Roy A. Childs, Jr., a self-taught writer and speaker, was a major influence in the libertarian movement during the 1960s and 1970s. He is perhaps best known for his work as editor of The Libertarian Review (1977–1981) and as the primary reviewer for Laissez Faire Books from 1984 to 1992. Apart from these positions, however, he also played a role in determining the direction of contemporary American libertarian thought and is credited with popularizing the anarcho-capitalist movement through his 'Open Letter to Ayn Rand,' published when he was 20 years old.
Laissez Faire Books
Adapted from Joan Kennedy Taylor's "Biographical Sketch" in Liberty Against Power: Essays by Roy A. Childs, Jr.
Roy A. Childs, Jr. ... claimed to have been interested in political issues since the age of nine, and a libertarian since 1964, when, he said, 'I counted myself as an anti-Cold War Goldwaterite.' ... He said that he read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead in 1965, and found it so disturbing to some of his religious ideas that he burned it. But he recovered, and went on to read Anthem and Atlas Shrugged. He reported he was 'enthralled' by Ludwig von Mises' Human Action the Christmas before he was seventeen, that Rose Wilder Lane's Discovery of Freedom 'more than any other book' made him a libertarian.
One of Roy's speeches so impressed Charles Koch that he bought Libertarian Review from Robert Kephart to turn it into a national magazine that Roy would edit. Then began what Roy always considered to be the high point of his life: the editorship that lasted from the first issue of July 1977 to the end of 1981. He drew on his remarkably extensive libertarian acquaintance to put out what to this day is considered by many to have been the best libertarian magazine ever -- a 'golden age' of articles about every facet of the libertarian movement by as many libertarian luminaries as he could persuade to write for him.
Atlas Shrugged and the Corporate State, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Oct 2007
Explains how Ayn Ran's Atlas Shrugged properly depicted some businessmen as privilege seekers, but some of her non-fiction was mistaken about big business being a "persecuted minority"
Roy Childs documented in his 1971 Reason magazine article, "Big Business and the Rise of American Statism," historically business was the major impetus to centralized control of the American economy. The advocates of corporatism in the business world are usually overshadowed by the German-educated American intellectuals who espoused statism in lofty philosophical terms. But in fact, corporatism was mostly the handiwork of business leaders' efforts to protect their market positions from upstart competition. Childs's article ... draws substantially on work of New Left historian Gabriel Kolko ...
I began reading works by the Austrian masters – first Rothbard, then Hayek, then Mises – back in the 1970s, because my close friend Roy A. Childs, Jr. was relentlessly talking them up and recommending them. ... My friend Roy Childs had strongly recommended back in the 1970s that I read certain revisionist historians. He particularly promoted Harry Elmer Barnes, James J. Martin, and Gabriel Kolko.
In Memoriam [PDF], by Jeff Riggenbach, ALF News, 2006
Biographical and memorial essay covering Joan Kennedy Taylor's varied career
In 1977, she returned to political writing, taking a position as an associate editor on another monthly, The Libertarian Review. Over the next few years, she would follow this publication, and its eccentric, gifted editor-in-chief, Roy A. Childs, Jr., across the country and back, from New York to San Francisco and from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. When The Libertarian Review ceased publication at the end of 1981, she embarked on a career as an editor and freelance writer which occupied her for the rest of her life.
The second generation [of leadership in the 'modern' libertarian movement] was made up of intellectuals born in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Out of this second generation there were to come two great libertarian journalists – Roy A. Childs, Jr. (1949-1992) and Samuel Edward Konkin III (1947-2004). Both were to die too young. Childs has been suitably memorialized in print with a fine collection of his magazine and newsletter essays and reviews, Liberty Against Power (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1994).
Joan Kennedy Taylor, by Jeff Riggenbach, 14 Jan 2011
Biographical essay, including a review of Taylor's book Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered; transcript of "The Libertarian Tradition" podcasts of 28 Dec 2010 and 12 Jan 2011
... one day in early 1977, she received an extremely interesting telephone call from an extremely interesting young man, one Roy A. Childs Jr., 28 years old, who was taking over the editorship of a small publication called Libertarian Review, with the assignment of turning it into a monthly magazine of issues, events, and ideas ... from a libertarian perspective. ... For the new magazine he was launching, he hoped to attract an editorial staff and a group of associate editors who would represent both the Rothbardian and the Randian elements within the libertarian movement.
