Libertarian Party

Harry Browne, R.I.P.


Harry Browne, two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate, has died of effects of a neurological disorder that had been plaguing him suddenly in past months.

Beyond his early libertarian movement bonafides, as a disciple and colleague of the amazing and bizarre Andrew Galambos (a libertarian educational entrepreneur in Southern California in the 1960s with his Free Enterprise Institute), Browne was also a prominent voice and thinker in two major, though inchoate, social movements, or at least idea-viruses, that helped make the 1970s as funky and fascinating as they were: a "me decade" pioneer with his How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World (1973, and still abundantly worth reading today) and a guru of hard money and its bleeding over into survivalism with a series of books including How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation (1970) and You Can Profit from A Monetary Crisis (1974).

Browne was a controversial figure in the LP, at first because he had for years been one of the loudest anti-political voices in the movement before changing his mind and seeking the presidential nomination, and winning it, in 1996. He had been so loud and firm an anti-political voice, in fact, that the term "Browneing Out" was used in the 1970s in libertarian circles to mean retreating from any commitment to further libertarian goals through political action, or any sort of action. Part of finding freedom in an unfree world to Harry was freeing yourself from various "traps," including any expectations on others' part, or any cause's part, that you owed them a damn thing. He also later became embroiled in a complicated fooferaw in LP circles over links between his campaign team and party officials, and choices regarding what his campaign time and money were spent on, that were considered untoward, unfair, and/or unwise by some in the LP.

Browne was the subject of one of the more controversial feature stories in Reason's history, Nick Gillespie's brutally realistic assessment of the reality of the LP's position in the political world during Browne's first LP run for the gold in 1996.

Harry was a distant pal, and I did research assistance for him on his campaign book Why Government Doesn't Work. He was quite open and helpful to me in researching my forthcoming history of the modern American libertarian movement, due out early next year from PublicAffairs. I'll miss knowing he's around. Although his ideas about how libertarianism should be pursued changed, he was a consistently hardcore and vital voice for liberty. I hope he has in some sense escaped the most complicated and constraining trap of all.

Lew Rockwell provides an informative and kind assessment of Browne's life and achivement at the Mises Blog.