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Editor of Libertarian Party News 1986-1990, Barry Goldwater speechwriter
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  • Karl Hess

    Karl Hess (born (Carl Hess III; 25 May 1923 – 22 April 1994) was an American speechwriter and author. He was also a political philosopher, editor, welder, motorcycle racer, tax resister, atheist and libertarian activist. His career included stints on the Republican right and the New Left before embracing free-market anarchism. Later in life, he summed up his role in the economy by remarking "I am by occupation a free marketer (crafts and ideas, woodworking, welding, and writing)."


    Hess, Karl (1923-1994), by Brian Doherty, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical and bibliographical essay
    Karl Hess, a libertarian author, activist, and publicist, was a popular libertarian speaker and movement personality in the late 1960s through his death in 1994. He edited the Libertarian Party's official newspaper, LP News, from 1986 to 1989 ... Hess came to national political prominence with the Republican Party by helping to write their 1960 and 1964 platforms. He was a speechwriter for Barry Goldwater during his 1964 presidential campaign ... He also was a founding editor of Liberty magazine, a still-surviving libertarian movement journal launched in 1987.
    Related Topics: Libertarianism, Technology


    Karl Hess - The Advocates
    300x232 JPEG, color


    25 May 1923, Carl Hess III, in Washington, D.C.


    22 Apr 1994, in Charlottesville, Virginia


    Laissez Faire Books
    Tax protester and gun smuggler Hess (1923-1994) became a successful journalist who made a well-publicized intellectual journey from Goldwater speechwriter to libertarian compatriot of Murray Rothbard. Along the way, he became an exceptionally graceful author, putting fundamental issues about as well as they could be put.

    Awards Received

    1991 Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, by Center for Independent Thought, Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, 1991


    Eris Society, 1992, "The Key to Happiness"
    Radical Libertarian Alliance, National Coordinator


    Anarchism in America, Interviewee (three segments)

    Web Pages

    Karl Hess -
    Short profile and links to essays, videos and other resources about Hess
    Karl Hess was a noted speechwriter (for Barry Goldwater among others) and author, and later in his life became known as a tax resister and market anarchist.
    Karl Hess - The Advocates
    Biography, picture and quotes
    Hess was editor of Libertarian Party NEWS from 1986-1990 and afterward served as editor emeritus. He was the author of more than a dozen books, including In a Cause That Will Triumph (1967), Dear America (1975), Neighborhood Power (1975) and Community Technology (1979). He also wrote Capitalism for Kids and was the subject of a 26-minute documentary entitled 'Karl Hess: Toward Liberty.' The film won two Oscars in 1981, including one for best short documentary.


