The legacy of Chris Tame


Christopher Ronald Tame died 6 years ago today; for many years he was Britain’s leading Libertarian, but what if anything do you know about him?

When Chris R. Tame died on March 20, 2006, his close friend Sean Gabb took over the organisation he founded, the Libertarian Alliance. Sean is still editing Tame’s last works and has promised a biography at some point. A fair amount has been written about Chris; some links can be found at the bottom of this article. What hasn’t been said? I had the privilege of knowing Chris personally, and for much of the time during his tenure as Director of FOREST we were in close contact; not much has been written about his personality, about the sort of person he really was, so I will focus on that here.

There are some people who have a stellar attraction to both sexes; Diana Princess of Wales was surely the classic example. Chris Tame had the same sort of charisma, for me at any rate. At times I spent hours in his company and he would discourse on all manner of subjects from mercantilism to classical liberalism, from conspiracy theories to health fascism. Judith Hatton, who worked with Chris had the same sort of presence. Ironically, Judith, a lifelong smoker, lived to a decent old age while Chris, who did sports including martial arts, megavitamin supplementation, drank only in extreme moderation and didn’t smoke at all, contracted a particularly insidious form of bone cancer that killed him aged only 56.

Although by and large Chris laughed at conspiracy theories, he recognised the way societies work at both the top and the bottom, how things are done with a nudge and a wink, how networking operates, and so on. His commitment to liberty was total, regardless of personal prejudices, which for him were purely that, personal. He did more than pay lip service to homosexual rights, positively endorsing it, although like me he had studied the medical literature concerning homosexuality in some depth, and was revolted by the very thought of it.

Chris was the perfect individual to front a smokers’ rights organisation, and had absolutely no qualms about defending tobacco companies. His view was that a lot of the anger directed against them was a manifestation of what Ludwig von Mises called the anti-capitalistic mentality, in other words statists and collectivists who hated big business had found an acceptable whipping boy.

Like the vast majority of the population, I had swallowed piecemeal all the claims by the anti-smoking lobby about smoking causing 100,000 premature deaths a year, or 200,000, or whatever statistic they pulled out of the hat this week. Chris said that when you actually looked at their claims and did some basic homework, it was clear that the dangers of smoking had been greatly exaggerated. I found this hard to swallow, but being an open minded individual, I read the books he indicated, and sure enough, he was right.

Through Chris I met Simon Wolff, and coupled with my encounters with Edward Goldsmith, I formed the view that in the words of Simon Wolff, without air polllution we would see very much lower rates of especially lung cancer. I think by and large, our views on both the dangers of smoking and the effects of pollution were in sync.

Chris was also extremely receptive to new technologies and was skeptical about the claims of the doomsayers; one of the books he gave me to read on this subject was Trashing The Planet. Although he regarded Lyndon LaRouche and his followers as completely off the wall, he was extremely impressed with their endorsement of new technologies, and their magazine 21st Century Science and Technology.

Chris was no bleeding heart, he favoured the death penalty for murder, or at least for some kinds of murder, but away from politics he was basically an easy going optimist.

The Chris Tame Memorial Lecture was founded in his honour; the first was held in March 2008.

Chris had a massive library which along with his personal effects was disposed of according to his wishes; having been made aware of the diagnosis, he had plenty of time to oversee this, and the future of the Libertarian Alliance. Although the LA is his main contribution to the world, Chris was only mildly less skeptical of campaigning and proselytising groups than he was of political parties. For him, the world was changed for better or worse by the dissemination of ideas, and the LA was purely and simply a vehicle for those ideas.

Finally, Chris was not a vain person; although without his influence the modern Libertarian movement in Britain would not exist in its current form, he was quick to lavish praise on others. Until his death the hard core of the movement in Britain was Chris, Sean Gabb and Brian Micklethwait. All three worked closely together; Sean is currently running the LA, and Brian has taken up blogging with a passion.

Apart from his premature death, the saddest thing for me is that Chris died without issue; both his marriages ended in divorce. I am sure though he would have made a great father.

Further reading on Chris Tame:

Obituary by Sean Gabb

Obituary by Marc-Henri Glendenning

Obituary by Danny Kruger

Statement on his death by Sean Gabb

Taming The Anti-Smokers

Chris Tame on-line memorial

MR LIBERTY: A Personal Memoir Of Chris R. Tame (1949-2006)

[The above article was first published March 20, 2012.]

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