Simon and Schuster 1967 New York
The final category of right-wing groups is the educational-intellectual one, those groups who promote new ideas, remake old ones and reflect the views that are current on the right. There are seven organizations that deserve some comment. Two are educational institutions: Freedom School and Rampart College, and Harding College and the National Education Program. Three are “idea” organizations: the Foundation for Economic Education, the American Economic Foundation, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. And two are publications: Human Events and National Review.
Freedom School and Rampart College are two small, private, unaccredited institutions located on the same campus—a 526-acre area outside the town of Larkspur, Colorado, a few miles north of Colorado Springs. The rustic-looking campus sits in a lovely valley of fir trees along the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains.
The Freedom School was founded in 1956 “to conduct a school for students sixteen years old and over to teach primarily the libertarian philosophy of individualism.” The courses run for a two-week period and cost from $60 (“workshops for advanced students”) to $350 (for a course in “Explorations in Human Actions,” limited to executives). Faculty members are drawn from other organizations and institutions. They include Frank Chodorov, a former editor of The Freeman and a founder of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists; Rose Wilder Lane, a benefactress of the school (one of the buildings is named for her) and
a former editor of Merwin K. Hart’s National Economic Council Review of Books; Leonard Read, president and founder of the Foundation for Economic Education; newspaper owner R. C. Hoiles; and a clutch of economists from such institutions as the University of Wisconsin, Ohio Northern, Queens College (Flushing, New York), University of Michigan and Utah State Agricultural College.
In 1963, “The Phrontistery” (Greek for “a place for thinking”) was added to the school’s facilities, complete with dean and visiting lecturers. Two of the better known of the latter in the past have been Milton Friedman, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, and Ludwig Von Mises, a visiting Professor of Economics at New York University and a consultant to FEE. The Phrontistery runs for only six months during the winter and is described as “an intensive workshop.”
According to its literature, Freedom School’s courses “seek to find the truth of man’s nature which can enhance man’s wellbeing.” The two weeks of instruction are broken down into six sections of study: “The Nature of Man,” “Acting Man,” “The Nature of the Market,” “The Human Record,” “The Nature of Government” and “The Nature of a Free Man.” The approach to these subjects will be discussed later in the chapter.
The other institution, Rampart College, was founded in 1963 and is a four-year unaccredited school specializing “on the findings already available . . . through [the] Freedom School operation.” At the moment, Freedom School facilities are being used until the construction of the college’s graduate school is completed. When finished, the Rampart College complex, overlapping somewhat with the Freedom School plant, will have cost some five million dollars to build and endow. The purpose of the college is to educate students “in the art of thinking, rather than memorizing. Their conclusions will be reached through logical reasoning and not through the parroting of opinions expressed by others.”
Although unaccredited, courses at Rampart—primarily history, business administration, economics and “praxeology” (the study of human actions)—can lead to the awarding of a degree. Exactly what kind is not specified but college officials talk in terms of “master’s degrees” and “PhD’s.”
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Together, Freedom School and Rampart College house a library of 11,000 books which they hope to enlarge to 100,000 when the Rampart expansion is completed. The current cornerstone of the library is the works of Mill, Locke and Spencer, and the complete works of the Foundation for Economic Education.
Both schools generate a number of publications. One is called the Newsletter and is used to stimulate and maintain interest in the school among alumni, friends and contributors. Rampart has its own Journal (“of individualist thought”), a well-bound quarterly featuring articles by such writers, past and present, as Lysander Spooner, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and Herbert Spencer. The Pine Tree Press is the name under which the two schools publish or distribute a number of works. There is Anarchy and This Bread Is Mine, both by the schools’ dean, Robert LeFevre; there is The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, by Ludwig Von Mises; Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt; and What Has Government Done to Our Money? by Murray N. Rothbard. The Press has its own tabloid called Pine Tree, which is “for the politically disenchanted.” It cost ten dollars for a year’s subscription, and one of its “regular columnists” is George Boardman from Chloride, Arizona, who is also associated with Kent Courtney’s Conservative Society of America.
In 1962 Freedom School—then still the major operation— reported a total income of $187,000. The bulk of this money comes from private contributors. The largest in that year was the Deering Milliken Foundation, which gave $100,000. In fact, one of the biggest boosters of the school is Roger Milliken, the antiunion textile mill owner from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He serves as a trustee to both of these institutions. Other large contributors in the past have been the Donner Foundation (now called the Independence Foundation), the Winchester Foundation (supported by Pierre F. Goodrich), and the Ingersoll, Grede, Chance and Barber-Colman Foundations.