    Capitalism For Kids by Karl Hess, by Carl Helstrom, The Freeman, Jul 1988
    Concise review of Capitalism for Kids concluding with "I wish it had been around when I was a kid"
    Karl Hess has written a book for children and for those who care about children. ... Hess places strong emphases on ethics and entrepreneurship. The capitalistic system is best, he says, because it encourages people to be open to new ideas, to be ready to change, and to be able to make choices which, from an economic perspective, are beneficial for all. ... Hess encourages youngsters to start their own businesses, to plan well, to develop a strong work ethic, and to be ready to answer for mistakes and liabilities.
    Related Topic: Children
    The Death of Politics?, by Ed Crane, Cato Policy Report, Nov 1994
    Explores trends in politics in the U.S. and other countries, particularly those that show voters are unwilling to support the political status quo
    In late 1969 the late Karl Hess wrote a classic essay on the future of America entitled 'The Death of Politics.' That it was somewhat ahead of its time is evidenced by the fact that it appeared in Playboy rather than a public affairs magazine. Hess, one of the most astute political observers of our time, was convinced that the evidence of the failure of the political approach to solving societal ills had become so overwhelming as to absolutely confirm the theoretical case for civil society over political society.
    Related Topic: Politics
    Enemy of the State, by Lew Rockwell, Mises Daily, 24 Nov 2006
    Review of Raimondo's biography of Rothbard, An Enemy of the State, analyzing several of the conventional critiques of Rothbard that are countered in the book; includes quote of Rothbard to Robert Kephart about Rothbard's life choices
    [Rothbard] talked Karl Hess into not paying taxes, thereby ruining his life. This charge, which first emerged in an early draft of Hess's autobiography and has otherwise circulated for years, is outrageous on the face of it. Murray cheered on every tax revolt, but he never counseled anyone to be a personal martyr. You can do very little work for liberty from jail, he used to say. Raimondo brilliantly quotes from an old book of Hess's describing the moment he became a tax protestor, and it had nothing to do with Rothbard's urgings and everything to do with Hess's penchant for making bad judgment calls out of anger.
    In Memoriam: Karl Hess, by Lynn Scarlett, Reason, Jul 1994
    Short remembrance of Karl and his pursuit for liberty and justice
    At one time, he served as 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater's speechwriter. Later, he plunged into grass-roots community organizing, interacting with such groups as the Black Panther Party. For Hess, liberty was a lifestyle, not simply a philosophical concept. In the 1970s, he strived to build an economically independent community. He brought to that effort ideas reminiscent of British writer E. F. Schumacher's 'small is beautiful,' experimenting with small-scale, 'backyard' technologies, including solar ovens and windmills.
    Karl Hess: An appreciation, by David Nolan, Libertarian Party News, Jun 1994
    Memorial essay, discussing when and how Nolan met Hess and other recollections
    Karl was fond of Colorado, and made many trips there over the years; he found it highly appropriate that the LP was born there. On first meeting Karl, I was a bit awestruck. ... Karl's warmth and gentle, down-to-earth manner soon dissipated my awe, however. Within minutes we were talking like old friends. And it was this quality that made Karl perhaps the best-loved of all figures in the modern libertarian movement. Like many of us, he possessed a keen intellect and an unflinching devotion to the ideals of freedom. ... Karl was a genuinely nice person, utterly lacking in pretension, and people warmed to him quickly.
    Related Topic: Barry Goldwater
    Karl Hess: 1923-1994: Karl Hess, often described as the "most beloved libertarian," died April 22. He was 70., by Randy Langhenry, Libertarian Party News, Jun 1994
    Memorial and biographical essay
    In 1969, Hess wrote an article for Playboy magazine entitled 'The Death of Politics.' In the article, Hess described his own libertarian philosophy. The article, written before the founding of the Libertarian Party, is often credited with having brought about a revival of the libertarian movement.
    Karl Hess and the Death of Politics, by Jeff Riggenbach, 13 May 2010
    Transcript of the 6 May 2010 "Libertarian Tradition" podcast; includes a trove of biographical information
    Karl Hess was born Carl Hess III in Washington DC, ... on May 25, 1923 ... [I]n the early 1960s, when he was 40 years old ... he began reading Ayn Rand. ... [T]he Randian influence was showing up unmistakably in the 1964 presidential campaign platform of the GOP, written by Hess ... After the Goldwater campaign, Karl Hess quit the Republican Party ... Hess served as Washington Editor of Rothbard's newsletter, the Libertarian Forum, from 1969 to 1971 ... By the mid '80s, he ... began contributing to movement magazines like Bill Bradford's Liberty. ... [H]e started writing his autobiography in the late '80s ...
    Libertarianism: Left or Right?, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jun 2007
    Examines the origin of the political terms "left" and "right" and makes the case that libertarianism is "planted squarely on the Left"
    My own notion of politics is that it follows a straight line rather than a circle. The straight line stretches from the far right where (historically) we find monarchy, absolute dictatorships, and other forms of absolutely authoritarian rule ... Both Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler operated right-wing regimes, ... despite the trappings of socialism ... The left has been the side of politics and economics that opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands.
    —Karl Hess, Dear America
    The life and times of Murray N. Rothbard, by Jim Powell
    Full title: The life and times of Murray N. Rothbard, who showed why private individuals can do just about everything that needs to be done
    Lengthy biographical essay
    Journalist and political speechwriter Karl Hess recalled, "I had never really thought about or known much about anarchism (or libertarianism), but reading about it made me think that I had been one all along. So, I wrote to Rothbard and he generously invited me to come to New York, stay in his apartment, and join the nightly get-togethers ..." ... Hess ... then joined Rothbard as co-editor of the bi-monthly Libertarian Forum. Hess caused a sensation when he aired his libertarian views with "The Death of Politics," a high-profile article appearing in the March 1969 issue of Playboy.
    The measure of a man, by Karl Hess Jr., Libertarian Party News, Jun 1994
    Remembrances from his son
    To the left of the diploma is a photograph of Emiliano Zapata. Of the many heroes and heroines of the twentieth century, my father admired Zapata most of all. Emma Goldman and Petr Kroptkin were close seconds, but Zapata was a true democrat, a man of the people, a leader who was not a leader, a common man who rose to uncommon heights, a complex man of simple needs, a loving husband, and a caring neighbor.
    The Movement Grows, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Libertarian, 1 Jun 1969
    Recounts the first three meetings of the Libertarian Forum, the student libertarian organizations at Fordham, Wesleyan, SUNY Buffalo and Stanford, and the formation of the Radical Libertarian Alliance
    The next meeting [of the Libertarian Forum] was on April 11, when Karl Hess, our most recent and our best-known convert, spoke on the need to avoid letting a sectarian emphasis on economics block our alliance with other, New Left, groups which are overall libertarian in thrust without being sophisticated in economics ... Officers of RLA [Radical Libertarian Alliance] are as follows: ... Overall North American Coordinator is Karl Hess, 1085 National Press Building. N.W., Washington, D.C.
    Upd"The Police Force Is Watching the People", by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 22 Aug 2014
    Argues that the facts are crucial when identifying "the agressor and victim in particular cases" such as occurred in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and separately, that the role of police forces must be re-examined
    I see potential in the approach spelled out by one of my favorite libertarians, Karl Hess, who wrote ... in 1969:
    Libertarianism is a people's movement and a liberation movement. It seeks the sort of open, non-coercive society in which the people, the living, free, distinct people may voluntarily associate, dis-associate, and, as they see fit, participate in the decisions affecting their lives. This means a truly free market in everything from ideas to idiosyncrasies. ... Liberty means the right to shape your own institutions.
    Property and Force: A Reply to Matt Bruenig, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 22 Nov 2013
    Responds to blogger Bruenig's criticism of the essay "One Moral Standard for All"; with quotes or examples from Roderick Long, Murray Rothbard, Gary Chartier, David Hume and Karl Hess
    Finally, I must point out that defending property rights in theory does not obligate libertarians to defend all particular property holdings in a given society. Land and other forms of wealth are often obtained through government privilege, that is, through theft from their rightful owners. A sound libertarian theory of property does not regard such property as justly held. As Karl Hess wrote in "What Are the Specifics?": "The truth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advance principles of property but that it in no way wishes to defend, willy nilly, all property which now is called private."
    Remembering Karl Hess, by Gary M. Galles, Mises Daily, 31 Dec 2003
    Biographical essay, basis of talk given at Karl Hess Club, includes several notable quotes from Hess
    He is best known for penning 'extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice ... moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue' as Barry Goldwater's head speech writer ... And while he was involved in the Libertarian Party later, he was never really interested in politics as anything but a venue for airing dissent against the prevailing trends of our time.
    Robert LeFevre, Paying a Debt Backward, by Wendy McElroy, 6 Nov 2014
    A tribute to Robert LeFevre, highlighting his solution to ensuring private justice
    In a tribute to his posthumous friend, Karl Hess summed it up. 'LeFevre's main point, which he once summed up in an interview, was that each of us should "Do as you please – but harm no other in his person or property". From that position can be extrapolated everything ... He tenaciously held that the individual was the key to it all. Not tides of history. Not winds of war. Not storms of ideology. Not pressure of politics. The individual must and does make up his or her own mind whether to be free or controlled.'


