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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

Public Policy Hooligan:
Good cheer in a dreary year

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

I have spent decades trying to turn political dirt into philosophic gold. I have yet to discover the alchemist’s trick, but I still have fun with the dirt.

I have sometimes been mistaken for a troublemaker. My work has been publicly denounced by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Postmaster General, and the chiefs of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, International Trade Commission, Drug Enforcement Administration,Agency for International Development, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Yet, I was merely seeking to help Americans appreciate how their government serves them.

Thus begins Jim Bovard’s amazingly cheerful memoir of how he went from being a good, authority-respecting Boy Scout to being the bane of D.C. policymakers and bureaucrats during the Clinton years.

Public Policy Hooligan is also a long-awaited memoir, at least by me. I’ve been seeing snippets of it via email for five or six years and whining, “When you gonna publish it, Jim? Huh? Huh? When?”

Well, the mainstream publishing world has become less gutsy since 9-11 (actually beginning a few years before that). So when Jim finally got his memoir “in print” it turned out not to be in print at all, but self-published for Kindle.

His timing was good, though. He got it online (with a little help from some folks around this blog) last month, just when the world needed cheering up.

And did I mention that the book actually is cheery despite being about Janet Reno, Louis Freeh, and other such gag-inducing personages, not to mention boatloads of some of the dumbest, most wasteful bureaucrats you’d ever want to avoid?

Sample chapter titles give the idea: “Chasing USDA with a Pitchfork,” “Conspiring Against the Clinton Administration,” and “Flummoxing the FBI.”

Jim didn’t take the usual course to becoming a wonk. (May I call you a wonk, Jim?) He didn’t graduate from the Ivy League. In fact, he didn’t graduate from anywhere; he dropped out. He didn’t arise from an intellectual urban environment but from the rural South. He made his way to D.C. not via scholarships, internships, or political connections, but by hitchhiking and working on road gangs and bumming around Europe.

Still … somehow (it had to do with the Great Books) he made it to Washington, where he promptly began bedeviling Authoritah.

Thing is, even when his words make you mad, he’s usually also making you laugh. Or at least grin a little. Some randomly selected snips from Public Policy Hooligan

Politicians were perennially whining that the U.S. was being victimized by its free trade policies. I searched high and low and could not detect “free trade.” But I did find the two hefty volumes of the U.S. Tariff Code, with specific tariffs for 8,753 different products.


During the Clinton presidency, I was blamed for the Oklahoma City bombing, farm bankruptcies, union-busting, factory shutdowns, creeping cynicism, and negative stereotypes of Grateful Dead fans.

I wasn’t always guilty as charged.


The right to violently batter down a front door necessarily included the right to shoot any citizen who tried to stop the police from invading his home. And what did it take to justify government effectively declaring war on its own citizens?

Flush toilets.


I scooted over to the West Virginia Panhandle to check out one of AmeriCorps’s premier literacy programs. The Energy Express program enrolled 600 college students each summer to teach reading to tens of thousands of kids from low-income families. The run-down school I visited in Ranson, West Virginia certainly provided a pleasant environment for youngsters. When children were not watching puppet shows or engaging in “non-competitive recreation,” they sat in cardboard boxes or indoor tents and played with books. I asked several AmeriCorps members how much training they received to teach reading. Each one I asked looked at me as if I was crazy. One earnest AmeriCorps recruit named Brian explained: “We’re not teaching them to read – we are just exposing them and getting them to like it. You
just want them to think they’re doing a good job” when reading.


As I was busting tail to finish Lost Rights, I straggled down the steps from my bedroom to my living room one April 1993 morning with the usual deadline hangover (unfortunately, completely unrelated to alcohol). I tossed a slab of the previous night’s pizza in the microwave, fetched the newspapers from the sidewalk, and flipped on the television to see if the world had gone to hell overnight.

As my eyes were still focusing for the day, I saw what looked like tanks smashing gaping holes in the side of a dilapidated building. And then CNN bubbleheads chirped that the FBI had notified the Branch Davidians that “this is not an assault.”


