I lost one of my favorite teachers this week, as did so many other libertarians, not to mention the freedom movement as a whole. Leonard P. Liggio, 81, died after a period of declining health. Leonard was a major influence on my worldview during the nearly 40 years I knew him. While I had not seen him much in recent years, I have a hard time picturing the world – and the noble struggle for liberty – without him. He was one of my constants.
Leonard was not my teacher in the formal sense. I never got to take any of his classes. But like many libertarians of my generation and beyond, I learned so much from him through occasional lectures and especially conversations.
Since the early 1950s, before he had reached the age of 20, Leonard was a scholar and activist for individual liberty, the free-market order, and the voluntary network of social cooperation we call civil society. (He was in Youth for Taft in 1952, when the noninterventionist Sen. Robert Taft unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination. See Leonard’s autobiographical essay in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians, edited by Walter Block.)
In his long career, Leonard was associated with the Volker Fund (a pioneering classical-liberal organization), the Institute for Humane Studies, Liberty Fund, the Cato Institute, and finally, the Atlas Network. He was also on the faculty of several universities, including George Mason Law School, after doing graduate work in law and history at various institutions.
Leonard studied with Ludwig von Mises and a long list of eminent historians. He knew the founders of the modern libertarian movement: F.A. Harper, Leonard Read, Pierre Goodrich, Ayn Rand, and more. He was an early member of the Mont Pelerin Society, founded by F.A. Hayek, and eventually president of the organization. As a young man he became close friends with Murray Rothbard, Ralph Raico, George Reisman, Ronald Hamowy, Robert Hessen, and others who comprised their Circle Bastiat. He literally was present at the creation of the movement and helped to make it what it would become.
I believe I originally met Leonard in 1978, at the first Cato Institute summer seminar at Wake Forest University. (I was a newspaper reporter in those days.) However, I may have been introduced to him the year before in San Francisco. That was the year Cato was founded. Leonard was an original staff member and editor of its unfortunately short-lived journal, Literature of Liberty.