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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4752/harry-browne-rip/

Harry Browne, RIP

March 2, 2006 by

How sad to hear the news that Harry Browne (born June 17, 1933), author and long-time spokesman for libertarian causes, died yesterday, March 1, 2006. He was a man of great principle who courageously and consistently stood up for liberty even when his position clashed with mainstream political culture and public opinion. He was a great writer who worked hard to turn a phrase in a way that would serve to educate people about free markets and the free society. He was a supremely thoughtful man, who read voraciously to educate himself, was not adverse to admitting error, and constantly struggled to say what was true as he understood it.

Harry goes way back in the history of modern libertarianism. His book How You Can Profit From the Coming Devaluation, which came out in 1970, was a blockbuster in its day. He foresaw what would result from Nixon’s abandonment of the gold standard. In contrast to legions of mainstream economists, he knew from his reading of the Austrian economists such as Murray Rothbard that an inflationary period was on the horizon and that gold prices would not go down but up. Those who followed his advice did well indeed.

But the book also had pedagogical merit. It introduced the community of readers that buy how-to books on investments to the Austrian School of economic thought. He explained the origin and nature of money, and how the gold standard had been destroyed by governments, not for good reasons, but to provide fuel for the growth of power. He explained how the business cycle results from monetary manipulation by the central bank, a theory that had been originated by Mises. He applied the theory to contemporary events.

Harry was a founder of what was called the “hard-money movement”—that group of writers and consultants who rallied around gold and silver as inflation hedges in hard times. But he differed from many people in this crowd because he was willing to change his advice depending on circumstances of time and place. In the 1980s, for example, he came to advocate a balanced portfolio of mutual funds alongside precious metals. His “permanent portfolio” made money during one of the great stock run-ups of American history.

During the 1990s, he worked tirelessly for libertarian causes. He had never been a big enthusiast for the Libertarian Party but in 1996, he graciously threw his hat into the ring as an aspirant to its presidential nomination.

He won the bid, and proceeded to dedicate himself to the opportunity to educate the American people about government and libertarian principles. His book Why Government Doesn’t Work is as good a campaign book as has appeared in the history of American elections. In 2000, he was an effective and dedicated candidate again. He didn’t need to make these runs, and he probably regretted it later at some level, but, at the time, he saw this as an opportunity for public service, a chance to do more good and reach more people.

How did his presidential bids do at the polls? About as well as most third-party candidates do in a two-party system. Many people who might have voted for him either stayed home or worried at the last minute that they would be throwing away their votes or helping a candidate whom they feared, by failing to vote for the lesser of two evils.

It is extremely difficult for any third-party candidate to overcome this problem. However: it was also during this period that many people in the two parties began to fear the Libertarian vote on grounds that, as small as it might be, it was enough to make a margin of difference in any race. The LP went from being dismissed to being feared, and this was Harry’s doing.

He was exceptional as a public speaker during the campaigns. No matter whether the topic was taxes, education, states rights, war and foreign policy, or the drug war, he took the right position and explained it in a way that allowed anyone to see his point of view. He changed minds, and stuck to principle the whole time. Harry was not tempted to sell out his message for the sake of more votes. He didn’t trim or compromise. His energies were spent trying to think of ways to make the core message more marketable and understandable.

Harry went through two ideological permutations that we can look back on with some degree of regret. His second book called How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World conflated libertine choices in personal lifestyle with ideologically driven libertarian political philosophy. This was regrettable insofar as it contributed to the public perception of libertarians as nothing more than people who want bourgeois income without bourgeois institutions and values.

In the early 1980s, he went in the opposite direction, sympathizing far too much with the Republican agenda and even temporarily showing sympathies for Reaganite foreign policy. In this he foreshadowed the sad descent of many current-day libertarians into the miasma of DC policy wonkery and political gamesmanship.

To his credit, however, these were temporary diversions from a lifetime of solid writing and thinking. In his lastyears, few writers have been as good as Harry on all aspects of the Bush administration. After 9-11, when others fell silent or acquiesced to regime priorities, he stuck his neck out and defended personal liberty against the surveillance state, less government against the homeland-security state, and peace against the war on terror. He never hesitated. He wrote the truth with grace and good humor, and clicked “Send.”

As we look back on the history of the libertarian movement, and we think of those who have contributed mightily to making the idea of radical liberty more mainstream and popular, Harry Browne emerges as a giant. He was talented, dignified, sincere, and dedicated, and he showed genuine courage in the face of fantastic pressure to get him to cave in. All lovers of liberty should be grateful for him, his life, his writings, and his legacy.

We will all miss you terribly, Harry. May you find the freedom in the next life for which you fought so hard in this.

{ 26 comments }

Loren March 2, 2006 at 2:55 pm

This is sad news indeed. Harry Browne introduced me to the libertarian philosophy during the ’96 election and I haven’t looked back since. I remember meeting him at an election rally in 2000 and found him to be as warm and gracious as he came across in the media. I will miss him.

