|Albert Jay Nock|
October 13, 1870|
19, 1945 (aged 74)|
Wakefield, Rhode Island
|Resting place||Riverside Cemetery, South Kingstown, Rhode Island|
|Occupation||Writer and social theorist|
|Alma mater||St. Stephen's College (now Bard College)|
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Throughout his life, Nock was a deeply private man who shared few of the details of his personal life with his working partners. He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania (U.S.), the son of Emma Sheldon (Jay) and Joseph Albert Nock, who was both a steelworker and an Episcopal priest. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Nock attended St. Stephen's College (now known as Bard College) from 1884–1888, where he joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
After graduation he had a brief career playing minor league baseball, and then attended a theological seminary and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1897. Nock married Agnes Grumbine in 1900 and the couple had two children, Francis and Samuel (both of whom became college professors), but Nock separated from his wife after only a few years of marriage. In 1909, Nock left the clergy and became a journalist.
In 1914, Nock joined the staff of The Nation magazine, which was at the time supportive of liberal capitalism. Nock was an acquaintance of the influential politician and orator William Jennings Bryan, and in 1915 traveled to Europe on a special assignment for Bryan, who was then Secretary of State. Nock also maintained friendships with many of the leading proponents of the Georgist movement, one of whom had been his bishop in the Episcopal Church.
However, while Nock was a lifelong admirer of Henry George, he was frequently at odds with other Georgists in the left-leaning movement. Further, Nock was deeply influenced by the anti-collectivist writings of the German sociologist Franz OppenheimerTemplate:Citation needed, whose most famous work, Der Staat, was published in English translation in 1915. In his own writings, Nock would later build on Oppenheimer's claim that the pursuit of human ends can be divided into two forms: the productive or economic means, and the parasitic, political means.
Between 1920 and 1924, Nock was the co-editor of The Freeman. The Freeman was initially conceived as a vehicle for the single tax movement. It was financed by the wealthy wife of the magazine's other editor, Francis Neilson, although neither Nock nor Neilson was a dedicated single taxer. Contributors to The Freeman included: Charles A. Beard, William Henry Chamberlin, Thomas Mann, Lewis Mumford, Bertrand Russell, Lincoln Steffens, Louis Untermeyer, Thorstein Veblen and Suzanne La Follette, the more libertarian cousin of Senator Robert La Follette. Critic H.L. Mencken wrote:
His editorials during the three brief years of the Freeman set a mark that no other man of his trade has ever quite managed to reach. They were well-informed and sometimes even learned, but there was never the slightest trace of pedantry in Template:Nowrap
When the unprofitable Freeman ceased publication in 1924, Nock became a freelance journalist in New York City and Brussels, Belgium.
"The Myth of a Guilty Nation," which came out in 1922, was Nock's first anti-war book, a cause he backed his entire life as an essential component of a libertarian outlook. The burden of the book is to prove American war propaganda to be false. The purpose of World War I, according to Nock, was not to liberate Europe and the world from German imperialism and threats. If there was a conspiracy, it was by the allied powers to broadcast a public message that was completely contradicted by its own diplomatic cables. Along with that came war propaganda designed to make Germany into a devil nation.
In the mid-1920s, a small group of wealthy American admirers funded Nock's literary and historical work to enable him to follow his own interests. Shortly thereafter, he published his biography of Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson was published in 1928, Mencken praised it as "the work of a subtle and highly dexterous craftsman" which cleared "off the vast mountain of doctrinaire rubbish that has risen above Jefferson's bones and also provides a clear and comprehensive account of the Jeffersonian system," and the "essence of it is that Jefferson divided all mankind into two classes, the producers and the exploiters, and he was for the former first, last and all the time." Mencken also thought the book to be accurate, shrewd, well-ordered and charming.
In his two 1932 books, On the Disadvantages of Being Educated and Other Essays and Theory of Education in the United States, Nock launched a scathing critique of modern government-run education.
