The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

Chodorov, Frank (1887-1966)

Frank Chodorov, author and editor, was a lifelong individualist. Chodorov did not gain a position of prominence in the classical liberal movement until 1937, when he was appointed director of the Henry George School of Social Science at the age of 50. Prior to that time, he held a variety of jobs, including that of manager of a clothing factory and as an advertising agent.

Among Chodorov’s intellectual heroes was Albert Jay Nock, who had been editor in the 1920s of a periodical titled The Freeman. Chodorov launched his own publication under the same title while at the Henry George School, and in its pages, he extolled the virtues of the free market and attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Soon after, however, much of Chodorov’s attention turned from domestic to foreign affairs as he steadfastly opposed America’s entry into World War II. Chodorov’s writings caused consternation among some of the school’s board members and forced his dismissal shortly following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (The Henry George School continued to publish The Freeman for a short time before renaming it The Henry George News. Since the early 1950s, the Foundation for Economic Education has published its own magazine titled The Freeman.)

In 1944, Chodorov began publishing a four-page broadsheet called analysis, in which in nearly every issue he was the sole writer. He greatly valued his editorial independence, calling analysis the “most gratifying venture of my life.” The publication’s mission was straightforward: “analysis,” he wrote, “looks at the current scene through the eyeglasses of historic liberalism, unashamedly accepting the doctrine of natural rights, proclaims the dignity of the individual and denounces all forms of Statism as human slavery.” Although analysis had a small circulation, it exerted great influence over many young conservatives and libertarians, including William F. Buckley, who later founded National Review, and Murray N. Rothbard, a leading economist of the Austrian School. “I shall never forget the profound thrill—a thrill of intellectual liberation—that ran through me when I first encountered the name of Frank Chodorov, months before we were to meet in person,” Rothbard later wrote, adding,

As a young graduate student in economics, I had always believed in the free market, and had become increasingly libertarian over the years, but this sentiment was as nothing to the headline that burst forth in the title of a pamphlet that I chanced upon at the university bookstore: Taxation Is Robbery, by Frank Chodorov.

In the end, however, such devoted readers were unable to save analysis, and, as a result, Chodorov was forced to merge his publication with the Washington-based Human Events in 1951.

Two years later, Chodorov and Buckley founded the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI), whose goal was to influence college students through a comprehensive series of publications, speaking engagements, and discussion clubs. (ISI was later renamed the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and is still in operation.) Such an approach was consistent with Chodorov’s strategic vision that the current generation of policymakers might be difficult to influence, but young people—the policymakers of the future—could be reached with the message of classical liberalism. “What the socialists have done can be undone, if there is a will for it. But, the undoing will not be accomplished by trying to destroy established institutions. It can be accomplished only by attacking minds, and not the minds of those already hardened by socialistic fixations,” Chodorov wrote. “Individualism can be revived by implanting the ideas in the minds of the coming generations.… It is, in short, a fifty-year project.”

Chodorov suffered a massive stroke in 1961 while lecturing in Colorado and died in 1966 at the age of 79. A selection of his most important writings, Fugitive Essays, was published in 1980 and is still in print.

 

Further Readings

Chodorov, Frank. One Is a Crowd: Reflections of an Individualist. New York: Devin-Adair, 1952.

———. Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist. New York: Devin-Adair, 1962.

Hamilton, Charles H., ed. Fugitive Essays: Selected Writings of Frank Chodorov. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Press, 1980.

Rothbard, Murray N. “Frank Chodorov: RIP.” Left and Right 3 no. 1 (Winter 1967): 3–8.

Originally published .