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Roy Childs
on anarchism




"When you force a man to act against his own choice and judgment, it's his thinking that you want him to suspend."

— John Galt to Mr. Thompson
Atlas Shrugged

In the fall of 1969, when I was still a student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, a Randian of my acquaintance who was a member of the Society for Rational Individualism showed me his copy of the August 1969 issue of SRI's magazine, The Rational Individualist. At that time the name of the publisher — Jarret B. Wollstein — was known to me only because he had been denounced in 1967 in the pages of Ayn Rand's periodical, The Objectivist. In this issue, he had published Roy Childs's "Open Letter to Ayn Rand," in which Roy argued that the political philosophy Rand had developed implied free-market anarchism, not the limited-state position she was defending. [1]

That same issue of The Rational Individualist carried an advertisement for Morris and Linda Tannehill's booklet, "Liberty via the Market," a pamphlet presenting the Tannehills' arguments against the legitimacy of government and outlining how police, court, and defense services could be provided in a free-market society. I wrote for a copy, and after reading it I asked to be put on their list to be notified when their book, The Market for Liberty, was published. They replied with an offer to get together with me and some of my friends in late December 1969, when they were traveling to California to meet the principals of The Libertarian Connection, who were known as Skye D'Aureous and Natalee Hall. In the course of an all-night talk at a restaurant on the outskirts of Bloomington, they passed on to me Roy Childs's address and urged me to write him. [2] I wrote him and we continued to exchange letters for the next year.

In late January 1970, he accepted a job offer from Wollstein, whose organization had merged with another and become known as the Society for Individual Liberty (SIL); and by February 12, Roy had moved from his home in Buffalo, New York, to Silver Spring, Maryland. In January 1971, I left Bloomington. In the course of my travels, I visited the SIL offices in Silver Spring. The "SIL House" turned out to be a residence with several businesses run out of a long, finished basement. It was on that visit that I met Roy, along with others who lived there or worked out of the house. After a few days, Wollstein offered me a job and a place to live, and over the next few months Roy and I became fast friends.

Personal reversals led Roy to leave Silver Spring for California in the summer of 1971. He boxed up his enviable library and left it in my care. Over the following months, he would ask for specific titles to be sent to him, and it was in performing that service that I became intimately acquainted with the components of that library.

He retained his title and responsibilities with the SIL Book Service and The Individualist, SIL's magazine, and it was while he was in California that he wrote and completed Section IX of "Anarchism & Justice" (see below). Although he kept up his work with the book service, he did not write another word for the magazine. When the book service was purchased by Robert Kephart in 1972, I became its general manager, and Roy was hired to be the editor of the review and advertising sheet, called first The SIL Book Review (for two issues), then Books for Libertarians, both of them precursors to Libertarian Review, which Kephart was even then planning, though that title did not appear until the October 1974 issue. [3]

Roy was sensitive to the fact that the Open Letter had not been particularly deferential to Ayn Rand, whom he admired deeply. The opening sentence of the letter, as published in October 1969 and as reprinted on the Web and in Joan Kennedy Taylor's collection of essays by Roy, Liberty against Power, is: "The purpose of this letter is to convert you to free market anarchism." The original opening sentence of the letter as sent to Rand the previous July, however, read: "I sincerely hope you will consider this letter with every bit of intelligence at your command," and continued with "The purpose of this letter, etc."

On the last occasion on which Roy met Rand, a young anarchist attempted to thrust a copy of the published Open Letter into her hands. Roy actually interfered with this attempt, saying, "Don't bother her with that." It is doubtful that the eager anarchist knew that it was the author himself who had prevented him from fulfilling his mission. Rand, of course, certainly never suspected it.

To part two.

Posted 2003 by WTM Enterprises.
© 2003 by Ronald N. Neff. All rights reserved by author.

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