The World Lost a Good Man Yesterday – R.I.P. John Hospers
On June 12, 2011, John Hospers left this world. Among the leading lights of the then-new Libertarian movement, he was the first presidential candidate of the official Libertarian Party, and despite being on the ballot in only two states, managed to garner an electoral vote from a faithless elector pledged to Richard Nixon.
He was also the author of “Libertarianism – A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow,” published in 1971 when the movement was still in its infancy. This book remains as accessible, comprehensive, and important a work on the philosophy of freedom as just about any in the canon. He was an academic superstar, securing a post as Chair of the Philosophy Department at USC, until his overtly non-Leftist political views turned his colleagues against him and he became another casualty of the political intolerance of academia.
Standing out among his other impressive credentials, he managed to have a run-in with Ayn Rand, which led her to denounce him. This, of course, seems to be the mark of a true friend of liberty, and the progression is always the same. Dr. Hospers met Rand, was impressed by her thoughts, became great friends with her, engaged her in intellectual conversations, challenged her on a particular point, was denounced by her.
The common story of the falling-out surrounds Dr. Hospers’ criticism of Rand’s aesthetic philosophy at Harvard. He assumed that the presentation was nothing more than a typical academic conference, and although he disagreed with Rand, he presented his disagreement in a fair and disinterested way. She, on the other hand, took this as a grave personal insult and broke off all ties.
I find that one of the quotes on the dust jacket of the book Libertarianism is an applicable, if necessarily inadequate summation of his life’s work:
“In days to come, when Libertarianism is accepted as one of the major political philosophies, and perhaps the prevailing one, Professor Hospers will be remembered as one of its founding fathers. His magnificent work offers a true intellectual foundation for all those who profess to be advocates of, or objective about, personal, political, and economic freedom.”
—Robert D. Kephart, Publisher of Human Events
Rest in peace, Dr. Hospers.