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A Good Book and a Good Cigar
By Michael Voth
Posted November 4, 1997

Something recently reminded me of the time, back in the 1970's, when I understood that I liked libertarian activism a lot more than I liked lining up to vote. I had been living in Berkeley again, my place of origin if you can believe hospital records, after living a couple of decades on ranches, farms, and cabins next to creeks.

People I knew -- girlfriends, drunks, Democrats and such -- were telling me that I was some kind of libertarian purist. I didn't know what the hell they were talking about, and the words they were using were not in my dictionary. In fact, in those days I was far from being a libertarian purist. But, some people will hold to unconsidered perceptions, and others will grow.

We in Berkeley were going through the infamous rent control ordinance phase. I was out hammering together the skeletons of houses, and had studied enough economics to know that this ordinance just wasn't gonna work in the way its planners were predicting. Then they got us with the smoking ordinance.

There was a guy named Mo who ran the best bookstore in Berkeley. Maybe he still does. I'm sure he still smokes cigars if he's still among us. This Berkeley smoking ordinance really offended him, for obvious reasons. Like: "You mean to tell me that I cannot smoke a cigar in my own store?" Seems like a quaint question nowadays, doesn't it?

So Mo had these posters printed up, and offered them for sale. I bought one on the day I went into Mo's store in search of some book, and walked out without the book. I'd guess most of us have read our Orwell and Huxley.

My New Poster had, on the left side, Leonardo's Metric Man. You know, the well-drawn chap with legs slightly spread and arms near the horizontal, which da Vinci had intended to be an exercise in study of human proportion, circle going round. The geometry of human evolution.

Mo tidied up the Renaissance illusions. There was a thick red circle with a diagonal red line across Renaissance Man. The symbol of Scandinavians telling Italians where not to park, superimposed over the symbol of the human will to be alive and revel in the short years.

To the right of this Florentine artwork was the following:


In fine print at the bottom: "Berkeley City Council, Ordinance #1984"

Then I knew, maybe intuitively, that folks were accusing me of being a libertarian for a reason, because I still have that poster. I have lost lot of things, but I never lost that one.

When you realize that the things you most dreaded have already taken place, you adjust a little. Most folks, I hope, come to a libertarian perspective through more rational means than the one I encountered. But some of us just need an old bookseller like Mo, to remind us why we are here: Maybe we just like books and cigars.

Michael Voth is vice chair of the Arizona Libertarian Party. He is a self-described long-haired redneck who lives in the mountains. This, he says, makes him a libertarian "with altitude."
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20 November, 1997