Many of the students, particularly those taking the executive-centered “Explorations in Human Action” course, come from the industrial companies that provide the funds for the above foundations. Thus Ingersoll Milling Machine, the Barber-Colman Company, Grede Foundries and the A. B. Chance Company all send
their favored employees there. Deering Milliken, however, is the most enthusiastic company. In 1965, for instance, it sent a total of 167 employees to the Freedom School. This represented 58 percent of all the students that attended the school’s courses that year.
The man behind all this activity is Robert LeFevre (he pronounces it “Luh Fave”), the founder and dean of both institutions. His background includes stints as radio disc jockey, sound effects engineer (one Minneapolis news story in 1935 described him as an “expert” who “made one noise or another 91 times during a 15-minute program”), real estate broker, army captain and newspaperman. He was also something of a cultist in his youth (although his own biography does not reflect it), having been an ardent follower of “Daddy” and “Mama” Ballard, leaders of the Great I AM Movement.
A slight digression is necessary here to explain this cult. The Great I AM Movement was founded in the early 1930s by Guy Ballard, an amateur theosophist, and his wife, Edna, an occultist and harpist. Their movement enjoyed some vogue between 1934 and 1940 and claimed several million followers (a doubtful estimate) at its peak. The movement took its name from Exodus 3:13-14 where Moses, in conversation with the voice out of the burning bush, asked: “Who shall I say sent me?” The answer was: “I am that I am.”
If I understand it correctly, the basis for I AM, as it is known for short, stemmed from a vision Guy Ballard had on Mt. Shasta. There, he met “St. Germain,” who gave Ballard a cup full of liquid from the “Universal Supply — Omnipotent Life itself.” This liquid enabled Ballard’s spirit to withdraw from his physical body. Then St. Germain took Ballard in his new state, wrapped in a sheet of flame, and traveled around the world, in one instance to visit Ballard’s past incarnations—as a great musician in southern France and as an ancient Egyptian priest. The most important trip, however, was to Royal Teton Mountain where St. Germain kept the records of the entire world. A stone was touched, the rocks parted, huge bronze doors swung open and there, inside, were large rooms filled with gold and silver. In one room was a large golden disc with seven points to it, through which poured “the
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Great Cosmic Beings,” powerful currents of force received only by either the “Great Illumined” or the “Ascended Masters of Light.” In another room were the records of the world written on gold sheets.
The “Mighty I AM presence” was the Ballards’ way of saying God but was never clearly expressed as such. “Ascendant Masters” were humans who, by their own effort, generated within themselves enough power and love to break away from human limitations. There were many such Masters: St. Germain, Jesus, God of the Swiss Alps, Angel Deva of the Jade Temple, Ray-O-Light, Cassiopeia, Quan Yin and, after his death in 1939, Guy Ballard himself.
The sect condemned xylophones, accordions, cymbals, banjoes and saxophones as carrying “certain destructive vibratory action.” It also condemned bowling, fashion shows, going bare-legged (except in a tennis game), shirt-tails hanging out and anklets for girls under fifteen. It praised the harp, skating and swimming (except going in and out of the water, because the temperature change would “open the door to sex”). Politically, the movement was extremely conservative. Many I AM adherents were also members of William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Shirts.
A certain number of I AM members were known as the “one hundred percenters.” They swore to follow no other teachings and to abstain from all meat, onions, garlic, tobacco, liquor, narcotics, card playing and sexual intercourse.
Human life is maintained, they believed, as long as the “Silver Cord of Liquid White Light” is anchored in the heart. This Light comes from the Mighty I AM presence and enters through the top of an individual’s head. The sect also believed in reincarnation. Guy Ballard believed he was the reincarnation of George Washington. His other reincarnations, he said, went back 70,000 years. His wife, Edna, was convinced she was the reincarnation of Joan of Arc and their only son, Donald, the reincarnation of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Part of the sect’s ritual included “decrees” or “calls” whereby the power of the Mighty I AM presence was invoked to destroy the cult’s enemies. One decree, directed at President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, went: “Blast, blast, blast their carcasses
from the face of the earth forever!” A more general one went as follows: “Send Legions of Thy Angel Devas of the Blue Lightning of Divine Love to seize, bind and remove from within and around me and my world all entities . . . forever! If they be of human creation, annihilate them! . . .” Ballard claims to have destroyed 400,000 such individuals in Philadelphia, 332,000 in New York City and one million in the rest of the United States within a single 23-hour period by just such invocations.1
I AM cultists also believed that whenever someone was reincarnated he always came back as someone worse than the previous person he was. Thus they thought that they were doing their enemies a favor by calling for their damnation before they got any worse.
