Then a Socialist told me that Frederic Bastiat made the best explanation of the disadvantages that come from the protective tariff. That interested me. I got his "Sophisms" and was so fascinated that I bought his "Harmonies of Political Economy" and even had some of his essays translated that had not been translated into English.
He was the first man who awakened me to the errors, taught in government schools and most Protestant colleges, that the state doing things that were immoral if done by an individual made these acts become moral. In other words, he was the first man that pointed out that there was only one standard of right and wrong - the same standard for the state that governed the standard for the individual.
Bastiat so impressed me that I republished his "Social Fallacies (Economic Sophisms)" and his "Harmonies of Political Economy" in two volumes, and his essay on "The Law." [The first of these books was published by R.C. Hoiles in 1944.]
R.C. realized that he had never come across Bastiat in college for the same reasons that he had never found Bastiat in his high school library. Bastiat represented a clear cut threat to "the establishment" by demanding that one standard of morality apply to the individual and the State. After discovering Bastiat, R.C. ran across Henry Link's "Return to Religion," (1936), "Rediscovery of Man," (1940), "Rediscovery of Morals," (1947), and his essay on "The Way to Security" (1951), which "clearly pointed out the immorality and injustice of government schools." Another author that influenced R.C. was John Rustgard, who in his books, The Problem of Poverty, (1935), Sharing the Wealth, (1937), and The Bankruptcy of Liberalism (1942), explained how it was impossible for the State to educate the youth of the land in liberty and justice. Rose Wilder Lane's "Give Me Liberty" (1936), fascinated R.C. because it explained that government schools were the "primary tyranny." It was Rose Wilder Lane who suggested that he read Isabel Paterson's The God of the Machine (1943). That book so intrigued him that he purchased 100 copies for distribution to his friends and associates.
Rose Wilder Lane and R.C. had a special sort of relationship. They carried on an extensive correspondence, extending from at least the early 1940's till the early 1960's. One of R.C.'s favorite aphorisms was attributed to Rose Lane. He was fond of quoting her statement that "freedom is self-control, no more, no less." After R.C. read her book, Discovery of Freedom, which was published in 1943, he wrote her a devastating critique. He claimed that he could not recommend Discovery because she had made one egregious blunder in presenting her ideas. Rose had assumed by implication that it was government protection of private property which made private property possible. When R.C. pointed this out to her, and explained that the State was the major violator of property rights, she was so chagrined that she bad-mouthed her own book the rest of her life.
R.C.'s view that he was "handicapped" by his government education was reinforced by his contact with Lane and Paterson. He realized that neither one of them had been contaminated to any great extent by the public schools. Rose Wilder Lane went to school for only six months, and Isabel Paterson for less than two years when she was a small girl. It was the absence of this governmental indoctrination and propaganda which made it possible for them to do their thinking. R.C. was so impressed with the view that government controlled schooling was one of the major causes of statism that he had an outstanding offer of $500 to any school superintendent or official who was willing to stand up (as in a court of law) and defend the public school system as being consistent with the Golden Rule. He never had any serious takers.
Although R.C. related that Isabel Paterson personally confided to him "that she did not write a chapter on taxation because she had not thought it through," R.C. was eventually able to arrive at some very definite conclusions on this subject. But it was not until he was corrected by Frank Chodorov on the question of "voluntary taxation" that R.C. reached his mature view on the matter.
I, of course, believed in taxes, having gone to a state school. I used to contend that I believed in voluntary taxes. I was straightened out on this error by Frank Chodorov, who pointed out that there was no such thing as voluntary taxation - to use that term was a contradiction of words. That caused me to overcome the handicap that I learned from the state schools and Methodist college of believing in taxation....
But it took me 40 or 50 years to partially throw off and outgrow and discard the handicap I received in government schools and a Methodist college. And I have not yet, by any means, completely discarded all the collectivist authoritarian ideas that handicapped me...
It was probably in the late 1940's or early 1950's when Chodorov pointed out to him that the difference between voluntary contributions and taxation was that taxation rested on an element of force. R.C. was proud that he was man enough to admit his mistake. "You're right," he told Chodorov, "I'm against all taxes." [Ashby, p. 483] R.C. thought that the terms "government" and "State" caused all sorts of semantic confusions. What he favored was a free enterprise association or a defensive voluntary association that would sell protection of life and property, much like an insurance company.
