Category Archives: Biography

W. Earl Allen Died Doing What He Loved

earl-allen-1W. Earl Allen, long a libertarian activist in Colorado, died August 9 in a plane crash. The Denver Post reports, “A Broomfield flight instructor and his student died Saturday when the small plane they were flying crashed near Steamboat Springs. Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg identified the two as William Earl Allen, 62, and a flying student, Terry Lynn Stewart, 60, of Houston.” This is devastating news to the many people who knew and loved Earl.

Of those aspects of his life with which I was familiar, three of Earl’s loves stand out: His love of liberty, his love of flying, and his love of public speaking. I knew him from his political activism. In answering a survey a couple years ago, Earl said he read Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose when he was a college teacher, and he owns “three copies of Atlas Shrugged, one of which is falling apart at the seams due to overuse.”

Earl promoted a free-market in health care while at a 2010 rally (see the 2:55 mark in the video). In 2009, he joined me and other activists to protest legal restrictions on beer sales. Following is a photograph from that event; Earl is at left, with Amanda Muell, Justin Longo, Dave Williams, and me.
earl-allen-beer

Regarding his flying, Earl was featured in a 2011 student video about his career as a flight instructor.

Earl’s death is a great loss to his family, his friends, and his fellow advocates of liberty.

August 13 Update: I just received an email from Earl’s wife with the following notice: “William Earl (Earl) Allen was born on March 18, 1952 in Provo, Utah and passed away on August 9, 2014 in Routt County, CO at the age of 62. He is survived by his wife Maralyn Mencarini; his mother Donna Sharp (Norman); siblings Edward (Madalyn), Eric (Ying), Esther (Nathaniel), and Evan (Rachel); eight nieces and nephews; and six great-nieces and nephews. . . . As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made at https://secure.eaa.org/development/index.html to the EAA Young Eagles Program.”

See My Grandfather Spray DDT without Protective Gear

My grandfather Theo Eversol was a peach farmer in Palisade, Colorado. When I saw him spray his orchards in the 1970s and 1980s with pesticides, he wore protective gear. But back in the 1950s he didn’t wear protective gear, at least judging from a ca. 1953 film about the Palisade peach industry that’s archived online by the Palisade Sunrise Rotary. The film shows my grandfather spraying DDT out of a hose on the back of a tractor, wearing nothing but regular clothing. The images shown are captured from that film.

Today no one doubts that spraying DDT without protective gear is not a great idea health-wise. But, given mosquitos are the world’s most deadly creature, killing some 725,000 people each year, I can’t help but think that widespread bans of DDT (previously used to kill mosquitos, among other things) has killed untold millions of human beings over the years.

The peach film is remarkable for many other reasons besides its depiction of pesticide control. A lot of things have changed since then, but in many ways the industry is similar to the way it was back then.

A Final Conversation with Ken Gordon

Ken Gordon was always baffling to me—how could such an intelligent man be wrong about practically everything? Gordon was one of my favorite Democrats despite our frequent disagreements, and I was saddened to learn that he passed away suddenly Sunday.

If memory serves, I first met Gordon in the political aftermath of the horrific Columbine High School murders, when he wanted more restrictive gun laws and I defended people’s right to keep and bear arms. Among other things, Gordon wanted additional liability for gun owners; I argued the laws he proposed would be used to persecute gun owners and that existing laws adequately addressed such matters as child endangerment.

More recently, Gordon and I tangled over the campaign finance laws; you can view a first and second debate between us.

Just a couple weeks ago Gordon and I exchanged emails on the subject. Sadly, that is the final conversation we will share. I thought I’d reproduce it here in his honor.

On December 10, Gordon sent out an email to a list to the effect that people don’t like big money in politics. I thought I’d get in a quick dig by pointing out that, in the recent recall elections in which two Colorado Democrats lost their seats in the state senate, the politicians lost despite huge spending advantages. I wrote, “Yes, isn’t it just wonderful that Morse, Giron, and Am. 66 lost despite radical spending advantages?”

He responded:

You are cherry picking examples to suit your position. In the vast majority of cases the most well funded candidate wins, and you know this. Are you in favor of unlimited contributions and expenditures in campaigns? If so you are in favor of a Congress similar to the current one which cares more about the capital gains rate than it does about hunger, because that is what the funders care about.

A libertarian philosophy leads to vast concentrations of wealth and political power in the hands of the few and the destruction of the concept of political equality.

Ken

I wrote back:

“You are cherry picking examples to suit your position.”

I wasn’t making an argument here; I was merely responding positively to your point that many people do not respond to high-dollar campaigns.

