Despite the Libertarian Party and other libertarian organizations being devoted to political activism and social change, it is fairly hard to find a libertarian who really enjoys being involved in the political process at any level and who has more than rudimentary organizational skills. An exception to this generalization is the Libertarian Party's newly appointed National Organizing Coordinator, 21-year old Eric Garris, who is a veteran of seven years as a political organizer, mainly for left-wing organizations. "When I was a liberal and leftist organizer I had no real ideology: I was basically just anti-establishment, anti-war and pro-civil liberties. During 1972 I began to change my political positions toward libertarianism until I became a full-fledged anarchocapitalist in early 1973. I recognized that there were others in the left that could be converted as I was, and I set about to do that. Most leftists are not hard-core collectivists and have no real ideology; they can learn, as I did, that socialism is the antithesis of freedom."
Born in France, but raised in Los Angeles, Garris began his political career in 1968 as a McCarthy for President volunteer, then worked for various other Democrats, the United Farm Workers, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and various peace groups. His work as a student-rights organizer got him expelled from the Los Angeles City School System in 1970. In 1971-72 Garris was a national organizer for the Peace and Freedom Party and he was one of the founders of the People's Party. He was also an organizer for the California Marijuana Initiative and was a candidate for the California State Assembly.
In 1974 Garris began to get actively involved in the libertarian movement and was a delegate to both the California and the National Libertarian Party conventions. During the past election campaign he worked for the California LP write-in candidates, ran for the California State Senate, and was campaign manager for libertarian Peace and Freedom candidates Elizabeth Keathley (Governor) and Corey Cassanova (Controller). His organizational memberships include Young Americans for Freedom and Libertarian Alternative.
Garris is presently living in Santa Barbara, California where he is a student at Santa Barbara City College while working part-time for a market research firm and as a REASON editorial assistant. As usual he is politically active: he is campaign manager for the libertarian Santa Barbara School Board slate (see "Frontlines," this issue). "My goal in electoral politics is not to elect libertarians to public offices per se. It is to introduce libertarianism to the masses through the media, and running candidates is one of the best ways to get media coverage. However, I think it is necessary to promote many different tactics—including electoral politics, one-to-one proselytizing, urging nonvoting, promoting tax resistance, developing alternative economic institutions, etc.—to bring about a libertarian society. We should use any arguments and positions available to turn people into libertarians, whether it be natural rights, amoralism, libertarian religions, utilitarianism, Objectivism, or just plain gut-reaction. People are individuals and not everyone can be converted to one particular moral or tactical position."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "REASON Profile: Eric A. Garris".