John Hospers, RIP


That stripe in Virginia is Libertarian territory.

John Hospers, the Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate, has died at age 93. He was both the least and most successful of the party's nominees: His 1972 campaign received fewer popular votes than any of its successors (not surprisingly, since he was on the ballot in only two states), but it also was the only campaign to get a vote in the Electoral College, thanks to a libertarian-leaning elector who couldn't bring himself to cast a ballot for Nixon. (Hospers told the tale of his presidential run in an entertaining memoir for Liberty [pdf].)

Hospers was a rarity: a professional philosopher who admired rather than despised Ayn Rand. He had a brief friendship with the novelist that ended, as so many of her friendships did, with Rand expelling him from her life; you can read his memories of their relationship in another two Liberty articles [pdf and pdf]. Despite their falling out, she was an influence on Hospers' politics, tugging him in a libertarian direction even as Rand refused to apply the L-word to herself. Along with his many books of academic philosophy, Hospers would write Libertarianism (1971), a general introduction to the libertarian worldview.

Hospers was more hawkish than most members of the libertarian movement, pushing back against the LP's dovish positions through his involvement with the Defense Caucus, which supported a more active foreign policy. Later he joined the GOP, where he was a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus. As a result, many people associate him with the right wing of the movement, but that was only partly true: He leaned left on many environmental issues [pdf] and, as an openly gay man at a time when that entailed greater risks than now, he was certainly no social conservative.

Hospers wrote a film column for Reason in the '70s and periodically contributed articles on other subjects to the magazine as well. I knew him slightly when I worked for Liberty, and I found him unfailingly courteous and friendly; we disagreed on many things, but he always came across as someone who enjoyed rather than was offended by disagreement. Requiescat in pace.

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  1. Typical American:

    Wait. The team colors are all backward. How do I tell the teams if they are not the right color?

    1. It's like in the original Star Trek how the color the captain wore was gold, but in the newer serieses the captains all wore red. What's up with that?

      1. The Federation was trying to kill off all the captains.

        1. Can you blame them?

        2. If only they had killed Wesley. If only.

          1. Wil Wheaton should write a novel where Q kills Wesley during the first episode. At Picard's behest.

            1. Can Q kill himself and Wesley? I can dream, can't I?

              1. Q was too much of a crutch for the writers (and a little too TOS derivative), but I didn't hate him. I'd especially have not hated him if he'd purged the ship of Wesley.

                Can't the Q do us this one small favor?

                1. Q was a fucking deus ex machina of the worst sort. At least when Kirk fought a god, he was Greek, and Kirk won. Who weeps for Q?

                  1. One problem with making Picard Q's favorite pet was that it was always in the back of my mind that he'd never let Picard die.

                    As you note, the problem isn't with including a being with godlike powers, it's how you use that being. Kirk, of course, dealt with godlike beings on multiple occasions and found ways to defeat all of them (except maybe Trelane, who was probably Q himself).

                    1. It's Nerdfest? again at Red Lobster?.

      2. The spectrum was phase-shifted in the late 23rd Century.

      3. 1) the UFP was bloodthirsty.
        2) they realized that any redshirt that survived the gauntlet deserved a shot at command
        3) both

        Data was pretty ugly as a redshirt, though.

    2. That map got the colors correct and the other maps are wrong.

      Democrat => leftist => communist => red

      1. That's why it was frozen backwards: to lead away from the label "communist" and toward "democracy," which is simply a tool to achieve revolution for communists. Note that colors assigned to parties had alternated before 2000, but in this day and age it's simply too onerous to flood fill when you can Huxley the Winston while you savage the Orwell.

        Also note that the EU's flag takes the blue (for democracy) and yellow (for socialism) idea cue, and the yellow on red (for communist revolution) of the USSR and much of East Asia seems to agree with the general palette.

        1. you can Huxley the Winston while you savage the Orwell

          Yep, not gonna lie, I got lost right there...

          1. Huxley wrote Brave New World.
            Winston was the main character in Orwell's 1984.
            At least I think that's what it references.

  2. Wow! McGoverrn sure got his ass kicked!

    1. That's because "peace was at hand!"

  3. That one electoral vote gives his running mate, Tonie Nathan, the distinction of being the first woman to receive an Electoral College vote (something most of the MSM forgot in their rush to eulogize Geraldine Ferraro).

