Reflections on Life
under the Influence of Ayn Rand
by Roger E. Bissell

Part 2: Libertarianism and my Interest in Politics

Libertarianism and my Interest in Politics

Another great stream of Objectivism-inspired intellectual activity centered not on a particular individual, but on a political movement and party. Libertarianism is the political philosophy that stands for economic freedom, civil liberties, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. The government that governs best, governs least--if at all!

Many people view libertarianism as a weird, outrageous hodgepodge of liberal, conservative, and "radical" views. It's quite consistent, however. It's based on the principle of individual rights applied to all political issues, not just the respectable, mainstream ones.

Historically, libertarianism has its roots in the views of our Founding Fathers and, more recently, the isolationist "Old Right" conservatism of the 1940s and 1950s. As a political party, it is a stepchild of the 1960s conservative campus organization, Young Americans for Freedom. The more consistent, principled YAF members, some of whom were Randians, were against the draft and the Vietnam War and wanted drug sale and use and other victimless crimes to be legalized. Eventually, a number of them abandoned YAF, due to increasing friction with and intolerance from the more hawkish, conservative YAFers.

In 1971 this splinter movement coalesced into the Libertarian Party, which has since run five [1998 update: seven!] presidential campaigns and is preparing for its sixth [eighth]. Although the LP welcomes members no matter where their belief in liberty comes from, its platform obviously owes a great deal to Rand's ideas on individual rights and government.

Nonetheless, Rand rejected the LP. At first, she merely ignored it; but later she bitterly denounced it. Her intellectually strongest argument against the LP is that you can't sell the American people on a political philosophy until they first accept the more basic ideas that support it. And promoting a political party that includes anarchists, drug legalizers, prostitutes, gay rights advocates, etc. will discredit and jeopardize those ideas. So far, the LP has been no great shakes at changing our political landscape, but the influence of libertarian and Objectivist ideas and spokesmen are continuing to grow in the media and the universities. And while the LP lured some of its activists away from the intellectual sector of the movement, it also attracted newcomers to the philosophy of liberty that might not have learned of it otherwise. On balance, the effect of the LP has been neutral at worst and probably modestly positive.

So, why Rand's antagonism toward the LP? I believe it lies in her hatred of the hippies of the 1960s antiwar movement. She saw them as being intellectual descendants of her own bitter archenemy, Immanuel Kant. She even wrote a book, The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution, in which she repeatedly lambasted hippies and Kant in the same breath.

The LP, especially in its early days, was home to a lot of strange-looking characters, including a number who were hard to distinguish from your garden-variety hippie. During that time, most of the LP's media publicity featured some rather unphilosophical, attention-getting stunts--including a Lady Godiva-type ride in New York City--and long-haired types got quite a lot of exposure (so to speak).

During the 1970s, known libertarians were barred from some of Leonard Peikoff's taped philosophy lecture courses on Objectivism. After her death, Rand's closest associates continued this anti-party party line. David Kelley formed his independent group, the Institute for Objectivist Studies, after Peikoff excommunicated him for speaking to libertarian groups about Objectivism. (No, the noses of Peikoff et al have not grown back in the intervening 7 years.) Peter Schwartz, editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist, went so far as to write a twisted diatribe, "Libertarianism: the Perversion of Liberty," reprinted in The Voice of Reason [sic].

I have never been convinced by any of the arguments made by Rand and others against the LP. The one thing I have concluded after years of activism is that there is enormous pressure on attractive, articulate spokesmen for liberty to water down their ideas in order to win wider acceptance and support. If and when, as was frequently the case, libertarians toned down or compromised their principles, the net result was an undermining of the philosophy of liberty, with no significant gain in influence or votes. The bottom line, I believe, is that an attractive, uncompromising radical is still the best hope for our society's future.

A number of other Objectivist sympathizers apparently have shared this sentiment. Despite stern disapproval from the Inner Circle, at one time or another many Objectivists (or whatever we are!) have joined forces with the LP and the libertarian movement. Some have done so primarily as intellectuals--others more so as activists. I have worn both hats during the period of my involvement with libertarianism.

Long before my days as an active intellectual for liberty, I first became interested in politics as a naive spectator. I recall watching, with fascination, the national convention coverage for both major parties from 1956 onward. It seemed like pretty dramatic stuff at the time.

I also recall my parents having frequent agitated discussions with my uncle (Mom's brother) and my grandfather about the latest federal farm program or tax increase. I recall my parents professing to be Republicans and against big government, but repeatedly voting for a Democratic candidate, because there was "something about" the Republican guy they didn't like, but they just couldn't put their finger on it. At least, their instincts were good about Nixon!

