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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

John Higgs talks about RAW

John Higgs 

John Higgs, author of Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the 20th Century, KLF: Chaos, Magic, Music, Money and I Have America Surrounded: A Life of Timothy Leary, talks with The Quietus, a British online and pop music magazine. Much of the interview concerns Robert Anton Wilson. I thought this exchange between Ben Graham and Higgs was interesting:

GRAHAM: One thing that does make me slightly uncomfortable about Robert Wilson is the way that he's sometimes held up as a figurehead for American libertarianism.

This is fascinating, in that over here there are a lot of British socialists who absolutely love Robert Anton Wilson, and over there you get all these American libertarians. These are two tribes who really shouldn't have anything in common. But they just get on great, and it's partly because they've read Robert Anton Wilson and they don't believe that their one singular viewpoint is the one that has to be inflicted on everyone else. You saw this at the Find the Others Festival in Liverpool. There was this great coming together of people who had nothing whatsoever in common except for the fact that they'd read Robert Anton Wilson.

Wilson mocks Ayn Rand mercilessly in a lot of his stuff. In the Illuminatus trilogy, Atlas Shrugged is mocked as Telemachus Sneezed. There was a brief period where he found her interesting, but he quite quickly recognised Ayn Rand for what she was. So you don't get that strain of libertarianism that has this messianic faith in Ayn Rand liking Robert Anton Wilson. You just get people who are mistrustful of the state, but don't necessarily believe in the virtue of selfishness like Ayn Rand did, or anything like that. Robert Anton Wilson always used to say that the left's view of corporations is true, just as the right's view of the state is true. Multiple model agnosticism is not necessarily a political viewpoint; it sort of hovers above them all and it's valuable to everyone on the political spectrum, I think.

More here. 


Anonymous said...

RAW once said that he couldn't be a libertarian because he didn't hate working people enough.

Anonymous said...

There is something appropriate about RAW not being mentioned at all in a book that's really about him.

Jesse said...

RAW once said that he couldn't be a libertarian because he didn't hate working people enough.

No he said he wasn't the sort of libertarian who would vote for Ed Clark, because he didn't hate poor people. (Which is unfair to Ed Clark, but still rather different.)

Chad N. said...

I purchased a 1960s era RAW interview on Pacifica Radio in which he describes himself as a anarchist, and claims that socialism has its roots in anarchism until it was co-opted by statist-socialists.

Later in life he seems content to sometimes call himself a libertarian, sometimes a libertarian socialist.

I got through transcribing about half of the interview mentioned above and got permission to re-publish, but never got around to finishing it. Maybe this will spur me to finish it.

michael said...

Chad N: PLEASE DO finish transcribing that one...I knew Pacifica Archives (at KPFK-LA) listed an interview from, IIRC, 1965? in which RAW talked about anarchism, but I've never heard it: I wonder if this is the same one?

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Supergee fought a losing battle with Blogger when he attempted a follow up comment, but asked me to pass along: " Please tell Jesse that years of self- and drug abuse have left my memory bad enough that I could have misremembered the RAW quote."

The actual quote, from the book RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW, is (explaining why RAW voted for John Anderson in 1980), "Ideologically, of course, I should have voted for Ed Clark, the Libertarian Party candidate; but I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people." Some of my blather on the topic of RAW the libertarian is available at

Anonymous said...

Let's see if it's working now. I'm glad what I remembered is not what he said.

Chad N. said...

Michael: What's your email address?