Bill and I were about the same age. Regrettably, once you tum about 55, you start noticing friends disappearing. And the pace picks up as time goes by – assuming you’re one of those still in a position to notice. Even now, his absence takes me by surprise.
I don’t recall exactly when we met. The earliest contact I remember was when, by telephone, he told me he was think- ing of starting Liberty and asked me to be a senior editor. I agreed, but without voicing my reservations about the project, figuring it was likely to be just another libertarian pipe- dream which, if it survived, would become a black hole for money. Well, I was wrong, because I didn’t know Bill well enough to fully appreciate his abilities. The magazine has grown into what I consider.one of the best intellectual journals in the country, and absolutely the best of those with a libertarian bent. I only regret that I never delivered the first article he asked me to do, on my adventures riding the rails as a yuppie hobo.
The time I recall best with Bill was spending a couple of days “in the wind” in the environs of Port Townsend, dodging logging trucks on our motorcycles. He may be remembered foremost as a great editor, but I’ll remember him as an excellent rider.
Where is he now? Just returned to dust? Maybe. Floating incorporeally in the ether? Maybe. On his way to reincarnating?· Maybe. Burning in the eternal fires of a neocon hell for not being an adequately righteous ‘merkun? I think not; in my opinion, Bill was an exemplar of public and private virtue. Singing eternally with the angels in the choir invisible? Not his style.
I often talked practical, applied philosophy with Bill – meaning religion and politics, but mostly politics. His views on these things were empirical. He liked to see the evidence for a given view, although he would listen to even delusional takes on reality, simply because he was intellectually curious.
And intellectually honest. Although his values were as solidly libertarian as anyone’s I can think of, he was, for instance, perfectly willing to pursue and expose what appeared to be irregularities in the Libertarian Party. Not because he wanted to, but because it was right.
One other thing. Bill was, unlike many libertarian intellectuals, financially successful. It always amused him that a class of people who, arguably, understand money and the economy better than any others (including most university professors and financial pundits), seemed to have less money than anyone else this side of the welfare lines. It was nice to see someone not only talk the talk but walk the walk.
It seems to me we conduct memorials more for the benefit of the living than for the benefit of the departed. And that’s fine, in that it offers an opportunity for self-assessment. Like almost everyone who knew Bill Bradford, I’m really sorry he’s no longer here. He was a good guy. The fact is that most people live and die without leaving a trace. When some people are gone, the most appropriate, even charitable, thought is “Good riddance.” Others, like Bill, leave a real void because they leave us so much good to remember. And along with the remembrance of a truly decent human being, which itself is something of value, he left us Liberty.
As an epitaph, I urge what he seemed to suggest in one of his last emails: Bradford dies. Liberty lives!