The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

LeFevre, Robert (1911-1986)

Robert LeFevre was a libertarian polemicist and an educator. LeFevre founded and operated the first modern school dedicated to libertarian education, called the Freedom School, later renamed Rampart College.

LeFevre, while an anarchist who did not believe in the morality or necessity of any government, rejected the term anarchy because he thought it embraced active attempts to eliminate government, which he thought was as immoral as government itself. He called his antistate philosophy autarchism after the Greek for “self-rule.”

LeFevre worked as an actor, radio broadcaster, door-to-door salesman, real estate speculator and manager, TV newsman, and assistant to a pair of charismatic American cult leaders in a religious movement known as the Mighty “I AM.” He then turned to political activism, originally aligning himself with anticommunist and antiunionist movements. In the early 1950s, he worked with such groups as the Wage Earners Committee, the National Economic Council, and the Congress for Freedom.

In 1954, he became an editorial writer for the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, part of R. C. Hoiles’s libertarian Freedom Newspaper chain. He launched his Freedom School in 1957 in a rural setting in the Palmer Range of Colorado, where he hoped that F. A. Harper, later founder of the Institute for Humane Studies, would be the school’s principle teacher. However, Harper declined.

The first graduating class of the school’s intensive 2-week series of lectures on libertarian economics and philosophy comprised a mere four students, but by its 1968 closing, hundreds had gone through the program. Guest lecturers at the school included Frank Chodorov, F. A. Harper, Leonard Read, Rose Wilder Lane, Hans Sennholz, and Roy Childs.

From 1965 to 1968, he edited an academic journal called the Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought. In the mid-1960s, LeFevre began plans to turn the Freedom School into a 4-year degree-granting institution called Rampart College, and he hired W. H. Hutt to run the economics department and James J. Martin for the history department. Disagreements with Hutt and Martin, however, and an expensive and damaging flood and mudslide in 1965 scuttled those plans, and LeFevre was forced to close the school in Colorado in 1968. He then conducted a more truncated lecture series under the name Rampart School in Santa Ana, California, until 1975. A brief attempt to revive a Rampart Institute was made in 1980. LeFevre continued lecturing on libertarian thought until his death in 1986.

LeFevre’s beliefs were similar to those taught by Murray Rothbard and F. A. Harper, a property-based libertarianism that saw any initiation of force or abrogation of property rights as crimes. But LeFevre’s views on several subjects were more radical, even in libertarian terms. For example, he held even defensive force completely impermissible. He also was resolutely against any political action to spread libertarian ideas—in fact, against any action at all other than the education of others in libertarian principles and personal attempts to disengage from the state.

Despite his radicalism, he had a long record of attracting support and enthusiasm from successful businessmen, including billionaire libertarian financier Charles Koch, who attended the Freedom School courses twice, and textile magnate Roger Milliken.

 

Further Readings

LeFevre, Robert. The Fundamentals of Liberty. Santa Ana, CA: Rampart Institute, 1988.

———. This Bread Is Mine. Milwaukee, WI: American Liberty Press, 1960.

———. A Way to Be Free: The Autobiography of Robert LeFevre: The Making of a Modern American Revolution. 2 vols. Culver City, CA: Pulpless, 1999.

Originally published .