Lew Rockwell has meant so much to libertarian proponents that I have a hard time knowing where to begin. I won’t presume to speak for anyone else, but feel it is important to shine some light on Lew’s importance to me personally. Maybe my experience is similar to yours.
I was introduced to Lew Rockwell’s site six or seven years ago while still a member in good standing at Free Republic (I’ve been since banished for heresy in word and thought against neocon doctrine). In fact, due to the way that Free Republic copies entire articles for comment, I probably read quite a few articles by Lew’s columnists and Lew himself without visiting the source or consciously acknowledging that Lew was the source of my reading pleasure.
But I think this is OK because Lew and his people ended up getting into my psyche and I eventually found my way there regularly. Free Republic, which was once a fairly good spot to find libertarians, classical liberals, and paleo-conservatives, was pretty much purged of all their intellectuals to make way for pseudo-intellectuals — i.e., neocons — during the first Bush campaign in 1999—2000. It’s probably no coincidence that its devolvement mirrored the demise of the Republican party. It was at the turning point of that battle when Lew and his merry band of writers became one of the few places on the Internet I could go to consistently find reason. And such a wide variety of topics!
In 2000 my belief that the Libertarian Party would accomplish what it promised was shaken. I found that many of my friends online, who called themselves libertarian, were backing Bush in the election. I was doing what I could to support Harry Browne. I was able to see Harry speak a couple of times. Once was at an Antiwar.com meeting in Burlingame, involving some speakers also affiliated with the Von Mises Institute. At the time, I had no clue VMI was a Lew Rockwell joint (Doh!).
Harry could give a speech without any notes and make it sound as if he had written and rehearsed it beforehand. He was that good. So I was heartbroken to discover that libertarians were voting Bush out of fear for a Gore presidency. And then the breakdown of the Arizona LP and awful internet attacks on Harry; it was almost too much to bear. 50-state ballot access was sullied over the Arizona fiasco. After so much progress it seemed as if libertarians of the big ell variety were throwing it all down the drain.
But it got worse. September 11th brought the attacks and something I didn’t see coming. So-called libertarians and conservatives were almost begging for everything they had fought against during the Clinton years. The Patriot Act, the wars, the justifications of the Patriot Act (“name anyone who’s rights have been violated!”) and the personal attacks. Libertarians vilifying other libertarians and calling them unpatriotic cowards when popular opinion allowed for such tactics. It was sickening. It was the hardest time to be a libertarian and I was just a bit-part player. I can’t imagine how hard it was for Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Harry Browne, and the superb columnists at LewRockwell.com, who just kept on slogging and producing.
Lew and the other writers who contributed were there for me when I was ready to just give up all hope. They helped to shore up my faith in libertarian ideas. Never wavering, Lew always provided space for liberty proponents to preach it. You never know how much this counts. It has been one of the premier destinations for those who crave liberty (freedom is popular). And now, at a time when it could hurt the most, Lew has decided to go “all in” for liberty and convert LewRockwell.com to an entity which can more ably herald Ron Paul without fear of running afoul of McCain/Feingold and other federal idiocy. This has to be scary, since donations cannot be made to the Center for Libertarian Studies for LewRockwell.com anymore, and therefore they are no longer tax deductible. What sort of impact might that have? My gut tells me that Lew’s fan base consists of people interested in liberty, not people seeking a convenient tax benefit.
But LewRockwell.com isn’t always just politics or philosophy. One of the things I have admired about Lew as a publisher is the diversity of topics he allows. When I visit the site, I often find wonderful gems on the front page to remind me, “Hey Rick, libertarianism is a lifestyle, it’s not just a bunch of people drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and talking about philosophy or politics. Live a little.”
I am normally not a pay-for-web-service kind of guy unless there is a pretty good service being offered. If you haven’t had the, ahem, pleasure of wading through a “freepathon,” I can assure you it is really annoying. But I just donated fifty bucks to LewRockwell.com. As you can probably tell by now, I’m a slow learner. If Lew’s place has meant to you what he’s meant to me, I challenge you to drop some change in his direction.