Chris R. Tame, Obituary from The Scotsman, 27th March 2006
Obituary from The Scotsman,
Edinburgh, 27th March 2006
(Prepared by Peter Clarke)
CHRISTOPHER TAME Bibliophile and pamphleteer Born: 20 December, 1949, in Enfield. Died: 20 March, 2006, in London, aged 56.
ONE incident can illustrate so much of a life. In 1983, Chris Tame, a free marketeer or libertarian, was writing an article on how it was easy to acquire guns, grenades and other military items by just buying them from United States mail order catalogues. He deployed his credit card to confirm his view. Carrying his collection of light armaments in his knapsack he went off to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square in London to work further in the library. The X-ray security gear detected a terrorist. Chris was jumped upon, pummelled by the marines and arrested.
The court accepted he was innocent, if unwise, but Chris was never to escape the suspicion of the security services again. Because there are left-wing terrorists, there must be free market ones too seemed to be the logic of the CIA and MI5.
As Chris was then working with Sir Keith Joseph, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the security services were alarmed at his evident connections. He was barred from attending Tory Party events. He scoffed: "They are frightened of ideas, not of me."
On taking office at the DTI, Sir Keith asked Chris to compile a reading list for senior civil servants. His idea was to wean them off the subsidy mindset and to suggest privatisation and de-regulation. To digest the set texts was not obligatory but it was suggested knowledge of Smith, Hume, Hayek and Friedman was a prudent career step. It may be argued the liberalisation of the telephone market was Chris's greatest success. "Competition is the best discovery procedure," was his mantra.
His Bibliography of Freedom, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, illuminates all his campaigning life. Chris was a dedicated guerrilla fighter for the capitalist cause - the opposite of the corporatist complacency of the CBI or other official voices. He regarded businessmen as always willing to betray the ideals of the open market. He thought the Conservative efforts to suppress or regulate prices in the 1970-74 period to combat "inflation" while still pouring new credit into the economy as a measure of both their duplicity and stupidity. Tame was influential in convincing Margaret Thatcher, Geoffrey Howe and Sir Keith that inflation was entirely a disease of money and not of greedy trade unions, speculators, oil sheikhs or other phantoms.
Chris leaves the Libertarian Alliance, a diverse group of thinkers, as his monument. The LA sees itself as the heirs to John Locke and John Stuart Mill. It was Chris Tame's decision to avoid the error of their fellow US libertarians in fighting elections. He saw this as futile. He regarded its role as to subvert by publishing, writing and arguing. His friend Sean Gabb has described this position: "Rather than propagandising the masses, libertarians had to win over the intellectuals."
This may prove to be the great unseen political narrative of the last 50 years. Libertarian thinkers have been pre-occupied in their think-tanks rather than in the transient banalities of political campaigns.
Chris ran the Alternative Bookshop, in London's Covent Garden. It was a base and coffee shop for the libertarians, the posher ones terming themselves Whigs. Influence is a will o'the wisp but this may be Chris's greatest contribution. While the Tory Party is tacking to the left on the assumption this will be rewarded by votes, the Libertarians argue at a deeper level. What are the cardinal virtues in this cosmology? Free trade, the rule of law and tolerance. Most topics are illuminated by these searchlight principles. To Tories who got exercised about homosexuality or kindred topics, Chris would just shrug and say: "Don't we believe in a free market in apertures?"
As a non-smoker, indeed as something of a health-food enthusiast, it was odd that the tobacco industry appointed Chris to run Forest, the campaign to preserve the freedom to smoke between 1988 and 1995. He adhered strictly to the view that smoker's bodies were their own and liberty includes the freedom to make foolish decisions.
Christ Tame had carved his own unique niche in British politics. He kept the small libertarian flame supplied with fuel. He learned he had a rare bone cancer last year. His end was defiant and dignified.