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.

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  1. Here’s the statement released by the organization Browne co-founded…

    D o w n s i z e r – D i s p a t c h

    The world has lost a wonderful human being. Harry Browne passed away last night after a long illness. Harry was a joy and inspiration to all who knew him. We offer our condolences to his family, and especially to his wife Pamela.

    Words cannot express what Harry meant to us. But words are all we have. And so we will muster what meager inadequate words we can find to remember Harry Browne over the days ahead. You are invited to participate. This message will be posted at the top of the blog. You can leave your thoughts and comments there. The blog can be reached by clicking here.

    Rather than cards or flowers, Pamela Browne requests that donations be made in Harry’s memory to this organization, or to a family foundation. Pamela Browne will be informed of all donations made in Harry’s name. The details are below. But for now we merely want to remember and celebrate the life of a great man. Harry Browne was a co-founder of this organization. But he was so much more. So very much more.

    Jim Babka & Perry Willis, Inc.

    At the request of the Browne family, contributions in lieu of flowers, can be made to in Harry’s memory.

    Or they can be made in Harry’s memory to Korner’s Folly Foundation, 413 South Main Street, Kernersville, NC 27284.

  2. I’m curious as to what neurological disorder he was suffering from. I thought I read somewhere that it was “unknown”. I suppose sharing his symptoms might be considered a little disrespectful at this point, but I’m still curious.

  3. I met Harry along one of his campaign stops in Louisville, KY back in 2000. I found him to be not only whip-smart and a terrific symbol of the LP, but a genuinely warm, funny, and personable fellow. It saddens me to know he’s no longer out there telling it like it is.

  4. Now what do I do with all my silver coins? 😉

  5. The reference in this blog to Joseph Andrew Galambos is inaccurate. Joseph Galambos was Andrew’s father. The correct reference is Andrew Joseph Galambos.

    With all due respect to the exemplary life of Mr. Browne, Dr. Galambos was the true innovator, not Harry.

    Those who want to know the truth about Mr. Browne’s attack on Dr. Galambos should read, “Sic Itur Ad Astra,” available at Laissez Faire Books. This is the only book published to date that documents Dr. Galambos’ ideas.

    “Disciples” like Mr. Browne caused Dr. Galambos to refrain from revealing more of his ideas by publishing what he learned from Galambos without proper gratitude or credit.

  6. I met him at a Cato conference back in 1998. He seemed decent enough. He’d certainly been a hardcore libertarian for longer than usual. Although some of his notions weren’t my notions, he seemed a little less wacko than the usual LP candidate.

    I never have gotten a clear story about the scandal between him and the LP. Knowing the LP, I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t just the usual nonsense, but who knows?

  7. You Can Profit from A Monetary Crisis was my libertarian awakening, back when I was like 11 years old. The ideas were so strange, yet made perfect sense, although some of the nuttier stuff (like building and stocking a retreat in the woods miles from anyone else) made it fun as well as educational.

  8. Harry Browne was the first presidential candidate I ever voted for that I didn’t consider the lesser evil. I wanted him to win based on his political positions and not just to keep someone else out. He was also the first presidential candidate I ever voted for that I knew wouldn’t win. I thank him for both of those things.

  9. JF, and he was sure right about buying Swiss francs.

    Though I was a libertarian I discovered Harry because my uncle told me to go buy the book (along with the Bourne Identity) some thirty years ago. As an aside, a couple of years ago my uncle finally threw out all of the glass jars he had stockpiled under the porch way back when he was figuring on having to fight off the hordes when the world collapsed.

    Damn. Harry’s gone. A lot of people talked trash about him over the years but he was a force for good in this world.

  10. I have his …Unfree World and take it out from time to time, it’s one of those kinds of books you can read a few pages of once in a while and still find useful.

  11. With our liberties being constantly assaulted and taken away from both the left and right, it is tough blow loosing one of our voices.

    RIP, Harry.

  12. I learned about How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World through, of all people, Steve Martin, when he mentioned it in a Playboy interview. It is still one of the very few self-help books I have ever found useful.

  13. I met Harry twice in Vegas at FEE conventions. I disagreed with him on most points by that time, though I’d voted for him in years prior.

    He was passionate. I don’t think nice is a good adjective to describe his public persona. He spoke loudly about uncompromising principles. He was strident in his attacks on we heathenous incrementalists.

    At the end of the day, he made the LP what it is today. An honest assessment from my point of view would have to note that he contributed greatly to what I see as the major weaknesses of libertarianism as a political movement. I think he was proud of his influence in that direction though. RIP

    An honest assessment from my point of view would have to note that he contributed greatly to what I see as major weaknesses of libertarianism as a political movement.

