Company founder believed in freedom

Editorial

This month we remember the founder of our company, R.C. Hoiles, who bought the then-Santa Ana Register in 1935 and founded a company he named Freedom Newspapers. It grew into Freedom Communications, today the nation’s 12th largest media company, with operations on the Internet, in broadcast, magazines and newspapers.

Hoiles launched his newspapers — which now include the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and Quay County Sun — in part to engage readers with the ideas of liberty, ideas we on the editorial pages still consider the most constructive and productive method of social organization.

Hoiles’ descendants, who still control the company, carry on his passion for freedom. We like to think that this media chain, which celebrates his Nov. 24 birthday as Founders Day, constituted an important contribution to the freedom movement in the United States, a legacy we continue to honor and extend through our editorials and columns.

Less well known about Hoiles are his contributions to the freedom movement beyond his newspaper operations. He furthered the libertarian cause, especially from the 1930s through the 1950s, at a time when virtually all respectable intellectual opinion in the United States saw collectivism as the harbinger of a bright future and individualism as a remnant of a discredited past beyond America couldn’t escape quickly enough.

Yet R.C. Hoiles was instrumental in the promotion and popularization of important writers and thinkers, and in the formation of several organizations dedicated to advancing human liberty.

From a libertarian or classical liberal viewpoint, the 1940s were a dark time. The Great Depression was viewed as proof of the failure of the capitalist system, and the New Deal, a pastiche of new regulatory agencies, entitlements, and warmed-over quasi-socialist nostrums, seen as the only hope for the future. In academic and intellectual circles, defenders of market economics were few and far between, and viewed as cranks or worse.

The entrance of the United States into World War II brought on new controls and regulations as the economy was mobilized to fight the war. Critics of these measures were widely viewed as unpatriotic.

In retrospect, 1943, which saw the publication of books by three remarkable women, is sometimes seen as the beginning of a long and tortuous comeback for the ideas of liberty. Isabel Paterson’s, “The God of the Machine,” Rose Wilder Lane’s “The Discovery of Freedom,” and Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” all questioned conventional wisdom about the benevolence and effectiveness of collectivism and celebrated freedom and individualism.

R.C. Hoiles was acquainted with these authors, corresponded extensively with them, and published long excerpts of their books in his newspapers. He also published essays and book excerpts from such freedom advocates as Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov, John Flynn, F.A. Hayek, and Garet Garrett, introducing these writers to new audiences.
R.C. also had several key works of the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat translated and printed in inexpensive editions, thousands of which he gave away.

He became acquainted with Leonard E. Read, who was executive director of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and encouraged him to use the Chamber’s educational programs to promote undiluted free enterprise. As the Chamber became more amenable to government intrusions into the marketplace, Read became convinced he could work for what he truly believed only by forming his own organization.

Leonard Read communicated extensively with R.C. Hoiles and a few others before founding the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946. R.C. gave Leonard some of the seed money and encouragement that made founding the Foundation for Economic Education possible (though he later feuded with Read over whether any coercive tax could be philosophically justified, which R.C. maintained was impossible).

In his book, “Radicals for Capitalism,” author Brian Doherty contends that almost every active libertarian who came of age between about 1950 and 1980 was influenced by the foundation, which sent materials and its monthly magazine free to anybody who requested them.

The Foundation for Economic Education is still active, still educating, still advocating for, in Leonard Read’s words, “anything that’s peaceful.”

Through correspondence, friendship and contributions of money, time and assistance, R.C. Hoiles was an important factor in the recovery of the ideas of freedom. Robert LeFevre’s Freedom School (later Rampart College) in Colorado and F.A. “Baldy” Harper’s Institute for Humane Studies — more active now than ever in training and placing free market advocates in academe — benefited from counsel and contributions from R.C. Hoiles.

During this season we give thanks for his vision and generosity and resolve to continue the work of disseminating the ideas of freedom.