October 15, 2014 – I am saddened to hear of the passing of Leonard Liggio, one of the founders of the modern libertarian movement.
Leonard’s involvement with the movement for peace and liberty started with his support for Robert Taft in 1952, but it was his participation in Ludwig von Mises’s seminar at New York University that put Leonard on the path to becoming a major figure in the development of the libertarian movement.
While attending the seminar, Leonard and his friends Ralph Raico and George Reisman befriended some other young scholars, including Mises’s top American student Murray Rothbard. These young scholars formed the “Circle Bastiat;” most of the Circle members went on to play crucial roles in building the modern libertarian movement.
Leonard joined Murray in rejecting the Cold War-era conservative movement’s embrace of militarism, seeing that conservative support for active government abroad would lead conservatives to embrace big government at home. The neoconservative takeover of the right proved Murray was correct in his warning that abandoning liberty in any area will lead to an embrace of authoritarianism in all areas.
Murray and Leonard worked to form an alliance of the libertarian remnants of the anti-imperial Old Right with the anti-war, anti-corporatist New Left of the sixties. Together with their friend George Resch, Murray and Leonard founded a journal, Left and Right, for the purpose of developing common ground between Old Right libertarians and New Left.
The seeds Murray, Leonard, and George planted with Left and Right are today bearing fruit in today’s growing left-right alliance against war, the surveillance state, police militarization, big bank bailouts, and the Federal Reserve.
Leonard worked tirelessly to spread libertarian ideals, as a scholar, lecturer, and institution builder. Leonard worked closely with the CATO Institute in its early days, serving as Vice-President from 1978-1979. From 1994 until his passing Leonard was executive Vice-President of the Atlas Foundation and was Executive Director of the John Templeton Foundation’s Freedom Project.
He also served as a member of the Board of Directors or a Trustee of numerous originations both in the US and abroad, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Liberty Fund, the Acton Institute, the Austrian Hayek Institute, and the French Institute for Economic Studies-Europe.
Leonard served as editor of Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought, from 1978-1982. He also served on the editorial board of the CATO Journal and was an early contributor to, and editorial board member of, Murray Rothbard’s Journal of Libertarian Studies, the first scholarly journal devoted to libertarian ideas.
The organization that Leonard was most closely identified with was the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS). Leonard served as IHS’s President from 1980-89 and as a distinguished scholar for IHS from 1989 until his passing.
As a lecturer for IHS, CATO, and numerous other libertarian organizations, Leonard taught and inspired generations of young students to devote their lives to studying and spreading the ideas of liberty.
I first meet Leonard in the mid-seventies when I was embarking on my political career. I am pleased to be one of the many whose interest and understanding of the freedom philosophy was deepened by Leonard Liggio. I was honored to receive his support for my presidential campaigns.
All those who value individual liberty, sound economics, and peace should be thankful for Leonard Liggio’s often lonely efforts to build the liberty movement and spread the ides of freedom.