I also recall my father saying that socialism and communism were noble ideals, but they just don't work--a view that didn't make any sense to me. I recall concluding sometime about 8th or 9th grade that democracy could be just as tyrannical as dictatorship, since a simple majority of students in a class could vote to spend the entire class' dues in a way that the minority found objectionable.

I didn't begin to have a firm grasp of political issues, however, until the summer of 1964, when I taught myself how to type. For practice material, I used newspaper articles about Goldwater, Romney, Reagan, and others. I began to realize that in addition to Democrats and Republicans, there were these odd creatures called liberals, conservatives, and moderates.

Goldwater seemed like a good man to be president, and "extremism in the pursuit of liberty" sounded like a good philosophy. I remember being especially outraged at the smear campaign against Goldwater that culminated in the infamous nuclear war commercial. Not long after that, while doing a term paper on our involvement in Vietnam, I reached the conclusion that I hold to this day: we shouldn't have been there in the first place; but since we were, we should have won it quickly and decisively with overwhelming force--nuclear, if necessary.

Once I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, I became fully conscious of what politicians and special interest groups could do to us and how compromise measures and candidates undermine the cause of freedom. Various essays in Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness and in her publication The Objectivist Newsletter gave me plenty of historical background and detail to support this new realization.

In the fall of 1967, during my sophomore year of college, I helped form a YAF-like campus conservative group called "Iowa State Conservatives for Constitutional Action." My partner in this endeavor was Richard ("BJ") Bjornseth, a libertarian-learning conservative who was an architecture major specializing in urban planning. He ended up in Houston, Texas, where he formed the Association for Rational Environmental Alternatives (AREA).

I was a little apprehensive about what might be the upshot of the feature article that the Iowa State Daily ran on the group and me, but I was totally unprepared for the hostility directed at me by one of my math professors. A very cynical, sarcastic liberal--and a rotten teacher, to boot--he repeatedly greeted and called on me with the epithet, "Mr. Conservative." I guess you had to be there to get a feel for just how much he hated what I stood for.

Very shortly thereafter, I read Rand's Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. Several of its articles such as "Conservatism: an Obituary," "The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus," and "The Wreckage of the Consensus" completely turned my head around. I realized that conservatism was doomed. Following Rand's lead, I recanted my conservative position and became a "radical for capitalism."

Following this conversion experience, I began writing some rather scathing letters to the Daily, tossing around Randian-sounding phrases like "ignorance akin to prehistoric savagery." Literary bashing of my intellectual and political enemies was a practice I continued when I transferred to the University of Iowa to work on my MA--and well into the 1970s in Nashville. (The astute reader will note traces of it in my esthetics book, as well.)

I became somewhat of an anomaly: a double major in math and music, who shunned any connection between them, such as the Pythagorean doctrine of "music of the spheres." A musician who frequently had a beard and long hair, but who wouldn't drink or do drugs. A self-professed radical and opponent of the Vietnam War and the military draft, but who was equally antagonistic toward leftist student protesters.

Although I couldn't yet vote in 1968, I supported Nixon because of his promise to end the military draft. I certainly couldn't get excited about Wallace's racist populism or Humphrey's rampant welfare statism. And as it turned out, one of the few decent things "Tricky Dick" did was to keep that campaign promise.

For the next two years, I leaned more toward philosophy, as I began to focus on esthetic issues and problems such as how to derive individual rights from rational self-interest and how to understand the relationship between the mind and the body.

After I moved to Iowa City in 1969, I was responsible for a time for the "Libertarian Alternative" column in the Daily Iowan, but I was not involved in any demonstrations or protests. Indeed, I recall being outraged that a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony I was to have played in was canceled because of the furor over Nixon's invasion of Cambodia in May of 1970. I indignantly refused to attend the huge teach-in demonstrations.

Except for a few political philosophy papers delivered at Equitarian Associates conferences between 1971 and 1973, I was virtually a-political until I joined the Libertarian Party in 1974. I well recall voting in 1972 as an anti-McGovernite for Nixon and feeling really stupid and unclean later, when he left office in disgrace. It never occurred to me to write in John Hospers and Toni Nathan, and I still believe that the local election officials would simply have thrown the ballot away and not reported the vote. That's the one and only time I voted for a Republican presidential candidate. Each time since then, I have been fortunate enough to have an LP candidate to vote for on the ballot.

