Skip to main content
Listen to Acton content on the go by downloading the Radio Free Acton podcast! Listen Now

Acton University 2024 Mobile Banner

    From 1933 to 2014.

    Mankind has survived by moral customs and by law, and has been undermined by momentary decisions and by legislation. Based on change over time and by the test of standards by trial and error, traditions and law provide guidance for success in contrast to momentary decision and legislation.

    On October 14, 2014, the free market movement lost a great friend with the passing of Leonard Liggio (1933-2014), affectionately known as the "Johnny Appleseed of Classical Liberalism." Liggio was a thinker, a doer, and a giver. He was known not just for his profound thought and powerful influence, but his great service to other people. He played a central role in the revival of classical liberalism, famously saying that "Classical liberalism will be sustained only if each generation develops scholars that make an over-arching case for the philosophy of freedom." Not only was he a giant in the free market and conservative movement as a whole, he is fondly remembered by friends of Acton as someone who played a crucial role in founding the Institute. In 1990, he helped organize a panel and invited Rev. Robert Sirico to speak on religion and liberty. This panel discussion and subsequent conversation was the spark that led to the creation of the Institute.

    Liggio's work for the advancement of liberty was immense; he worked directly or indirectly with nearly every free market institution in the last 60 years. To name just a few of his achievements, he was Executive Vice President of Academics at Atlas Network, he served as President of the Philadelphia Society, the Mont Pelerin Society, The Institute of Humane Studies, as a research professor of law at George Mason University, a visiting professor at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, the Institute for Political and Economic Studies at Georgetown University, and at the University of Aix-en-Provence, France. Although the United States has been blessed with his good work, he traveled throughout Europe sharing his advice and knowledge, spreading the libertarian movement beyond political borders.

    While he was profoundly a man of ideas, he is also remembered as being deeply spiritual. Whenever a friend or colleague seemed troubled or hurting, Liggio shared his faith and encyclopedic knowledge of Catholicism with him or her. He was greatly committed to his Catholic faith, a member of the Knights of Malta, and unapologetic in his beliefs yet wholeheartedly working with people from all faith traditions, cheerfully embracing philosophical ecumenism in order to advance the cause of freedom. His expansive knowledge of Church history contributed to his economic thought, inspiring an entire generation of Catholics to take economics and the concept of limited government more seriously. He was also famous for encouraging leaders to avoid planning events on holidays of any religious tradition.

    Deep thinkers and intellectual giants like Liggio can be susceptible to narcissism, but Liggio was known by all for his humility and generosity. Rather than create devoted followers, Liggio encouraged young people to pursue ideas of liberty and form their own conclusions. While he never wrote a book of his own, he often helped others with theirs. He happily wrote hundreds of letters of recommendation, and offered editorial insights to dozens of academic journals.

    As time passes, Liggio's work won't be forgotten. His ideas about liberty will long be a part of the history of freedom.

    Most Read