The investment letter business is generally very profitable. Consequently, it's more than a little unusual to see a successful investment letter close down. It's even more unusual to hear an investment advisor say, "I've said all I need to say about economics and investment. It's all in my book. I won't waste my time, or your patience, saying it over and over again. I have other more important fish to fry." Yet this is exactly what Rene Baxter told startled readers of The Rene Baxter Letter last September, as he announced its demise…and the beginning of a completely new venture. The Freedom Fighter, "dedicated to the restoration of our American constitutional liberties." Baxter had concluded that today's political/economic situation was leading inexorably to runaway inflation, to be followed most likely by dictatorship. And he decided to devote his full-time efforts to an activist fight to prevent that from occurring.
What is it that turns a well-heeled, successful investment advisor into a full-time freedom fighter? In Baxter's case, it was taxes. He had built up a successful gold and silver coin brokerage business, after spotting the coming climb in gold in 1970. He then branched out into the newsletter business, converting his in-house The Coinletter into the fortnightly Rene Baxter Letter. With the success of the newsletter came a number of speaking engagements at investment conferences, leading to further growth of both the brokerage and newsletter.
One result was a whopping $35,000 income tax bill for 1974. To raise the money Baxter sold his house, airplane, second car, and some furniture, and still had to borrow $10,000. "On April 15th," he explains, "I was in a terrible state. I couldn't pay it; I had to pay it. I didn't want to pay it; I was afraid not to pay it. I've never been in such a turmoil in my life…filled with rage on the one hand and nearly paralyzed by fear on the other." He ended up paying, but simultaneously resolved to arrange his affairs so he would never again pay taxes—a state he now claims to have achieved.
Baxter's grounding in libertarian writings (Rand, von Mises, Hazlitt), combined with his traumatic encounter with the IRS, led to his decision to become what he terms a freedom fighter. Freedom fighters, as he defines them, "are out there on the streets fighting for their rights and for what they believe in; and they're in the courts risking fines, jail sentences, and worse to accomplish a goal they believe is important."
A major element in the freedom fighter campaign is tax revolt—Baxter's newsletter details several specific methods of tax resistance and provides frequent updates on court decisions and actions taken by—or against—well-known tax rebels. But it also covers such areas as protection against search and seizure, the right to bear arms, and various due process rights, many of which arise in connection with tax resistance cases but have far wider implications. Baxter himself is involved in a lawsuit against the SEC which he thinks "may well turn out to be to the Fourth Amendment what the Miranda decision was to the Fifth Amendment.
Rene Baxter's activities involve several different enterprises. His consulting firm, Rene Baxter Investment Services, publishes The Freedom Fighter; Arizona Liberty, the monthly newsletter of the Arizona Libertarian Party; and a new (more modest) weekly precious metal and coin newsletter. His RB Press is a book service offering books and pamphlets on economics, investment, and tax revolt. And his brokerage firm, Rene Baxter & Co., continues to make investments in precious metals and coins for clients. In his "spare time," Baxter recently helped found a new magazine, Freedom Today, which focuses on various methods of self-liberation.
Rene Baxter was born in 1937 in St. Helena, California and was educated at the University of Colorado, Arizona State University, and the University of California at San Diego. He is an avid pilot and belongs to the Committee for Monetary Research and Education, the American Numismatic Association, and the International Investment Letter Association. He and his wife, Elizabeth, make their home in Phoenix, Arizona.
Baxter has very strong ideas about both the rightness and the success potential of his freedom fight. By his analysis, of the 80 million nominal taxpayers in the United States, half in some way derive their income from government, and aren't really net taxpayers. Of the 40 million true taxpayers, the IRS admits that over 5 million failed to file a proper return in 1973, and, he claims, "another 5 or 6 million filed under protest.…All together, that's about 10 million people, maybe more, out of 40 million." Baxter takes this as significant evidence that "Atlas is already shrugging," and he and his group are doing all they can to accelerate the process. "I have never in my life been involved in anything which was growing so fast," he adds.
By taking this kind of forthright stand, and aggressively taking on the likes of the IRS, the SEC, and government bureaucracy in general, Rene Baxter is putting his life squarely on the line. He knows it. "Freedom is worth what it costs," he wrote in the final issue of The Rene Baxter Letter. "If we fight now while we still have the law and the odds in our favor, the cost can be surprisingly low. But if we wait long enough, the odds may worsen, and our chances of success decline. We may then find ourselves fighting hopelessly, simply because it's better to fight and die than live as a slave."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Spotlight: Rene Baxter".