As many Catallaxy readers would’ve caught on by now, two major figures passed away over the course of the past week or so.
Ronald Hamowy (1937‑2012) was a Chinese‑born Canadian scholar whose career was closely connected with the life and times of some of the most famous figures in classical liberalism and libertarianism, including Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Ralph Raico, Leonard Liggio and George Reisman.
Upon his arrival at the University of Chicago in 1960, Hamowy was initially book review editor and later editor of the libertarian student journal New Individualist Review (see here). It attracted some of the most authoritative figures in all of liberalism/libertarianism as contributing authors, and gained a wide audience in the US and overseas.
Hamowy was also widely known for his intellectual critiques of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty (for example, see here), based on what Hamowy saw as a nebulous distinction between ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ state actions which are, however, equally founded on coercion, and was seen later in his career as a leading intellectual authority on Enlightenment history and the concept of spontaneous order.
Thomas Szasz (1920‑2012) is best known for his intellectual defences of bodily and mental self‑ownership, as part of the foundational principles of classical liberal thought.
Having famously once stated that ‘the self is not something that one finds, it is something one creates,’ Szasz was an unstinting critic of the medicalisation of behaviour as a means of social control, the grossly expensive and pointless ‘war on drugs,’ and health paternalism in America and the Western world more generally.
While such positions undeservedly delivered scorn from group‑think health practitioners over the years, it could be said that the power of Szasz’s arguments significantly contributed to an increasing awareness of the real and potential abuses by the state of individual rights in the name of ‘sound medical practice.’
It is the intellectual obligation of those of us left behind to grasp the torch of liberty passed on by the likes of these two key figures of twentieth‑century liberalism.