In 1973, Reason, a magazine with Objectivist and libertarian sympathies, published my essay, "On the Proper Definition of Government." I argued that, despite what Ayn Rand and her opponents maintained, anarcho-capitalism was not anarchism, but instead a system of government that allowed full right of secession and self-determination.

 The big event of 1974 was meeting and exploring ways to further political freedom with other Objectivists and libertarians at George Peabody College in Nashville. We decided to form a non-partisan group called the Committee for Individual Liberty and to hold a statewide convention later that year to form the Tennessee Libertarian Party. We also began holding a monthly libertarian supper group meeting that included a libertarian-leaning YAF group from Vanderbilt University. Some of those youngsters--e.g. David Boaz now with the Cato Institute and Roger Reem of the Foundation for Economic Education--became quite prominent in the movement.

The TLP squeaked in just under the wire for representation at the National LP convention in Dallas that September, and I was privileged to attend as a delegate. What an experience! Debates until 4 am over whether to make the platform language generic enough to encompass both the limited government and the anarcho-capitalist positions. Debates over abortion and children's rights. Debates over sexist language in party documents. Frantic messages from my wife back in Nashville, wondering where I could be at that time of the morning. Ah, the life of a carefree political activist!

Over the next three years, I served the TLP as platform chairman and state treasurer. A court reporter and fellow Objectivist, Ray L. Walker, and I carried on a friendly debate in the party newsletter on the subject of Murray Rothbard's "Kid Lib" (children's rights).

Ray also formed his own libertarian "church," complete with tax exemption from all levels of government. Since I was a contributing member of Ray's little flock, the IRS and the State department of revenue hauled me in for testimony at audits. Despite the aggravation and indignity of it all, I enjoyed playing amateur lawyer, arguing that the State's attempt to deny his church's legitimacy was a clear violation of the First Amendment.

When I started up my own church, the Nashville Temple of Righteous Tolerance, I made exactly one use of its "State Sales and Use Tax Exemption Certificate." I saw the sale clerk's eyebrows raise and her eyes look right through me, and I felt like a total and obvious fraud. Exercising my church's "rights" was just too nerve-wracking!

My first entry into electoral politics was a modest one, but it also produced my highest vote total. Because the LP was not yet allowed a spot on Tennessee's election ballot, I ran as an Independent against an otherwise unopposed incumbent Democrat for the Tennessee 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. My campaign manager urged me to try to also get the Republican nomination and to run a full-fledged campaign. Since I was trying to help publicize libertarian ideas and had no hope of winning in any event, I couldn't see any benefit in accepting the label of a party in which I had no interest or involvement or credibility. So I declined. He bailed out of school and out of my campaign shortly after that, and I was left to my own meager devices.

I did manage to speak at a candidates' forum at Vanderbilt University and to tape a "free" 15-minute speech for WDCN, the local educational TV station. I was magnificently radical. I woke up the first Wednesday in November of 1976 to find that I had received the amazing total of over 10,000 votes--to my opponent's 110,000!

The next two years were my first serious period of "burnout." No one seemed to be interested in local party building in Nashville, I was newly remarried, and my music career was booming, so I took a vacation from politics. The LP folks in Memphis, meanwhile, kept the torch burning by running two candidates for the state legislature in 1978.

By 1979, I was ready to be involved again. I wrote a couple of essays on religion and libertarianism, which I delivered to our local supper group. My message of tolerance and cooperation came too late to stop a sizable Exodus from our ranks of fundamentalist Christian libertarians, who had already heard too much veiled (and not so veiled) sarcasm directed toward their religious beliefs. I also present my newly formed, essentially pro-choice position on abortion, which later found its way into both the Tennessee Liberty Bell and Reason magazine.

Also in 1979, my wife, little girl, and I attended the LP presidential nominating convention in Los Angeles. It was very exciting to hear Nathaniel Branden, Robert Ringer, and Orson Bean psyching everyone up for the 1980 campaign. That, plus generous servings of champagne, loosened quite a few pursestrings--including mine!--for campaign contributions.

Not being chained as a delegate to the convention floor this time, I flitted off to several interesting workshops, including one on local anti-tax organizing. This inspired me to form the Nashville Tax Alternatives Committee, a non-partisan taxpayers group.

Starting in 1980, NTAC spoke out at public meetings and in the media about the need to cut local taxes and spending and turn most Metro Nashville services over to the private sector. There are many colorful tales about the four-year lifespan of NTAC, but for the present essay, one example will have to suffice.

