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Author of Our Enemy, The State, founder of The Freeman (1920-24)
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  • Albert Jay Nock

    Albert Jay Nock (13 October 1870 – 19 August 1945) was an American libertarian author, editor first of The Freeman and then The Nation, educational theorist, Georgist and social critic of the early and middle 20th century.He was an outspoken opponent of the New Deal, and served as a fundamental inspiration for the modern libertarian and Conservative movements, cited as an influence by William F. Buckley Jr. He was one of the first Americans to self-identify as "libertarian". His best-known books are Memoirs of a Superfluous Man and Our Enemy, the State.


    Nock, Albert Jay (1870-1945), by Charles H. Hamilton, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical and bibliographical essay
    Albert Jay Nock was one of the most thoroughgoing critics of using "political means" to achieve social ends in the American literary tradition. Libertarians have embraced Nock's often virulent antistatism, but his possession of the traits he ascribed to Jefferson—"radical principles and ideals combined with Tory manners"—have made Nock's contributions broader and more far reaching. From his first article in 1908 until his death in 1945, exploring "the quality of civilization in the United States" animated his social criticism, hopes, and scorn.
    Related Topics: The Freeman, The State

    Images - Albert Jay Nock
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    13 Oct 1870, in Scranton, Pennsylvania


    19 Aug 1945, in Wakefield, Rhode Island


    Laissez Faire Books
    Few authors wrote about individualism as elegantly as Nock (1870-1945). He brought impressive knowledge to any subject he wrote about, and he expressed himself with remarkable grace and style. ... Yet for many libertarians, he was a blazing light in the vast darkness of the 20th century. Nock denounced the use of force against peaceful people. He believed one ought to be able to do just about anything as long as it doesn't hurt other people.


    The Freeman, Editor

    Web Pages

    Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: Albert Jay Nock - Libertarian
    Uncredited version of Jeffrey A. Tucker's biographical essay "Albert Jay Nock, Forgotten Man of the Right", photograph and quote
    Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he was homeschooled from the earliest age in Greek and Latin, unbelievably well read in every field, a natural aristocrat in the best sense of that term. He combined an old-world cultural sense (he despised popular culture) and a political anarchism which saw that State as the enemy of everything that is civilized, beautiful, and true. And he applied this principle consistently in opposition to welfare, government-managed economies, consolidation, and, above all else, war.
    Albert Jay Nock -
    Links to essays, videos and other resources about Nock
    Albert Jay Nock | Mises Institute
    Includes picture, biographical essay and links to his works
    Albert Jay Nock (October 13, 1870 – August 19, 1945) was an influential American libertarian author, educational theorist, and social critic of the early and middle 20th century. Murray Rothbard was deeply influenced by him, and so was the whole generation of free-market thinkers of the 1950s.
    Albert Jay Nock | People | Foundation for Economic Education
    Includes short profile, picture and links to Nock's writings "Our Enemy, the State" and "Isaiah's Job"
    Albert Jay Nock (1870–1945) was an influential American libertarian author, educational theorist, and social critic of the early and middle 20th century. He is the founder of The Freeman.