About the only part of the book that didn’t make me smile at least a bit was his recounting of the politics around the Randy Weaver siege, the murders at Waco, their insane coverups, and the government supremacist claims most people were still buying in those pre-Internet days. Even after all these years, those beastly acts are still raw and unforgivable. And Jim — who keeps amazingly good notes and apparently never throws any of them away — reminded me of foul human beings and foul deeds of those days I’d much rather forget.

No, I can’t see ever laughing about any of that. There are still people in and around government who deserve scrupulously fair trials followed by swift hangings for Ruby Ridge and Waco. But Jim tells their stories well.

There’s a healthy ego that shows up on the pages of Public Policy Hooligan. Natural, I suppose — this being a memoir, and a memoir by somebody who needs a strong ego to confront, question, and mock very powerful people.

Public Policy Hooligan is a good read. It’s brightened some dark weeks as I’ve slowly made my way through it (hating my faux Kindle PC software the whole time). I recommend it.


Public Policy Hooligan
Available at
Pages: 372 (are “pages” even relevant any more?)
Published: December 7, 2012 (did you choose Pearl Harbor Day on purpose, Jim?)
Price: $6.95

9 Responses to “Public Policy Hooligan:
Good cheer in a dreary year”

  1. smitty Says:

    I was pleased to be one of those lending Jim an assist.

    Government goings-on are enough to cause one to pull their hair out, so it is nice to get a chuckle out of the outrageousnous, and Public Policy Hooligan does provide the chuckles.

  2. Benjamin Says:

    Great review. I still need to buy it, spent my book budget for the month on building and farming related topics. Maybe on February 1st, before I find myself browsing the timberframing shop’s book selection again.

    I was twelve when Ruby Ridge happened and can’t remember, did it make national news at the time? I knew nothing of it until I started reading liberty related material. I remember Waco quite distinctly from the post-dinner NBC news ritual followed by slightly more accurate reports from family and friends in Texas but nothing of Ruby Ridge.

  3. Mike Says:

    I’m going to need to get the time to read this. I wasn’t old enough to be politically active at the time, but looking back at it now, I’m appalled at what went on and the response.

    Claire, a bit off-topic, but something I think might be appreciated by your readership:

  4. A.G. Says:

    Interesting. My B.I.L gave me two more books by Adler for Christmas this year. Silly me, I actually thought those Great Books were going to be assigned readings when I tromped off to college. Maybe it’s not too late to catch up, read them, and become like Jim when I grow up.

  5. Jim Bovard Says:

    Thanks a bunch, Claire! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and pass on your thoughts on the book. Glad that the book had plenty of laughs. And you’re right about the “healthy ego.” Some might even say “very damn healthy ego.”

    Smitty – thanks again for your sharp eye and your excellent proofreading. You saved me from big blunders, especially on Eastern Europe. Joel also gave invaluable help on this – the two of you made me look significantly less illiterate.

    The December 7 publication date wasn’t tied to Pearl Harbor; instead, that was merely the day that I ceased being tormented by Amazon Kindle’s idiotic software mandates. And a hat tip to Kindle expert David Young for his feedback on that score.

  6. LarryA Says:

    [There are still people in and around government who deserve scrupulously fair trials followed by swift hangings for Ruby Ridge and Waco.]

    Never happen. They’ve all been Gregoryed.

  7. Claire Says:

    Benjamin — Ruby Ridge did make the national news at the time, but not in a way that would have looked like a huge freedom cause to anyone who wasn’t already aware. The media coverage was all about this “white supremacist” family (the Weavers were separatists but not supremacists) that had murdered a federal agent and booby-trapped their “compound,” etc. etc.

    The only thing that would have told most people that something else was going on were the shots of local people standing at the bottom of the road protesting the federal overkill and defending the family. Even at the trial, when really damning info came out, most Americans were not very aware, or willing to be aware, of what was going on.

  8. Claire Says:

    Mike — I’ve just started watching that video. Thanks. It looks like a good one.

  9. gooch Says:

    Nice review Claire. You have made me want to read the “book”.

    Now … I do not own a Kindle. I will NOT be buying a Kindle.
    I am interested in purchasing a copy of the newest tome by Mr Bovard in either zip, pdf, paperback or hardcopy.

    Please advise as to how this can be done.

    Perhaps someone with personal access to Mr Bovard will take pity and forward this to him so that I can arrange to buy a pdf or zip copy for the same amount?

    Thanks in advance,


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