Column on Good Bye OC Register

Good Bye OC Register

Tibor R. Machan

Since the Fall of 1966 (if memory serves me right) I have been a columnist at what was then The Santa Ana but is now the Orange County Register. I cannot count how many columns I produced, nearly all of them concerned with demonstrating the superiority of the free society as understood in libertarianism. (Two books I edited contain some of the columns, Liberty and Culture, Essays on the Idea of a Free Society [Prometheus Books, 1983] and Neither Left nor Right, Selected Columns [Hoover Institution Press, 2004].)

None of the columns I wrote for the paper has ever been rejected or significantly altered by the editors. I am quite amazed by this but couldn’t complain, that’s for certain. It has been an amazing run and I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to be a part of the company’s efforts to promote individual liberty. Unfortunately, however, the current management has decided that they no longer wish to publish my columns. Given that Freedom Communications, Inc., that owns The Register and a slew of other papers around the country, has been abandoning it’s libertarian bearings over the last couple of years–the Hoiles family lost all control over the company–this is no great surprise.

I would have welcomed knowing exactly what brought about the decision but as someone who holds firmly that those who hire one are fully within their rights to let you go (unless some contract specifies otherwise, which in my case doesn’t apply)–just as are you to leave them–I have no complaints apart from finding it uncool to provide no reason after having been with the company for such a long time and having never been told of any dissatisfaction with my work by anyone there. But it’s a free country–up to a point–and people in any line of work, including journalism, are or should be at liberty to peacefully misbehave. I would be first in line to defend their right to do so even when I regard what they do objectionable. (And whoever welcomes being fired, especially summarily, never mind that by this time they paid me only a nominal fee for my work?)

The only reason this is worth a bit of public discussion is that The Register and other Freedom Communications, Inc., newspapers have been a rare libertarian voice in an admittedly shrinking newspaper-land. Indeed, Freedom Newspapers has been a rarity, founded by R. C. Hoiles back in the 1920s, consistently and unrelentingly championing individual liberty.

In 1997 I was hired with the title “Advisor on Libertarian Issues” to work for the company, over and above the writing of my columns, and this came to an end in 2010 when the company pretty much fell apart as the distinct entity it had been, championing liberty more than any other media outfit had done.

It is not easy to gauge the impact of Freedom’s hundreds of editorials and columns discussing various aspects of the free society but it’s probably fair to say that at least it has given a strong and lively voice to a fully libertarian viewpoint more than any other prominent media organization in the land. It has also made room on its pages to columnists like me, some far more prominent in their fields of specialization, such Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, James Doti, et al.

Just when the company abandoned its consistent editorial stance in favor of liberty some other major media organizations did, fortunately, begin to give voice to the freedom philosophy (as we liked to refer to the R. C Hoiles brand of libertarianism). Fox TV News has welcomed quite a few libertarians, such as Judge Andrew Napolitano and John Stossel, and their slate of libertarian scholars and other guest commentators. The editors of Reason Magazine, which I helped built up in 1970 and which in time has become a formidable libertarian publication, appear on Fox TV regularly; so it seems that there will continue to be voices championing liberty even without Freedom Communications, Inc., committed to doing so as intensely as it had been since its founding.

Anyway, so long and good bye Orange County Register. You have been a sharp and diligent champion of liberty even when that was hardly welcome in the USA, even in conservative (but not quite libertarian) Orange County. I am grateful for having been part of your team for quite a few years.

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