One our first public sortie, one spring night in 1980, attorney Phil Carden and I delivered a one-two punch at a public hearing on the proposed 1980-81 Metro school budget. I had carefully documented a decade of school spending increases and achievement declines and told them that we should cut administrative positions and overall spending by 255 and eliminate the local sales tax on groceries. The hornets stirred loudly. Phil then told him of his decades of experience with public and private schools, lulling them into silence, before saying that he would be willing to pay the added taxes for a teacher salary increase, if they would stay home and not try to earn it! The fury of the hornets easily doubled its previous volume.

We also aroused the interest of the local media. After the hearing, I was asked for a 20-second statement of NTAC's position on the school budget, and knowing nothing about what are today called "sound bites," I somehow managed to do it pretty decently on the first attempt. Later that year, I learned how to do "sound bites" and a whole lot more in Memphis at a workshop on "The Art of Political Persuasion" by Michael Emerling (now Michael Cloud).

Michael, another Objectivist-libertarian, and I had known of each other for years from earlier published essays, and we became good friends. (He inspired me to write my essay "The Moral Majority vs. God," which I gave in the form of a sermon to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville in 1981. Michael also strongly encouraged me to develop my "disability" model of the right to child support, a piece on which was published in 1982 in the TLP newsletter and in The Libertarian Familist.) Michael, who now lives in Las Vegas, has been, among other things, a car salesman, a satirist, and a speech writer and ghostwriter for prominent politicians. More than once, I found myself hoping that I could be just like him "when I grow up."

In the fall of 1980, I worked on the Ed Clark presidential campaign. I helped organize his visit to Nashville, and I carried thousands of his campaign fliers door to door in certain Nashville neighborhoods. Targeting precincts had a measurable impact, but the overall percentage (less than 1% of the vote in Tennessee) was still dishearteningly low. John Anderson's over-rated independent bid stole away the protest vote against Reagan and Carter.

1981 was probably the high mark of NTAC's achievement. The Mayor and Metro Council planned a big spending and tax increase, and we were there to protest and speak at the public hearing on the budget. Our campaign committee was the most visible opposition to the property tax referendum, and we were riding high when the voters defeated it by a five-to-one margin.

When we tried to form our campaign committee in the chambers of the State Capitol, there were more media there than public! The coverage of our distress at the poor turnout apparently galvanized the voters to call in and offer their support, so if there was any intent by the media to embarrass us, it seems to have backfired.

I made a number of appearances on radio and TV interviews and call-in programs and was given a full page in Nashville magazine to make the anti-tax increase argument. As the election approached, we wee virtually ignored. The glum faces of the pro-tax forces, on the other hand, were prominently featured in the newspaper the morning after their crushing defeat in the referendum. Clearly, we had a long way to go to become a credible voice in the community.

That August I also attended the national LP convention in Denver. My abortion article in Reason was hot off the press, and I was champing at the bit to try to modify the LP Platform along those lines. The rabid pro-Lifers led by Doris Gordon, and the radical feminist pro-Choicers led by Sharon Presley, monopolized the discussion, however. It amounted to a stalemate, with no change in the then-current pro-choice plank.

The next year marked a big increase in my own visibility. Various NTAC supporters and some of my friends in the media urged me to fun for a set on the newly elective Metro School Board. Living in what I thought was a fairly fiscal conservative, anti-busing district, I thought I had a pretty good chance, so I jumped in with both feet.

The issues I stressed were cost-effectiveness and economy. I pushed for cuts in administrative staff, contracting out of various school services, and canceling of non-mandatory school programs such as kindergarten, drivers' education, etc. I also proposed local education tax credits, similar to the state program in Minnesota, to allow parents and others to have more of a choice in where and how their education dollars were spent.

Considering that there were nine district races to cover, I got quite a bit of media exposure. The League of Women Socialists (oops, I mean Voters!) sponsored a candidates' forum on the local access cable TV channel, a written questionnaire (our answers to which were published in the Tennessean), and a candidates' forum at a local high school auditorium. In addition, I spoke to a government class at UT-Nashville and to a local neighborhood organization in a liberal black neighborhood

My main campaign materials were a set of a half dozen or so billboard signs, a couple hundred one-by-two yard signs, and a two-fold brochure that was mass-mailed to district voters just before the election. The signs had bright yellow lettering on a dark green background and read "Bissell for School Board." They were severely vandalized--the smaller ones ripped out of the ground and the larger ones chopped down or broken off their supports. I also prepared a "Green Paper" that was ignored by the media.