    The Death of Politics, Playboy, Mar 1969
    Discusses libertarianism, contrasting it with both conservatism and modern liberalism, including specific policy differences
    This is not a time of radical, revolutionary politics. Not yet. Unrest, riot, dissent and chaos notwithstanding, today's politics is reactionary. Both left and right are reactionary and authoritarian. That is to say: Both are political. They seek only to revise current methods of acquiring and wielding political power ... Politics does devour men. A laissez-faire world would liberate men ... It will not happen overnight ... Man can survive in an inclement universe only through the use of his mind. His thumbs, his nails, his muscles and his mysticism will not be enough to keep him alive without it.
    The Importance of Tools, Freedom Daily, Apr 1993
    Contrasts scientific and technological discoveries or inventions with political events throughout the history of humankind
    Perhaps the first great tool of change was the horsecollar or ox yoke. It was the tool which first enabled human beings to use a non-human source for energy. Even the discovery of fire seems pallid beside this. ... Isaac Newton described differential calculus. In some distant future, private space travellers will owe their journeys, in no small part, to Newton and his analysis. ... In America, the Wright brothers’ plane successfully flew. ... That was also the year that Crick, Wilkins, and Watson received their Nobel prize for describing the molecular structure of DNA.
    Related Topics: Politics, Technology
    Karl Hess: 1923-1994: His Words, Libertarian Party News, Jun 1994
    Selections from "The Death of Politics", Dear America, "The Playboy Interview", "If I Were Running Against Reagan", "Why Me?", "The Most Unforgettable Libertarian I Ever Knew" and "A Fond Farewell"
    This is not a time of radical, revolutionary politics. Not yet. Unrest, riot, dissent and chaos notwithstanding, today's politics is reactionary. Both right and left are reactionary and authoritarian. That is to say: Both are political. They seek only to revise current methods of acquiring and wielding political power ...
    Think of whether you have ever met a libertarian who is more a threat to you than is a willing, serving agent of the state. More irritating perhaps. More dangerous? I doubt it. Happily, such libertarians are far more easily ignored than the agents of the state. Just say NO.