  14. He actually got me into libertarianism. Why Government Doesn’t Work piqued my interest and inspired me to start reading other things on the subject, back in 1996. He got my vote that year and in 2000 (though, by the second election, I was getting tired of his rather weak campaigning).

    In late 2001, he turned my tolerant amusement at the LP into utter contempt by opposing any response, no matter how appropriate and proper, by the federal government after 9/11.

  15. Harry Browne is the only presidential candidate I’ve ever met. He took the better part of 15 minutes to talk to me before one of his campaign stops in Austin during the 2000 campaign.

    By the way, my MD significant other says what little data is out there makes it sould like he had ALS.

  16. All comfort to Harry Browne’s family and friends.

  17. Harry Browne was part of my transition to libertarianism. In 2000 I saw him on CSPAN in the third party Presidential debates. He made a lot of sense, he was far more eloquent than the other candidates (admittedly something of a backhanded compliment when the comparison is with the Natural Law and Constitution parties) and in the debates was far less purist than he has been in other statements.

    I remember him fondly because of the part he played in my transition to libertarianism.

  18. I really liked Harry Browne, met him on several occasions and petitioned to get him on the ballot in OK in 2000 (a grueling 103,000 gross signatures in a tiny population state whose only brightspot is the Flaming Lips). What was good about his presidential runs was that he looked presidential, he was tall, good posture, great speaker, imposing and fit a suit well and he made radical libertarianism appealing to people not already libertarians — he converted my parents on a number of issues I never thought they’d come around on. He talked to people in a way that didn’t make him sound like a crank or an academic — a blue collar approach if you will without compromising. Something I just don’t see enough of in the libertarian movement today. Also, say what you will about the LP but an articulate candidate like Harry reached millions of people who would have never heard the libertarian message any other way.

    He’ll be missed. RIP.

  19. Why is this idiot desecrating Harry Browne’s memory by justifying state war ? Dammit.

    We’ve lost a libertarian hero and a great man.

  20. Thank you Harry, and may you retire in Rhinegold forever.

  21. “How to Live Free in a Unfree World” was the first book I ever read cover to cover. The ideas and thoughts: the information changed my life. I also have all his other books. A man who will truly be missed. Being a Canadian I was unable to vote for him but definately would have. Thank You Mr. Browne.

  22. “Damn. Harry’s gone. A lot of people talked trash about him over the years but he was a force for good in this world.”

    I met Harry Browne during the 2000 campaign, I ran as a State Rep line holder candidate. To me, he was a very friendly and warm person. He signed my copy of “Why Government Doesn’t Work”. I will never forget meeting him, he had dignity and grace. I wished that he could’ve participated in the Presidential Debates and took on GWB and Al Gore and kicked both of their asses.

  23. Shame-Harry was a good man (his “The Great Libertarian Offer” was second only to my ECON professor on the list of influences which made me libertarian) and a GREAT debater.

  24. I read both of Mr. Browne’s first two books when they were first published in the early seventies; I found them useful enough that they are still sitting on my shelves after all these years. He was able to explain basic ecconomics in such a way as to not make my eyelids heavy.
    I, too, voted for him in both of his presidential runs. Even though I sometimes found myself in disagreement with him over the years, what he had to say was always worth hearing and considering. Lovers of individual liberty everywhere have lost a great pioneer and a true champion.

  25. This is definitely sad news. The roots of my libertarianism largely lie with Thomas Jefferson, but reading Harry Browne’s platform in 2000 is what truly got me into the lp. It was refreshing to me to see someone that can apply basic logical principles to legal documents like the US constitution and who recognizes that all government is inherently force. I have never voted for a political candidate whom I respected more.

  26. I saw a report this morning that Harry died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
    In one of those really weird cosmic coincidences, my daily “Pearls Before Swine” calendar this morning had a joke about the coincidence of Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. (Yeah, a dumb joke.)
    Anyway, Harry Browne was a positive force for freedom in this still-unfree world, and he will be sorely missed. Condolences to his family and friends.

  27. I read “How You Can Profit from a the Coming Monetary Crisis” when I was in high school in the seventies and it was the most exciting thing I had ever read. I read most – if not all – of his books. I often recommend “Why the Best Laid Investment Plans Usually Fail” to people who believe some stock picker can beat the market. After reading a comment in one of his books that he felt that Ludwig von Mises “knew everything about everything,” I ended up reading everything I could find my Mises. If someone as inspiring as Harry Browne recommended him, how could I go wrong?

    I was surprised to see him quote Alvin Lowi in several books and only recently found out he was the same Alvin Lowi who grew up in my home county in AL.

