September 20, 2012 columns

An Amazing Man

Palmer pays tribute to Roy Childs.

R. A. Childs, Jr., or just plain Roy, was an inspiring man. Thanks to republication of some of his essays, he will inspire again.

I met Roy in 1972 when I was teenager attending a libertarian conference in Los Angeles, probably at UCLA. I had purchased and listened to a cassette tape of Roy and Professor John Hospers, chair of the philosophy department at USC, debating two socialists. Both John and Roy did quite well in the debate. Roy was simply amazing. Besides the arguments he marshaled, he had such a distinctive voice and a truly commanding presence. When I heard that voice at UCLA from a nearby conversation, I went up and announced to him “You’re R. A. Childs, Jr.,“ to which he responded, “Yes!” And we started to talk. About everything.

The talk continued over the telephone after he moved to New York and whenever we were in the same city. Along with George H. Smith, author of a new book on classical liberalism forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, we were in various reading groups in southern California, where we plumbed the depths of epistemology, economics, moral theory, history, and other topics, and were thrilled at what we saw as the imminent triumph of liberty. We were young.

Liberty is still my passion, and it would still be Roy’s, had he not died twenty years ago. Still, when I think of the goodness and the justice of our cause, I can hear Roy’s voice. Now, thanks to the posting of his lectures and republication of some of his youthful essays by Libertarianism.org, you can, too.