R. C. Hoiles Revisited

By Carl Watner

[Editor’s Note: Raymond Cyrus (R. C.) Hoiles (1878-1970) was the founder of the Freedom Chain of newspapers. For more than 35 years, in conversations, columns, and editorials, he stated his belief that human beings can enjoy happier and more prosperous lives where force and threats of force are absent from human relations. Although he started out as a supporter of limited government, he evolved into an able exponent of voluntaryism. One of his pet themes was the separation of State and education. For many years, he had a standing offer of $ 500 for any school superintendent in areas where his papers were published. He challenged public school officials to explain to him how State schools accorded with the Golden Rule. He was never seriously taken up on his offer. Hoiles also opposed the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. He began as a printer’s devil and operated 20 newspapers by the time he died. He presented a rare mixture of worldly practicality and principle, which marked him as a philosophical businessman. “A man should be free to make his own decisions,” he used to say, “and to learn from his mistakes and to profit when his choice was wise and correct.” The following was reprinted from an unsigned editorial in the Colorado Springs GAZETTE-TELEGRAPH, July 11, 1972, p. 6-A, and is offered to our readers in the spirit of recognizing one of the unsung heroes of the 20th Century libertarian movement. For further information see an article by R. C. in THE VOLUNTARYIST, Whole No. 17 (“Unlimited Voluntary Exchanges,”) and “To Thine Own Self Be True: The Story of Raymond Cyrus Hoiles and his Freedom Newspapers,” in Whole No. 18.]

Since the death of R. C. Hoiles (head of the Freedom Newspapers group), we have encountered a surprising number of individuals who have volunteered such remarks as, “Well, I used to think Hoiles was all wrong with the trend of events, I’ve about changed my mind;” “Hoiles was much closer to reality than many folks gave him credit. Some of his positions evoked emotional antagonism but the passing of time is proving him more and more correct;” “By God, he saw it coming. With government taxes consuming close to half of everything produced, who can argue with his warning?”

It would have been out of character for R. C. (as associates and friends called him), to have said, “I told you so,” for his motive was never to be proven correct, but rather to stimulate people to see for themselves the consequences of ever-expanding government.

One can go back to the days when he authored a signed column, from about 1935 until the 1950’s, and find repeated warnings about the approaching leviathan state. Even prior to World War II, he continually explained the dangers of government deficits, pointing out that the inevitable result would be expanding credit to finance the deficits with resulting inflation. As more and more the federal government incurred deficits and financed itself by, in effect, repudiating its debt with inflation, R. C. warned that this “painless” sleight-of-hand, continued indefinitely, would give birth to a monster that could collapse the nation.

R. C.’s most controversial position related to what he thought would be the inevitable (he always thought of consequences in the long run) effect of government schooling the young. This was wildly distorted as being “against teachers” and against “people of little means” and an endless list of other emotional reactions that begged his points, which were:

1. The control of the schools would inexorably drift away from the “local control” concept to more centralized government control as the local units obtained funds from the larger government units. (As the state government offers more subsidy to the local school district, it demands more control. Then come federal funds and also the control attending such grants.) It would be illogical to conclude that once gaining this power, it would not teach that big government is the primary source of virtue and truth in order to perpetuate itself.

2. The foundation of a sound social order is rooted firmly in moral and ethical education, rather than training, and the government must by nature follow one of two courses: (a) neutrality because of differing views on what is sound moral and ethical reality; or (b) the advocating of views which are offensive to some individuals who are forced to submit their children and-or pay to support such views. This dilemma was answered largely by assuming a stance of neutrality which tends to produce children who have little or no basic philosophy of life unless obtained elsewhere. The result has been a reversal of some 2,000 years of educational philosophy which held that education was primarily for the purpose of inculcating a rational morality. Whether or not our present era is reaping the result of this could be disputed, but there are more and more people who sense something is seriously wrong with the grounding of the young.

Again, this was not meant to imply that the people – who manned the government school system – were “failing” in their job, but rather that their job just did not include and could not by its nature include this preeminent phase of a child’s rearing. The ancients well understood that the founding of a child in a sound morality is an almost full-time endeavor, with the most important place the educational process.

Further, he held it was just elementary justice that no one should be forced to support an educational system in which he did not believe, making no distinction between this and forcing people to support a religion they did not advocate.

Another position which R. C. clung to tenaciously was that it was immoral (in the sense of being out of harmony with natural order) for the government to tax some people for the benefit of other people. Call it welfare, subsidies, government sanctioned or encouraged monopolies, all these efforts were for the purpose of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” These are distributions of wealth on an involuntary basis and create consequences that in the long run are inimical to everyone, particularly the beneficiaries of the “booty.”

R. C. ran it by thusly: if it is immoral for A and B, as individuals, to gang up on C and take his wealth by force, it is wrong for A and B to delegate to the government as their agent the right to rob C and split the loot with them. This was another way of saying what Mr. Jefferson meant when he contended “the same justice is owed from a million to one that is owed from one to a million.”

More and more we witness the government becoming, as has been said, “an illusion by which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else,” one out of six civilian employees is on the government payroll and by 1980 this ratio is supposed to drop to one in four.

Where will all this end?

One answer, possibly not far from the truth, is: “And the fall of Rome was mighty!”

But then, R. C. always held that the powers of regeneration are unbelievably great and that eventually men will understand the folly of forcing their fellow-man to labor to their advantage just because they have the political power to enforce such an action.

As R. C. would say, “It took men thousands and thousands of years to understand the folly of chattel slavery and it is going to take quite a spell to get people to understand that it is just as disastrous, in the long run, to be the slave of all-powerful government.”