It occurs to me that Roy Childs is an increasingly forgotten and under-appreciated figure in modern libertarian history. I’ve always been wholly fascinated by his written works and perhaps more importantly the well-documented spirit of his approach to advancing liberty. My first encounter with Roy Childs’ works, as is the case with most young libertarian intellectuals, was his eminently charitable Open Letter to Ayn Rand, which was submitted in 1969 (when Childs was only 19) to The Rational Individualist. The letter forcefully refuted Rand’s notion of limited government, arguing that any state, even if premised upon retaliatory force alone, ultimately devolves into coercive statism. Interestingly, Joan Kennedy Taylor claimed in her remembrance that Childs’ subscription to Rand’s magazine The Objectivist was subsequently discontinued in retaliation.
To digress, I do find it compelling to argue that trading force contradicts the fundamental market premises of peaceful, voluntary interaction. Of course, the question then becomes whether or not the state is the superior institution to defend rights and administer justice.
One of the most impressive aspects of Roy Childs’ career is his sheer breadth and depth, intellectually and professionally. Childs was at the same time a preeminent libertarian theoretician, journalist, editor, activist, speaker, teacher, and strategist. His work was simultaneously theoretical and empirical, and he masterfully integrated libertarian theory with subjects as far ranging as history, foreign policy, drug policy, and party politics.
As a speaker, Childs was one of of the best to ever be. His speech on The Radical Libertarian Vision sets the standard as the most powerful libertarian speech I have ever seen, and it exemplifies his intellectual agility. Others would probably point to Childs’ address at the 1979 LP nominating convention as his best.
Unfortunately, Childs never published a book, however we do have a collection of many of his works in Liberty Against Power edited by the late Joan Kennedy Taylor. You’ll find in the book that in addition to his weighty and thoroughly researched essays on politics, Childs reviewed contemporary music and literature as well.
I clearly never knew Roy Childs, but I do sense his greatness and lament that he wasn’t in better health to give much more to the cause of human liberation. Childs is a hero of mine, and serves as a model for what I hope to achieve in my own career. I hope his works can inspire others as well.