by Joe Johnson
[The following article appeared in the June 2002 edition of Colorado Liberty. It is reprinted here with permission of the author, with a few minor alterations.]
I've been writing the "Activists' Corner" column for some time now, and usually my candidates for discussion appear to me so obvious and glaring an example of Libertarian activism, that I just sit down and write. But it is with some embarrassment that I write about this month's activist. I say embarrassment because this person has been 'in the trenches' so long, and has done so much in the fight for liberty in this great state (and indeed across the nation), that it is shameful that it took me so long to write this article. Indeed, this person has become such a part of the libertarian landscape here in Colorado that I stopped noticing. Well, just as with the spectral views of this great state, I'm going to try to pay more attention, and like those snow capped mountains, Colorado wouldn't be the same were this person gone.
I doubt that there is one of you who has not dealt with this person one-on-one during your time with the freedom movement. The effects can be felt in almost every aspect of the modern LPCO. Indeed, this activist played a major role in bringing the LPCO into the 'modern' age of political awareness. It was while in attendance at the LP of Colorado state convention, that it hit me like a ton of bricks, that if we [the LPCO] lost this activist, we would be seriously hobbled.
From arranging interviews with big names in the freedom movement, to editing our state party's newsletter, to maintaining the party's web page, to running the Colorado Freedom Report, to attending demonstrations and rallies, to helping to recruit candidates, to attending the state legislative sessions on behalf of all of us (and yes the list goes on - AND ON - from here), Ari Armstrong is one of the solid rocks of this party. In fact, I can't picture the LPCO without him. Anyone who attended this year's convention could see his handiwork. Together with Carol Hill, and his tireless wife Jennifer, they put on one heck of a convention, one which shall henceforth be tough to match.
About a year ago, I interviewed Ari concerning his views of the Libertarian Party, and how he 'found' us. I have come to asking that question of just about every Libertarian I meet. This is not only to provide a source for this column, but I feel that looking at our past helps us to predict our future (as well as narrow our 'target market'). The response to my question shed a light into the sole of one of Colorado's hard-core Libertarians. His response is printed here in full.
JJ: Ari, could you tell me how long you have been a member of the party, what your political views, if different, were prior to joining, how you found the LP, and what you see for it's future?
AA: "I was a libertarian long before I was a Libertarian. That is, I developed my political philosophy before I joined the party. I first explored libertarian ideas when I was in high school and my father handed me copies of Milton Friedman's *Free to Choose* and Ayn Rand's *Atlas Shrugged*. Then, in college, I found the Cato Institute and toured the libertarian summer conferences held by the Institute for Humane Studies and other groups. It's obvious to me that the Libertarian Party has introduced a lot of people to libertarian ideas; people like Joe Johnson. Yet we must remember that the Libertarian Party is not an end in itself; it is a political strategy for achieving liberty.
"I was struck by these words of Nietzsche: 'Whoever thinks much is not suitable as a party member: he soon thinks himself right through the party.' However, the Libertarian Party is the party of thinkers. It is populated by former Republicans, Democrats, and even Socialists who thought themselves right through the false dichotomies of left and right, socialism and traditionalism. Over the years my politics has become (I hope) both more sophisticated and more nuanced. Yet I still believe that freedom is the proper condition of human beings. As long as the Libertarian Party remains the home of critical thinkers and champions of liberty, it will allow people to think themselves deeper into the party.
"Toward the end of 1998, still before I joined the LP, I started an independent libertarian webpage called the *Colorado Freedom Report*, which remains on-line at www.freecolorado.com. Since then, articles on my page have been linked from Free-Market.Net, KeepAndBearArms.com, and various other internet sites. My work has been quoted in the *Denver Post* and the *Rocky Mountain News*. In my archives, you'll read about my spat with a state representative, debates over civil arms and abortion, and what I believe is the best analysis available anywhere about Timothy McVeigh's murders. With the help of other contributing writers, my page has become a leading voice for liberty in Colorado. Running the page has led to other opportunities, which include designing the newsletter for the state LP and editing material for Sheriff Bill Masters.
"David Bryant first got me involved with the Colorado LP. I met him through the Austrian Economics group organized by Ken Riggs. When I agreed to take on the newsletter, David was handling the database and almost all of the office work, as well as the newsletter. Jennifer and I discussed the matter and offered to take over the newsletter from David.
"What I've learned is that ideas move the world, but only if we move the ideas first. We cannot choose between intellectualism and activism (though there is room for specialization): if we don't have both we'll get nowhere, or worse: someplace we don't want to be. Joe, as you have written all along, one person with determination can make a difference. I think that any one of us can be that person."
Amen brother - Amen!
Liberty in my lifetime!
Ari Armstrong attended Pepperdine, where he studied both economics and philosophy and wrote columns for the school newspaper. He spent a summer working in Washington, D.C. with the Center for Market Processes and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and he has attended numerous free-market summer conferences. Ari has authored articles featured in the Washington Post, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Liberty Magazine, and other publications. Ari currently edits the Colorado Freedom Report at www.freecolorado.com.