David Boaz remembers Andrea Rich, first LP New York chair, friend to libertarians worldwide

Rest in peace, Andrea Rich

by David Boaz

At left Ron Paul seated at desk on stage, at right Andrea Rich at lectern which reads 'www.cato.org' and 'CATO INSTITUTE' she is grinning as she presents him with a 2002 Thomas Szasz award (color photo)

Andrea Rich presenting U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the 1988 Libertarian presidential nominee, with CIT’s 2002 Thomas Szasz award for outstanding contributions to the cause of civil liberties
(Photo courtesy of the Cato Institute)

Our friend, supporter, and ally Andrea Rich passed away on Wednesday in Philadelphia after a 19-year battle with lung cancer. We’re going to miss very much her warmth, her generosity, her valuable and occasionally pointed suggestions, and her enthusiasm for liberty.

Our thoughts are especially with her husband, Howie, at this time. Together, Andrea and he were the closest, warmest couple I’ve ever known. Here is a remembrance of her life and accomplishments that hardly conveys the lives she touched and the joy with which she lived.

For more than 40 years, Andrea was at the center of the libertarian movement, a mentor, counselor, friend, supporter, facilitator, networker, and gracious hostess to hundreds of freedom lovers — young, old, well known, obscure, successful, down on their luck — didn’t matter.

She was the first chair of the New York Libertarian Party, in 1973–74. The vice chair was Howard S. Rich, whom she soon married. From 1974 to 1977, she was vice chair of the national Libertarian Party, and in 1980, she played a key role in developing television advertising for the campaign of Ed Clark, the Libertarian presidential nominee.

From 1982 to 2005, she was the president of Laissez-Faire Books, which billed itself as “the world’s largest collection of books on liberty.” It had a retail location on Mercer Street in Greenwich Village, described by Brian Doherty in his book Radicals for Capitalism as “an important social center for the movement in America’s biggest city, a place for any traveling libertarian to stop for company and succor.” But in those pre-Amazon days, it was far better known for its monthly catalog that reached libertarians around the world. Through its Fox & Wilkes publishing imprint, it brought many classic libertarian books back into print.

Andrea often negotiated with publishers to make books more affordable, and some books found publishers only because Laissez-Faire could guarantee an audience beyond the small academic market. Through this work, she became friendly with leading libertarian writers including Milton and Rose Friedman, Robert Nozick, Thomas Sowell, Nathaniel Branden, Thomas Szasz, Charles Murray, Richard Epstein, and Margit von Mises, widow of economist Ludwig von Mises.

As president of the Center for Independent Thought (CIT), the parent organization of Laissez-Faire Books, Andrea also launched and managed the Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, and the Roy A. Childs Fund for Independent Scholars. CIT’s biggest project was “Stossel in the Classroom,” which repackaged John Stossel’s ABC News and Fox Business videos on economics and public policy for classroom use. The videos have been viewed by tens of millions of high school students — according to Stossel, reaching more people than ABC News and Fox News.

Along the way, she also helped to found the Center for Libertarian Studies in 1976 and served on the boards of the Foundation for Economic Education, the oldest free-market think tank, and the Atlas Network, an international association of think tanks. She traveled as far as Russia and Kenya to meet libertarians and spread the ideas of freedom.

Andrea Millen was born February 8, 1939, to the late Louis and Vera Millen of Johnson City, Tenn. She was graduated from Science Hill High School and attended the University of Alabama. After she got a summer job at CBS answering fan mail for Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle (“my handwriting was perfect for it, they said”), she never went back to school. For 18 years, she worked in television, including for Sid Caesar, Joe Pyne, and the NBC News election unit.

She lived most of her life in Manhattan and Orangeburg, N.Y., and moved to Philadelphia in 2009.

Andrea is survived by her husband of 41 years, Howard Rich, her sister Elaine Millen of Charlotte, N.C., stepsons Joseph Rich and Dan Rich, Dan’s wife Maureen, and granddaughters Cati and Samantha.

David Boaz is executive vice president at the Cato Institute, and author of  The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.