    I generally avoid any effort to meet my favorite authors because I always assume they have said what they wanted to say in their books and – if they turned out to be nasty – it would affect my enjoyment of reading more of their works. After reading what others have to say about HB, I wish I had made that effort. The books of HB and Thomas Szasz have probably been the most influential in my life.

  28. I read “How I found Freedom……” in 1974. It changed my life. Two copies still in my bookshelves…………..wonderful.
    Deepest condolences to his family.

  29. I came across Harry Browne after the spectacular success/failure of the Clark/Koch campaign in 1980. I didn’t need his arguments to “Browne out”; evidence was all around me.

    A friend regaled me with how brilliant Harry was. She said he was the only person for whom she was ever tempted to throw herself down before in adoration. He was that impressive. To her, anyway! I’m afraid I was more mystified than anything else by this.

    I met Harry a few times, and we chatted via email as recently as six months ago or so. He was a decent man, it seemed to me. Gracious and well-mannered as too few libertarian spokespeople are. He also admired the great contributions of human civilization. He was an appreciator and advocate of the fine arts. It’s for being a civilized humanist, and not for being a politician or even a writer, that I’ll remember him.

  30. Harry Browne really helped me with his books on finance. Thanks to him, I am now much more aware of the many scams in the investment world. His “Permanent Portfolio” has been the BEST financial advice I have ever put into practice. I continually reccommend it to many people. We in Canada have formed a Canadian version of the Portfolio, and it is fabulous. My thoughts are with Harry’s family. He contibuted more than he would ever know. Thank-you Harry! God will remember you. – Jeff Danby from Brantford, Ontario,Canada

  31. Seems like whenever somebody dies, the thing I most want to know is, of what? And that usually seems to be either deliberately or accidentally omitted or kept vague in the obits. Was the neurologic illness “unknown” in general, or only to the writer? In cases like this, I already know about the person, it’s the medical mystery that’s potentially news.

    I’d still like to know what Jean P. Shepherd died of. He was obviously ailing at his last Princeton U. performance, but nobody ever tells you what of.

  32. Harry Browne was a wonderfully effective communicator, both in writing and speaking. I have benefited from his financial writings and appreciated this advice immensely. I was impressed by his ability and willingness to actively work for our Libertarian Party and for individual liberty. I met him briefly on election night in 2000 in Atlanta and was honored to do so. Our world would be such a better place now if Harry had been the US President from 1997 through 2004. For those years, I didn’t care who was sitting in the White House, because Harry was my President! Harry Browne touched so many people favorably and enriched their personal lives so vitally that his legacy will continue into the future.

  33. Harry Browne:
    I read his “How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation”, in 1970 and Harry Browne became a hero to me like nun other and a constant guide on what to do and how to do it.

    Harry Browne was what a civilized person should be. Honest, truthful, original, interested, imaculate, and most of all [and the hardest] consistant in everything he touched.

    If he made a mistake he admitted it, but learned from it, and them gave reasons for avoiding the same problem. [Which is very hard to find in this world of second and third raters.

    I can’t help thinking what it would have become like, if he had somehow won the election, and what this world would been like if the did.

    Harry thank you for lighting up the tunnel of darkness in this un-free world.

    You showed the World that it was possible to live free, to enjoy all the good things, Art, Music, Theater, Reading and Good thoughts and Ideas and to accentuate the positive. Yes Harry you were something and then some.

    Your wonderful books and DVD’s will keep you alive and well for the lost to be found again and again.

    You will be missed so very, very much, good-bye dear friend.

    Billy VerPlanck class of 1970

  34. I will miss Harry Browne very much. He was a personal hero to me and an inspiration.

  35. IM Marilyn we met at the Semiars I was Dr.Vanlynns grilfriend, we talked about your very old cats and my dogs. I thought the world of you both so sorry for your loss! Harry will be missed Marilyn Dawkins, Dr.Van Lynn

  36. My first imression of Harry Browne was how tall and straight he was. I had to tilt my head at a 45? angle to see him. Later I learned to appreciate the graceful and non-confrontational way he presented his clear and reasoned Libertarian positions. We have lost a good right arm. I treasure a picture I have us us together; he is the impressive one.
    Sympathy to his family.

  37. Gonna miss you Harry Browne !! You made economics come alive !!

  38. There is no doubt in my mind what so ever that Profit lance will show you how to make money online, but there are many obstacles your going to face in order to do it or to get to where I am at. What I mean is, there’s allot of information, tools and resources in this course that your going to have to get familiarized with before you can become successful. Yes you will earn money but to make a living out of it your going to really need to understand how everything works.

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