In any event, LeFevre was a follower of the Ballards from 1936 to 1940 or so. He and one Pearl Diehl wrote a 199-page book in 1940 of their experiences in the cult called “I AM”—America’s Destiny (Twin City House, St. Paul, Minnesota). LeFevre related how one day, when he was filing records in a radio studio, he was struck by the Great I AM presence, who spoke to him personally. LeFevre also relates a number of supernatural experiences: driving a car while asleep for over twenty miles without an accident (this was accomplished with the help of his “Higher Mental Body”), leaving his physical body for a trip through the air to Mt. Shasta, and seeing Jesus.
In 1940, Edna Ballard and her son Donald were indicted by a grand jury in Los Angeles for using the mails to defraud. Twenty-four other I AM leaders were also named in the first indictment; a supplemental indictment named LeFevre and Diehl as additional defendants. But charges against these two and a dozen others were soon dismissed at the request of the government.
The legal battles of the two Ballards is a long and complicated story involving a trial, a dismissal, a retrial, a conviction and a Supreme Court reversal. Edna Ballard, through all this, maintained the leadership of the cult, although membership had fallen off drastically. Later she was to publish a newssheet called I AM Ascended Masters Youth in Action, published by “Miracles, Inc.” of Denver.
During World War II LeFevre served in the Army and was
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honorably discharged in 1945 as a captain. Soon thereafter, he went with his wife on a cross-country lecture tour “in a pilgrimage for world peace.” Their tour was financed by the Falcon Lair Foundation, a nonprofit group interested in religion, philosophy and government whose headquarters were “Falcon Lair,” Beverly Hills, California, formerly the home of screen idol Rudolph Valentino. (One of the buildings at the Freedom School is named Falcon Lair. )
In 1950 LeFevre ran unsuccessfully for Congress in a Republican primary and then went to work for an anti-union organization called the Wage Earners Committee. A year or so later the committee was sued by two movie producers, Stanley Kramer and Dore Schary, for picketing and allegedly libeling their films as being pro-Communist. LeFevre and Ruth Dazey (now the editor of Rampart Journal) were among the defendants, but the case died out as the Wage Earners Committee disintegrated.
A few years later LeFevre went to work for the right wing in a big way. He became a vice-president of Merwin K. Hart’s National Economic Council, a director of the Congress of Freedom, a director of the U.S. (sometimes United States) Day Committee— whose purpose it was to diminish in importance the observation of October 23 as United Nations Day—and an adviser to Harry Everingham’s We, The People! The U.S. Day Committee made headlines in 1954, at the same time as Edgar Bundy, when LeFevre led an attack on the Girl Scout Handbook as having too many references to the U.N. The Scouts retreated, reporting that more than forty changes had been made—about half of which were due to LeFevre’s criticism.
That same year LeFevre moved to Colorado Springs and began to write editorials for R. C. Hoiles’ Gazette-Telegraph. He still writes for the newspaper today, claiming that his total output so far has been three thousand articles “all [written] in a patriotic, libertarian vein.” Two years later he founded the Freedom School, where he has been ever since.
What drives LeFevre personally and the Freedom School ideologically—indeed, forms the bedrock upon which all courses are based—is a complicated philosophy that, in essence, rejects all government today as a barbaric tool of coercion. Government,
although it may have had its uses at some point in the past, is seen as an anachronism in today’s complicated world. LeFevre claims in his book, The Nature of Man And His Government (Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1963), that government is just another tool of man’s devising, no better nor worse than the men who created it, and is calculated to make men stronger and better able to protect themselves. Strength, he writes, is found in compulsive unity. Therefore, “government, inherently, places individualism at a low point on any scale of values. Individuals are the enemy of government. Government is inescapably concerned with unity. Individuals are the necessary victims.”
To maintain this unity, he writes, governments are required to use force; thus individuals, he reasons, are again the losers. When conformity is at a premium, then individuality goes for a discount. He describes it as follows:
A peaceful and law-abiding citizen, for example, may have perfectly sound and moral reasons why he does not wish to share his money with the government or the politicians of Yugoslavia. His conviction can be logically derived, morally certain and sincerely maintained. In holding to his conviction, the individual is harming no one. His belief is not inimical to the welfare of other people. Actions which might spring from his belief are not aggressive. In other words, physically, mentally and morally, such a citizen can be above reproach.Every citizen therefore, somehow, somewhere, is the victim of the aggressive tactics of government. “There is almost no activity in which human beings engage,” he writes, “which is free of legality. Think what you will, do what you will, there is a law somewhere which either compels, limits or prohibits.... Thus the average person today, buttressed in by the government, surrounded and overshadowed by government, finds himself a lawbreaker several times during an average day.”
