A Famous Ride

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My favorite recollection of Bill relates to something that happened at Aspen in 1996. I had gone there at Doug Casey’s invitation to give a talk at his annual Eris Society get-together. Bill was there, too, along with an assortment of fascinating and borderline-bizarre characters. At dinner one evening at a restaurant in town, Bettina Bien Greaves, the esteemed Mises scholar and all-around grand lady, happened to mention that she had never

Bill cranked up his huge motorcycle, Bettina got onboard behind him, and the monstrous two-wheeler immediately fell over, spilling driver and passenger onto the pavement.

 

ridden a motorcycle. Bill immediately offered to take her for a ride, and Bettina, though nearly 80 years old and rather frail, immediately agreed. Everybody thought this adventure was a splendid idea, because Bill had ridden astride his big machine for jillions of miles along most of the roads of the known world, and therefore nobody could possibly be better qualified to carry such a precious passenger on her first trip.

After the dinner party had returned to the hotel parking lot, Bill cranked up his huge motorcycle, Bettina got onboard behind him, and the monstrous two-wheeler immediately fell over, spilling driver and passenger onto the pavement. We onlookers rushed to see whether one of them, especially Bettina, had been hurt. Fortunately, neither had sustained so much as a scratch from the ugly fall. Bill was slightly shaken and more than a little crestfallen, but he righted the machine and got back on it; Bettina gamely climbed on again; and the two roared off.

Upon her return after a long ride, Bettina reported that she had loved it.

I have never known anybody like Bill. He was unique in admirable ways. His marvelous sense of humor, fed by an amazing reservoir of allusions, made Liberty’s table of contents and its headlines a delight in their own right. On a more substantive front, I especially admired Bill’s capacity to be fiercely dedicated to the cause yet sensible and balanced at the same time. He loved facts and knew a great many of them. His dedication to digging up facts that others had not known or had not sufficiently appreciated was a chief reason, I think, for the magazine’s success. In his own writing, time and again, Bill demonstrated that libertarianism can remain firmly anchored in fundamental principles yet so closely connected to the real world and so well informed that no one can justifiably write if off as goofy.

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