J. H. Huebert March 2, 2006 at 3:14 pm

What terribly sad news! Browne’s book, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, has improved my life and those of many others immeasurably. I’m sure his ideas will live on through that book and the individuals it has affected for many decades to come.

J. H. Huebert March 2, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Also, I would not say that How I Found Freedom conflates libertarianism and libertinism, though I can see how it might cause confusion along those lines. Further, I would not say it advocates libertinism as such. It just advocates thinking about life and living rationally instead of blindly accepting ideas passed down by others. I consider myself a cultural conservative in most respects, but find great value in the book.

Casey Khan March 2, 2006 at 3:43 pm

I’m proud to say I voted for him in my first Presidential vote in 1996. My voting record went down hill after that when I voted for Bush in 2000. I haven’t voted since.

georgist March 2, 2006 at 4:09 pm

Great guy. Introduced me to a lot of ideas.

Vince Daliessio March 2, 2006 at 4:52 pm

What a terrible loss.

Despite recent failing health, Harry continued to do his weekly radio and tv shows. His last one, up now on http://www.fmnn.com, is called “Why Force Is Not The Answer”, and is a wonderful epilogue to his speaking career.

It echoes his article published on September 12, 2001 calling for the US government to refrain from violent retribution for the 9/11 attacks, for which he was villified at the time, but has since been increasingly proven right.

I corresponded with Harry a couple of times, and he was as gracious in private as he was in public.

His 1996 presidential campaign book, “Why Government Doesn’t Work” (www.harrybrowne.org) is a classic, that in the age of Iraq and Katrina is even more relevant, if that’s possible.

Godspeed Harry. We’ll miss you.

John Delano March 2, 2006 at 4:52 pm

This is too bad. I have been wondering about him for the past several months, as I noticed a decline in the number of his writings. I first learned about what ‘libertarian’ means after hearing him on WLS-AM radio in the mid 1990s. I had heard of libertarians before and noticed the Libertarian party here in Indiana, but my view of libertarianism was not the reality of what it is. Prior to him, I had only heard of it being a strange middle of the road mix of mainstream conservatism and mainstream liberalism – the “liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal issues” idea. I thought “How can one have liberal social programs with low taxes?” It seemed pretty stupid, but Harry Browne introduced me to libertarianism as it really is.

I met him in Indianapolis in 1998, and I voted Libertarian in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

Dennis Sperduto March 2, 2006 at 8:12 pm

I can personally attest to having “stumbled” onto Austrian Economics around 1980 or 1981 through How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation and the book’s references to the work of Mises and Rothbard. While I am not an academic or professional economist, Austrian Economics significantly changed for the better my understanding of the world. Austrian Economics has made me starkly cognizant of the fact and implications that, as Mises stated in Human Action, there is a “regularity of phenomena with regard to the interconnectedness of means and ends, viz., the praxeological law as distinct from the physical and from the physiological law.”

Thank you Harry Browne. May you rest in peace.

J. (Billy) VerPlanck March 2, 2006 at 8:31 pm

Harry Browne was a great man. Without even trying. His was an inspiration and an ideal for me and my wife.

I read, “How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation” in 1970 and it made my day and life over.

His insight on the world and how it worked was so right on for me. I could not wait till he had writen something new. He really lit of the tunel.

There certainly were second and third rate people who hated him, but they did that to anyone of value. To bad for them.

Harry Browne Thank You for your Life and your love of it. The information, your example on what a gentleman should be, your interest in , art, music, and sports not only the economic, and politics was wonderful. All of this in one bright and beautiful package.

Thank you dear freind, we miss you and hope your eternity will be ever beautiful and forfilling.

In reverance Marlene and Billy VerPlanck

Walt Thiessen March 3, 2006 at 6:57 am

The libertarian movement took a hard loss this week when ALS took Harry Browne. But I have no doubt that Harry will continue to push for freedom for all in the great beyond. He was and is that kind of a man. I will miss him, as will so many others.

Robert Speirs March 3, 2006 at 8:06 am

Harry Browne was a great writer. His only flaw was his blind spot about the threats to individual freedom. His naive thinking about the Islamic menace would have abandoned fifty million people to Saddamism and the Taliban and put all our freedoms in mortal danger. Thank God we have George W. Bush. A combination of Bush for foreign policy and Browne for domestic policy would be perfect.

Ted March 3, 2006 at 10:41 am


Harry went through two ideological permutations that we can look back on with some degree of regret.”

I.e. He wasn’t a Rothbardian. Somehow this doesn’t seem like a crime.

RIP

Laurence Vance March 3, 2006 at 11:29 am

Mr. Speirs says: “Thank God we have George W. Bush”? Are you out of your mind? I can’t believe you even come to this website. Bush’s foreign policy is as far removed from perfect as one can get. Are you trying to get attention or something?

Dennis Sperduto March 3, 2006 at 12:15 pm

While this posting is not the place to discuss this issue in detail, President Bush’s foreign policy is generally nothing but the latest version of the unconstitutional, immoral, and overwhelmingly bi-partisan foreign policy that has unfortunately animated this country for at least the last 100 years.