“In the vast majority of cases the most well funded candidate wins, and you know this.”

In most cases, a candidate is well funded because the candidate has a lot of popular support. To a substantial degree you’re reversing cause and effect.

“Are you in favor of unlimited contributions and expenditures in campaigns?”

Yes. If contributions are limited, then who is doing the limiting? The answer is government. When government forcibly prevents people from spending their own resources on speech, then that’s censorship, and I oppose censorship.

“If so you are in favor of a Congress similar to the current one which cares more about the capital gains rate than it does about hunger, because that is what the funders care about.”

That’s a non-sequitur. (As a matter of fact, I think Congress should be involved with capital gains at the same level that it is involved with hunger, which is to say not involved at all.)

“A libertarian philosophy leads to vast concentrations of wealth and political power in the hands of the few and the destruction of the concept of political equality.”

a) I’m not a libertarian. b) My political philosophy calls for minimal political power, such that it can be concentrated neither in the hands “of the few” nor in the hands “of the many.” c) I advocate equal legal protection of individual rights, not coercively achieved “equality” of outcomes.

Thanks, -Ari

He replied:

Well I think we agree on some of this.  I don’t want coercively achieved equality of outcomes. I want equal opportunity, including the opportunity to fail.  To me this seems to be an argument for a good public education system.  How do you feel about this?

Ken

I thought we’d already had a pretty ambitious email exchange for one day, and I didn’t want to get into a deeper discussion about “public” education, so I let the matter go.

I was always pleased when I helped beat Ken in his political battles and always sorry when he beat me. But I was honored to trade barbs with him, and I’ll miss the opportunity to do so again.

Liberty Is the Greatest Inheritance

The following article originally was published June 8 by Grand Junction Free Press.

When I was a small child I always thought my grandpa was nuts for saying the older you get the faster time goes. But it’s true. My dad Linn [shown in the photo] and I started writing this twice-monthly column for the Free Press back in July of 2005. For seven yearns we’ve written about free markets, free speech, political races, taxes, gun rights, and a host of other topics. Our main goal has been to advocate individual rights and political liberty.

The time has gone fast. Now it’s time for us to move on to other projects. Now that my dad is in semi-retirement, he’s busier than ever; among other things, he teaches classes on workplace safety and emergency response to violence. I’ve started writing more for The Objective Standard, where you can read my blog posts and occasional article for the print journal.

I wanted to take this opportunity to say farewell to our Free Press readers. But we’re not going anywhere geographically; we’ll continue to advocate the ideas we believe in (though some of our critics might wish we’d simply shut up). See my web page at AriArmstrong.com for ways to stay in touch. Perhaps you’ll see my dad around town.

My dad and I considered writing a farewell column together but decided against it. However, with father’s day coming up, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write a solo column about my dad. I mulled it over, and it strikes me that my dad taught me five main things in my life.

First, my dad gave me an appreciation of history. He has always been something of an amateur historian; for example, he’s done a fair amount of research about the old stagecoach trail near Mt. Garfield. Though it took me a while to pick up this interest in history—for years I didn’t see much point in studying the past—finally I caught on to its importance.

Even my name carries historical significance. “Ari,” a common Jewish name, in my case comes from Leon Uris’s book Exodus, a novelization of the founding of the modern state of Israel. Of course I read this novel, along with another historical novel of Uris’s, Mila 18, which pays tribute to the resistance fighters in Poland who struggled against Nazi oppression.

So my dad taught me that we can’t really understand ourselves unless we understand those who came before us.

Second, my dad always encouraged my healthy respect for the U.S. military. My dad served in Vietnam (and you can find video interviews about this if you Google “Linn Armstrong Vietnam”). [See also my dad’s article about July 4 in Vietnam.] My dad was not my only influence in this regard; both of my biological grandfathers served in World War II, so I consider myself lucky even to have been born, with all the warfare in my family’s past. (A great-grandfather of mine also served in WWI.) I did not have to fight in any wars, but through my elders’ stories I am aware of the dangers and heartaches of war.

This respect for the military was important for me ideologically because it helped me resist the worst impulses of libertarianism, which at its worst becomes indistinguishable from the “blame America first” left, so far as foreign policy goes. Now I reject both the “nation building” of the neoconservatives and the strict noninterventionism of the libertarians, advocating instead a robust military defense of American lives and liberties.

