In 1972 libertarians began seriously exploring the possibility of using the political process to further the cause of freedom. The Libertarian Party gained nationwide publicity and one electoral college vote, and libertarian candidates were on the ballot in several states. Most surprising, to almost everyone concerned, was the fact that one of these candidates was elected! Steven Douglas Symms won the Republican primary and then the general election to represent Idaho's 1st District in the U.S. Congress—and what's more he did it with the combined endorsements of President Nixon, William F. Buckley, the American Independent Party and the Libertarian Party!
Thirty-four year old Symms was born and raised in Idaho, and graduated from the University of Idaho, Moscow in 1960 with a B.S. in agriculture and economics. While in college he was a three-year letterman in football and after college he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years with the rank of First Lieutenant. He is a businessman, being Vice President and manager of Symms Fruit Ranches (his campaign symbol was an apple) and has the Elaine Powers Figure Salon franchise for Boise. He and his wife Frances were married in 1959 and have four children.
Since 1969 Symms, with two fellow libertarians, lawyer (and campaign manager) Bob Smith, and livestock dealer Ralph Smeed, has co-edited and produced the IDAHO COMPASS, a small, irregularly issued newspaper of conservative/libertarian opinion. Its first issue, on the need to reconsider the function and scope of higher education and calling for full-cost tuition pricing at the University of Idaho cost Symms his position as President of the University's Alumni Association: the alumni board felt that anyone with his opinions couldn't be a loyal alumnus!
Symms states: "In making my decision to run for Congress, I felt it important the voter be given a candidate whose campaign and whose service in Congress would be based on principles and not on political pragmatism." In fact, Symm's campaign was remarkably explicit in its call for cutting back on government, abolishing minimum wage laws and other laws which restrict free entry into the market, breaking the government monopoly in education, etc.
Symms has already introduced two bills into Congress—one calling for the legalization of gold ownership by private citizens and the other designed to abolish the government monopoly in first class mail delivery. Only time will tell if he is successful in putting his principles into practice; however, the odds are that the new resident of 1410 Longworth House Office Building will provide his House colleagues with plenty of food for thought over the next two years!
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "REASON Profile: Steven D. Symms".