    1. Like it matters.

      1. it matters to me. I never knew of her.

        1. and BTW, his writing piques my interest too RIP

  4. Conversations With Ayn Rand
    Part 2
    by John Hospers


    1. It doesn't make sense to me. If she was just too simple minded to understand the philosophical points he made in those all night discussions and since his evaluation of her "unwashed" ignorance lead him to pay so little attention to her objections to his enlightened ideas that he's not even comfortable putting some of her arguments into his own words, and since she was so mean and unpleasant, why was he sad that she stopped inviting him over for any more all night discussions? Was it just because she was popular with the unwashed masses in spite of the fact that she was mean and ignorant and religious and prone to "savage" outbursts? You don't get the sense that he considered anything significant about her except her hateful, stubborn ignorance but he wants everyone to be sad for him that she stopped hanging out with him. I don't buy it. I think his sadness was real but this idea that she was a cruel ignoramous cult leader was a lie.

      1. You must have been directed to the Bizarro World version of the memoir.



    1. You tell 'em, Herc! Fight the power! Down with The Man!

      Also, this is the briefest thing I have ever seen attributed to Hercule. And there are no [][][] brackets. And Herc's not usually an all-caps dude. And he misuses punctuation a lot.

      [Therefore]. I am [suspicious] of; the veracity of [this], post.

  6. The real Herc wears a toga.

  7. Almanian|6.13.11 @ 1:20PM|#


    No, it is Us [TRIATHLON] for we were indeed banned by Mr. Matthew Yglesias [Www.Yglesias.Thinkprogress.Org] he sent us several emails even personally yet Mr. Jesse Walker [Www.Rason.com/Blog] is an example of Superior Manhood to [MY], we thought better of him.


    1. [Www.Rason.com/Blog] is an example of Superior Manhood

      One wonders how you got here with that link. Are the mispellings just to throw the hounds of your trail?

    2. It's strange that you never abbreviate TimeCube [TC].

  8. Gold is a good team color for the LP.

    1. Yes, it comjures images of,

      1. Ron Paul was absolutely correct with two of his last eighteen predictions. We are indeed headed towards economic apocalypse.

  9. On topic, I've only read a few of Hospers' essays. Like Machan, he was someone I wanted to read more of when I had the time.

  10. John Hospers was - up until 9/11/2011 - a reasonable and thoughtful man. That he became more than slightly unhinged after that isn't too surprising. A lot of Americans did, and he had the excuse of being an octogenarian.

    But his work in aesthetics (Understanding the Arts), ethics (Human Conduct) and basic philosophy (Introduction to Philosophical Analysis) are all worthy contributions. Several of his essays, such as "Rule Egoism," are landmarks in libertarian philosophy.

    He was a great pedagogue. His editorship of The Personalist provided an early first academic outlet for a variety of viewpoints, including individualist and libertarian. His writings for Liberty made readers think, often outside the rigors of libertarian ideology. His style was always crystal-clear, without a hint of Kantian clumsiness, Hegelian obscurity, or Heideggerian impenetrability. He was a quiet man. He thought carefully, if rarely with any originality.

    Thinking carefully is often enough.

    1. Seconded: Introduction to Philosophical Analysis is very clear and readable.


    2. John Hospers was - up until 9/11/2011 - a reasonable and thoughtful man.

      Zombie Hospers was just intolerable.

      1. Will be intolerable.

        1. and forever shall be intolerable. Amen.

        2. Maybe in your timeline!

  11. Why run for office if you're only in two ballots? Seriously? What's the freaking point?


      1. jeebus, GREGGOOOOOO actually makes me want DONEROOO back. We need a better class around here.

        1. Our trolls are literally the worst I've ever seen. And there are a ton of them. I'd kill for LoneMoron or DONDERROOOOO back.

          1. Yeah, at least DONDERROOOOO can get laid, as many a Mexican hooker will attest.

            1. Do Mexican donkeys count?

              1. DON BURRRRROOOOOOOO

          2. I wonder; Donderoo and Gregoo have a baby...do you get LoneWacko?

            1. Since Greggoooo combines Eric's dickswinging militarism with Lonewhacko's zenophobia I'd say it looks more like he's the love child of Donderoooo and LW.