    Albert Jay Nock: A Gifted Pen for Radical Individualism, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Mar 1997
    Biographical essay, including Nock's early life, editorship of The Freeman (1920-1924), and notable books and essays
    American individualism had virtually died out by ... 1910 ... Yet author Albert Jay Nock dared declare that collectivism was evil. He denounced the use of force to impose one's will on others. He opposed military intervention in the affairs of other nations. He believed America should stay out of foreign wars that inevitably subvert liberty ... Even though Nock didn't contribute to mass-circulation magazines and his books had a limited sale, he quietly affirmed individualism as a living creed. He became a name to reckon with as editor and writer for The Freeman (1920-1924).
    Albert Jay Nock, Forgotten Man of the Right, by Jeffrey Tucker, 22 Aug 2002
    Lengthy biographical essay, with a selection of quotes from Nock's Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943)
    Though an old-school Yankee of the purest-bred sort, [Nock] completely rejected what came to be the defining trait of his class: the impulse to try to improve others through badgering and coercion ... Nock was thus not an American Tory by any stretch, though his cultural outlook was as high-brow as any landed aristocrat's ... [U]nlike the socialist anarchists and most conservatives of today, Nock believed in and understood the crucial importance, even centrality, of economic liberty ... [H]e understood even technical points of economics that are completely lost on most conservatives today.
    Related Topics: Conservatism, Money, Politics, The State
    Albert Jay Nock - Hero of the Day, by Harold J. Landfield, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    Biographical profile published by The Daily Objectivist; excerpted from the essay "A Hero of Yesterday Buried in Our Midst", originally published on 8 April 1999
    Two years before he died, Mr. Nock's autobiography was published under the provocative title, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Not your ordinary story this; it traces the intellectual development of one of our country's distinguished literary men. His self-effacing nature, and his frustrations, led him to question the worth of his commentary on the issues of the time.
    The Anatomy of the State, by Murray N. Rothbard, Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought, Jun 1965
    Examines several attributes of the State, including how it maintains and grows itself and how it deals with other States
    [T]he two basic and mutually exclusive interrelations between men are peaceful cooperation or coercive exploitation ... On the one hand, there is creative productivity, peaceful exchange and cooperation; on the other, coercive dictation and predation over those social relations. Albert Jay Nock happily termed these contesting forces: "social power" and "State power." Social power is man's power over nature, his cooperative transformation of nature's resources ... State power ... is the coercive and parasitic seizure of this production ... State power is power over man.
    H. L. Mencken, America's Wittiest Defender of Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Sep 1995
    Biographical essay, highlighting Mencken's tenure at the Baltimore Sun, the books he authored, the founding and his work at the American Mercury monthly and his brief relationship with Sara Haardt
    Mencken inspired friends of freedom. He helped cheer up stylish individualist author Albert Jay Nock, a frequent contributor to Mencken's magazine the American Mercury, during Nock's declining years.
    H. L. Mencken: The Joyous Libertarian, by Murray N. Rothbard, New Individualist Review, 1962
    Examines the themes and style in Mencken's writings, mainly from selected pieces in A Mencken Chrestomathy
    Mencken's liberating force, of course, was exerted not on the mass of men, but on the scattered but intelligent few who could appreciate and be influenced by what he had to say; in short, like his old friend and fellow-libertarian, Albert Jay Nock, Mencken wrote for (and liberated) The Remnant who would understand ... The great individualist Albert Jay Nock has written that, while in the 1920's he was generally considered a flaming "radical," and in the 1930's as a bitter "reactionary," his political philosophy remained, in these decades, exactly the same.
    Leonard E. Read: A Portrait, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Sep 1998
    Memorial and biographical essay, focusing mostly on Read's life before founding FEE; written for the centennial of his birth
    Leonard has said that the unique stance of FEE was inspired by reading [the "Isaiah's Job"] essay by Nock. The first contact between the two men may have been in 1935 or 1936. Leonard told me that he read Nock's Our Enemy, the State shortly after it came out and wrote a letter to Mr. Nock: "I've just read your Our Enemy, the State. It is a perfectly splendid book. But how can a brilliant man like you advocate the Single Tax?" Back came a letter from AJN: "Dear Mr. Read: I do not advocate the Single Tax: I merely believe in it." Yours very truly, Albert Jay Nock. Leonard was, from then on, free from the distemper of mere advocacy.
    The New Deal Made Them 'Right', by Damon Root, Cato Policy Report, Sep 2009
    Discusses how various "prominent liberals" (Mencken, John T. Flynn, Al Smith, Burton K. Wheeler and Nock) found themselves categorized on the political right as a consequence of their opposition to Roosevelt's New Deal
    Is there anything to learn from the principled liberals who stood athwart the New Deal yelling stop? Albert Jay Nock thought there was. An acclaimed journalist, editor, and biographer, Nock remains one of FDR's most intriguing opponents. Though he's normally remembered as a founding father of the modern libertarian and conservative movements, Nock actually championed a unique brand of Jeffersonian anti-statism that has never fit comfortably on the political right ... And although Nock was never a New Deal supporter, he was nonetheless shoved to the right by the Rooseveltian juggernaut.
    No U-Turns, by Jack Dennon, 29 May 2006
    Critiques the U.S. Constitution and the government it allowed to be set up, with quotes from Albert Jay Nock and Lysander Spooner
    Nock pointed out that the Constitution was written in the aftermath of a revolution that had been 'incited by abuses and misfeasances;' and that because the philosophy giving play to those misfeasances was 'never examined,' the abuses and misfeasances should be expected to recur under the new governmental form.
    Oppenheimer, Franz (1864-1943), by George H. Smith, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical and bibliographical essay
    Some of Oppenheimer's ideas were transmitted to libertarian thinkers through the work Albert J. Nock, especially his influential essay, Our Enemy, the State (1935). Nock embraced much of Oppenheimer's interpretation of politics in his own work and regarded him as one of the "Galileos" who had deprived the state of all moral prestige. Moreover, because Nock largely agreed with the views of Henry George in regard to land and that the only legitimate tax was on the natural (unimproved) value of land, he was attracted to Oppenheimer's contention that land rent originated in unjust expropriation by the original exploiter.
    Reading the Literature of Liberty, by Roy A. Childs, Jr., May 1987
    Childs' selection of "great books" on liberty and libertarianism, including works by Hazlitt, Bastiat, Rose Wilder Lane, Nock, Ayn Rand, Friedman, Hayek, Rothbard, Mises and Nozick
    Albert Jay Nock's classic Our Enemy, the State was first published in 1935, and is a highly readable essay in historical interpretation. Nock was a fascinating man who was very nearly alone in holding high the torch of liberty in the dark New Deal days. He looks at American history and develops the theme that history is a race between state power and voluntary social power. His indictment of statism is withering.
    A Reviewer Remembered: John Chamberlain 1903-1995, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Jun 1995
    Memorial and biographical essay
    If many of one's friends—intelligent, articulate, and well-meaning—inclined toward socialism and the Roosevelt regime, well perhaps there was something to it. So John was briefly involved ... Then in 1937, John came across a just published book, Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock. That book, John wrote later, "hit me between the eyes." He had never really been convinced that government had a messianic role to play in society and he began then, as he wrote in his second book, American Stakes (1940), to move sharply in the direction of classical liberalism.
    Revisiting a Libertarian Classic: Nock's Our Enemy, the State, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Mar 2006
    Examines some of the major themes of Nock's Our Enemy, the State (1935)
    Nock (1870-1945) was a prolific author of books and articles, a magazine editor, a colleague of H.L. Mencken, and a sharp observer of the political and culture scene. He is best known for his little book Our Enemy, the State, published in 1935 ... Nock admired the Jeffersonian ideals of natural rights and popular sovereignty. The problem, as Nock saw it, was that those ideals were quickly forgotten ... Nock represents a radical strain of modern libertarian thought that gets insufficient attention today. While he did not get everything right, he was more often on the mark than off.
    Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand: Three Women Who Inspired the Modern Libertarian Movement, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, May 1996
    Triple biographical essay on the women who in 1943 published The Discovery of Freedom, The God of the Machine and The Fountainhead
    Liberty was in full retreat in the early 1940s ... Albert Jay Nock and Garet Garrett were mired in pessimism ... These women who had such humble beginnings—Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand—published major books during the same year, 1943 ... Albert Jay Nock declared that, "They make all of us male writers look like Confederate money. They don't fumble and fiddle around—every shot goes straight to the centre." ... Individualist Albert Jay Nock lavished praise on the book [The Discovery of Freedom], but Lane was dissatisfied with it and refused permission to reprint it.
    Two Libertarian Classics, by Murray N. Rothbard, Reason, Mar 1974
    Reviews of Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy the State and John T. Flynn's As We Go Marching
    Nowhere has the "radical libertarian" position been presented with more insight, clarity, brilliance, and stylistic beauty than in the works of Albert Jay Nock, and in particular his little gem, OUR ENEMY THE STATE ... In the course of the work, Nock makes clear how and why the State is the enemy, how State Power has always been the crippler and poisoner of Social Power (Nock's happy term for all the voluntary arrangements and interactions, economic, cultural, and social, that individual people have created.) ... Nock, in short, saw clearly that ... the State apparatus and its minions constitute an organized criminal band of predators and looters.