1776 - Evil Year March 3, 2006 at 12:37 pm

Let’s not forget the illegal wars with the Barbary Pirates. The vile neocons have been running the show since the beginning. Rothbard even said so.

John Delano March 3, 2006 at 2:45 pm

Robert Speirs = flame bate

Robert Roper March 4, 2006 at 12:52 pm

I also am saddened by the loss of Mr. Browne, the man who, in the Summer of 2000 (the first year I was so magnanimously granted the right to select those people who would control my adult life), introduced me to the world of libertarian politics. Had I not read his 1996 and 2000 campaign books that summer, I would likely have thought that George Bush was a good candidate for the presidency. At the time, I liked Bush because I didn’t know that his promises to roll back government spending and keep the nation out of destructive foreign endeavors were all lies.

Indeed, without Browne, I likely would not have been exposed the the libertarian wing of the antiwar movement, and would to this day still be a right-wing warmonger. Before Browne exposed me to the wonderful world of (true) libertarian thought, my young mind was under the false impression that the only group of consistent anti-war thinkers were the Greens and the anarcho-socialists.

Browne saved me, at an early age, from a lifetime of believing that I must be a slave to the domestic collective in order to avoid being a destructive slave of the military. For that I will be eternally grateful.

Justine Nicholas March 4, 2006 at 2:37 pm

As a teenager, I read “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” and “How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation.” Like most teenagers, I was changing my philosophy of life as often as I was changing my undies. But Harry Browne planted a seed.

Much later, as an antiwar activist (who accepted the usual liberal shibboleths believed by many of those people), I came to realize that war is the inevitable result of the lust for power that fuels political mendacity. Then I re-discovered Browne and a friend told me about Lew Rockwell’s site. Here I am today! Thank you, Harry!

Carl Cate March 4, 2006 at 3:42 pm

Oh NO! Harry Browne’s How I Found Freedom along with Rose Wilder Lane’s book Man’s Discovery of Freedom changed my life. God, I’ll miss him. If I know anything about him, he’s now gone off on his own, to do his own thing in Heaven, without trying to convert any of the angels or God(s) to go along with him.

Bill Hare March 5, 2006 at 1:34 am

I first discovered Libertarianism in 1996. I stumbled upon the party platform on line. I was immediatly hooked and realized I had been a Libertarian my whole life but was wandering alone in the wilderness trying to figure out why the world was so different that I. Alas, I read Why Government Doesn’t Work and knew I would be voting for Harry Browne, and did in 1996 and 2000.
I had the good pleasure of speaking with Harry, on-air during a radio show on which he was a guest. The call lasted less than 5 minutes but will be remembered for a life time. So-long Harry, you will be missed.

Paul E. Smith March 5, 2006 at 11:08 pm

What stands out about Harry?
His fiery books from “How I found Freedom…” and “How to Profit from the coming devaluation?” Both of thesse were seminal events in my life. I still have the coins I bought @ $35/oz in 1973.
No not this, nor his great speeches.
Simply, he was a kind, gentle, and thoughtful man who lived his philosophy and encouraged others to do so also.
PS

bilgepumper March 6, 2006 at 5:16 pm

I too had my philosophy validated by Harry’s writings. “How I Found Freedom In an Unfree world” was awsome, I’ve shared it with my children and numerous family and friends. I doubt I can ever vote for a dempublican or republicrat again.

Who can carry the torch??

bilge

Eric Provost March 6, 2006 at 9:08 pm

We have lost a great man.

Andrew Williams March 8, 2006 at 7:58 pm

I met Harry Browne once–briefly–at a marijuana legalization rally that I had a small hand in organizing. I remember him as a gracious man and an excellent speaker.
It should also be mentioned–I believe this is true–that, during the 2000 campaign, he was the first LP Presidential candidate to air TV ads on a national network. I will never forget the thrill of turning to my UPN affiliate and seeing the anti-War on Drugs ad his people produced. By Neilsen estimates, 2 million people saw that ad at the same time I did. What a great and timely message. Thank you, Harry Browne, for teaching us how to live free in an unfree world.

Tony Miranda November 26, 2008 at 8:50 pm

I read all of Harry’s books as a young person and believe in his investment advise, period. Politically he had problems believing in the real enemy. Brought to its ultimate conclusion, with his philosophy, those of us lucky enough to survive would now be speaking German. Or worse facing Mecca on a prayer rug under penalty of death

NathanNV July 23, 2009 at 10:28 am

In America during the great Deppression of 08, many Americans have become aware that the International banking Cartel that own’s the United States was directly involved and even helped facilitate the Arabs who were used as Patsys to carry out the International banking cartels goal of destroying Americas Constitutional freedoms and ensuring endless corporate warfare.

Harry Browne was right!

We have killed 1 Million Muslims since The Zionist Bankers attack on America. I have been to Islam and was never threatened because I would not pray.

I find myself agreeing with George Patton more and more all the time. I wish so many Anglo and German people had not been slaughtered unnecessarily. I am not a racist, but the truth is the Zionist Warmonger has murdered so many of my hero’s.

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