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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ron Paul honours Marshall Fritz in the House of Representatives

Picture_6 On November 5th, I noted the passing the previous night of Marshall Fritz, the founder of the Advocates of Self-Government, the Alliance for Separation of School and State and the inventor of the popular World's Smallest Political Quiz.

On November 19th, Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives about his friend Marshall Fritz. At the end of his speech, Paul pointed to Fritz' uncompromising commitment to principle, willingness and ability to build broad political coalitions and, most importantly, his attitude of respect towards his opponents as examples which libertarians who wish to successfully advance their ideas should emulate:

In 1990, Marshall stepped down as President of the Advocates to found the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, an organization focusing on the vital issue of parental control of education. Thanks in large part to Marshall's work, the idea that parents, not the government, should control education is no longer excluded from public debate as a "fringe" notion. One of the features that most impresses me about the Alliance is the way that Marshall brought libertarians, conservatives, and liberals together to work for education freedom.

Anyone who knew Marshall and worked with him would not be surprised that he was able to forge a coalition of people of diverse views. Marshall’s focus was always on building alliances and trying to persuade those with whom he disagreed, rather than on scoring debating points. While he never compromised his principles and never hesitated to criticize even his closet allies if they took what he considered an anti-liberty position, Marshall never personalized disagreements and always treated his opponents with courtesy and respect. I believe the freedom movement would be more successful if more libertarians followed Marshall's example of never turning policy disagreements into personal attacks.

All of us who care about building an effective freedom movement owe a debt of gratitude to Marshall Fritz. I join Marshall’s family in mourning his loss and I urge all of us who work for liberty to honor Marshall’s memory by following the example he set.

Update: Here's a nice obituary from the libertarian-conservative editorial team of the OC Register:

Marshall Fritz, a tireless activist for the cause of human liberty, died peacefully in his hometown of Fresno on Nov. 4 at age 65 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. The founder of three different nonprofit organizations dedicated to furthering freedom in different ways, he was a genial giant with a booming voice and an inexhaustible font of kindness and understanding.

Born in Inglewood, Marshall began his career as a salesman and development specialist for IBM, but as his passion for liberty grew he became convinced that the freedom movement could benefit from his experience in business communications. In 1985 he founded the Advocates for Self-Government (www.theadvocates.org) to help libertarians express their ideas positively and persuasively. He developed the World's Smallest Political Quiz (more than 10 million copies distributed) to help people locate themselves in the political universe and to convey that positions beyond the usually sterile liberal/conservative dichotomy were possible and even widely held.

A devout Catholic, Marshall founded the Pioneer Christian Academy in the early 1990s to put his innovative ideas about high-quality education into practice. Although the school was endorsed by luminaries like Milton Friedman and former New York state Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto, it was not as successful as he had hoped. Yet he learned much from the experience and went on to found, in 1994, the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, dedicated to the idea that an endeavor as important as education could only flourish independently if it is independent of political control. This is a cause that has not yet triumphed, but the Alliance is still active (www.schoolandstate.org).

Unlike some who hold to strong principles that are not yet widely appreciated, Marshall Fritz, although he was always seeking to persuade people, was unfailingly patient and civil, especially in discussions with people who disagreed with him. He would point out examples of fuzzy thinking or questionable premises, but always in a way that sought to get to the root of the thinking of those with different ideas and to deal with an adversary's best arguments rather than straw men. He was also strongly involved in his community in Fresno, as a youth soccer coach and a volunteer at a homeless shelter. He leaves Joan, his wife of 43 years, four children and 12 grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Requiem aeternam, dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink

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