People unfamiliar with Libertarianism are often unaware of how much history, philosophy, and economics underpin the politics of liberty. It's hard to believe there are actually people who not only maintain a powerful handle on all these subjects at once, but integrate them with shocking consistency. Harry Browne was one of the few "giants" (as Lew Rockwell put it) who could.
I don't believe in luck, but it was a suspiciously fortunate circumstance that I learned the word "Libertarian" and found Harry Browne in the same day.
I believe I was bound to stumble on these ideas eventually, but I could have recaptured my step and continued on in the wrong direction. Instead, something about Harry Browne grabbed me.
Ideas are stagnant things if they aren't being transmitted. And at a time in my life when my mind was wide open, when I was longing for reason and a framework for sound thinking, he was speaking the language exactly the way I needed to hear it. To this day, no one has shaped my understanding of the world more.
Harry understood that the battle for freedom doesn't begin in political forums and voting booths, though sometimes people apply their focus there if and when it makes them happy to (and eventually, Harry did for that reason). But primarily, people want freedom on a very personal level, where it applies directly to their situations.
To read Harry Browne is to be pushed toward yourself. In my twenties, I wanted freedom in my head. I wanted freedom in my relationships. I wanted to discover what makes me happy and maximize that. And I never understood just how little I knew about myself, until I really started to strip away foreign influences, and uncover my own identity. Harry helped me reconstruct my priorities and solidify my code of morality as it uniquely applies to me by "starting from zero".
And once you've embraced your individualism, you have to maximize your ability to enjoy it. In that realm, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is the indispensable handbook for protecting the freedom to be you. An individual's time and resources are limited and so very precious. Harry understood that, and he went to great lengths to uncover the traps that would keep you from controlling your own life. I think people who've read it would agree that it is the definitive work on the subject.
Harry helped me understand the nature of leverage. When I wanted to reduce my vulnerabilities to negative relationships and wasteful endeavors, he encouraged me to focus on affecting the variables I had direct control over (which almost never involve changing other people, but most certainly involve a price that must be paid).
Anyone who ever cared to construct a framework for living consciously should listen to Harry Browne's Rule Your World seminar. I believe his wife found the recordings in a box in their attack, after Harry had passed. He actually recorded it in the late 1960s, and it's a testament to how consistent his philosophy holds. His topics and ideas would still apply even if he recorded it in 2005.
Whether a listener agrees with every point or nothing at all, you can't help but benefit from a speaker who takes nothing for granted and applies the questions "why" and "so what" to almost every idea people generally act on. He was painstakingly thorough and he took the discussion into every corner people avoid, and every aspect of life as it affects you. It's affected me tremendously.
Harry tucked useful wisdom into every work. The Secret of Selling ~ Anything should be classroom reading for every salesman or marketer that ever wasted time applying sleazy gimmicks to potential customers. But more than that, it would be constructive for and helpful to anyone who deals with people in any meaningful capacity. If you've read the first two chapters alone, you'd know more about the human profit motive (my term) than most people ever will.
I have very fond memories of staying up late to listen to Harry's radio show. I just about memorized the "Glide-Write" commercial, and to this day I'm curious what a "thermal asperity head" does...
In his last few months, I sent him a drawing to cheer him up. It's followed him around the internet ever since.