barry Goldwater’s presidential nomination acceptance speech in 1964, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,” his work was a central influence in reviving the libertarian movement. A documentary on his life, “Karl Hess: Toward Liberty,” even won an Oscar for best short documentary in 1981.

Given Hess’ role in reigniting the embers of what had been the flame of liberty at America’s founding, it is worth remembering his powerful words.

•”Politics has always been the institutionalized and established way in which some men have exercised the power to live off the output of other men.”

•”[P]olitics, throughout time, has existed solely through the resources that it has been able to plunder from the creative and productive people … denied the exclusive employment of all their own powers for their own welfare.”

•”Political parties and politicians today – all parties and all politicians – question only the forms through which they will express their common belief in controlling the lives of others.”

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And from wikipedia:

In 1969 and 1970, Hess joined with others, including Murray Rothbard, Robert LeFevre, Dana Rohrabacher, Samuel Edward Konkin III, and former Students for a Democratic Society leader Carl Oglesby to speak at two “left-right” conferences which brought together activists from both the Old Right and the New Left in what was emerging as a nascent libertarian movement. Hess later joined the Libertarian Party which was founded in 1971, and served as editor of its newspaper from 1986 to 1990.

10 thoughts on “Gary Galles in the Orange County Register: Karl Hess reignited libertarianism

  1. AroundtheblockAFT

    Karl did reignite libertarianism, with the famous “March to the Arch” at the YAF Convention in St. Louis in 1969. His words energized the minority Libertarian Caucus faction and led to them walking out of YAF rather than remaining as second-class partners under the “trad” thumb. I got to know Karl in the LP and can attest to the charisma and good will that flowed from the man, even when he was in deep opposition to your views. Too bad a lot of commenters on this blog can’t display the civility and bonhomie for which Karl was famous.

  2. Gene Berkman

    Karl Hess reignited libertarianism with his essay “The Death of Politics” in the March 1969 issue of Playboy. You can read it @

    Karl did attend the 1969 convention of Young Americans for Freedom, as an outside agitator. I would not credit him for the libertarian walkout, which was the result of the fight over support for draft resistors, and the draft card burning by Dave Schumacher of New Jersey.

    Karl was an outstanding champion of liberty, a gifted journalist and speechwriter, and much missed.

  3. AroundtheblockAFT

    Schumaker, who later moved to Denver and was active in the Colorado LP and private rail car ownership circles, told me Karl Hess’ remarks at the Arch inspired his decision to ignite his draft card on the floor of the YAF convention.

  4. paulie Post author

    Speaking of the March to the Arch, the BTP is planning a reenactment on Monday afternoon.

    BTP March on the Arch
    Monday, May 31, 2010
    2:00pm – 5:00pm
    Gateway Arch
    Saint Louis, MO

  5. Gene Berkman

    @ 3 – I can believe that.

    I was the Libertarian Caucus liaison to the Anarchist Caucus, which was organized by Karl Hess IV – son of the speechwriter. The Libertarian Caucus and Anarchist Caucus had been organized in advance of the convention by YAF activists; Hess actually paid little attention to YAF until he was convinced to show up.

    The libertarian activism at the YAF convention was the work of the activists themselves, and the decision to split and form SIL and the CLA were made quite independently of Karl Hess, Murray Rothbard or any of the other big names.

  6. Trent Hill

    “I would not credit him for the libertarian walkout, which was the result of the fight over support for draft resistors, and the draft card burning by Dave Schumacher of New Jersey.”

    I always heard it was Donald Meinhausen.

  7. Gene Berkman

    @ 6 – Don Meinshausen (of New Jersey) was at the YAF convention, but the draft card burner was Dave Schumacher, who was papered in as a delegate under the name Lee Houffman of the University of Virginia.

  8. David F. Nolan

    As I noted in the interview that is linked to my name (above) Karl Hess is probably the most underappreciated libertarian writer of the 20th century. A great champion of liberty, and a warm, lovable human being.

  9. paulie Post author

    That may be something for the next LNC to take up. Let’s get more of Karl Hess’s work publicized! There must be a million ways to work some quotes in and apply them to issues of the day, offer his books as premiums, etc.

  10. Donald Meinshausen

    There was a crucial YAF conference where I had organized a panel on the spectrum of conservative spectrum. It was Karl Hess, Jerome Tuccile, who was an Objectivist at the time, Frank S Meyer, who invented conservatism and a traditionalist. Karl won over Jerome and many others in the audience and we formed the libertarian caucus. In St. Louis I organized the draft card burning by introducing the resolution that called for YAF to support draft resistance. this the YAF rulers were against since their contributors were hard core anti-left and pro-war. The draft card I then gave to David Schumacher since I realized that the burning was more effective if done by someone with shorter hair. Dave understood and made history. I cannot make the convention since I’m broke and frankly the party is not interested in anything exciting, principled or even strategy. By being boring they are inviting a walkout.

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