Tibor R. Machan on the Questions that Matter

Philosopher and journalist Tibor Machan has died at the age of 77. This widely published writer was a professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at Auburn University, taught at Chapman University, served as a fellow of the Hoover Institution, and was a prolific columnist and public intellectual.  

His work was very important to the history of the Foundation for Economic Education, which provided him a venue for his writing for many decades. His first article appeared in 1969 and his most recent in 2013, for a total of 73. So FEE has especially good cause to mark this scholar’s passing by celebrating his literary contribution.

He wrote tirelessly and voluminously with a dedication to the principles of human freedom. He never grew weary, never lost heart, never relented in his enthusiasm for explaining and promoting the idea of liberty. It always fascinated him. He engaged critics closely and carefully. And through his many books and articles, he had a wide influence. His work helped sustain the flame of liberty through dark times, long after the demise of classical liberalism, and long before libertarianism became a substantial academic and public movement.

At the very dawn of my ideological consciousness, I was challenged and deeply influenced by a book he edited. It was a series of essays on the debate between libertarianism and conservatism. This was a pressing question for me at the age of 20. I had already rejected socialism and interventionism. Yet, as young people do, I felt the need to ally myself with some camp that represented the opposition.

Which ideological package made more sense? I read voraciously on the topic, and Professor Machan became my guide.

There were so many issues to consider. In fact, the entire universe of social, political, and economic theory was relevant to the question. What is the role of values in public life? Where does order come from, and what is the role of law? How can we distinguish vice and crime? How important are religion and culture to the foundations of a free society? What is the relationship between individualism and civic institutions?


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