Nestled in the scenic Palmer Lake mountain district of Colorado is perhaps the most unusual school in the United States. The Freedom School and its high priest, Robert LeFevre, stand lonely and outspoken as the voice of the doctrine of complete personal freedom.
The School was organized five years ago to espouse and spread the libertarian philosophy of freedom from all institutional control and of men's absolute rights. It invites men and women from 16 to 60 to its five two-week summer sessions. Tuition and meals for two weeks cost only $150, and there is an essay contest for scholarship applicants.
A minimal staff maintains the school--LeFevre, the president, chief instructor, and writer-publicist; his wife, Loy, who cooks for the community; and two women who serve as secretary and treasurer.
Enrollment for one of the two-week periods is around 16; the students in the first session last summer, which covered libertarian philosophy, included an elderly osteopath and his wife from Arkansas, two teachers from Rockford, Ill., two Milwaukee businessmen, a young psychologist now at Columbia, a Baptist minister from Colorado, and a professional anti-Communist from the West Coast.
The students attend class six hours each day, including Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 P.M. For the most part, one man, either LeFevre or a guest lecturer, talks uninterruptedly; some time there are discussions among the class. The most common form of homework, besides the reading from three short textbooks, is a daily 200-word paper, on such assignments as "Assume you are a private contractor. Tell how you could build better highways than any government could."
LeFevre is interested in turning out true libertarians. The school does not make the shunning of all institutional regulation mandatory for acceptance; but it takes only those who are willing to be convinced, and it reserves the right to send home any incorrigibles. A test given at the beginning and end of the session helps determine if students are properly libertarian. A sample question: "Governments are always coercive. True or false?"
The physical plant is impressive. Living quarters and the classroom are striking and comfortable, and the setting is rarely equaled anywhere. Horses for riding and a swimming pool are readily accessible, and the meals are of the home-cooked variety. The setting is so lovely that an occasional honeymoon couple enrolls in one of the sessions.
The Freedom School teaches, essentially, the freedom of individual man and the injustice of institutional force. To the school's devotees, life's two worst evils are taxes and schools. Taxes are a highly objectionable example of the coerciveness that necessitates the eventual abolition of central government. Compulsory public school education is a vice and a tool of the existing order, teaching socialism on government handouts.
Although the Freedom School supports the elimination of government, its followers claim not to be anarchists, who embody socialism, but "nonarchists." In economics, they support a simple Smithian philosophy of laissez faire. Labor unions, they feel, should be broken up because of their coercive habits; in the ideal world, such organizations would not be necessary. The Freedom School opposes foreign aid, another form of government coercion, and would revert to the legal system of the Biblical Samuels, in which individuals rule on cases and decisions are not followed unless both parties agree.
2 Absolute Rights
In short, it teaches that man has two absolute rights--to life and to property. There is never a conflict between these two privileges, and one is no good without the other. It is a wildly different, extremely right-wing way of thinking, but the Freedom School perseveres and prospers in the far mountains.