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Leonard Liggio, R.I.P.

Leonard Liggio died earlier today in Washington, D.C. He was 81 years old. His kidneys had failed recently, which I infer put a strain on his body more generally.

I wrote a short appreciation of Leonard just after his 80th birthday. For an obituary from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, where he worked for many years, see this.

When Leonard became interested in classical liberalism, there were so few other people interested in it in that he got to know them all. His far-flung web of friendships, boundless memory, and wide reading, especially in history and political philosophy, made him a key figure in establishing a community of like-minded thinkers that is now many thousands strong and spans the world. It has today no Mises, Hayek, Friedman, Rothbard, Rand, or Nozick. To some it will seem as though we have passed from an age of giants to an age of pygmies. My view is different. As a current of thought become broader, it is harder for any single thinker to have the influence that was possible when it was smaller. The work becomes more specialized. (This blog is an example.) For the current to remain a unified current, though, it needs people who can make connections from one part to another, and Leonard was supremely talented at doing so.




  1. It is very sad about Leonard Liggio – may he rest in peace.

    As for your political comment – sadly I think you are mistaken.

    Free market (pro private property) thought has not got "broader" – if anything there are fewer pro smaller and less extensive government voices now (both in academia and the media) than there where in the 1950s – or more recently.

    If anything things are getting worse. For example in Britain there used to be token free market person in every major university economics and politics department (there was the department "beard" – someone in every department would have a beard, or it seemed that way, and there was also the department conservative). This is no longer the case – now most departments (both of economics and politics) are wall-to-wall leftists – no conservative or classical liberal voices. This means that even conservative politicians come out with Keynesian economics (pro monetary expansion and so on) because they have never heard any other form of economics – never, in their whole lives.

    In the United States (up to 1966) Henry Hazlitt had a regular column in "Newsweek" – it would be unthinkable for an Austrian School person to have a voice in the mainstream media today.

    As for establishment economics – look at the award of the "Nobel" prize. It used to be stated that governments should regulate markets, but with clear and straightforward rules (this is bad enough – of course governments should NOT regulate markets), but the now the line is that an all-wise regulator (with perfect knowledge of everything) should have arbitrary power (not clear and straightforward rules) to regulate each industry where there is not "perfect competition" (and as "perfect competition" is a fictional construct that is impossible in the real world – that means a regulator with arbitrary power for every industry) – and this gets the "Nobel" prize. They might as well have given it to Francis Bacon (for his "The New Atlantis") or Sir William Petty (for his desire to have Ireland put under the arbitrary government of mathematical "planners" – early econometrics).

    Going forward? Sadly no – in fact the West is in intellectual (and moral) collapse.

    1. What you say may be accurate for Britain, but taking the long view (30 years or more) I stand by what I said as it pertains to the world as a whole. There are free market voices and think tanks all through the former communist bloc, India, and Africa, where they were nonexistent or almost so previously. Tyler Cowen has a regular column in the New York Times, which is nearly the parallel to Henry Hazlitt that you seek (see On economics, well, at least my fellow economists are no longer extolling the Soviet Union.
      What counts as hopeful depends on what you are comparing it to. Being old enough to have crossed through Checkpoint Charlie and to have visited the Soviet Union, I see a lot of improvement. There have been steps back, as your comment indicates. Still, the old joke about there being two kinds of people, optimists and realists, would to me be more accurate if it said that the two kinds of people are pessimists and realists.

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