On college campuses it is generally acceptable—fashionable, even—for a professor to defend a socialist or Marxist point of view, while his free-market oriented colleagues stay intimidated and silent, convinced they are alone in their beliefs. Happily there are a growing number of exceptions to that generalization, such as 42-year old Dr. M. Bruce Johnson, Professor of Economics at UC Santa Barbara, who not only presents free-market concepts in the classroom but is also active as the faculty advisor for the UCSB chapter of the Society for Individual Liberty and participates in local community and Libertarian Party activities. Although raised with libertarian political and philosophical views Dr. Johnson did not become an activist until his research into the economics of land use regulation earned him an appointment to the California Coastal Commission in 1973. "My experiences on the Coastline Commission convinced me in a very personal and dramatic way how arbitrary the exercise of collective authority is and how potentially damaging to individual freedom these measures can be. I wrote an article, 'Piracy on the California Coast,' expressing some of the views I held because of my Commission experience and this was published in the July 1974 REASON. Until that time my libertarian activities had been quite personal and almost private but then the REASON article served to introduce me to a wide variety of individuals who hold similar beliefs and are concerned about similar problems."
Dr. Johnson's professional background includes a B.A. (1955) from Minnesota's Carleton College, and an M.A. (1960) and Ph.D. (1962) from Northwestern University. He taught at Northwestern and at the University of Washington before coming to UCSB in 1968, and he served as the chairman of UCSB's Department of Economics from 1970-74. Dr. Johnson is a member of several professional associations and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Western Economic Journal. His research specialties are land use regulation and consumer economics.
Dr. Johnson is married and has three young children. As a hobby he designs and builds custom wood furniture for his family and friends, but "I do not offer it for sale because I refuse to permit the government to expropriate part of my output." His favorite book is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which he first read in the late 1950's, and he also enjoys reading H.L. Mencken and economist Henry Manne.
Regarding social change he says, "I believe that argument and persuasion are the only legitimate means open to us to advance a libertarian society. I am thoroughly convinced that our political 'leaders' in government can never be persuaded to relinquish their power and control over our lives. Change must come from the grass-roots level and with that in mind I intend to use speeches, articles and books to publicize the detrimental effects of government action and control, and to spread the libertarian view."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "REASON Profile: M. Bruce Johnson".