I must have the right to discontinue buying from one agency and buy from one I think will give me the most for my money. In other words there must be competition or the threat of competition in order to have a true value of the worth of the service. When there is no competition there is no true value, as in the case when the government has the right to arbitrarily confiscate a man's property and call it a tax...
Competition would be the protection as to the agency overcharging me. I hear the objection that the protective agencies would come in conflict I do not believe there would be nearly as much conflict when the insured had the right to dismiss an agency and an agency had the right to refuse an individual who was too great a risk as there is now.
R.C. expounded on these ideas at length in his column "Better Jobs" which appeared in the Gazette Telegraph on October 30, 1956 (p. 21; this particular column was captioned "A Good Question"). He was certainly one of the earliest 20th Century libertarians to espouse the idea of replacing limited governments with competing defense agencies. He was absolutely fearless as to how and to whom he presented his ideas. Once he challenged Ludwig von Mises on his "contention that we have to have monopolistic local, state, and federal governments to protect our lives and property." The two were personally acquainted as R.C. had at one time in the mid-1950's invited von Mises to lecture in Santa Ana, at R.C.'s expense. Some years later, in 1962, R.C. directed a letter to von Mises in New York, asking him to reconsider his rejection of voluntary defense agencies. R.C. said that he saw von Mises doing so much good on behalf of free enterprise and free market economics, that he hated to see von Mises "continue to advocate any form of socialism, or any form of tyranny. And when you are advocating that the free market is not the better way of protecting man's lives and property, I think you are serious in error... ." There is no record of von Mises' response.
R.C. was also familiar with the individualist-anarchist ideas of the 19th Century libertarians for he referred to having read Benjamin Tuckers Instead Of A Book in a column which appeared in the Gazette Telegraph on May 8, 1955. In discussing "Anarchy - Good or Bad" R.C. was trying to get at the point that sometimes anarchy meant "self-rule" and other times meant "no rules" at all. He was in favor of everyone controlling him or herself and not being subjected to coercive forces outside the self. He was opposed to the absence of self-rule, because he believed that its absence would lead to chaos.
Where or how R.C. came upon the term "voluntaryist" remains a mystery. He may have come across it in his religious studies, since the term was originality applied to the manner in which churches were voluntarily supported in this country and England, as opposed to the establishment and funding of a State church. R.C. was not totally anti-electoral, for he did support Goldwater in his bid for the presidency. He was, however, clearly an advocate of an all-voluntary society, one in which the person who did not wish to pay for government protection should not receive such protection nor be forced to pay for a service he did not receive. In the latter part of 1958 and the early part of 1959, he gave several public talks to such groups as the Unitarian Fellowship of Orange County and the Exchange Club of Santa Ana. The subject of these presentations was "voluntaryism." He chose this theme because he sincerely thought that to the degree that more and more people believed in and practiced voluntaryism "the more they will increase their happiness, their physical and spiritual health, their peace of mind and their prosperity." The message of Jesus Christ, and as R.C. was to fondly add, the Ten Commandments, The Golden Rule and the Declaration of Independence, was clearly voluntaryist at heart. "If it is harmful for one to get things on an involuntary basis, or two people, it is harmful for any number of people or for a government to got things by using involuntary means." He was optimistic that voluntaryism would triumph, just as chattel slavery had been abolished in this country. In his 1956 column, quoted above, he wrote that
For thousands and thousands of years people have believed in the divine right of government to plunder and rob individuals... For thousands of years people believed in slavery. We abandoned it about 90 years ago in the United States. Maybe in another 90 years people will adopt the ideologies set forth in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. That means the government would have to render service efficiently enough that people would voluntarily pay for protection.
As a man of good will, R.C. felt that he had a personal obligation to speak out and the editorial pages of his newspaper were his mouthpieces. He believed that all progress came from some individual who was willing to state the truth and stand alone against the crowd. He was fond of quoting one aphorism that he thought was a masterpiece. "There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. True nobility consists in being superior to your previous self ." He, called this "The Key to Continuous Happiness" because he believed that the man who is constantly trying to improve himself is the happiest person and his happiness grows with age. Though he suffered from diabetes and two heart attacks, R.C. certainly tried to practice this during his own long life. [R.C. to Bob LeFevre on January 17,1962] He also once quoted Robert lngersoll's observation that if you seek happiness directly it will flee from you. Rather "Happiness is not a reward, it is a consequence" of continued self-improvement. [Gazette Telegraph column of January 26,1959]
R.C. served as the editorial watchdog for his paper. He perused all the editorials and was in constant contact with his writers. If an editorial did not suit, or if it violated his conception of freedom philosophy, he was sure to let them know. A particularly outstanding editorial was likely to be sent to all the papers. Editors were to make minor changes in the editorials to suit local circumstances and then publish the revision. And since freedom philosophy was a constantly evolving group of ideas there was constant correspondence and discussion among all the editors as to what should be the Freedom Newspaper position.