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. ... his words ... boomed forth at a multitude of conferences, seminars, and speeches, and leaped off the pages of Libertarian Review, Inquiry, movement newsletters, and mainstream newspapers ... 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.
In the foreword to this collection, the political commentator R.A. Childs, Jr. remarked upon a contention he had heard ... in intellectual circles: namely, that anarchist theory contains no great system-builders. ... Childs disagreed. The anarchist world – and, specifically, individualist (or libertarian) anarchism – had produced at least one great system-builder: Murray N. Rothbard. Although Childs gave a well-deserved nod of respect to the theoretical contributions of Spooner and Tucker, it ... was Rothbard who provided "the entire libertarian worldview, the unique way of viewing history and world affairs..."
Veteran readers of Laissez Faire Books knew Roy A. Childs, Jr. very well. From 1984 until his death in 1992, Roy was Laissez Faire Books: he was its editor, chief reviewer, and overall animating spirit. ... 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. ... Liberty Against Power is a fitting memorial to a great libertarian and a great man.
Eventually, what he had been working toward did come to pass. He managed to bring himself to the attention of Charles Koch, a wealthy Kansas oilman who had previously provided much of the financial support for Robert LeFevre's Freedom School. And he managed to persuade Koch to buy Libertarian Review from Bob Kephart and turn it into a monthly magazine to be edited by Roy Childs. He wanted the new Libertarian Review to reflect a broadly ecumenical frame of mind toward libertarianism; it wouldn't be a magazine just for Objectivists or just for Rothbardians ...
This Is The Movement You Have Chosen [PDF], by Murray Rothbard, The Libertarian Forum, Apr 1984
Reports on media coverage of the 1983 Libertarian Party presidential convention and comments on goings-on in the Crane Machine (CM), i.e., Ed Crane and Cato Institute
And speaking of laughingstocks, the intellectual collapse of the CM's once-puffed up theoretician and would-be demagogue, Roy Childs, the no-show 'foreign policy analyst' for the Cato Institute, is proceeding apace. The one-time champion of anarchism has become an archist, the one-time inspiring speaker against war now defends the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the one-time anti-imperialist has become pro-Zionist. And the one-time atheist is now seriously considering 'converting to Judaism.' ... He also has the historiographical sleaze to laud his paymaster, Ed Crane, as the modern embodiment of Cobden and Bright.
With his flair for the pomposo, Craniac Roy Childs, after the Presidential vote, announced his immediate and eternal departure from the Libertarian Party. ... Whether Roy will continue in his role as Minister of Hate and Disinformation for the Crane Machine, which consisted largely of calling up my friends in the LP and boozily denouncing me at great length as being the quintessence of evil, only time will tell.
Ayn Rand's life was the stuff of fiction. Consider her saga: She was born in Czarist Russia, lived through the Bolshevik revolution, and vowed to go to America. Barely two years after graduating from university, she did so. In 1926 she arrived in New York City alone, with about $50 in her pocket. She spent some months with relatives in Chicago, and then made her way across the continent to Hollywood ... Whatever your views, read this book. Ayn Rand had a tremendous influence in helping to revive the ideals of reason, individualism, and the free society. Her achievements remain towering, and her positive legacy remains unsurpassed.
This essay constitutes a part of 'revisionism' in history, largely domestic history. The term revisionism originally came into use referring to historiography after World War I. A group of young historians, eager to uncover the realities behind the blanket of myths surrounding the origins of this crucial conflict, discovered ... that Germany and Austria were not, contrary to popular mythology, solely responsible for the outbreak of that crisis. ... Libertarians themselves should take heart. Our hope lies ... not with any remnants from an illusory 'golden age' of individualism ... but with tomorrow.
The great social theorist Ludwig von Mises was born one hundred and ten years ago, published the majority of his important works before midcentury, and died nearly twenty years ago, at the end of a staggeringly productive life. ... some people profess to be intimidated by the sheer volume and complexity of his work. Where do we begin, and were do we go from there, they ask? ... Reading through these will give you one of the great experiences of a lifetime, an understanding of the world that you will treasure forever, and a commitment to liberty that will be as precious to you as life itself.
