Ron Paul won’t surprise me if he gets a lot of votes Tuesday in Idaho. His libertarian views are popular among many Idahoans even if they are not fans of the Libertarian Party. Paul is a former Libertarian Party candidate who recognized that he would gain more credibility by joining the Republican Party.
I suspect many of the people who are enthralled by Paul aren’t aware of the people who built the philosophical base of libertarianism in the United States. I have long been fascinated by one of them, Karl Hess.
Karl Hess was one of the founders of the National Review, a speech writer for Richard Nixon and one of the so-called “new right” thinkers of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He is best known for writing the famous words of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 nomination speech:
“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; let me remind you moderation in the pursuit of justice is not a virtue,” Goldwater said in a speech most observers said killed any chance of his election in 1964. But it was a speech that built the foundation on which the Republican Party began the renewal that brought Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980.
After working for Goldwater, Hess became disillusioned with the government and the Republican Party. He transformed himself into a libertarian, going as far as calling himself an anarchist. He organized a commune and opposed the Vietnam War. By the end of the decade he was considered a part of the “new left.” His views had never really changed much. He simply believed that the rightful place of power was with the individual.
In an interview with Playboy in 1976 he was asked what the perfect anarchist is. He replied, “A good friend, good lover, good neighbor.” The interviewer asked, “that’s all there is to being an anarchist?” Hess replied. “What did you expect, a lot of rules?
If you want to know more about Hess you can read his autobiography, edited by his son, Karl Hess Jr., "Mostly on the Edge."