In previous posts I have written about great American thinkers who challenged the authority of the state. Men like Emerson, Thoreau and Spooner. I’ve also written about Ayn Rand, the great 20th Century intellectual known for her novels about self-ownership and individual liberty. I have also introduced readers to the writings of Claire Wolfe and her advocacy of the liberty mindset in modern day America. Another American freedom fighter who stood for his principles and was subsequently punished for his position was Karl Hess.
As a youth Hess was inclined to skip school because he saw mandatory public education as a waste of time. His mother agreed with this assertion and permitted him to study at his leisure. By the age of 15 he had fully withdrawn. As an adult his politics evolved from the Conservative right to the New Left and finally, moving firmly to the Libertarian-anarchist or Anarcho-capitalist camp.
He was a national level speech writer for Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater and was the primary author of the 1960 and 1964 Republican Party platform.
Hess was fired from his position as city editor of the New York Daily News, for refusing to right an obituary extolling the virtues of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. He categorized the former president’s reign as “social-fascism”. He was correct and America still suffers from the policies set in place during the FDR presidency, more than 80 years ago.
It was Lyndon B. Johnson who sent forth the disreputable gang of tax auditors to harass and ruin Hess, because of his political beliefs. At one point Hess questioned a specific deduction and was displeased with the arrogance of the auditor, causing him to refuse any further payment of income taxes. After sending the IRS a copy of the Declaration of Independence, he informed the agency that he would never again pay tax on his earnings. As a tax resister, Hess suffered the full wrath of the Internal Revenue Service. After they placed a lien on 100% of his future earnings and stole much of his personal property, he was forced to find alternative means of supporting himself. So, he became a welder and dealt mostly in barter. He was also fortunate to have financial support from his wife.
Karl Hess was a proponent of the “back to the land’ movement in the 1970s and an advocate for community based self reliance. Hess was also an Anti-war activist.
In my humble opinion, America is in dire need of more people like Hess, Thoreau and Emerson. Men of principal. Great thinkers and men willing to take direct action despite the likelihood of negative personal consequences.