Henry Hazlitt was there at the beginning, and he has been there ever since, patiently writing, lecturing, editing, promoting ideas of liberty. In a sense, he is a living bridge between the best ideas of the nineteenth century, and the best today. He stands like a rock, astride two centuries. And even as you read this, somewhere in the world a young man or woman is beginning to read, for the first time, Hazlitt's masterpiece, Economics in One Lesson. Myths are being shattered, and a new world is opening to them. Some of them will go on to become the intellectual and political leaders of tomorrow, carrying on the fight for human freedom.
Henry Hazlitt died on July 8, 1993, just sixteen months short of his one hundredth birthday. Word spread quickly not just across the U.S., but internationally as well, for Hazlitt's role in helping to revive classical liberalism and libertarianism, in promoting capitalism and opposing socialism, had earned him the respect of students and admirers all across the world. ... All in all, Henry Hazlitt did as much as anyone of his time to promote the ideas of freedom. He stood the course, fought for his ideals, and influenced the world he lived in to change it for the better.
H.L. Mencken was born in Baltimore on September 12, 1880, at a cost of $10. It was probably the biggest bargain in history. Writer, editor, critic, newspaperman, philologist--he was a phenomenon! His whirlwind prose reflected his zest for life with a style never matched before or since. He has had imitators but never an equal. Mencken has been called 'the joyous libertarian,' but there is so much more to Mencken than politics -- or even his sense of humor. ... He's the most provocative writer you'll ever encounter. Discover Mencken today.
Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand, The Rational Individualist, Aug 1969
Published by the Society for Rational Individualism (later merged into the Society for Individual Liberty); responds to five of Rand's arguments in her essay "The Nature of Government"
The purpose of this letter is to convert you to free market anarchism. ... why should you adopt free market anarchism after having endorsed the political state for so many years? Fundamentally, for the same reason you gave for withdrawing your sanction from Nathaniel Branden in an issue of The Objectivist: namely, you do not fake reality and never have.
This is a very mixed book. In substance, if not in intention, this is Harry Browne's answer to Objectivism. his own personal philosophy of life. Like all books of that sort, it is a mixture of brilliant insights and shallow sophisms. At the outset. it should be stated that Browne is at his best giving certain types of concrete advice concerning what he calls 'how you can be free'; he is at his worst when he attempts to theorize about things, and to place them in a wide semi-theoretical context. ... There is nothing wrong with such advice, except when it does attempt to substitute itself for philosophy.
Reading the Literature of Liberty, May 1987
Childs' selection of "great books", including works by Hazlitt, Bastiat, Rose Wilder Lane, Nock, Ayn Rand, Friedman, Hayek, Rothbard, Mises and Nozick
Any listing of the 'great books' of liberty published in recent times must necessarily be a personal one. ... I always begin with Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. ... Move from economics to one of the keenest essays ever written on political theory, Frederic Bastiat's The Law. ... My next choice is a personal favorite: Rose Wilder Lane's magnificent book, The Discovery of Freedom. ... Albert Jay Nock's classic Our Enemy, the State was first published in 1935, and is a highly readable essay in historical interpretation. ... The next step must certainly be Ayn Rand's monumental novel, Atlas Shrugged.
The System Builder, 1974
Foreword to the 1974 edition of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays; compares Rothbard to Karl Marx as a "system builder" of anarchist thought
Historians and anthologists of anarchist thought, in comparing the great libertarian classics with other schools of political philosophy, have always been eager to mention the fact that no anarchist theorist has ever been on the level of a Marx or Hegel. What they have meant by this fact is easy to pin down: traditionally, anarchist philosophers have not been system builders ... It is in order to help achieve this end that we are making this book available at the present time. If it helps to stimulate consideration and discussion of this remarkable man's ideology, our end will have been achieved.
Liberty Against Power: Essays by Roy A. Childs, Jr.
by Roy Childs, Thomas Szasz (Foreword), Joan Kennedy Taylor (Editor), 1 Dec 1994
19 essays on political philosophy, policy analysis and book and music reviews; topics include capitalism, objectivism, libertarianism, property rights, the draft and the war on drugs