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Shawn Steel

Alan Bock: The Young Revolutionary

The Orange County Register has published a number of short pieces from a number of us who knew Alan Bock well.  Bock was a long time, amazing editorial writer for the Register, and recently passed away.  Below is my submission to the Register.  You can read all of the remembrances of Bock here

Alan Bock

Alan Bock: The Young Revolutionary

Alan Bock lived in a small boxy apartment next to the 405 freeway when I first met him in the summer of 1970. Officially, he was a student at UCLA. He certainly was an on-campus troublemaker. He began a lifelong journey, struggling to advance clear ideas of liberty to an otherwise heedless public.

He was surrounded by all the talk of revolution in the 1960s. But Alan liked to talk of real revolution, advancing our founders’ ideals of absolute liberties for the individual. Alan never promoted violence. He was too optimistic. More than anything, most people will recall Alan’s constant and magnetic broad grin.

Alan didn’t like rock ‘n’ roll. He patiently tried to convince me of the magic of Mozart. He read the classics. He introduced to me Albert J. Nock, Frederick von Hayek and one of his favorites, H. L. Mencken.

He was poor. We were all poor. His cartoon car was the stuff of legends. Alan once picked up writer Garry Wills for a speech, Wills later turned anti-conservative and wrote about his trip between LAX and the speech – something akin to riding with Hunter Thompson to Las Vegas.

Foremost, Alan was a writer. Unusually crisp, he was what is called a “first draft” author. He could write fast and get it right, many times on his first attempt – a gift writers throughout history have sought. In those days, Alan wrote for obscure libertarian publications, most of which are long disappeared. He would reverently talk of Lysander Spooner’s courageous attempt to bypass the U.S. Post Office, of privatizing the roads, schools, police and fire protection – most do not sound all that radical today. Alan loved Jefferson’s view of government – small, decentralized and weak.

Alan migrated for a few years to Washington, D.C. to join the establishment as a press aide to a couple of Republican congressmen, He continued writing for libertarian journals, including Reason magazine.

In 1980, not only did America elect Ronald Reagan but the Register hired Alan Bock: Liberty would be in safe hands for awhile. Alan was working on one more project until his last day, 31 years later.