My two principal opponents were both attorneys. They were both heavily supported by local education groups--one by the Metro Nashville Education Association, the other by the PTA. They outspent me by a factor of five-to-one, and their vote totals reflected it, each of them receiving about 2000 votes, to my rather paltry 800.

Also in 1982 was an attempt by the Council to initiate a local gasoline tax to benefit mass transit. We formed a campaign committee to get people to vote "no" in the referendum, but I was not able to head the committee, because I was already busy with my school board race. Nevertheless, I helped design the campaign brochure and spoke out in the media when the other committee leaders weren't available.

After the gasoline tax increase proposal failed by a 2-1/2-to-1 margin, the Metro Transit authority prepared to make draconian cuts in transit service. Almost as if on cue, NTAC was offered a golden opportunity to get more media exposure by proposing an alternative to either increased transit spending or transportation cutbacks. The designer of a mini-transit vehicle brought his prototype to Nashville, and we arranged to display it for a news conference at the Metro Courthouse. NTAC's tax alternative message was stated and backed up with a real-live visual aid! The media ate it up, and the local public radio station, WPLN-FM, offered us an hour to further elaborate on our proposal. Nothing came of it, however.

My friend and ex-father-in-law, Danny Dill, became interested in libertarianism and joined the LP as a result of the excitement around the Ed Clark campaign. He decided to get actively involved in the 1983 Metro Nashville mayoral campaign. Incumbent Richard Fulton was running for his third (and final, permitted) term. Put off by Fulton's obvious liberal, tax-and-spend inclinations--which he had kept under wraps until after the 1979 election--the voters (with the help of NTAC) had been able to thwart most of his wishes since the 1980 local sales tax increase. Danny ran a modest campaign and got only a small number of votes, but he ran a hard-core libertarian campaign and took advantage of all the free radio and TV airtime he could.

During that time, a mystery group--widely believed to have been promoted by one of the mayor's chief rivals--distributed a large number of stick-on messages, mainly in the downtown area, several nights before the election. Reported to have said such unsavory things as "Lick Dick, Aug. 3" and "Dick Fulton before Fulton Dicks You," the stickers went unheeded by the electorate. Fulton won his third term and was replaced in 1987 by a one-term laughing-stock named Bill Boner. From a Dick to a Boner--now, that's real progress!

The year of Orwell, 1984, was not the breakthrough year the LP hoped for. David Bergland, a southern California attorney, ran a radical campaign and got a fraction of the votes Ed Clark's "low-tax liberal" campaign got in 1980.

The real action came on the local scene, with a rather audacious attempt to amend the charter of Metro Nashville and Davidson County. The impetus for this campaign was the insistence by the Environmental Protection Agency that Nashville begin an auto emissions program. Rather than face a cutoff of federal funds for non-compliance, the Metro Council decided to knuckle under. To many Nashvillians, however, it was busing all over again: the Feds were telling us how to run our local affairs--and hurting our pocketbooks in the process!

The ringleader of the campaign against this atrocity was Bill McPherson, the Metro Nashville court clerk. McPherson was a very ambitious man and took a populist approach in building his power base. While a council member in the late 1970s, he led an unsuccessful petition drive to allow a vote on repealing the local sales tax on groceries. As court clerk, he had tried to streamline the process of local auto sticker renewals and been stymied by an uncooperative council. The EPA's emissions testing demands were both the last straw and an opportunity to try to change the local political landscape.

McPherson's first step was to see what support there might be among council members and local taxpayer groups. His chief ally in the council was my friend, Rod Williams, a fiscal conservatrive from a blue-collar district. Rod was very supportive of NTAC during our 1981 and 1982 anti-tax increase campaigns and was very vocal in opposing local compliance with the EPA demands.

Bill next approached me to see what kind of help my taxpayers group might be able to provide. He was under the impression that we had hundreds of supporters who would be willing to go to the barricades, carrying petitions, campaigning door-to-door, and manning the polls on election day. The truth of it was that we had a very small cadre of a dozen or so committed activists and donors. Everyone else on our mailing list was involved on an ad hoc basis and was just as likely to sit out a particular campaign as to help out. We simply did not know how much help we could give Bill, but I suspect it might not be much.

That didn't stop us from getting involved, however. Once Bill made it clear that our goal was to try to pass not one but a number of amendments to the Metro Charter and that we would be allowed some input as to the nature of the amendments, the temptation to go along for the ride was irresistible. Term limitations and recall for council members--deregulation of local transit and taxi services--repeal of local sales tax on groceries--referendum on the auto emissions program. These were just several of the twelve proposals that we ended up with.

