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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

On the life and influence of Chris R. Tame

This coming Friday, April 10th, I will be giving a talk at the home of the parents of Tim Evans, about the late Chris R. Tame. I was his junior libertarian partner, so to speak, during the 1980s into the mid-1990s, when I helped him to run the Alternative Bookshop, and did pamphlets for the Libertarian Alliance, so he obviously had a profound effect on my life. If you knew him, or if you have read any of the writings at the other end of the above link to the Libertarian Alliance website, you will know that I was only one among a great many.


The purpose of this posting is twofold. First, I want to remind people about my talk. Emails have already gone out to most of those likely to be interested, and fliers were distributed at that very well attended Kevin Dowd lecture. But, what with this coming Friday being Good Friday, I have no idea who will show up or in what numbers. If you want to attend and have not yet emailed Tim Evans (tim at libertarian dot co dot uk) to that effect, then do so and he’ll send you attendance details. There has been talk of the event being video-ed. If that doesn’t happen, I will at least sound-record it myself. So, no need to bust a gut to be there in person if you want to at least hear my performance (always assuming that it is not so terrible that I decide to delete the only record of it).

My other purpose with this posting is to solicit help. Chris Tame had a lot of his considerable impact on the world in the form of meetings and relationships, personal and intellectual. He did do quite a bit of published writing and performing, but not nearly as much as he would have liked. When he died just over three years ago, prematurely, he did so while feeling, as did many others, that he would have had lots more to give had he only been allowed the time.

But Chris Tame nevertheless did have a huge influence, as you can tell by reading the comments on this Samizdata posting that marked his death in 2006. It is the nature of this influence that I will be attempting to shed as much further light on as I can in my talk this Friday. The gist of what I’ll be saying can be summed up in this comment by Dale Amon on that earlier posting:

I do not think the libertarian scene in the UK and Ireland would be anything like the same if he had not been there.

In addition to building the foundations and structure of the Libertarian Alliance and libertarian movement in the UK, Chris passed on masses of information, especially about the broad and ever growing range of libertarian books and articles out there, to a huge number of friends and acquaintances, to fellow libertarians of course, but also to many others from different parts of the political spectrum, and just to people he happened to come into contact with. The full range of such influences will never be fully known, but if you have recollections of Chris and of how he influenced or informed you, I would love to read a comment from you, or if you would prefer it, by you sending me an email (brian at brianmicklethwait dot com).

A good example of the kind of thing I mean is to be found in the opening paragaphs of Kevin Dowd’s recent lecture, in which Dowd mentioned just how much of an impact Chris had upon him. I know these sentiments to have been very heartfelt, because when I met Dowd just before he gave that lecture, told me all of that and more about how Chris Tame had helped and influenced him.

Without the indirect influence of Chris Tame, the Samizdata story would probably have been a very different one. I am by no means the only Samizdatista to have made a start as a self-conscious libertarian because of him.

My thanks in advance to anyone who can comment in the way I have suggested. If you are reading this for the first time after I have done my talk but still have something pertinent to add, please do not feel on my account that you are too late. I’d still love to read such recollections, and many others surely would too.

A final thought occurs to me. If anyone thinks that Chris Tame’s influence was bad, and did harm, I’d be interested to hear about that too. I will almost certainly not agree, but I will be interested. He has now been dead long enough for anyone who wants to to speak ill of the man without being pelted with the comment equivalent of vegetables. I do not want to encourage this, you understand, just to say that as far as I am concerned, that would be okay.

7 comments to On the life and influence of Chris R. Tame

  • No comments here as yet, but there have been emails. Thanks. You know who you are.

  • Thanks for posting this. I never knew Chris Tame, and have only heard of him through the writings of Sean Gabb, and most recently the Kevin Dowd lecture (and many thanks for linking to that). And now I know what he looked like.

  • Something that impressed me about Tame when I first met him back in the days of the Alternative Bookshop was that he seemed for want of a better word, cool, for a capitalist.

    He wasn’t a fogey. He was a bit West Coast. That is an aspect of the man that should not be forgotten.

  • Paul Marks

    Chris Tame had a reputation for being rude – but I allways found him to be very polite (and I am a difficult person to deal with). When he disagreed he said so – but he also explained why he disagreed. He did not flatter, but (in my experience) he did not insult either – what mattered to him was the case, not the person putting the case.