In his 1936 article "Isaiah's Job", which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and was reprinted in pamphlet form in July 1962 by The Foundation for Economic Education, Nock expressed his complete disillusionment with the idea of reforming the current system. Believing that it would be impossible to persuade any large portion of the general population of the correct course and opposing any suggestion of a violent revolution, Nock instead argued that libertarians should focus on nurturing what he called "the Remnant".
The Remnant, according to Nock, consisted of a small minority who understood the nature of the state and society, and who would become influential only after the current dangerous course had become thoroughly and obviously untenable, a situation which might not occur until far into the future. Nock's philosophy of the Remnant was influenced by the deep pessimism and elitism that social critic Ralph Adams Cram expressed in a 1932 essay, "Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings". In his Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Nock makes no secret that his educators:
did not pretend to believe that everyone is educable, for they knew, on the contrary, that very few are educable, very few indeed. They saw this as a fact of nature, like the fact that few are six feet tall. [...] They accepted the fact that there are practicable ranges of intellectual and spiritual experience which nature has opened to some and closed to others.
In 1941, Nock published a two-part essay in the Atlantic Monthly titled "The Jewish Problem in America". The article was part of a multi-author series, assembled by the editors in response to recent anti-Semitic unrest in Brooklyn and elsewhere "in the hope that a free and forthright debate will reduce the pressure, now dangerously high, and leave us with a healthier understanding of the human elements involved."
Nock's argument was that the Jews were an Oriental people, acceptable to the "intelligent Occidental" yet forever strangers to "the Occidental mass-man." Furthermore, the mass-man "is inclined to be more resentful of the Oriental as a competitor than of another Occidental;" the American masses are "the great rope and lamppost artists of the world;" and in studying Jewish history, "one is struck with the fact that persecutions never have originated in an upper class movement". This innate hostility of the masses, he concluded, might be exploited by a scapegoating state to distract from "any shocks of an economic dislocation that may occur in the years ahead." He concluded, "If I keep up my family's record of longevity, I think it is not impossible that I shall live to see the Nuremberg laws reenacted in this country and enforced with vigor" and affirmed that the consequences of such a pogrom "would be as appalling in their extent and magnitude as anything seen since the Middle Ages."
Despite this obvious dread of anti-Semitism, the article was itself declared by some to be anti-Semitic, and Nock was never asked to write another article, effectively ending his career as a social critic.
Against charges of anti-Semitism, Nock answered, "Someone asked me years ago if it were true that I disliked Jews, and I replied that it was certainly true, not at all because they are Jews but because they are folks, and I don't like folks."Template:Citation needed
In 1943, two years before his death, Nock published his autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, the title of which expressed the degree of Nock's disillusionment and alienation from current social trends. After the publication of this autobiography, Nock became the sometime guest of oilman William F. Buckley, Sr., whose son, William F. Buckley, Jr., would later become a celebrated author and speaker.
Nock died of leukemia in 1945, at the Wakefield, Rhode Island home of his longtime friend, Ruth Robinson, the illustrator of his 1934 book, A Journey into Rabelais' France. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, in Wakefield.
Describing himself as a philosophical anarchist, Nock called for a radical vision of society free from the influence of the political state. He described the state as that which "claims and exercises the monopoly of crime". He opposed centralization, regulation, the income tax, and mandatory education, along with what he saw as the degradation of society. He denounced in equal terms all forms of totalitarianism, including "Bolshevism... Fascism, Hitlerism, Marxism, [and] Communism" but also harshly criticized democracy. Instead, Nock argued, "The practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed. Everything else has been tried, world without end. Going dead against reason and experience, we have tried law, compulsion and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of."
During the 1930s, Nock was one of the most consistent critics of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. In Our Enemy, the State, Nock argued that the New Deal was merely a pretext for the federal government to increase its control over society. He was dismayed that the president had gathered unprecedented power in his own hands and called this development an out-and-out coup d'état. Nock criticized those who believed that the new regimentation of the economy was temporary, arguing that it would prove a permanent shift. He believed that the inflationary monetary policy of the Republican administrations of the 1920s was responsible for the onset of the Great Depression and that the New Deal was responsible for perpetuating it.
