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Who Was R.C. Hoiles? A history lesson over at Mises.org


R.C. Hoiles was born Raymond Cyrus Hoiles 132 years ago this month, on November 24, 1878, in Alliance, Ohio, a small town of a little more than 4,000 people, about 20 miles northeast of Canton and about 30 miles southeast of Akron. He grew up on a prosperous farm a short distance outside town and first went to school in what he himself later characterized as "a little red schoolhouse." There, he said many years later, the most important thing he was taught was "that the State, or a majority of citizens, had the right to use taxation to support the public school system."

Hoiles found, he said, that while his

"school texts exposed the political "error" of the divine right of kings … they never explained the error in the divine right of the majority. [They] simply substituted the divine right of the majority for the divine right of kings."

And they taught "that the government or the local school district, if the majority so willed, had a right to force a Catholic parent, or a childless person, or an old maid, or an old bachelor to help pay for government schools." On the whole, R.C. later wrote, "attending government schools … handicapped me in developing my moral and mental faculties. … [I]n short it retarded my education."

Of course, Hoiles didn't think all these things while he was still a student in the "little red schoolhouse" — at least, not in so many words. Such thoughts would occur to him only later, when he was looking back at the events of his early life. Meanwhile, he graduated from the little red schoolhouse, attended the local high school, graduated from there as well, and enrolled in yet another local school, an institution owned and operated by the Methodist church under the name Mount Union College.

It is appropriate, I think, to pause for a moment at this point in the story to reflect on what the fact of R.C. Hoiles being a college student at all in the late 1890s tells us about the socioeconomic class in which he was brought up. It is worth remembering that, as Cynthia Rose's American Decades: 1900–1909 puts it,

in the first decade of the twentieth century most American children attended schools for no more than a few years, and from their limited education they and their parents were often content if they acquired only the most rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills.

It is worth remembering that, in the words of one unsigned but very accurate online account of the relevant history,

higher education [at the end of the 19th century] remained primarily a preserve of the elite. For most Americans, that didn't change until World War II, with the passage of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the "GI Bill." … In 1900, about two percent of the college-age population enrolled in higher education.

As late as 1947, three years after the passage of the GI Bill, only about five percent of Americans — one American in 20 — held a four-year college degree. What we're used to today is very different; today, two-thirds of the college-age population in this country is in college, at least part-time, and a little more than a quarter of the adult population — one American in four — holds a four-year degree.

Though his family was prosperous, Hoiles felt he should work to help put himself through Mount Union College, so he took a weekend job selling subscriptions to his older brother's newspaper, the Alliance Review, while he studied electrical engineering during the week. When graduation day dawned, however, Hoiles awoke to discover that he'd begun to find the newspaper business more interesting than engineering. So he never wound up working even a single day as an engineer. Instead he stayed on in his older brother's employ, working not only as a subscription salesman, but also as a printer, as a bookkeeper, and, eventually, as business manager.

By 1905, when he was still only 26 years old, he had become his older brother's partner, having acquired a one-third interest in the paper. For the next 14 years, the Hoiles brothers worked on growing their little paper; then, in 1919, they began acquiring other nearby smalltown publications — first the Lorain Times Herald, then, two years later, in 1921, the Mansfield News. R.C. Hoiles knew all the ins and outs of the business well enough by then to serve as publisher first of the Lorain newspaper and then of the Mansfield newspaper.

By now, Hoiles was in his 40s and had begun, perhaps somewhat belatedly, to think in a broad, theoretical way about politics and society — and about the role a newspaper could play in a community if it were committed to some sort of principled vision of the ideal society. He had come to believe that, as he put it many years later,

What this country needs as much as anything else, are newspapers that believe in moral principles and have enough courage to express these principles and point out practices and beliefs that violate moral principles. A newspaper that only tries to run editorials and columnists and news items that are popular is of mighty little value to its readers.

Moreover, Hoiles argued, "A newspaper that is afraid of losing subscribers because of principles is of little value to itself or anyone else. It might make dollars but its publisher loses his own self-respect — his own soul." Hoiles believed that

there were more crusading newspapers in years gone by than there are today. Today too many newspapers are afraid of offending somebody and losing a dollar by taking an unpopular position. The result is that they cease to … be of much use in their community as far as getting people to better understand human relations that will promote goodwill, peace and prosperity.

And not only that, but "a newspaper that is afraid to discuss things that are 'sacred cows' to the majority will be afraid to handle news stories that might cost it advertising or subscriptions." Increasingly, though, Hoiles saw the editorial page as the true heart of a newspaper. A newspaper's editorial page was, he said, "a daily school room made available to its subscribers," irrespective of whether they were "rich or poor, young or old, and without the duress of taxes nor the compulsion of forced attendance."

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Fascinating man

He would fit right in here at the DP.

Free includes debt-free!