The Freedom School which LeFevre and others started in the summer of 1957 taught the same basic philosophy that the Hoiles' presented on their editorial pages. Harry was largely responsible (in several indirect sorts of ways) for helping get the school started. He allowed LeFevre to take time off from his job at the newspaper (with the proviso that the school did not interfere with his writing productivity) and he lent the school $7000, which it needed during its very early days. Once the school was going, both R.C. and Harry made substantial financial contributions to it. They also sent a number of their editors and family members to the school. During the summer of 1963, R.C. attended. That same summer a number of his children, grandchildren, in-laws, and editors also were students at the Freedom School.
Freedom School, to the same extent, served as a philosophical training ground for the Freedom Newspaper editorial staff, allowing the staff writers to better understand freedom philosophy. They were all working for the same goals: increasing their circulation and an expansion of freedom thinking. There were occasional departures, editorially speaking, from freedom philosophy. During the early 1960's, McDowell, the publisher of the Lima News, and some of the Freedom Newspapers in Texas were the worst offenders. Often the opposition papers were helpful in pointing out their inconsistencies (and of course they delighted in doing so). For example, in 1960 in Lima, the News was planning a special supplement in honor of the opening of a new school and National School Week. In view of Hoiles' bitter opposition to "gun run" schools, as he often termed the public schools, the opposition paper said it looked ludicrous for a Freedom paper to be issuing such a supplement and the publisher had to cancel his plans.
The whole purpose of the editorial page of a newspaper, in R.C.'s view, was to get people to think. Just as R.C.'s contact with the ideas of Emerson and Spencer had helped him overcome his own "handicap," so the exposure of readers to libertarian ideas in the editorial page was designed to awaken in them the concept of self-rule and self-control. In fact, R.C. saw "the editorial page of a newspaper, which is kept open for contrary points of view, and which is well prepared and thoughtfully assembled, as a daily school room made available to its subscribers," whether "rich or poor, young or old, and without the duress of taxes nor the compulsion of forced attendance."
Soon after LeFevre joined the Hoiles, the Freedom Newspaper formulated a long editorial statement entitled "Here Is Our Policy." It was published as a single page handout, as well as appearing in the editorial columns of the papers and then being blown up so as to take up a full newspaper page. In the mid-1950's. R.C. was still largely wedded to a conception of a strictly "minimal" government. The most important passages from "Here Is Our Policy" are reprinted below.
The 11 daily newspaper published by Freedom Newspapers, Inc., and Freedom Newspaper, a co-partnership, believe in a system of natural law....
We consider three concepts to govern human behavior. They are:
1. The Decalogue.
2. The Sermon on the Mount which is an exposition of the Decalogue.
3. And the Declaration of independence which is a political expression of the Commandments....
The Yardsticks of Morality we have mentioned indicate several facts, uncontested by any Christian or Jew, of our acquaintance. They include:
1. That every man is born with certain inalienable rights.
2. That these rights are equally the birthright of all men, that they
are the endowment of the Creator and not of any government.
Since we believe these facts are expressed in the Commandments, we do not believe any man has the moral right to curtail the rights of his brother. That is, no man has the right to initiate force against his brother....
Our belief in a single standard of conduct, and in the existence of individual rights, and in the fact of natural law, brings us to oppose all things in which an individual or group seeks to initiate force - that is, curtail the rights of any other individual or group.
We must oppose all brands of socialism, whether it is called Communism, fascism, Fabian socialism, New Dealism or New Frontierism.
We oppose socialism in factories, schools, churches and in the market place....
We believe, therefore, in a minimal government. The state, at best, exercises those powers which the individuals in that state voluntarily have turned over to the state for administration....