Nock was also a passionate opponent of war and what he considered the US government's aggressive foreign policy. He believed that war could bring out only the worst in society and argued that it led inevitably to collectivization and militarization and "fortified a universal faith in violence; it set in motion endless adventures in imperialism, endless nationalist ambitions," while, at the same time, costing countless human lives. During the First World War, Nock wrote for The Nation, which was censored by the Wilson administration for opposing the war.
Despite his distaste for communism, Nock harshly criticized the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War following the parliamentary revolution and Bolshevik coup in that country. Before the Second World War, Nock wrote a series of articles deploring what he saw as Roosevelt's gamesmanship and interventionism leading inevitably to US involvement. Nock was one of the few who maintained a principled opposition to the war throughout its course.
Nock was an important influence on the next generation of laissez-faire capitalist American thinkers, including libertarians such as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Frank Chodorov, and Leonard Read, and conservatives such as William F. Buckley, Jr.. Nock's conservative view of society would help inspire the paleoconservative movement in response to the development of neoconservatism during the Cold War. In insisting on the state itself as the root problem, Nock's thought was one of the main precursors to anarcho-capitalism.
In popular culture
In the fictional The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith, as part of the North American Confederacy Series]] (in which the United States becomes a Libertarian state after a successful Whiskey Rebellion and the overthrow and execution of George Washington by firing squad for treason in 1794), Albert Jay Nock serves as the 18th President of the North American Confederacy from 1912 to 1928.
- What We All Stand For. New York: Phillips, 1913.
- The Myth of a Guilty Nation. New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922. ( PDF)
- Jefferson. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1926; Washington, DC: National Home Library Foundation, 1941; New York: Hill & Wang, 1960.
- also published as Mr. Jefferson. Delavan, WI: Hallberg, 1983.
- Our Enemy, the State. New York: Morrow, 1935; Caldwell, ID: Caxton, 1946; Dellavan, WI: Hallberg, 1983; New York: Libertarian Review, 1989. PDF) (ePub)
- Henry George: An essay. New York: Morrow, 1939.
- The Theory of Education in the United States. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1932; Chicago: Regnery, 1949.
- The State of the Union: Essays in Social Criticism (edited by Charles H. Hamilton). Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Press, 1991.
- The Freeman Book: Typical editorials, essays, critiques, and other selections. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2008..
- World Scouts (pamphlet). Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1912.
- On Doing the Right Thing, and other essays. New York & London: Harper, 1928.
- The Book of Journeyman: Essays from the New Freeman. New York: New Freeman, 1930; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1969.
- Francis Rabelais: The man and his work. New York & London: Harper, 1929.
- A Journey into Rabelais's France (illustrated by Ruth Robinson). New York: Morrow, 1934.
- Free Speech and Plain Language. New York: Morrow, 1937; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1968.
- Introduction to Meditations in Wall Street New York: Morrow, 1940.
- Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. New York & London: Harper, 1943.
- Isaiah's Job. Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 1952.
- Snoring as a Fine Art, and twelve other essays. Rindge, NH: Richard R. Smith, 1958; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971.
- The Disadvantages of Being Educated, and other essays. Tampa, FL: Hallberg, 1996.
- Cogitations. Irvington-on-Huson, NY: The Nockian Society, 1970
- revised edition (edited by Robert M. Thornton). Irvington-on-Huson, NY: The Nockian Society, 1985.
Letters and journals
- A Journal of These Days, June 1932 - December 1933. New York: Morrow, 1934.
- A Journal of Forgotten Days, May 1934 - October 1935. Hinsdale, IL: H. Regnery, 1948.
- Letters from Albert Jay Nock, 1924–1945, to Edmund C. Evans, Mrs. Edmund C. Evans, and Ellen Winsor. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1949.
- Selected Letters. . Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1962.
Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.
- Cline, Edward (January 8, 2009). "Albert Jay Nock: How to Throw the Fight for Freedom". Capitalism Magazine. http://capitalismmagazine.com/2009/01/albert-jay-nock-how-to-throw-the-fight-for-freedom/.