    I also found that Chris Tame always had a large store of (accurate) information about any area of economics, politics, the history of thought, philosophy (and so on). And he could reason – he could understand things and help others understand them.

    What could be better than that.

  • Paul Marks

    This is a talk I would really like to have attended Brian – but I will be busy taking car parking money instead.

    Nasty – but it is reality.

    And Chris respected reality.

  • Chris Tame was one of my life’s dearest and closest friends. Like al friendships there was a ‘balance-sheet’ of assets and liabilities, gains and losses.

    Both Chris and I became very close very quickly, We were both amazed at the overlaps in our respective knowledge bases, interest inventories and personal tastes and values.

    I met Chris in 1978, after spending two years in the Kent countryside reading (inter alia) most of the titles in the Bibliography of Robert Nozick’s influential “Anarchy, State and Utopia.” Thank Heaven for Basic Incomes and Public Libraries,,,

    Chris was more of an anarchist than I was (I was a Left-inclined Liberal Individualist, hard-core on Foreign Policy issues). Both of us were fans of Barry Goldwater,

    When we were together, Chris and I would often start whistling or singing the same song — quite uncanny! We both loved T.H.E. CAT; “Have Gun; Will Travel”; SF films and stories; Country music; an idealized America,,,

    We were both “Americans in perpetual exile.”

    Without Chris, Britain would have had a doctrinal Libertarian Movement led by David Ramsay Steele.

    When Steele and Co. tried to seize control of the LA and the Alternative Bookshop, financed via John Blundell and the Koch billionaires, Chris asked me for help. I knew what Steele was doing…

    I had drifted away from the LA (I didn’t much care for oligarchies or politicking or Brian Micklethwait – a mutual and visceral dislike…); and I was building a Computer Consultancy based in Canada – America made real!!! — to which I intended to go in due course. America was fragmented and increasingly irreal — the Dream was fine, but you couldm’t actually find it anywhere…

    I lost close friends and a great deal of money in the LA Wars. My heath was severely damaged (PTSD). Chris was worth fighting for, but a bit too worried about the “important” people he hoped would give him the IEA or a wel-funded Institute. We differed on this — I didn’t think that the real obstacle to a more libertarian society was a lack of money, but rather, a lack of high-quality libertarians.

    Chris was far too ready to consider dodgy people to be “libertarians”, whereas I thought of “libertarian” as an adjective…

    Chris’s nvolvement with the ‘Toughies’ of FCS was disastrous — it was bound to fail, and it polluted the LA. I lost interest in a “libertarian movement” at that point.

    Chris loved to hate “enemies”, whereas I was increasingly Popperian, under the influence of Jeremy Shearmur. Whereas Chris was developing a disastrous affinity for Neo-Conservatism…

    We argued all the time. He was always impatient, always seeking short-cuts to Power.

    Above all, Chris reminded me of Boromir in “Lord of the Rings”, an immensely infliuential libertarian work which I don’t think he ever read. I hope he got to see the first of Peter Jackson’s films.

    I reluctantly ‘blackballed’ him from the Directorship of the Foresight Institute precisely because of his “Boromir” inclinations..

    Our friendship broke over Robert Lefever and “Randianism.” And the “Neo-Cons.” And the fake “War on Terror.” Lefever’s pretentious negligence helped to end Chris’s life — a true Greek tragedy.

    Aeschylus would have understood.

    I was an Athenian at heart; Chris was a Spartan.

    All of history is re-runs of Athens versus Sparta.

    With the best of both cultures, Classical Greece went on to create Western Civilization, with all its faults the best Civilization the world has ever seen.

    Chris and I were kinda like that…

    Tony Hollick

    Rainbow Bridge Foundation

  • I only became involved in the Libertarian Alliance when Chris Tame was dying, so I don’t have anything to offer as to his life. But the very fact of the organisation’s existence is a profound memorial to him.

    I’m of the generation that came to libertarianism from the FCS, like Paul Staines, so Chris’s influence on me was somewhat less that on grizzled veterans like Brian!

    Perhaps the only mark against Chris would be the Libertarian Alliance split in 1982. But all I know about that is that there was a split, being myself 14 back then! So corrections from those involved back then are welcome.

    I doubt very much that libertarianism would be anywhere near as strong in the UK today as it is without Chris Tame, so this Easter I will raise a glass to his memory.