A Tribute to Andrea Rich

Mark Skousen and Andrea Rich stack the books at FEEFest, the first FEE National Convention, 2002.

For nearly half a century, Andrea and Howie Rich were the dynamic duo of libertarianism. They met while serving in the New York Libertarian Party in 1973, Andrea as its first chairman and Howie as vice chairman. While Howie worked tirelessly for the cause of term limits and as the longest serving member of the board of Cato, Andrea worked tirelessly to promote the foundational philosophy of libertarianism through Laissez Faire Books. John Muller and Sharon Presley founded LFB in 1972, but Andrea Rich was the driving force behind it from 1982 through 2005, shepherding it through several transfers of ownership and always championing its cause. Many of us turned to LFB for our philosophical journey through libertarianism. Her policy of guaranteeing advance purchases helped many libertarian authors get their books published, including a few by my husband, FreedomFest producer Mark Skousen. I remember spending many happy hours at LFB’s facility in San Francisco, walking through seemingly endless stacks of books and wanting to read each one.

Andrea passed away after a 19-year battle with lung cancer. She fought that fight as courageously and indefatigably as she fought the fight for liberty. Reason’s editor-at-large Nick Gillespie wrote the following about her passing:

Saddened to learn that Andrea Rich, one of the great lights of the modern libertarian movement, has died. Long before I came to know Andrea personally by working at Reason Magazine, she had already influenced me massively through Laissez Faire Books, whose catalogue my older brother John used to get (he was a habitue of the store in NYC, too, and I’m sure I visited it sometime in the ’80s).

Every issue of the catalogue was crammed with squibs about books by and about Milton and Rose Friedman, Hayek, Rand, Mises, Rothbard, Rose Wilder Lane (the daughter of Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder), Lysander Spooner, Voltairine de Cleyre, Tom Szasz, you name it, all held together by mind-blowing essays by Roy Childs and other contributors.

Even more than magazines, catalogues captivated me as a kid growing up in suburban New Jersey: The Sears Wishbook and Scholastic Books ones, of course, but also the Johnson & Smith novelty and gag one, and ones for companies as different Camp-mor, LL Bean, and Edmund Scientific. Catalogues offered up endless possibilities, each entry a window into a different world I could imagine living in for a few minutes or hours.

More than any other, the LFB catalogue gave me a sense of the world that I would eventually live in for my professional life. At a time when the nearest real bookstore (a tiny Waldenbooks in a mall) was miles away, it gave me tons to look at and think about, broadening my world and options even though I doubt I ever bought anything from it.

Thank you so much for that, Andrea (and Sharon Presley, who co-founded the company with John Muller in 1972). And my deepest condolences to Howard Rich.

–Nick Gillespie