Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Tibor Machan, 1939-2016

Very sad this morning to hear of the passing of Tibor Machan, a philosopher and friend who some of you may remember from his visits to New Zealand as a thoughtful man, a warm conversationalist, and a masterful and articulate presenter able to teach knowledgably on almost any topic.

Tibor was one of life's true gentlemen, and he was, in a way, an inspiration for me starting this blog. Hosting him, we noticed that when Tibor had a thought or found a new argument, he would immediately disappear to begin writing it down--emerging soon as a polished piece of prose, then appearing in a syndicated column, then eventually in one of his books. This habit and his prolific prose filled many books, on nearly every subject.

I figured the habit was one I should learn to master.

He taught at Auburn University and the U.S. Military Academy. From 2004-14 he held the R.C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at Chapman University.

Mr. Machan’s life was devoted to liberty, whose preciousness he knew from firsthand experience. Born in 1939 just before World War II broke out, he suffered first under the tyranny of Nazis, then communists. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, suppressed by a Soviet invasion, he escaped to freedom, eventually coming to America.

His influences came from “various classical liberals and libertarians, including Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek [and] Robert LeFevre.”

In 1970, with Robert W. Poole and Manuel S. Klausner, he bought Reason magazine and helped turn it into a major publication of libertarian thought, advancing its dedication to “free minds and free markets.” He also authored numerous books.

“Tibor’s contributions to the freedom movement were as towering as the man himself,” said [colleague] Steven Greenhut. “We know his resume, but I was privileged to know him as a friend. He was no ivory-tower type. He would always offer a quote for my newspaper column or come and speak to our informal gatherings. He loved to engage people. He had a true passion for liberty and would never hesitate to express his forthright opinion. I can still hear his booming voice, which will be deeply missed.

For my own part, I can still hear his slow and deliberate articulation (the words "atomistic individualism" for example would be delivered with each syllable given the space it needed to be heard and understood) and can picture him standing at the back of the room while I spoke, signalling urgently with his hands and mouthing the words "Slow down!"

Farewell Tibor. You will be missed.


  1. Peter, I have been trying to establish whether it was Tibor who spoke to a group at the NZBR in Wellington in 2008 (I think)? It was a sit down discussion I attended near to an election.

  2. Hi Lindsay, Not sure that Tibor was out here that late. He had started to find long-distance flights difficult by then.

  3. No need to publish this but it suddenly came to me. The guy I saw was economist Tyler Cowen.

  4. Oh, I thought you had moderation operating:-)


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