Third, my dad gave me an appreciation for philosophy. When I was a kid he read Ayn Rand’s Anthem to me, and the story of individualism stayed with me and influenced my development. My dad also handed me Atlas Shrugged when I was in high school. I continue to take an interest in Rand’s philosophy (as well as in other schools of thought), and as I matured so did my understanding of those ideas.

Fourth, my dad also helped me develop an interest in economics. In addition to giving me Atlas Shrugged (which itself contains some interesting insights into economics), my dad handed me Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. Though I have since come to disagree with some of Friedman’s positions, he introduced me to the basics of economic reasoning.

Fifth, my dad helped give me a lasting appreciation for liberty. Not only did he give me various pro-liberty books that strongly influenced me, he led by example by staying active in politics and helping to build up a great gun training program.

My father shared with me the ideas of liberty, as many fathers before him shared them. That is the reason why America’s founding principles remain a living force in our culture, whatever insults and setbacks those ideas have endured. Other fathers could learn something important from my father: the greatest inheritance you can bestow to your children is the living tradition of liberty.

Ari Armstrong writes for The Objective Standard as well as for his web page at AriArmstrong.com. For seven years he coauthored a column for Grand Junction Free Press with his father Linn.

Search for Missing Friends Brought Out Heroes

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published February 17 by Grand Junction Free Press.

The Widegren family, with nine children and eight grandchildren ranging in age from a few months to over 40 years, has long been a pillar of the Palisade community, with connections spanning much of the west and beyond. That’s one reason why, when Mark Widegren and his friend and coworker Brian Axe went missing near Price, Utah, dozens of people responded to the emergency, driving and flying in from around the country to meet in Price to help with the search. Family and friends of both men played key roles in the search.

When the young men’s vehicle finally was found on February 5, the news was tragic: their vehicle had crashed down a steep cliff a week previously on Saturday night, and the sheriff’s department deemed the crash “unsurvivable.” Mark and Brian were driving through the treacherous Cottonwood Canyon, off of Nine Mile Canyon, northeast of Price on their way to their base camp. They worked for an energy company there.

The one silver lining to the horrible tragedy was seeing dozens of the men’s family, friends, and coworkers heroically join the search. Todd Widegren, Mark’s oldest brother, told reporters, “These guys were friends and family of a huge, huge number of people. And everybody that is here is here for the love of those guys.”

Because Ari went to school with several of the Widegrens and has long known the family, he too traveled to Price to witness the search (and perhaps in some small way to help with it). In retrospect, the efforts of the searchers pay tribute to the memory of the lost friends. We won’t mention their names here because we don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable, but we wanted to describe their valiant efforts to the broader community.

Volunteer ground searchers first discovered the secluded vehicle and hiked to it, giving the family and friends at least the comfort of learning what happened. Obviously the hope had been to find the men alive and assist them. Finally we learned that had been impossible, but the fact that, at the time, we thought they might still be alive made it crucially important to find them as quickly as possible. As terrible as the news turned out to be, at least the news allowed the recovery effort to proceed, and it gave the family and searchers a bit of peace from the constant anxiety and stress of not knowing.

Two young men from Grand Junction first spotted the vehicle by scrambling down a steep, snowy decline and then peering down the face of the cliff. The vehicle had been difficult to see from the air because it was crumpled and it blended into the surrounding rocks. After those men called in the news, another group, consisting of two family friends from Denver and two family members, drove and hiked to the vehicle, again through heavy snow, to check for survivors and help guide the recovery effort.

For several days, other search teams had covered the area extensively by ground and by air. One group of friends and family searched throughout the night with spotlights.

At the Holiday Inn hotel in Price, which was very accommodating to the search parties, others organized the search, verified that everyone returned safely from searching, organized written reports from the searchers, reported to friends elsewhere and to the media, and worked with the local authorities.

Local law enforcement agents helped track down credit card receipts, cell phone data, and security camera footage that helped narrow down the search area. Carbon County Deputy Sheriff Wally Hendricks helped organize the search and bring updates to the family.

Of course the search took money and resources, and many people responded with donations of food or money. One local “cage” fighter even donated his fight purse to the recovery effort and raised additional funds from sponsors.

Plenty of others also helped out. The Abby and Jennifer Recovery Foundation sent representatives from Grand Junction to Price to help. Several Price locals also joined the search with their ATVs and other vehicles. The owner of a small air company paid for the hotel rooms of the searchers. Pizza Hut delivered an order of free pizzas to those involved. (No doubt we’ve inadvertently left some people out.)

When the emergency hit, many people from the Western Slope, Utah, and beyond answered the call. Their efforts are an inspiration and a credit to our communities.