A great deal of thoughtful consideration went into the preparation of "Here Is Our Policy" and it was subjected to ongoing revision as the years passed. As LeFevre became more involved in the writing of editorials for the Gazette Telegraph, he saw his role in the Freedom Newspapers as pivotal in keeping the paper in Colorado Springs in the forefront of libertarian thinking. The masthead of LeFevre's paper read "Colorado's Most Consistent Newspaper" and it was Harry Hoiles' desire that LeFevre write consistently on the themes of human liberty and human freedom. The masthead went on to conclude:
We believe that one truth is always consistent with another truth. We endeavor to be consistent with the truths expressed in such great moral guides as The Golden Rule, The Ten Commandments, and the Declaration of Independence. Should we at any time be inconsistent with these truths we would appreciate anyone pointing out such inconsistency.
In a June 7, 1955 editorial explaining "Why We Picked Our Slogan," Harry Hoiles wrote that he had never found another newspaper in the United States, with the exception of a Freedom Newspaper, "That can truthfully say that their policies are consistent and say what they are consistent with." It was clearly more important to R.C. and Harry Hoiles and Bob LeFevre to stand by a consistent position than "to take in a few more dollars by trying to be popular." During the course of the following decade, LeFevre and Harry Hoiles both worked together on establishing a consistent libertarian position on virtually every editorial topic under the sun.
They also managed to work R.C. away from his reliance on the basic precepts of organized Christianity, as well as moving him a little further in the direction of pure freedom. By 1969, when "Here Is Our Policy" was transformed into "Here Are the Convictions That Led to Our Belief in a Universal Single Standard of Conduct," the three basic guides to morality (formerly The Decalogue, The Sermon on the Mount, and the Declaration of Independence) had been reduced to the following "Guide To Morality." The belief in a minimal government had been converted into a belief for a voluntarily supported one.
[I]t is incumbent upon us to state a single universal law or fact as we believe it:
Persons, groups and governments ought not threaten to initiate force or use it to attain their ends. This would certainly mean, thou shaft not steal individually or collectively. If no person or group stole, there would be no murder, no false witness, no adultery.
To express the belief positively, all individuals or groups should get what they get in a manner that would be profitable to all. Then all would respect the private property of others 100%. That would be true liberty and voluntaryism....
We do not believe in initiating force for any reason, even though the cause is a "good" one....
We believe, therefore, in a voluntarily supported government....
[I]f some do not want to support a police force, they should not be forced to do so. Nor should they receive its services.
Although there was a tendency on reaching an editorial consensus among the Freedom Newspaper editors and editorial writers, there was one area of major disagreement. The issue involved the question of capital punishment. It is probably safe to say that R.C. was tolerant of any opinion so long as it was solidly reasoned and cogently presented - even if it were an opinion with which he disagreed. Bob LeFevre, writing in 1956, said that "Despite the fact the Mr. [R.C.] Hoiles is the head of a corporation which pays me a salary, I do not always agree with him. And to his credit, may I add that Mr. Hoiles doesn't expect me to do so. He only demands that my conclusions be honest and backed by logic." [Robert LeFevre to Albert Penn, May 21, 1956]
R.C. was to live until 1970, but even his contribution to the Freedom Newspapers' philosophy is evident today, sixteen years after his death. For example, as late as 1984, the masthead of the Gazette Telegraph continued to dedicate itself to the promotion and preservation of individual freedom. "We believe that freedom is a gift from God and not a political grant from government. Freedom is neither license nor anarchy. It is self-control. No more. No less. It must be consistent with the truths expressed in such great moral guides as the Coveting Commandment, the Golden Rule, and Declaration of Independence." R.C. would have certainly agreed with every statement in that masthead. It sounds as though he could have written it himself.
One of his contributors to a commemorative book published on R.C.'s 75th birthday wrote that if there was such a thing as a typical individualist, then R.C. would certainly serve as his standard. R.C. was a talented businessman and a versatile thinker. He once quoted Zoroaster, taking the citation from a book on the world's religions:
Salvation cannot be brought to any man by priest or teacher. It can only come from within each human being, and for himself. Salvation can be achieved by good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. All the rest is commentary and elaboration.
By remaining true to himself and building the Freedom Newspaper chain from a single newspaper, R.C. undoubtedly achieved whatever salvation is possible in this world. He certainly had good thoughts, good words, and a strong sense of right and wrong. As one of the unsung heroes of the 20th Century libertarian movement, his life, his efforts, and ideas deserve our undivided attention.