Tonie Nathan was the first vice-presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party. Tonie came to Libertarianism as a life-long Democrat. Soon after graduating as a journalism major from the University of Oregon, she attended the first Libertarian convention as both an interested observer and as a free-lance writer intending to write an article about this fledgling new political party. Much to her astonishment, after speaking to many of the leaders of the Party, Tonie was asked to run with John Hospers for the highest office in the nation. Hospers was Chairman of the Philosophy Department at USC.

Tonie Nathan, much to everyone's surprise, became the first woman in American history to have received an electoral vote in a presidential election, in 1972. During the 1970s through the 1990s, Tonie ran for offices including the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. In the 1980 Oregon Senate election, Tonie participated in three statewide television debates with then-U.S. Senator Bob Packwood and then-State Senator Ted Kulongoski. In 1990 she ran as a Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Oregon's 4th congressional district. She was the lone challenger to incumbent Congressman Peter DeFazio.

Tonie Nathan was a visionary. She was also considered a radical and extremist. She was an extremist for freedom and a radical because she believed in free markets. She lived through the turmoil of the 60's and 70's and witnessed campuses being burned down, riots in the streets, and assassinations of beloved leaders. Through all of this she consistently fought for freedom and justice. Tonie was against the draft and for an all-volunteer army. That was radical back then, but became the law of the land not too many years later.

She said the war on drugs was a waste of time and money and promoted the de-criminalization of drugs, even though she her herself never smoked a cigarette let alone took drugs. She in fact was a life-long naturopath. Those advocating the legalization of marijuana were considered extremists in the 70's, but today such views are becoming commonplace, and the law in some states. 

She was a strong proponent of education, and wanted the federal government out of it and left to individual’s and states only. She was one of the first to promote school vouchers.

Tonie was a feminist that championed women's rights, but never at the expense of individual rights. She chose to live the life of an emancipated woman, and to not tell others how to live theirs. She believed in a woman's right to an abortion while never dreaming of having one herself, and she defended gays, if and when they were harassed or discriminated against.  

But Tonie wasn't a wide-eyed Liberal. She championed free market capitalism in a time when capitalism was a dirty word and condemned as evil. She believed in absolute property rights and individual rights in a time where such ideas were considered "passé".  Few defended the right of the rich, but Tonie Nathan did. At the same time she defended the rights of prostitutes calling it a victimless crime, even though she herself considered the profession immoral.

In a time when income tax rates were at 90%, Tonie Nathan fought for a flat tax where everyone would pay the same percent of their income. She was against favored treatment and wanted to do away with all corporate welfare, subsidies, and tax loopholes.

She also wrote article after article about the alternative ways of financing social needs, without the intrusion of government. She proposed user taxes, the end to eminent domain, a balanced budget, and the compliance with the constitution. She was a fiscal conservative, a hard money advocate, and a social liberal seeking social justice -- all at the same time.

Individuality was the greatest virtue according to Tonie Nathan. The freedom to think, to act without government controls and regulations as long as you did so without using force to impose your ideas or policies on others. It was the initiation of force that Tonie wanted barred from politics and human behavior. Legislating one's morality on someone else was not allowed by her strict "live and let live" philosophy. That philosophy, which she was exposed to by Ayn Rand, led to her political views of freedom, free markets, and individuality. Libertarianism was the political expression of that philosophy and she fought for it vigorously until she could fight no more.

Tonie Nathan passed away this week at the age of 91.

Paul Nathan