The petitioning process was highly successful. We ended up with nearly twice the required number of signatures. NTAC members and others pitched in and helped, but I suspect that the lion's share of the signatures came from McPherson's employees and friends. Despite fears that our petitions would suffer the same fate as the ones from McPherson's previous campaign, the signature counting process was carried out in a very efficient, non-nonsense manner, and no legal challenges were attempted.

There were some complaints that the petitions themselves were deceptive. All twelve amendments were listed on one side and the signature blanks on the other. Many people apparently believed they were signing only for the auto emissions amendment. Others objected to having to sign for all twelve, some of which they opposed, in order to qualify ones they favored. None of these objections stood up, however. No one made them sign without reading the amendments. No one would make them vote for all twelve amendments once they appeared on the ballot.

The real problems only emerged once the amendments were qualified and our opponents began to take them seriously. We were vulnerable to charges of possibly catastrophic effects, due to the ambiguous wording in some of the proposals. Also, it was claimed that some of the amendments would have no effect, because they were not legally valid. Still other amendments (for drive-through windows and the like) were transparently for the benefit of McPherson and, admittedly, the people who came to do business at his department.

The cumulative effect of all these objections was to cast a great deal of doubt on the wisdom of voting for any of them. Rod and I tried to answer the objections the best we could, but our best efforts were greeted with a great deal of skepticism.

The skepticism was justifiable. Rod and I repeatedly found ourselves shocked over various hidden weaknesses in the proposals. We had naively, trustingly surrendered the drafting of the amendments to McPherson and his legal assistant, and we failed to seek independent evaluation of the proposals once they were presented to us. The excitement over a chance to make a big leap forward with our tax cut, deregulation agenda blinded us to the perils of agreeing to champion something we had not fully examined. Once we found out the full extent of the problem, it was far too late for us to pull out of the campaign. We felt that we had to ride it out and hope for the best, that perhaps some of the best amendments might still have a chance to pass.

As naive and foolish as Rod and I were in being part of this doomed project, the local media was equally scurrilous and ruthless in stomping it (and us) down. WSMV-TV's hatchet job on us was particularly reprehensible. During the week leading up to the referendum, they presented a series of "exposes," which consisted of setting us up by asking us on camera about aspects of the amendments we were unaware of and capturing our reaction for their viewers. Teddy Bart emceed a debate between me and the architect of the Metro Charter, playing favorites to him with both extra time (cutting me short and denying me equal time to reply) and slanted questions. Compared to this, even the Tennessean's editorial cartoon showing McPherson, Rod, and me as circus clowns amounted to favorable publicity!

To make a long, painful story short, the amendments crashed and burned. Most of them lost by a three-to-one margin or worse. The thousands of dollars of TV and radio ads, paid for mainly by auto dealers, were for naught. The auto emissions program went into effect the following year.

Although my effective political activism ended with the Metro Bill of Rights campaign, I spent my last year in Tennessee as chairman of the TLP and a member of the Board of the Nashville local of the American Federation of Musicians. I was very touched by the wonderful going-away party my libertarians friends gave me--in contrast to my music colleagues and friends, who seemed too busy to do much more than say, "Well...bye!"

In California, I have been very inactive politically. My ex-wife, Ty, and I attended a Future of Freedom conference in Fullerton in October of 1985 and the State LP convention in San Francisco in February of 1986--and I attended one meeting of the Liberty forum supper group, which has since disbanded. I sat out the 1988 Ron Paul for President campaign. He was too much of a conservative, pro-Life type for my taste.

Other than that, I have written several letters to the editor, and that's it. As an indication of how my focus has radically changed since leaving Nashville: my typical pre-California topics included education, crime and punishment, public services, and taxes. Now, all I can get excited enough to gripe about is to argue that while a pregnant woman shouldn't be eligible to drive alone in the "car pool lanes," a lone adult driving one or more children should be. Powerful stuff, huh.

As carefully as I guard my time these days, I probably won't ever again become as active in the LP or in local civic affairs as I did in Nashville in the 1970s and the early 1980s. I'm softening up a bit, though. My wife, Becky, and I joined the California LP in 1991. We are registered voters, and we vote libertarian. So far, all we've gotten for our trouble is an occasional summons for jury duty. The electoral bug has not returned. I'm content these days just to impersonate Ross Perot and Bill Clinton, without also trying to emulate them.