jeffrey-tuckerIn the fourth release of our exclusive Karl Hess video series, we feature an interview between Jackson Stucker and Jeffrey Tucker, where Jeffrey discusses his recollection of Karl Hess.

What is the best short summation of Karl Hess’ philosophy of liberty?

His views were constantly evolving, just as liberty itself is constantly evolving. I suspect that he regretted his early sense of certainty of knowledge, when he worked for Goldwater, and gradually came to realize that the main problem with the state is how it shuts down the development of the human personality and the complexity of human associations. He wanted an open libertarianism, one that embraced anarchism without reservation and was open to innovation, surprise, diversity, and the full flowering of the human experience.

Can you give a sketch of Karl Hess the man?

A fire for liberty burned in the heart of this man but it came through to others as a warm and welcoming affection. The fire expressed itself in politics at first, and second in writing, and third in micro-organizing, and finally in just being a good neighbor. It’s as if he spent a lifetime discovering that liberty is really about the choices we make in our lives. I also sense a great deal of love in him, a humanitarian who was inspired by the spontaneity of the social oder.

What distinguishes Karl Hess from other libertarian thinkers?

He never set out to construct a systematic apparatus for how the world should function. This wasn’t his thing. He used his rhetorical power in a different way. He hope to free others from their presets and orthodoxies and inspire an imaginative approach to living freely. To this extent, he was an activist above all else. Liberty had to matter in your life or it didn’t matter at all. He sought to show through this his own life. In terms of technology, he was a super-early adopter. I can recall that one of the first emails I ever received was from Karl Hess, and it also included his geographic coordinates — not the town and state in which he lived. It was both edgy and wonderful.

Why does Karl Hess still matter?

I would say that Hess matters more than ever. He was exactly right that politics is an spectacular failure, for everyone but for libertarians in particular. His applied approach to liberty is the way forward.

Why do you think Karl Hess has faded into obscurity?

I suspect that there are some remaining confusions over rights to his work, and I would love to see those addressed. Also, there’s never really been an institution or individual who set out to champion his life and work. That needs to change.

Do you think that Karl Hess’ visions of alternative technology working toward liberty have played out, or have they been quashed by state effort?

Since human nature doesn’t change, the only source of progress is technological progress. We see progress all around us today, that mostly comes down the disruptions made possible through visionary technologies. Not only that: new technology has made us freer than we otherwise would be.

Do you see any significant modern heirs to the ideas and attitudes of Karl Hess?

An obvious successor is Agorism but also the rapid de-politicization of the liberty world represents a fulfilment of his ideas. is a great example too.

What can libertarians today do to live up to and emulate the ideas and actions of Karl Hess?

We need to realize that the ideals of liberty must be realized first in our own lives, then in our communities, and then finally in the social order at large. Politics is a lagging indicator, and probably academia is too. We have to be the change we want to see in the world.

Karl Hess: Elements of Liberty – The Skills of Liberty (4 of 5)

The fourth of five videos in the Karl Hess lecture series can best be summed up as a libertarian praise of self-reliance. Hess discusses the benefits of having taken up commercial welding, as well as his creation of a sustainable home. He asks of libertarians to not just be great thinkers and writer, but also able-bodied, talented individuals who can be “doers.” A must-see for any DIY enthusiast!



Exclusive Video: Karl Hess on Elements of Liberty, Practice of Liberty (1 of 5)

Exclusive Video: Karl Hess on Elements of Liberty, Tools of Liberty (Part 2 of 5)

Exclusive Video: Karl Hess on Elements of Liberty, Management of Liberty (Part 3 of 5)

Exclusive Video: Karl Hess on Elements of Liberty, The Love of Liberty (Part 5 of 5)