Roy A. Childs, Jr., a self‐taught writer and speaker, was a major influence in the libertarian movement during the 1960s and 1970s. He is perhaps best known for his work as editor of The Libertarian Review (1977–1981) and as the primary reviewer for Laissez Faire Books from 1984 to 1992. Apart from these positions, however, he also played a role in determining the direction of contemporary American libertarian thought and is credited with popularizing the anarcho‐capitalist movement through his “Open Letter to Ayn Rand,” published when he was 20 years old.
He was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 4, 1949. His extensive reading led him to become a libertarian in high school. He graduated in 1966 and entered SUNY Buffalo, but from the late 1960s through the 1970s, even while still at college, he was fortunate in having a series of patrons and mentors within the movement who helped him in getting his essays published, created jobs for him, and promoted his speaking. Among these was Robert LeFevre, who discovered his talents when Childs was a college freshman, and, later, Murray Rothbard, Robert Kephart, Charles Koch, and Ed Crane. Childs also was involved with many of the organizations that gave the libertarian movement its shape during that period. He studied (and criticized) Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, he was a founding member of Rothbard’s Radical Libertarian Alliance, and he was the Buffalo representative of the Society of Rational Individualists before its merger with the former Libertarian Caucus of Young Americans for Freedom to form the Society for Individual Liberty (SIL). In 1970, he left college to run SIL’s book service.
Childs early on had the opportunity to speak and debate throughout the United States. One of his speeches so impressed Charles Koch that in early 1977 he bought a book review tabloid called The Libertarian Review from Robert Kephart and turned it into a magazine, with Roy as its editor; the magazine was originally located in New York, then moved to San Francisco, and finally to Washington, DC. While in San Francisco, Childs also became active in the Libertarian Party and became a research fellow at the Cato Institute. After The Libertarian Review was closed in 1981, Childs remained in Washington as a Cato policy analyst until 1984, when Andrea Rich invited him to New York to become a writer for Laissez Faire Books. During his last years, he struggled with obesity, which made it increasingly difficult for him to leave his apartment. He died in a hospital in Miami, Florida, where he had gone for a weight‐loss program, on May 22, 1992.
Since then, the Cato Institute has established a Roy Childs Library in its Washington headquarters, and his personal papers are archived in the Hoover Institution for War and Peace Studies at Stanford University.