    Interview with Karl Hess, by Karl Hess, A. Lin Neumann, Reason, May 1982
    Topics discussed include the Republican Party, National Review, AEI, Goldwater, Rothbard, anarchism, the Vietnam War, Carter and Reagan, fascism, urban enterprise zones, the environment, and authoritarianism vs. freedom
    Karl Hess was present at the creation of the New Right: he was a founder of National Review, a Goldwater speech writer in the campaign of 1964, a well-placed employee of the Republican National Committee. Now, ... Karl finds himself rather comfortably, though not elegantly, ensconced with his ... wife, Therese, on a small parcel of West Virginia real estate ... "The simplicity of printing," says interviewer Neumann, "contrasted with the difficulty of learning how to print, seemed an appropriate metaphor for the Hess message: it is easy to be free but often hard to exercise that freedom."
    The Plowboy Interview: Karl Hess, by Karl Hess, Anson Mount, Mother Earth News, Jan 1976
    Karl Hess interview in issue No. 37, Jan/Feb 1976, shortly after his book Dear America (1975) had become a bestseller, questions him about the switch from right wing conservatism to the New Left
    PLOWBOY: Karl, everyone familiar with your career is intrigued by the switch you've made from traditional right wing conservatism to the New Left ... Have you really changed so much?
    HESS: No. I still believe in the same things I've always believed in ... Individualism. Self-reliance. Decentralization. Individual responsibility ...
    PLOWBOY: ... you're still optimistic about the future of the United States?
    HESS: Yes. By and large, this is still a healthy country. Healthy because of the people ... Oh, we've got a few bad apples ... I think that this is a glory of a place to live. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

    Books Authored

    Capitalism for Kids: Growing Up to Be Your Own Boss, 1987
    Partial contents: Money and You - What Kind of Person Are You? - Capitalism and Other Isms - The Wonderful World of Work - Your Friend, The Computer - The Family That Works Together - Investing Time and Dollars - Are You a Volunteer?
    Related Topics: Capitalism, Children
    Community Technology
        by Karl Hess, Carol Moore (introduction), 1979
    Relates a five-year experiment in the Adam-Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. where Hess and many others participated to make it as self-sufficient as possible
    Related Topic: Technology
    Dear America, 1975
    Mostly on the Edge: An Autobiography, 1999
    Partial contents: Overview - Amelia - Mother - Adolescence - The Morgue - Scribbler - Journalist - Big-Time Journalist - Gun Shooter, Gunrunner - Anti-Communist - Businessman - Platform - Goldwater - New Left - True Believer
    Robert LeFevre: Truth is Not a Half-Way Place
        by Karl Hess (foreword), Carl Watner, 1988
    Partial contents: Born to be Different - Down and Out in L.A. - The San Francisco Group and more Financial Troubles - The Shift from Politics - Freedom School (three chapters) - The Phrontistery to Rampart College - A Man at Peace with Himself
    Related Topic: Robert LeFevre


    Karl Hess: Tools to Dismantle the State, Aug 1986
    Talk given at the Third Libertarian International World Convention, Stockholm; starts off by tracing truly important events in human history, then discussing ways in which libertarians can be "filthy stinking rich or creatively poor" and ends with Q&A
    Related Topic: Libertarianism

    Karl Hess compares Emma Goldman and Ayn Rand, Anarchism in America
    Hess describes his experience reading Emma Goldman and how Goldman, "consciously or not, [was] the source of the best in Ayn Rand"
    Related Topic: Ayn Rand

    Karl Hess speaking at UCLA 3/3/1970, 3 Mar 1970
    Wide-ranging talk on the "contemporary political scene"; including the SDS, the State, isolationists, NIxon, Agnew, Vietnam, left and right, anarchism, community, Black Panthers and more
    Related Topic: Politics

    Subversion for Fun and Profit: An Evening with Karl Hess and Robert Anton Wilson, by Karl Hess, Robert Anton Wilson, Sep 1987
    Wilson and Hess at the Libertarian Party national convention, fielding questions from the audience on numerous topics
    Related Topic: Libertarianism


    The Libertarian Tradition: Karl Hess and the Death of Politics, by Jeff Riggenbach, 6 May 2010
    Detailed biography of Hess, beginning with how his parents met and ending with his activities in the late 1980's and early 1990's before his death

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Karl Hess" as of 20 Jun 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.