              1. Excellent!

          3. Joe...where is Joe!

        2. Just because some dude is dead doesn't mean I'm gonna wear blag and start the funeral pyre.

          Come on, dude! I'm sick of third party candidates running, specially when they can't even get on the ballot in 50 states.

          Politics is about WINNING, this isn't the special Olympics you know, so if you can't win, don't even try.

          Or do what Jessee Ventura did, run for governor in some midwestern state, due a ho hum job, and then write books about how the government planned 9/11.

    2. Why run for office if you're only in two ballots? Seriously? What's the freaking point?

      Hm. Maybe because he was the first candidate of a brand new political party?

      1. No shit, it's not like they didn't actually try to get on the ballot in more states. As any LPer can tell you it's tough getting ballot access.

        1. guys, don't waste bits on him...he clearly has no idea about much of anything. And the above hypothesis of his birth seems plausible.

          1. Your statement proves that I'm right, that's how a liberal responds, they never admit being wrong on anything.

            Common sense dictates that it doesn't make sense to run for president if you can't even be in all 50 states.

            Have you ever heard of objectivism? Of living with purpose? Would you operate a company if it wasn't making a profit and had no chance of ever making a profit?

            Running for president is the same, if you can't win, if you can't even be on all 50 ballots, DON'T RUN.

            Play to win or don't play at all.

  12. I had the pleasure of voting for John Hospers - and Tonie Nathan - as a young man. In fact, it was the first election in which I had ever been elligible to vote.
    Rest in peace.

    1. I truly envy you. I have met Toni (not John Hospers) and she is a wonderful woman. It is a sad thing that her distinction as the first female to ever receive an elecoral vote goes unnoticed to this day. I wish I had met Mr. Hospers...I also wish I had met Harry Browne. Regardless of what some think he was still quite the influence within the liberty movement.

  13. Tonie Nathan was the first libertarian who deigned to talk to me. I knew John Hospers from my days with Liberty magazine. Ditto for Harry Browne.

    Both Browne and Hospers were truly civilized men, lovers of the arts as well as the art of peace, prosperity and freedom. Whatever their lapses, their lives enriched us all.

  14. I checked out his website via wikipedia, which hasn't been updated on the news of his passing. He had an editorial supporting Wayne Allen Root, "No Mosque at Ground Zero!" you can find here:
    How that stance can be justified by a libertarian is beyond me. He says it has "nothing to do with property rights", but doesn't explain under what conditions property rights should or shouldn't be decisive.

    I also noticed that his wikipedia page didn't note he was gay (which was news to me). Was he the first openly gay presidential nominee, or was he closeted at the time?

  15. It was known, but he didn't exactly publicize it, either. I never heard him TALK about his sexuality.

    Somehow, that was just fine with me. Would that A. Weiner could have managed the same.

  16. John Hospers' book Libertarianism was my introduction to the philosophy. In 1978 I came across a description of libertarianism while skimming a magazine article. The idea sounded so crazy to me that I wanted to read more about it, just for laughs. I asked a friend to get a book on libertarianism from the library. He brought back Hospers' book. The more I read, the more I realized it made more sense, and was more humane, than any other political philosophy I had ever encountered. I am glad I had the chance to tell him this, and thank him, many years later.

  17. His work continues via http://www.Libertarian-International.org the Libertarian International Organization

  18. Pisses me off that the alleged women's rights groups refuse to acknowledge that Toni Nathan was the first woman on a presidential ticket.

    1. Not the first woman on a Presidential ticket. The first to win an electoral vote.
      Victoria Woodhall 1880s or Belva Ann Lockwood depending on you view. Wikipedia is informative here.

  19. Why is there so much garbage having nothing to do with Hospers in this thread?

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  21. Rand "expelled" Hospers after his rude behaviour toward her in a public forum: Her lecture "Art as Sense of Life," at the American Society of Aesthetics at Harvard. Yes she rejected "friends" who were rude or plain vicious; such as another "friend" who said that Hitler should have killed all the Jews!

