A dear friend Gary North (1942-2022) passed away on Thursday, February 24. He was 80 years old. I had been trying to reach him recently without any response, so I wondered if his prostate cancer caught up with him. I really feel sorry I was not able to say good-bye, he being so much of a recluse in the past 20 years.
My last email to him was October 9, 2021, where he said, “You have always been the smooth it over guy. I have been the blowup the parade.” We saw each other for the last time in June 2019.
Gary North was one of those people who qualifies as “My Most Unforgettable Characters” that Reader’s Digest used to highlight. He was truly a unique figure in my life. He was the one who called me in the year 2000 and encouraged me to apply for the position of president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the oldest free-market think tank. It was a life-changing decision to move to New York. Even though I lasted only a year as president of FEE, that decision resulted in my teaching at Columbia University, and then with Jo Ann teaching at Sing Sing through Mercy College, and many other changes in our lives and our children (especially Hayley, who moved up to New York with us).
He is only a handful of people who I could spend hours with and never reach the bottom of his knowledge. We knew each other from the 1970s on. He could talk intelligently about philosophy, religion, investments, economics, politics, and even sports (we went to a Lakers game once and saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play.)
His hard-money newsletter, Gary North’s Remnant Review, was older than mine by several years. I believe he started his around 1974, when Inflation Survival Letter, got started. We did a lot of conferences together, along with Larry Abraham and Doug Casey.
In the early 1980s, I took over his position as an investment counselor to Howard Ruff’s (Ruff Times) subscribers. Gary spoke at the New Orleans hard-money conference and bought junk silver in the early 1960s. He was one of the original gold bugs. He was also famous for predicting the end of the world in 2000 due to the Y2K crisis.
He worked for a year at Congressman Ron Paul’s office as a research assistant in 1976, and stayed at our home in Falls Church, Virginia, for week when he arrived in DC – always unannounced. Jo Ann did his laundry.
In 1985, Jo Ann and I, along with our four children, took the “Grand Tour of Europe” with Howard Ruff and Gary North, among others. I arranged an interview with the great Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek at Hayek’s retreat in the Austrian Alps, and invited Gary to come with me (along with John Mauldin, his assistant). Major parts of the 3-hour recording was published in the book “Hayek on Hayek” without attribution. Here is a photo of us.
During the Howard Ruff tour, I was on a panel with Gary and the moderator asked Howard Ruff, R. E. McMaster and me what our sign was. We all gave our zodiac signs. Gary North gave a memorable answer: “The dollar.”
We also were part of a Mises Institute conference in Vienna, Austria, in 1988 with Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, and Burt Blumert. (See photo below.) Gary and I wrote tributes to Murray Rothbard in a Festschrift in 1988.
In the late 1980s, Gary played the FCC lotteries for cell tower licenses in various cities around the United States and won two licenses! He told me that he later sold each one for $1 million, which made him financially independent. He learned a year later that the cell licenses were being resold for $50 million. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that those cell licenses are now worth over $1 billion. Talk about seller’s regrets!
He wrote for many organizations, including FEE (The Freeman) and the Mises Institute, and had his own website www.garynorth.com. He was prolific for sure, writing daily, a marketing genius.
Like my father, Gary’s father was an FBI agent who may have known my uncle Cleon or my father Leroy Skousen, who both worked in the LA office. Gary was born in 1942 and grew up in the Los Angeles area, and got his Ph. D. in economic history at UC Riverside in 1972. He wrote over 50 books and was especially proud of his “Economic Commentary on the Bible,” most of which was self-published through his Institute for Christian Economics. He wrote for The Freeman and other publications. I cite his critique of Karl Marx and quoted his “Fat Book Theory” in my own history, “The Making of Modern Economics,” in which he argued that the most influential works were all fat tomes.
He was a deeply committed Calvinist and devoted student of R. J. Rushdoony, author of “The Institutes of Biblical Law.” He married R. J. Rushdoony’s daughter Sharon and had several children, and moved around a lot in the South and finally resided near Atlanta, Georgia. I remember how he would have two houses – one to live in, and another to house all his books.
Gary was preceded in death by his son Caleb who suffered from a rare illness. He is survived by Sharon, his wife of 50 years, and their other children Darcy North, Scott North and his wife, Angela, and Lori McDurmon and her husband, Joel, and eight grandchildren.
There are people in one’s life that you wish you could talk or write to after they die. Gary North is one of them.
For more information about Gary North’s life, go to https://www.garynorth.com/public/23334.cfm.
Troy Lynch says
Thank you for your comment on Gary North’s life. I was impacted by North’s work on Austrian economics and Christianity. This drove me ultimately, at least with respect to economics, to Mises, Hayek and Rothbard (and Böhm-Bawerk and Menger). I have also benefitted greatly from your work, Mark, on Austrian capital theory, as you elaborated on Böhm-Bawerk and Hayek, as they both developed Menger’s insights. North did not focus so much on capital theory. I also listened to the audio of that interview of you and North and Hayek, which was fascinating. I think that it was Mises that best developed Austrian capital and interest theory; he understood subjective value theory the best. But Rothbard was a great theoretician and can make complex economic theory easy to read.
North was also a student of Cornelius Van Til, the promulgator of the transcendental or presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics. He utilised Van Til’s philosophical approach in the development of biblicial economics. He also was an advocate of the continuity of biblical law, as it applies to the civil and criminal institutions of society. North has left a great legacy. His Christian Economics, Volume 4: Scholar’s Edition is one of a number of contributions to his his “Fat Book Theory,” and (from what I have read thus far) will be influential.
He wrote before he died that all his books would be free online. His book on Leviticus was genius. A great look into the economic system, and free market behavior under such law.