Karl Hess, known for his political activism and rejection of institutions, was born in 1923. When he was an infant, his mother seperated from her unfaithful husband and raised her son alone to Washington, D.C. They lived simply, and Hess's mother taught him to read even before he was of school age. While this made Hess an avid learner, he found school tedious and restricting, and he eventually quit at fifteen and lived as a truant. He was not unproductive, however; by the time he was eighteen, after working various jobs for news media, he was an editor of Washington Daily News.
During this time he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army after the destruction at Pearl Harbor, but was discharged for health reasons. Hess continued reporting, then obtained a position with Champion Papers and Fibre Company, where he got his start in politics. At first a conservative, he became involved with the Republican party as a speechwriter for the party's campaign platforms in the 1960s. Hess was turning increasingly radical, however, and by 1968 he left the Republicans for the Black Panther Party and its socialist leanings. He acted against large-scale business as well as the Viet Nam War, and is famous for his refusal to pay taxes which made him unable to work lest the IRS confiscate his earnings entirely. Eventually Hess came to rest on the emergent Libertarian line of thought, and also turned his focus to the small-scale community aspect of American culture. He furthermore supported and experimented with alternative forms of energy like solar- and wind-power as part of his "back-to-the-land" vision. Always an activist, Hess continued to write and work for his ideals until his death in 1994.
Did you find this review helpful?