Karl Hess was a complicated man. Raised by a single mother in 30's-era Washington, D.C., he dropped out of high school and got into the news business at age 15. By his early forties he was writing speeches for Barry Goldwater; he then swung to the other end of the spectrum, joining Students for Democratic Society (SDS) and collaborating with the Black Panther Party. Eventually, he struck out for unknown territory, espousing a radical form of libertarianism that bordered on anarchism. He wrote a number of books, including Community Technology, which first came out in 1979 .
I first learned about Hess in an article that used a term, shared machine shops, attributed to him. I got a used copy of Community Technology put out by Loompanics Unlimited, a reprint house covering topics like drugs, smuggling, anarchism, and survivalism. These titles proved controversial enough to attract the attention of the F.B.I., and they went out of business in 2006. These sit slightly to the outskirts of the sort of seventies-era DIY manuals that I have soft spot for -- Shelter, Hydroponics Hot House, The Passive Solar Dome Greenhouse, The Prodigious Builders, Nomadic Furniture, and How to Build Your Own Living Structures. They are all lightly political, explicitly practical, and more than a little self-righteous.Read More