In memoriam: Leonard Liggio

Leonard liggio

Leonard P. Liggio, Executive Vice President of Academics at Atlas Network, passed away October 14, 2014 at the age of 81.

Leonard’s career advancing liberty spanned seven decades, during which time he served as the President of the Mont Pelerin Society, the Philadelphia Society, and the Institute for Humane Studies, where he later continued to serve as its Distinguished Senior Scholar. He was a professor at George Mason University, a visiting professor at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín, a board member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a Trustee of Liberty Fund.

Alex Chafuen and the late John Blundell once wrote that, if F.A. Hayek was the great architect of the revival of classical liberalism, then Leonard has been its “great builder, building a worldwide movement… one career at a time.”

These words were part of the Introduction to a small volume entitled Born on the 5th of July, celebrating Leonard’s 65th birthday in 1998. The booklet compiled scores of tributes by individuals who admired Leonard for not just his scholarship and strategic insights, but also “his openness, approachability and generosity.” Among the academics and think tank leaders and policy activists and philanthropists contributing to the project were: Manuel Ayau, Randy Barnett, Gary Becker, Peter Boettke, Jim Buchanan, Ed Crane, Lee Edwards, Edwin Feulner, Douglas Ginsburg, Israel Kirzner, Charles Koch, Greg Lindsay, Alberto Benegas Lynch, Henry Manne, Chip Mellor, Michael Novak, Pete and Ruth Peters, Art Pope, Ralph Raico, E.G. West, Walter Williams, and Marty Zupan.

Leonard Liggio became active in the freedom movement as a member of Students for Taft at Georgetown University in the early 1950s. At Georgetown, he established the very first college chapter of what is now the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, as well as a film club that would annually show The Fountainhead.

During his first decade after graduating from Georgetown, Leonard would encounter many of the freedom movement’s heroes of the 20th century. He got involved with the Foundation for Economic Education when it was in its infancy and there met Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, and F.A. Harper. He sat in on Ludwig von Mises’ graduate seminar, attended the meetings of Ayn Rand’s “Collective” in her Manhattan apartment, and began a long-running friendship with Murray Rothbard. The Preface to Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty notes: “But my greatest debt is to Leonard P. Liggio, of City College, CUNY, whose truly phenomenal breadth of knowledge and insight into numerous fields and areas of history are an inspiration to all who know him.”

In the summer of 1958, Leonard attended the first Mont Pelerin Society meeting to be held in the U.S. This widened further Leonard’s contacts with classical liberalism’s leading lights from around the world.

As an analyst for the William Volker Fund, Leonard began a career of identifying and assisting classical liberal scholars. Though the Volker Fund’s staff was disbanded within two years of his joining, the experience put Leonard in the orbit of those who founded, in the early 1960s, the Institute for Humane Studies, Liberty Fund, and Philadelphia Society.

In the 1970s, Leonard was a Liberty Fund fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies, which played a key role in the revival of Austrian Economics in the wake of F.A. Hayek’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1974. By 1977, Leonard had joined the Cato Institute where he would edit the journal, Literature of Liberty.

Leonard returned to Institute for Humane Studies, which he ran through much of the 1980s, steering numerous young academics toward fruitful research agendas and careers of influence. In 1994, he joined the Atlas Network (then, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation) where he established programs that bridged the worlds of think tanks and academics. In particular, at Atlas Network, he directed The Freedom Project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. This effort established inter-disciplinary courses on freedom at universities in the U.S. and abroad; in some cases, the courses flowered into ongoing academic centers.

Leonard’s lifelong work for liberty won him acclaim among diverse audiences. In 2007, he was recognized with the Adam Smith Award, the highest prize bestowed by the Association of Private Enterprise Education. In 2011, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. That same year, the then-nascent organization Students for Liberty published an interview with Leonard that called him “The Original Student for Liberty.” Special ceremonies in Leonard’s honor were held in France and Austria, organized by the Institute for Economic Studies – Europe and the F.A. Hayek Foundation, respectively.

In 2013, the Atlas Network announced the creation of the Liggio Lecture Series in honor of his 80th birthday and as part of its Liggio Legacy Program. The Lecture Series took its cue from Leonard’s Presidential Address for the Mont Pelerin Society in 2002, where he shared, “I fear that Classical Liberals are shrinking as a scholarly force before the intellectual public.” In particular, Leonard called for younger scholars to make an expansive case for liberty (along the lines of Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty or Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom) – instead of focusing on ever-narrower subjects to cater to the interests of academic journals (at the cost of failing to excite the public imagination).

The Liggio Lecture Series annually features academics who fit this profile. Last year, Professor James Otteson of Wake Forest University gave the inaugural Liggio Lecture on "The Beauty of Liberty and the Power of Saying No". On November 13, 2014, Professor John Tomasi of Brown University will give the second lecture in the series at Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum in New York City.

In addition to the lecture series, the Liggio Legacy Program established a website ( which archives Leonard’s articles and videotaped speeches, as well as other materials that celebrate his legacy. Perhaps the most thorough overview of his life is provided in “A Conversation with Leonard Liggio,” led by John Blundell, as part of Liberty Fund’s Intellectual Portraits video series, available online for order or for free as a streaming audio file.

We want to thank many individuals who visited and called Leonard, or relayed messages through our staff, during the periods of illness he endured over the past year. We particularly want to note the kindness extended to Leonard by Paolo Angelini, and Grace Goodell, as well as Elaine Hawley and the late John Blundell who assisted Leonard earlier this year in organizing the donation of his substantial library to Christendom College.

Leonard was a member of the Knights of Malta, and is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Joyce Liggio of Garden City, New York.