It is hard to believe, but this world has been without Harry Browne for over 8 years now. He passed away on March 1, 2006. While he is no longer physically with us, he did leave quite a legacy with his thoughts and ideas. While most Harry Browne material will be found in written form in books and articles, there are also some great speeches and radio shows that he did.
Harry Browne, while perhaps most famous as the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, was far more than a politician. In fact, I would say that he was the anti-politician. But his talents were not just in politics and libertarianism. He became somewhat known in the early 1970’s for his investment advice. He also wrote How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, which was more of a self-help book. If you’ve never read it, you may want to see if you can pick up a used copy somewhere.
I find it important to bring up Harry Browne’s name every once in a while. I probably refer to him the most in investing because I am a big advocate of the permanent portfolio as he described in his book Fail-Safe Investing. But while he was influential to me in the investment world, he also had a great impact on shaping me as a libertarian, especially in matters of foreign policy.
It is important for me to let others know about Harry Browne because a lot of new people to the libertarian community are not familiar with him, or at least not much. They may know his name and they may know that he was on the LP ticket, but they haven’t read his material.
The libertarian movement has exploded since 2007 when Ron Paul first ran as a Republican in the presidential primaries. Ron Paul woke up a small (but significant) minority of people that we didn’t really know existed. Or maybe they didn’t exist but only found themselves by listening to Ron Paul. I think the turning point was when Ron Paul was criticized by Rudy Giuliani for his remarks on foreign policy and 9/11 during a debate.
While the Ron Paul followers are a diverse group, it is safe to say that the majority of them are new to the libertarian movement (within the last 7 years) and they are relatively young (under 30). Many of these people are really solid libertarians, probably because they have listened to Ron Paul. But they are reading other works such as Tom Woods, Bob Murphy, Tom DiLorenzo, Lew Rockwell, and Peter Schiff, just to name a few. They may also be reading people who are no longer living, such as Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises.
Unfortunately, I don’t think a great deal of the Ron Paul followers today are reading Harry Browne. That is why I think it is important to mention his name. He influenced quite a few people in his lifetime and I think libertarians today who are unfamiliar with him would benefit greatly in reading some of his work.
Harry Browne had a way of not coming across too radical, while still maintaining a radical position, in a good way. He never offered a government solution to a problem. One of his books is titled Why Government Doesn’t Work.
But Harry Browne also offered a very positive message. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2004 and he gave a speech on the prospects for liberty in the future. He said that most libertarians didn’t understand that despite everything seemingly working against us, that we had human nature on our side. He said that most people generally want to be free to make their own decisions.
He was very positive and believed that we can change the world. You have to realize that this was before the surge of libertarianism that happened starting in 2007 with Ron Paul’s campaign. If Harry Browne were around today, I think he would be pleasantly surprised at how popular libertarianism has become, but not shocked either.
He always believed in education and that is why he ran for president. He had no illusions of winning and he even said so during his campaigns. He just wanted to teach others on the benefits of liberty.
If you haven’t read anything by Harry Browne, I urge you to do so. Read some of his articles. Even better, get one of his books.