    The Criminality of the State, The American Mercury, Mar 1939
    Cautions Americans that rather than being worried or surprised by the doings of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, the Munich agreement and other foreign states, they should devote their energies to reining in the United States government
    As well as I can judge, the general attitude of Americans who are at all interested in foreign affairs is one of astonishment, coupled with distaste, displeasure, or horror, according to the individual observer's capacity for emotional excitement ...
    Stripping the American State of the enormous power it has acquired is a full-time job for our citizens ...; and if they attend to it properly they will have no energy to spare for fighting communism, or for hating Hitler, or for worrying about South America or Spain, or for anything whatever, except what goes on right here in the United States.
    Hero of the Day - Albert Jay Nock (2), The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    Excerpt from Nock's autobiographical Memoirs of a Superfluous Man
    While it is must unlikely that these bits of salvage did much to put me on the way to literacy, the Primer may possibly have had something to do with forming one of the channels through which the course of my thinking was permanently set. ... It would not even be the previous question, Did Adam ever really exist? It would be the question previous to all these three questions, namely: How can any one possibly know anything about it?
    Isaiah's Job, The Atlantic, Jun 1936
    In response to an acquaintance who wanted to spread a politico-economic doctrine, Nock recounts the story of the prophet Isaiah, describing the "masses" versus the "Remnant", and wonders about some historical characteristics of the latter
    The Remnant want only the best you have, whatever that may be. Give them that, and they are satisfied ... It may be thought, then, that while taking care of the Remnant is no doubt a good job, it is not an especially interesting job because it is as a rule so poorly paid. I have my doubts about this. There are other compensations to be got out of a job besides money and notoriety, and some of them seem substantial enough to be attractive.


