Philosophy

Norman Barry, R.I.P.

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The great British scholar of classical liberalism and libertarianism has died.

I was especially inspired and educated, both as a college student and then later while writing my own book on libertarianism, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, by his excellent 1987 book On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism. This was one of the first books by a serious, trained, learned political theorist surveying with intelligence and sympathy, but without the movement activist's fervor and special pleading, the whole range of political and economic ideas in the West that fed in to modern libertarianism.

You can watch a 40-minute video interview with Barry here. See a nifty 1982 review essay on the history of the idea of spontaneous order from Barry here.

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  1. No comments?

    I’d never heard of the guy before, but I enjoyed the video a great deal. Sad to see him gone.

  2. the video was excellent.

  3. I was just re-reading his spontaneous order essay (after re-reading Buchanan’s reaction essay, after reading Sheldon Richman’s discussion of the reaction essay in this month’s Freeman). That’s a shame; RIP.

  4. Agree about the video being excellent.

  5. Norman Barry was one of the very few British political thinkers and academics who really understood Austrian economics and monetary economics and – most important of all the political implications for modern democracies of both. He gave an excellent review of my 1988 book The Emancipated Society and was always open to ideas. I found him in his breadth of insight and philosophical astuteness comparable to that other great “comprehender” of our present predicament Sir Alfred Sherman (the inventor of “Thatcherism”)

    Rodney Atkinson

  6. I have just just learnt of Norman’s death. As anyone who has watched this video can see, he was a more than decent human being, who happily had a degree of immunity from some of the unattractive consequences of the theories he studied and even espoused. His ‘liberalism’ was no less a form of idealism than was Marx’s view of communism, in which ‘reality’ couldn’t
    asserting itself. I smile to myself when and I see that he and I ended up in the same moderate utilitarian place we started out from when we had studied and argued together on the same BA and MA cours 40 odd years ago at the University of Exeter. Norman went on to become an articulate and scholarly exponent of the classical liberalism we each first learned about from our brilliant Exeter teacher, Derek Crabtree. While I, fired by my exposure to Karl Marx’s Early Writings – also at the feet of Derek Crabtree – ,went on to learn Russian and lecture on Soviet Communism, my main achievement, ironically enough, being an unsubsidised journal I published and edited for 8 years from 1984 to 1992. Norman would have approved of the entrpreneurship ! I’ll leave it there.

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