We only wish the final outcome had been the one we had hoped for. Mark and Brian will be deeply missed.

Related:

Colorado’s Madness and Magic

The one irritating thing about my ’87 Samurai is that it doesn’t ding me when I leave the lights on. So, of course, this morning, with the other vehicle in the shop, the Samurai was dead. So my wife had to catch another ride to work. It was sunny, back then, and spring.

Now it is winter. I got the battery charged up earlier today. Then the rain started in pretty hard. I ran a couple of errands. Then the rain turned to snow. Then, surprisingly quickly, the snow started sticking to the road.

But my wife was at work, so I had to lock my hubs (yes, I have to lock my hubs by hand) and call the Samurai into snow duty. It took me over an hour to drive the twelve miles to my wife’s work. I foolishly took the back roads, thinking they would be quicker. But those roads are hilly, and only two lanes. On the hills numerous cars were skidding out. I swore under my breath when some dude ahead of me stopped, going uphill. But the Samurai had no problem getting going again. It’s the first time I’ve driven it in four-wheel low. (In that gear I get up to about 25 miles per hour with the other shifter in fourth.) I estimate I saw about twenty vehicles on the way that had either slid off the road or skidded out in the middle of the road. I had to periodically unroll my window and knock snow off the windshield with my gloved hand.

The timing worked out fine, because my wife was working late, in anticipation of not making it in tomorrow.

I had experienced the Colorado madness; then came the Colorado magic. As noted in my “Disclosures Unjustly Compelled by the FTC,” my wife works above Nissis, and her shop is owned by a co-owner of Nissis. Because of the snow, the usually-sold-out Face show had a few seats available, so we had the opportunity to stay for the show. When I had time to settle down I noticed how tense the drive up had made me feel.

And, as usual, Face was awesome. They sang two songs I hadn’t heard them perform before: U2’s “Pride” and Aerosmith’s “Living On the Edge.” Great show.

For the drive back we took 287, which is four lanes and better plowed. And there was much less traffic. We passed one pretty bad accident involving a truck that had obviously (given the damage) been going too fast for conditions. The trip took just over half of an hour. It took us longer to shovel the drive way once we got home. We estimate we got around eight inches of wet, heavy snow (and that was on top of the earlier rain).

Welcome to Colorado.

Car Crash

On Tuesday night, my wife and I were involved in a car crash. The other driver ran a red light. While my wife was taken by ambulance to a hospital — St. Joseph’s, which admitted and released her amazingly quickly — the move was more precautionary because she hit her head against the side window. We’re both sore. We went in for massages on Wednesday, and our backs were full of knots. I’m also going to see a chiropractor. We can be thankful that the crash wasn’t worse than it was. Because I was able to swerve a bit, the collision took place at an angle less than 90 degrees. Most of the energy of the crash went into car damage and tire friction; we were spun around about 180 degrees.

I’m grateful that the other driver and three witnesses provided accurate information to the police and to the insurance companies. So if you’re a primary witness to a crash, please stop, not only to help if needed, but to affirm the basic facts of the case. I’m very thankful for the time of the three witnesses.

I’m also grateful that my insurance, American National, and the other driver’s insurance, State Farm, have so far been very good about things. (I have yet to go through the claims process with State Farm, but I’m hopeful that it will go smoothly.) I’ve been impressed by the rapid responses and consideration shown by agents of both companies.

This is another reminder for us (and maybe for you, too) to keep our priorities straight.

Cat Care Society

This afternoon I was out for a walk, and I saw a cat in a field of open space. I had seen the cat several times before, and, suspecting that it is a stray, I had brought some cat food in a bag. The cat voraciously consumed the food, then whined for more, confirming my suspicions that it’s a stray. It’s also quite slender. It’s not really that much effort to get your cats fixed or take them to a shelter, so it annoys me when people abandon cats, in most cases leaving them to die of starvation, exposure, or predators.

I went home and called the Cat Care Society, the wonderful shelter where we adopted our cat. Unfortunately, that shelter is full. So, if you’ve ever thought about getting a cat, now is the time! You’ll have a fun time seeing all of the cats, and you’ll be able to pick from a large selection.

Fortunately, the Boulder Humane Society said that it’s willing to accept a cat. If the cat is behaviorally fit for adoption (i.e., not feral), as I think it is, and free from serious illness, it will be put up for adoption.

If I can find the cat! I went back with my cat box, and instead of a cat I found a fox prowling the area. I don’t know if the fox was after the cat or the cat food (which was gone). So I hope the cat doesn’t get eaten before I manage to get it to the shelter.