    The Man Versus the State, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Nov 1982
    Review of Liberty Classics (1981) edition of The Man Versus the State
    It was Albert Jay Nock who acquainted me with Spencer's book on the State. Nock used to appear regularly in Paul Palmer's old American Mercury, and in 1938 devoted one of his columns to Man versus the State. This book, Nock averred, was the best single volume ever written to counter the New Deal ideology, and it said little for the perspicacity of the conservative and business opponents of the welfare state, he added, that they had let this book go out of print ... [I]t was of great moment that the Mercury essay was also read by James Gipson of Caxton Printers in Boise, Idaho.

    Books Authored

    The Disadvantages of Being Educated and Other Essays, 1932
    A collection of 17 essays, selected by Robert M. Thornton, secretary of The Nockian Society
    Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, 1943
    Autobiographical; 16 numbered chapters; electronic text available in EPUB format at
    Mr. Jefferson [PDF], 1926
    Table of contents: Youth - Beginnings - 1784-1789 - 1784-1789 (continued) - Washington, Hamilton, Adams - Eight Years of "Splendid Misery" - Recommencements - Advesperascit
    Related Topic: Thomas Jefferson
    Our Enemy, the State, 1935
    Table of contents (from the Hallberg edition): Social Power vs. State Power - The Origins of State and Class - The State in Colonial America - Land Monopoly and American Independence - Politics and Other Fetiches - The State and the Remnant
    Related Topic: The State

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Albert Jay Nock" as of 23 Jun 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.