  22. Following Dr. John Hospers' death at age 93, I read several memorials which emphasized the importance of his being the first Libertarian candidate for President in the 1972 Presidential Election. To me, Dr. Hosper's legacy lies elsewhere. He was an excellent teacher and a patient, tireless advocate of Libertarian ideas. I know because I am one of his former students.

    I was an undergraduate student at USC from 1971-1975. When I arrived at USC as a freshman, I knew nothing about philosophy. However, I had a strong interest in understanding the world and learning the right way to live. In my introductory philosophy course at USC, we used Dr. Hospers' text book "An Introduction To Philosophical Analysis." The course and his book had a profound influence on me. Dr. Hospers' book opened my eyes to a whole new world. Later, I took courses taught by Dr. Hospers in "Introductory Ethics," "Social and Political Philosophy" and "Aesthetics." Dr. Hospers taught these courses primarily from his books "Human Conduct," "Libertarianism," "Meaning and Truth in the Arts." To this day, I fondly remember Dr. Hospers comments, in "Social and Political Philosophy," about the inefficiency of the United States Postal Service. I also took a course at USC in "Normative Ethics" from another philosophy professor where we used Dr. Hospers' text "Readings In Ethical Theory" co-authored by Wilfred Sellars.

    In Dr. Hospers course on Social and Political Philosophy, he introduced me to Libertarian thought. I recall the excitement I felt coming to meet with him in his office and buying a copy of his book "Libertarianism." I think I paid $5.00 for it. I recall his office being filled with books, copies of articles he used in his classes, and copies of the "Personalist" of which he was the editor.

    I also recall attending lunch seminars with Dr. Hospers where we discussed Libertarian ideas. He always had time for his students. He wrote letters of recommendation for me for law school and graduate school. And he gave me wise counsel about where I would be happiest pursuing my graduate education.

    Since my days as an undergraduate, I have been a strong, principled advocate of limited government. Dr. Hospers' teachings are the origin of my Libertarian ideas. It is one of the high points of my formal education that I was privileged to have him as my teacher. He made a significant difference in my life.

    I will miss him.

    Brandon K. Tady
    BA, JD, MA.

  23. Good riddance ! Hospers was never an Objectivist or a libertarian or even a radical conservative.
    He was politically a cold war neocon statist who didn't mind 90% taxation if that kept the Russkies out, ignoring the fact that at that rate
    we would be living in a Communist state.
    Hospers was a standard mainstream linguistic analyst who was a hardcore determinist who support statist causes
    from Titles 2&7 of the horrendous 1964
    Civil Wrongs Act to Red China's compulsory abortion policy and he was equivocal about abortion rights here at home.
    Hospers wrote like an old lady hysteric on the vastly exaggerated Soviet military threat and he joined the mindless herd of anti-Arab bigots opposing the Mosque near 9-11. He knew nothing of the Palestine-Israel Conflict but Israel was always right.
    Hospers supported US intervention in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Libya, etc., etc., etc.
    Hospers never read the Austrian economics of Mises, Rothbard and Reisman. He was a Chicagoite at best.
    Hospers totally disagreed with Rand's philosophical base of metaphysics, epistemology, esthetics and ethics.
    He never understood her reasoning why initiated force was wrong so he at best merely imbibed a few segments of her politics.
    Up to the early sixties Hospers was an Adlai Stevenson Democrat and advocate of World Government.
    Hospers never understood the important issue from the 30s to the late 50s of Communist infiltration of FedGov. He thought the only threat was external. I base this on 33 years of off and on correspondence with him plus public pronouncements.
    His inane of Bush in 04 was perfectly in keeping with his neocon politics.
    On a personal death is always tragic, even at 93.
    But I'm not putting up with the usual mindless libertarian and neoObjectivist horse manure here.

  24. This is really sad. I actually found out about John Hospers when he added me on Facebook and "liked" my blog. And then I found out that he is the first Libertarian Presidential Candidate and I was honored. I shared a quote from him on my Facebook wall, and in return he shared a quote from an article of mine as his status on his Facebook wall. I was so honored I had to brag about it. That's our only interaction. Not even a message or a reply box conversation. I'm sad now that I didn't pursue an opportunity to meet him.

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