Leonard Liggio, RIP

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The libertarian historian Leonard Liggio has died after a long illness. Last night I was asked to write a farewell message to Leonard that could be read to him. I sent it early this morning, but I don't know if he lived long enough to hear it. Here is what I wrote:

My Dear Leonard,

At my first IHS summer conference many years ago, you and I were watching students interact after hours. As some students were removing cans of beer from ice-filled tubs, I asked if we should do ID checks before allowing them to drink. You chuckled and said: “George, here at the Institute, we not only believe in freedom; we practice it.”

That was just one of many memorable moments that I shared with you during our years teaching at IHS and Cato seminars. Before we first met in the late 1970s, I had heard many stories about the vast breadth of your knowledge. All that was true, of course, but what I didn’t appreciate before I got to know you were your skills as a teacher, your gentle humor, your kindness, your generosity with your time and knowledge, and your ability to inspire others.

John Stuart Mill once said of Jeremy Bentham that he was a “teacher of the teachers” in the liberal movement. That, to my mind, describes perfectly one of your chief contributions to the modern libertarian movement. You have instructed and inspired at least two generations of teachers, thinkers, and writers about the history and sources of freedom in the western world. You are a major figure in the revival of classical liberalism – our own Lord Acton.

Your influence on my thinking has been immense. In addition, without your assistance, much of it behind the scenes, my lack of academic credentials would almost certainly have made my career as a freelance libertarian intellectual nearly impossible to sustain. My debts to you, both professional and personal, are incalculable. Thank you, Leonard, for all you have done for me. I shall never forget you.

With admiration and affection,

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An excellent lecture (1981) by Leonard Liggio on the history of foreign policy. Over a 20 year period I heard Leonard lecture many times on many different topics. This lecture illustrates his "big picture" historical method of dealing with contemporary issues.

We used to call Leonard "an anarchist with a briefcase." Given his scholarly, mild-mannered way of presenting history, it can be easy to overlook how radical he really was. Hints of that perspective may be seen in this lecture when he refers to the pro-Constitution crowd (Federalists) as "usurpers" and to the Anti-Federalists as "patriots." Classic Leonard. 8-)


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