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Libertarian Brother, Harry Browne, Rest In Peace

The man of logic, Libertarian icon, and consumate gentleman, Harry Browne, of Franklin, Tennessee, passed away last Wednesday night (March 1, 2006). He was 72 years old. He has left a legacy of freedom activism that will be hard to match.

I first became aware of Harry Browne back in the Seventies. Harry Browne had written two best-selling books on financial advice, How You Can Profit from the Coming Dollar Devaluation and You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis. These were much more than merely books on financial advice. These were wonderful primers on how a true free market should operate, written in crystal clear logic in a manner I had never seen before. Harry Browne explained how gold was the true money, and since Nixon had taken the US dollar off the last vestige of a gold standard, gold would skyrocket in price in relation to the dollar. Harry was the original "gold bug", and advocating against the prevailing wisdom, he helped make a lot of people a lot of money. He also introduced the "Austrian" free market school of economics to a lot of people, myself included.

Harry Browne became quite famous among the free market financial community, appearing regularly on shows such as "Wall Street Week" with Louis Rukeyser.

Then he wrote what I still consider the best self-help book ever written, How I found Freedom in an Unfree World. Different than any other self-help book ever written, Harry Browne forced the reader through his clear logic to face choices and act accordingly to maximize ones own freedom--if indeed freedom was ones ultimate goal, eschewing emotional ties to any lifestyle that ran counter to the ultimate goal of freedom.

In the Eighties, Harry Browne once again showed his adherence to logic, a discipline he practiced his entire life. While other "gold bugs" continued to extol the virtues of gold, Harry recognized that the days of easy money off gold speculation were over and recommended a diversified portfolio. Gold afficionados who listened to Harry's advice benefitted financially.

Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party struggled through the Seventies and Eighties never receiving more than 1% for any presidential candidate. What was needed was a bigger name, many thought. Harry Browne, a famous name amongst Libertarians, and well known in financial circles, was approached. In 1996, Harry Browne became our presidential candidate. Optimism reigned in the LP. Harry Browne wrote his campaign book, Why Government Doesn’t Work, written again in plain crystal clear logic, an effective argument to implement the libertarian philosophy into policy. The 1996 campaign and book brought many people into the Libertarian fold. Yet even Harry got less than 1% of the vote. Four years later he ran again. All that was needed was repetition, after all, just like promoting any product on the market. Harry got the nomination. Again he got well less than 1% of the vote. To add insult to injury, Harry’s campaign was charged by some Libertarians with financial impropriety, Much of the donated money of the campaign seemed to go to top-heavy management instead of going directly to the campaign for literature or media buys. Most Libertarians didn’t fault Harry for the financial situation; he was busy on the campaign trail. But the luster faded a bit on the once shiny icon.

It’s a matter of debate as to what went wrong in those two presidential campaigns. Was Harry Browne only famous in Libertarian circles? Was the time not ripe yet for any Libertarian candidate? Was Harry Browne’s cold, clear logic too cold for a society no longer in an age of reason, but instead drowning in an aura of feelings?

The life of Harry Browne compels fellow Libertarians to ponder what Harry must have pondered himself. Has our time–a time in which individual freedom is the ultimate value, passed us by? Is our dream a mere relic of the past? Or is our movement a harbinger for great things to come? Was Browne born 50 years to soon? Or was he the right man for the right time to lay the necessary groundwork for great things to come? I have to believe that Harry believed the latter, for Harry always eschewed what he regarded as shortcuts in a movement for individual freedom. Harry always stood firm holding to a radical, principled philosophy of laissez-faire and very limited government, if any government at all. Harry was steadfast in presenting a logical paradigm for maximizing individual freedom. He was tireless and entirely devoted. In his latter years, Harry Browne continued to advocate the tenets of libertarianism on his weekly radio show and through his think tank (

Harry was a true brother in the fight for freedom. He will be sorely missed. As I remember this Libertarian icon, I have a renewed inspiration for singing as a member of a choral group this weekend. Our scheduled program is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ludwig’s paean to universal brotherhood, the "Ode to Joy." Harry Browne was a great lover of classical music. So this is for you, Harry, your quest for brotherhood in a voluntary society.

"Alle Menschen werden Brüder, wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt!"

All mankind are brothers plighted, Where thy gently wings abide!"

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