The Roy A. Childs, Jr. Fund for Independent Scholars was a program of CIT that issued grants to classical liberal scholars who were not associated with an educational institution or research organization, and who produced publishable book-length manuscripts. We are proud to have allowed them to see their manuscripts through to publication.

Roy A. Childs, Jr. was a leader in the emergence and growth of the U.S. libertarian movement. As editor of Libertarian Review (1977-81), he promoted an expansive long-term vision for libertarians, working to unite various groups within the movement. In his history of the libertarian movement, Brian Doherty described him as “the most consistent personal inspiration and support to a rising generation of young libertarians.” Afterwards, he was editorial director at Laissez Faire Books (1984-1992), a project of the Center for Independent Thought, where he helped shape the growth of a rich libertarian literary tradition, writing reviews and challenging new authors to think critically on their work. Between these two periods, Childs worked and wrote as a scholar at the Cato Institute where he edited numerous Cato publications.

Roy’s essays such as “The Defense of Capitalism in Our Time” (1974) and “The Invisible Hand Strikes Back” (1975) exhibited his polished writing and the depth of his knowledge. He was exceptionally well-read, and in his editorial roles he encouraged libertarians to broaden their reading beyond economics and philosophy to history, literature, foreign policy, and current affairs.

Moreover, as Doherty wrote, Roy was a “man whose presence put smiles on people’s faces. He was the sort of figure all ideological movements need … the tireless networker, letter writer, phone caller, dedicated to a larger vision of a long-term libertarian project that extended beyond whatever work he happened to be doing, as dedicated to promoting and connecting other libertarian comrades as producing specific tangible work of his own.”

Roy’s untimely death in 1992 cut short the career of a libertarian hero. His legacy remains in the continuing growth and development of libertarian thought.

Remembering Roy

by Thomas Szasz

There are two ways of getting to know another person intimately. One is by sharing the same life space with him over a long period, the other is by the proverbial meeting of minds. My intimacy with Roy was of the second kind.

Roy and I met for the first time in New York in 1977 when, as editor, he asked me to write for Libertarian Review. Over the years, I probably never saw him more than once or twice a year. Of course, we talked often and at length on the telephone. Neither the infrequency of our meetings nor the fact that I was more than a generation older was a barrier to our camaraderie. Paradoxically, our relationship was at once distant and yet close. I think this style suited his needs and characterized some of his other relationships as well.

I wrote a good deal for Libertarian Review, as well as for Inquiry, and enjoyed the pressure of having to produce an occasional, topical piece at a steady pace. For me this task meant writing for, and being taught by, Roy.

I felt completely understood by Roy, and I would like to believe that the feeling was mutual. We shared the same unqualified love of liberty. Personally as well as politically, we both abhorred state coercion, especially when wrapped in the mantle of benevolent paternalism. Privately, Roy tended to act as my mentor, and I was happy to be his disciple. Publicly, however--for example, when he reviewed my books or wrote about me--he assumed the role of awed admirer, which of course flattered me. More importantly, Roy's enthusiasm for my work supported my conviction--which he shared--that, in our age, liberty had acquired a new and dangerous enemy in, of all things, health. The fact that his appreciation of this threat may have had deeply personal roots made our relationship especially important, for both of us.

Yet, despite our unbelievably harmonious meeting of minds, it would be difficult to imagine two more different persons than Roy and myself. For Roy, liberty was not a means but a personal end. Therein lay his strength, and his weakness. For me, liberty is the ultimate political end (as Acton urged it ought to be), but it is not the paramount personal end. I feel certain that one of the reasons why Roy valued my friendship was that I did not question his right to his lifestyle, even at the cost of his health. The fact that I was a psychiatrist must have made this deeply felt attitude the more significant for him.

Measured by our present health-intoxicated criteria, Roy was too young to die. But Roy did not belong to this age. He belonged to an age that never was and probably never will be. In the current culture of the politics of health care he was an alien--indeed, a saboteur.

Occasionally, Roy broached the problem of his weight. He never volunteered much information, however, and I did not encourage him to reveal any intimacies. I respected his privacy. His great weight imposed obvious limitations on his personal relations and social activities. Yet anyone who knew Roy must have been struck by how intensely alive he was. He must have struggled, like all creative persons struggle, with reconciling the conflict between the need for intimacy and solitude, the need to be engaged and disengaged. Roy could enter the mind of another more quickly and more deeply than most people. Perhaps he had to guard himself against others doing the same to him--as if others had that gift, or curse.

Roy was not like us. He valued neither health nor wealth. Roy loved liberty like a lover loves his beloved. The lover finds happiness in loving rather than in being loved. Roy found happiness in loving liberty. It was not possible to love liberty, to know Roy, and to not love him.