Alan Bock, RIP (1943-2011)

Venerable libertarian journalist Alan W. Bock, who served as a columnist and senior editorial writer for the excellent Orange County Register for three decades, passed away yesterday from cancer shortly after beginning hospice care. He was 67. In March, he retired from the paper and filed this final column. Even when told by doctors that time was quickly running out, Bock remained optimistic about the future of liberty and society, closing his final column with:

We knew in the early 1990s that California’s electricity re-regulation wouldn’t work and said so. We have consistently pointed out the dangers to liberty and the country’s fiscal situation of wars and rampant interventionism into other countries. We have been relentless in pointing out that the prohibitionist War on (some) Drugs has had far more negative than positive effects, and in fact has made almost every problem associated with illicit drug use worse rather than better.

I remain convinced that the cause of individual liberty is the most noble and constructive political cause around. Albert J. Nock noted that there are two ways for people to relate: through honest exchange and mutual agreement or by one party imposing its will on the other through force, the threat of force, or fraud. He called these the economic means and the political means.

There are plenty of things more important than politics: your family and friends and treating them right, the search for spiritual meaning in an often confusing and ambiguous world, art, music, science, simple enjoyment of the good things in life, struggling to make good choices rather than destructive ones, and supporting your children in their intellectual endeavors and at soccer and softball games. All these challenges, however, can be handled better – not necessarily easily, but better – in an atmosphere of personal liberty and freedom to make one’s own choices than in a repressive regime that makes choices for you and forces them on you.

Thomas Jefferson put it strikingly when he said that the majority of mankind was not born with saddles and bridles so as to be ridden by their natural masters. He also said that the natural order of things is for government to advance and liberty to recede.

There are reasons to wonder about his pessimism, however, with the recent turmoil in the Middle East providing the latest example. Most revolutions (ours was a rare exception) replace on old regime with one just as bad or worse. But the restiveness of the ruled, the death of communism, and other events show that the desire for liberty is also a constant – that most people sense that they can make decisions about their own lives better than a bureaucrat in a faraway capital and that it is their natural right to do so.

Liberty is forever under siege and forever on the advance. I remain optimistic about the long haul.

Thanks for bearing with me all these years.

A former Washington correspondent for Reason magazine in the ’70s, and author of the classic Ambush at Ruby Ridge and 2000’s Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana, Bock’s incisive analysis and top-notch writing on nearly every topic imaginable was well known among both libertarians and not-so-libertarians alike — and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Former CEI Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow Jim Bovard writes about Bock’s legacy at, where Bock had also been a regular columnist.