Jeff Riggenbach

“Toward Freedom” is an series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor.

Originally published in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians.

In high school, I took my “first steps” toward becoming a libertarian when I read books by Ayn Rand and Frédéric Bastiat, and subscribed to The Freeman magazine. I didn’t know it at the time, but those chance philosophical encounters would lead to a multifaceted career in journalism, broadcasting, audio book narration, and editing that would span more than three decades.

I received my first copy of the Foundation for Economic Education’s The Freeman in 1963. In it, I found a definition (offered by a writer named Leonard Read, of whom I had never heard) of a word that was also new to me: the word libertarian. With something of a start, I realized that this word described me. I was a “libertarian”—and not, as I had thought, a conservative.

After a stint with Teenage Republicans for Goldwater and the University of Houston’s Ayn Rand Club, I decided to pursue a career in journalism. I started at KFWB, an all-news radio station in Los Angeles, where I worked as an anchor, interviewer, writer, and producer. In later years, my voice was heard as a daily economics commentator for CNN Radio and as a weekly commentator on the Cato Institute’s Byline, which was broadcast coast to coast on several hundred radio stations.

While in Los Angeles, I was exposed to the writings of Robert LeFevre, Lysander Spooner, and Murray Rothbard, and began to work for magazines that catered to the growing libertarian movement. Beginning in 1977, I served as a contributing editor or writer for Reason, New Libertarian, The Libertarian Review, and Inquiry.

Over the years, I also published more than 400 editorials, op-ed columns, and reviews (of literature, music, and film) in The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others. In addition, I worked as an editorial writer and columnist in California for the Orange County Register and the Oakland Tribune. Whenever possible, I did pieces, whether for newspapers or for radio, that promoted libertarian ideas.

In 1998, I published my first book, In Praise of Decadence. The book, an overview of the libertarian movement’s impact on the 1960s, argued that baby boomers “have always been more libertarian than anyone expected,” according to Prometheus Books. The book also suggested that the oft-criticized “decadence” (that is, disrespect for traditional authority) of the 1960s ushered in a vibrant era of cultural experimentation and growth in America. The book received a five-star rating from readers at

Drawing on vocal skills I honed in radio, I have narrated the audio book versions of numerous libertarian works, including David Boaz’s Libertarianism: A Primer, Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, and Jim Powell’s The Triumph of Liberty. I also taught philosophy, music appreciation, popular culture, and writing at San Francisco’s Academy of Art College.

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