The modern American libertarian movement began approximately in 1960. Associated with this ideological/philosophical/political movement were hundreds of mostly very small newsletters, newspapers, magazines and other printed items. Prior to about the year 2000 the Internet was for most publishers and readers not available as a ready substitute for actual printed paper publications then in existence.
What we call the Internet wasn’t an option prior to 1990. There were predecessors, but these were links among research institutions and not available to the public at large. It would be simple to say that this website accepts the convention that 1990 marked the start of the Internet, and the beginning of the end of paper newsletters and many periodicals. In 1995, Microsoft introduced an Internet browser, making the still emerging Internet accessible to the general public. The transition of what is now called “social media” to the Internet can be said to have been completed by 2004 when Facebook was launched.
Although websites existed and HTML web markup language were being used, computer modem bandwidth and personal computer processors and storage devices were quite limited. Most were text-only. Publishing software for websites was expensive and individual expertise for small publishers was limited prior to about 2000.
Paper publications are subject to deterioration over time. Newsprint fades and crumbles within a few decades. Paper becomes fragile, print fades and depending on storage may also suffer mold, water and insect damage. Without special preservation techniques paper publications will eventually be totally lost.
Paper documents are also limited to the physical locations where copies may be found. Since early American libertarian publications are now at least 20-60 years old, other than the few which were originally obtained by libraries or subsequently donated, they are not available unless in the original owners personal possession. Over the decades most have been discarded due to moves, lack of storage, death, etc. Remaining copies, aside from some library collections, are mostly kept in attics, closets or dusty files awaiting eventual disposal. Many have been totally forgotten by their owners.
Unlike paper documents and publications, PDFs of these items are essentially photographs which once digitized, can be placed on computer storage devices, the cloud, or on websites such as this one. They are essentially permanent so long as the electronic data remains intact and readable. On public websites these PDFs are available and readable from any digital screen device. No library visits needed.
It is the purpose of the American Libertarian Digital Archive (ALDA) to serve as a permanent public archive for the selected and obtained original hard print copies.
This archive is intended for both general public interest as well as current and future scholarly research and investigation. With this preservation effort future students of libertarian ideas and history will have at hand firsthand original documentation produced contemporary with the development of this American movement. An accurate and encompassing collection of original documents will help ensure that future analysis will be from original sources and encompass a wide variety of viewpoints expressed.
As the American libertarian movement continues and grows (an internationally as well) it should be valuable to see how these ideas and ideas for change first developed and slowly matured. ‘Early adopters’ of libertarian ideas from many different sources argued and debated most of the same ideas, theories, history, philosophical details and applications of libertarian thinking as are debated and discussed today. Traditionally libertarians only agree in broad terms. Disagreement and debate over the details is a hallmark of real libertarian thought. Research into ALDA materials might aid in preventing the “reinventing the wheel” problem of new intellectual currents and ideas. Many ‘Original Libertarians’ and the foundation intellectuals and writers also were very committed to investigation of the historical origins of libertarian thought in America and worldwide. ALDA continues that tradition.
The primary focus is on the early libertarian movement, people and results of activism. ALDA site owner Mike Holmes once wrote an editorial about libertarians titled “Prophesy & Amnesia” critiquing these two tendencies of contemporary libertarians (and other similar movements). While “prophesy” can only be evaluated in retrospect, the “amnesia” problem can at least be partly addressed with the archiving of the early formative libertarian ideas, plans and predictions made decades ago. Suggestions today for “new countries,” hiding out from the State, non-political activism, “counter economics”, violence vs. nonviolence, public education and outreach ideas, and even child rearing all have prior antecedents in earlier American libertarian writings and debates.
As most acknowledge, libertarian thought didn’t arise ex nihiloin 1960 or even in the United States. Bevin Chu notes on his website:
Two centuries later, Lao Tzu’s great follower Chuang Tzu (369—c.286 BC) built on the master’s ideas of laissez-faire to push them to their logical conclusion: individualist anarchism. Chuang Tzu, who wrote in allegorical parables, was the first anarchist in the history of human thought. Chuang Tzu’s fame spread far and wide throughout China.
As ALDA grows and matures, the plan is to host publications and materials from non US sources which were also produced during the pre-Internet period 1960-2000.
Mike Holmes at Canada’s Moraine Lake, Alberta (2014).
The American Libertarian Digital Archive LLC is owned and operated by Mike Holmes of Katy Texas. It was formed in the spring of 2019.
Holmes, originally from Helena Montana, has lived in the Houston Texas area for 50 years and is a long time libertarian activist and sometimes writer. He counts himself as one of the ‘Original libertarians’ dating back to the 60s and 70s. He is also an original founding member of the Libertarian Party (1972) and subsequently, the Republican Liberty Caucus (1991), although not currently active in either organization.
ALDA is also guided by a volunteer Board of Advisors (To Be Announced) of Original Libertarians and others who have a historical perspective of this movement and an interest in preserving and ensuring availability of the archived materials.
ALDA is primarily intended to host short and small format publications via PDFs. Budgetary and copyright issues hamper hosting most larger, longer format publications in magazine formats. Many of these are already digitalized online. ALDA provides links to those we have found (this is ongoing).
There is a wide variety of sources; some organizations such as the LP and RLC continue to exist as membership political groups. None have been in continuous existence during the entire pre Internet period (40 years) and few lasted longer than 10 years even when sponsored by foundations or larger organizations. None were ever commercially viable. Nearly all were done as special interest “hobby” type projects. Few had any paid advertising. Many popped up like flowers after a heavy rain and subsequently died out as personal interest or finances dried up.
ALDA focuses on the shorter format publications which are not ones mainly or solely devoted to philosophical debates, single issue advocacy, or centered upon a single idea or person. ALDA also hosts and is willing to host other published materials and ephemera of the early libertarian movement: founding documents, fundraising letters and event promotional flyers. Prof. Clifford Thies has regularly a produced “Liberty Index” of U.S. House and Senate members based upon their economic and personal liberty votes since 1989. This is or soon will be hosted here. Also hosted are lists of related links for publications and articles of relevance hosted elsewhere.
ALDA also hosts a blog where short comments can be posted about ALDA materials, subjects and related matters. The primary focus is on the early libertarian movement, people and results of activism, if any.
As ALDA progresses more digitally formatted materials may be located will be added to the extent financially feasible. Suggestions for new items and of course actual donations of material for additions to this archive are always welcomed.