- Template:Cite encyclopedia
- Opitz, Edmund A (1975). "The Durable Mr. Nock" (PDF). The Intercollegiate Review X (1): 25–31. http://www.mmisi.org/IR/10_01/opitz.pdf.
- Riggenbach, Jeff (September 10, 2010). "Albert Jay Nock and the Libertarian Tradition". Mises Daily (Ludwig von Mises Institute). https://mises.org/daily/4689/Albert-Jay-Nock-and-the-Libertarian-Tradition.
- Tucker, Jeffrey A. (October 12, 2007). "Albert Jay Nock: Forgotten Man of the Old Right". Mises Daily (Ludwig von Mises Institute). https://www.mises.org/daily/2717.
- Wreszin, Michael (1972). The Superfluous Anarchist: Albert Jay Nock, Brown University Press, p. 11.
- Powell, Jim (March 1, 1997). "Albert Jay Nock: A Gifted Pen for Radical Individualism". The Freeman (Foundation for Economic Education). http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/albert-jay-nock-a-gifted-pen-for-radical-individualism#axzz2mWiVt8TL.
- Neilson, Francis (1946). "The Story of 'The Freeman'". The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 6 (1): 3–53.
- Presley, Sharon (1981). "Suzanne La Follette: The Freewoman," Libertarian Review (Cato Institute).
- Mencken, H.L. (1926). "The Immortal Democrat". American Mercury 9 (33): 123. http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury-1926sep-00123.
- Originally published in 1922 by B. W. Huebsch, Inc. Published in 2011 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
- Nock, Albert Jay (1956). "Isaiah's Job". The Freeman 6 (12): 31–7. http://www.unz.org/Pub/Freeman-1956dec-00031.
- Harris, Michael R. (1970). Five Counterrevolutionists in Higher Education: Irving Babbitt, Albert Jay Nock, Abraham Flexner, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Alexander Meiklejohn, Oregon State University Press, p. 97.
- Cram, Ralph Adams (1932). "Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings". The American Mercury 27 (105): 41–8. http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury-1932sep-00041.
- Nock, Albert Jay (1941). "The Jewish Problem in America," The Atlantic Monthly, June 1, pp. 699–705.
- Crunden, Robert Morse (1964). The Mind and Art of Albert Jay Nock, Henry Regnery Company, pp. 183–84.
- Buckley, Jr., William F. (2008). Let Us Talk of Many Things: The Collected Speeches, Basic Books, p. 430.
- Wreszin, Michael (1969). "Albert Jay Nock and the Anarchist Elitist Tradition in America," American Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 2, Part 1, pp. 165–89.
- Nock, Albert Jay (1924). "On Doing the Right Thing". American Mercury 3 (11): 257–62. http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury-1924nov-00257.
- Nitsche, Charles G. (1981). Albert Jay Nock and Frank Chodorov: Case Studies in Recent American Individualist and Anti-statist Thought, (Ph.D. Dissertation), University of Maryland.
- Search results = au:Albert Jay Nock, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 15, 2016.
- "The Dangers of Literacy" (1934) at The American Conservative
- Selected Essays at the Nockian Society
- Albert Jay Nock essays at Panarchy
- articles by Nock at Unz.org
- articles by Nock at JSTOR
- Albert Jay Nock at Wikiquote
- Works by Albert Jay Nock at Project Gutenberg
- Literature Library: Albert Jay Nock works published by Ludwig von Mises Institute
- Template:Goodreads author
- Albert Jay Nock] at NNDB
- Albert Jay Nock at the Mises Institute
- Stylish Elegance: A biography of Albert Jay Nock at Libertarianism.org
- Albert Jay Nock: A gifted pen for radical individualism at Foundation for Economic Education
- Will Lissner remembers Nock
- Albert Jay Nock at Find a Grave
- Nock on Education by Wendy McElroy
- The Nockian Society Books available through one of the original founders and Honorable Secretary, Robert M. Thornton.
- Yale Library : Correspondence, photographs, and related drawings annotated and donated to Yale University by Ruth Robinson