By Cathy Taylor and Alan Bock
Each year Freedom Communications Inc., owner of the Portales News-Tribune, celebrates Founder’s Day, the birthday of Raymond Cyrus Hoiles (1878-1970). “R.C.,” as he was known, founded the media company in 1935 with the purchase of the then-Santa Ana Register, and his heirs still control it.
R.C. Hoiles had a passionate commitment to the ideals of libertarianism. He worked tirelessly during his lifetime on behalf of human liberty, self-reliance and personal integrity. He advocated limited government, respect for the individual, low taxes, free trade, free markets and private property rights. R.C.’s passion for his principles, and the enduring legacy of both, sets Freedom Communications apart from its contemporaries.
The commitments outlined below are a guideline for what readers should expect from the editorial pages of our newspapers. Freedom Communications owns 65 daily and weekly newspapers and eight television stations in 16 states. The company is based in Irvine, Ca.
1. The editorial page should publish regularly the Freedom Communications credo of first principles based on these three pillars: the Ten Commandments, The Golden Rule and the Declaration of Independence.
From these principles R.C. Hoiles extracted his “single code of conduct,” believing that if the initiation of force is wrong for an individual, it is also wrong for a government. He believed that the only legitimate function of government is the protection of its citizens against fraud and force, and that all other government-run programs should be replaced by free enterprise and voluntary actions.
His beliefs drew criticism, but the same steadfast convictions also won him praise when he applied them to the unfair treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Nearly a lone voice among American journalists, R.C. publicly protested the internment, an act that would earn him commendation from some of his staunchest critics and recognition by the Japanese-American Citizens League more than 20 years later.
2. The editorial page should strive to take positions consistent with the principle that no person or institution has the right to initiate force against another without provocation — what R.C. called “defensive force.”
“I have faith that the Commandments and the Golden Rule will promote good will and peace to the degree they are obeyed,” R.C. wrote on the eve of his 75th birthday. This doesn’t imply pacifism or passivity; R.C. believed people and governments have the right to defend themselves against aggressors. But he cautioned that when people and governments become the aggressor, they violate sound moral principles and undermine civil society.
3. The editorial page’s mission is to encourage people to think about current issues, keeping human liberty central to any public policy debate.
R.C.’s whole life was aimed at freedom of the individual. While there is no shortage of media outlets that hold some value other than liberty, our position is that personal liberty and the responsibility to live with the consequences of our actions and choices are the most important political and social values. And, that liberty best facilitates the realization of other important social values.
4. The editorial page’s purpose is not to exhort readers to political activism except to defend human freedom and personal property.
The editorial pages seek to persuade readers of the importance of individual liberty and the ideals of libertarianism, but would leave to readers to decide when to exercise their passion and take up a cause. The editorial pages are quick, however, to point out excesses of government — spending, taxation, regulation, new bureaucracies — that we believe limit human freedom. We are also quick to defend individual civil liberties in the face of overweening law enforcement powers. Finally, we believe citizens have the first call on the product of their labor and ownership of their property; we readily question any proposed bonds or taxes or proposed use of eminent domain by cities to take someone’s land.
5. The editorial page does not endorse candidates for political office.
Candidates’ future performance simply is not predictive, no matter their experience, track record or promises. What is said in a campaign often has little to do with actual decisions once in office. And, by not endorsing candidates, we hope to discourage the illusion that salvation or substantial improvement in human life are to be sought through the political process. More progress is made in the voluntary private sector — think of the technology industry — than in the public sector, which more often stands in the way of healthy innovation rather than facilitates it. Politicians are not the source of our freedom and future; our own vigilance and conscientious behavior are.
We sometimes compare a candidate’s past performance and positions with our values, to give readers a “freedom perspective” on the candidate. And, we do take positions on most initiatives or referendums or other issues put before voters because they consist of words and ideas whose consequences can be reasonably predicted.
6. The purpose of the editorial and op-ed pages is to publish commentary from writers across the spectrum when they champion human liberty.
The editorial pages encourage debate on community issues large and small and welcome letters from all points of view.
Freedom Communications’ op-ed pages also look beyond the mere political to discuss and highlight that which is apolitical, non-political, cultural or just fun — aspects of life essential to the well being of a civilization of freedom.
7. Editorial writers will be expected, without evasion, to answer readers’ questions about their positions and challenges to their consistency.
R.C. loved engaging people in what he called “close reasoning.” R.C. held that “you could not reason from an analogy.” He was known for stopping associates in the hallways to discuss issues and to challenge their thinking. He kept a ready stash of leaflets on philosophy, economics, world affairs and more. He opened the pages of his newspaper to criticism of his philosophies by establishing a regular column called “The Clearing House,” where readers could express their views. R.C. welcomed the opinions of his readers and relished the opportunity to respond and “enlighten” them.
8. Editorial pages are encouraged to promote human liberty through printed and public symposia and other means of public discourse.
Freedom editorial associates often participate in community forums. We welcome suggestions from readers about events they would like to see us sponsor.
9. Editorial pages shall find creative ways to challenge readers to solve community problems with ideas that do not involve coercion, especially government force. We should be willing to offer suggestions about real-life, concrete problems rather than simply abstract theories — and be open to suggestions from readers and others.
R.C. concentrated on applying his principles to a situation or issue in a way that suggested a solution that led to more freedom, not less, for individuals. Similarly, today’s editorials seek solutions that do not rely on the government as the first-reach solution.
10. Editorial writers should use all the rhetorical tools at their disposal, remembering that a deep fund of good will and personal conviction are the most persuasive elements of all.
R.C. was known for his fearless and vigorous advocacy. But more important, he lived the life of his convictions. He ran his company based on integrity and life-long learning, and he valued principle above money — although he was a prudent financial manager. He supported a variety of charities anonymously. His beliefs, at core, were warmly optimistic about the nature of human beings. “I have faith that man is perfectible even if he is fallible,” he wrote in 1953. “I have faith in my wife and children and grandchildren, and in all men who will answer questions without evasion about what they are advocating.”
Cathy Taylor and Alan Bock work for the Orange County Register. They wrote this piece for the Portales News-Tribune and other Freedom Communications newspapers.