Yet, when the government adopts a policy which prescribes the sharing of his earnings with a foreign government, the man who objects to this can be treated in precisely the same manner as a bank robber could be treated and for the same reason. The government cannot brook a deviationist.2
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But this, maintains LeFevre, is entirely in keeping with the function of government. Its job is to pass laws, not repeal them. He views government as a body selling compulsion that the people must buy in advance but who are never in a position to refuse to buy. Unlike the free marketplace, he adds, where man can enter or avoid depending on his own inclination, man has no choice but to join into an involuntary association with government.
Government’s classic job, he continues, is to make war on government’s enemies, whether it be the individual, the clan, the tribe, the community, the society or the foreign body. With the exception of the last-mentioned, each of these smaller entities can rob, pillage, riot and destroy but, he says, only government can conduct a war. The only true function of government, he adds, is to protect the peaceful from the belligerent; unfortunately, he says, the rules are extended and expanded to such extremes that the state itself soon becomes man’s mortal foe.
Unlike other tools that man devises, government is not controllable by its creators. It becomes, he says, “a ravening monster” that knows no restraint. Therefore, the problem is, first, how do you control the tool you devised? Second, since the essence of any progress is the refining and improvement of the tools used, how can government be changed to be brought up to date?
Here LeFevre falters, for he has no answers. “We are trying to explore areas in which the nonpolitical structure can be used,” he told me. He claims he is not recommending the abandonment of government for those who want it. But he does feel that not everyone should have to submit to it or receive its benefits. “Just imagine a situation,” he said, “where there was no government. Just think how human relationships would change if everyone had to solve their own problems without relying on an instrument of coercion.” He claims his ultimate goal is to see returned to man the qualities of character and responsibility and the recognition that he supports himself—qualities taken away, he says, by government.
LeFevre, who is a large, gregarious and pleasant man with white curly hair, denied to me that his ideas amounted to anarchy, as so many of his critics have suggested. “First of all,” he said, “we [at the school] are a-political. We are Stoics and prefer the word
Ôautarchy,’ “ which he explained meant self-rule or self-sufficiency. LeFevre’s argument is based on the thesis that man is absolutely dependent on property. “This is not only true of humans,” he said, “but of all animals as well.” He pointed out that lion trainers, for instance, have sensed this for years; they realize that there is a certain point past which they cannot cross or the lion will attack. “Our ability to survive,” continued LeFevre, “is predicated on our ability to dominate a portion of our environment. What does me good is the food I eat, not what you eat. Whatever the government takes that is rightfully mine, then it is a criminal.” All morality, he went on, is predicated on private property: five of the Ten Commandments tell you, he notes, not to take another’s property. The Latin word proper, he said, implies moral and proprietary conduct, in other words, proper conduct is conduct decided by the owner. The characteristics of property are that it has a value, a boundary and is subject to the control of the owner. “Every immoral act in the world,” he said, “is a trespass of a property boundary. Property has no rights, but all human rights are rights to property.”
LeFevre is a persuasive speaker. He fortifies his position by saying that his views are not airtight but need to be worked on by everyone. He only asks that his students snap out of the intellectual slough in which they have been living and begin to rethink things out for themselves.
His arguments are so cogently put that, at the end of a two-week session at the Freedom School, the students come reeling out of the classrooms, their self-confidence shaken and their previous notions thrown into a state of confusion. Robert Welch, for one, is furious at what LeFevre is doing because, he says, it is neutralizing many people who might otherwise be good fighters in the anti-Communist cause. Welch maintains that the students of LeFevre’s philosophy come away believing that the whole system is so corrupt that there is no point in, for instance, voting (something, incidentally, that LeFevre proudly claims he does not do) or fighting Communists, since in their own minds the whole order must be overturned.3
LeFevre dismisses this criticism with a smile and a wave of the hand. He believes that his views are nearly to the point of
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becoming a vogue — soon to sweep the academic and political worlds like a prairie fire.
1. Braden, Charles S. These Also Believe (Macmillan, New York, 1949), pp. 257-307.
2. LeFevre, Robert. The Nature of Man and His Government (Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1963), p. 27.
3. Welch, Robert, “The Neutralizers” (John Birch Society pamphlet, 1963), pp. 42-45.