Ronald Hamowy

Last updated

Ronald Hamowy ( /həˈmi/ ; April 17, 1937 – September 8, 2012) [1] was a Canadian academic, known primarily for his contributions to political and social academic fields. At the time of his death, he was professor emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Hamowy was closely associated with the political ideology of libertarianism and his writings and scholarship place particular emphasis on individual liberty and the limits of state action in a free society. [2] He is associated with a number of prominent American libertarian organizations.

Intellectual history refers to the historiography of ideas and thinkers. This history cannot be considered without the knowledge of the humans who created, discussed, wrote about, and in other ways were concerned with ideas. Intellectual history as practiced by historians is parallel to the history of philosophy as done by philosophers, and is more akin to the history of ideas. Its central premise is that ideas do not develop in isolation from the people who create and use them, and that one must study ideas not as abstract propositions but in terms of the culture, lives, and historical contexts that produced them.

University of Alberta university in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The University of Alberta is a public research university located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It was founded in 1908 by Alexander Cameron Rutherford, the first premier of Alberta, and Henry Marshall Tory, its first president. Its enabling legislation is the Post-secondary Learning Act.

Edmonton Provincial capital city in Alberta, Canada

Edmonton is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, which is surrounded by Alberta's central region. The city anchors the north end of what Statistics Canada defines as the "Calgary–Edmonton Corridor".


Hamowy was personally acquainted, to varying degrees, with many leading classical liberal and libertarian thinkers who lived during the latter half of the 20th century.[ citation needed ]


Hamowy was born in Shanghai, China. His family was Jewish; his father was from Syria and his mother was from Egypt. [3] He was raised in New York City. He did his undergraduate studies in economics and history at Cornell University and at City College of New York. In 1960 he was admitted to the doctoral program at the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago and did his doctorate under the supervision of Professor Friedrich Hayek. He did postgraduate work at Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied under Sir Isaiah Berlin and did further postgraduate work at the University of Paris.

Shanghai Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Shanghai is one of the four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government of the People's Republic of China, the largest city in China by population, and the second most populous city proper in the world, with a population of 24.18 million as of 2017. It is a global financial centre and transport hub, with the world's busiest container port. Located in the Yangtze River Delta, it sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the East China coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the north, south and west, and is bounded to the east by the East China Sea.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunni make up the largest religious group in Syria.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

He returned to the United States in 1968 to become an instructor in and later assistant director of the History of Western Civilization Program at Stanford University. In 1969, he accepted a position as assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Western Canada's largest university. He taught there until 1975, when he took a position in the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia; after two years at Simon Fraser, he returned to the University of Alberta where he remained until his retirement from active teaching in 1998. He lived near Washington, DC.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 18 megadiverse countries.

Stanford University private research university located in Stanford, California, United States

Leland Stanford Junior University is an American private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic strength, wealth, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world's top universities.

Simon Fraser University Canadian public research university in British Columbia

Simon Fraser University (SFU) is a public research university in British Columbia, Canada with campuses in Burnaby, Surrey, and Vancouver.

Academic life

Hamowy adopted a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and scholarship. His seminar discussions moved freely across the breadth of the humanities and social sciences, including history, philosophy, law, political theory, social theory, pure economic theory, literature, medicine, and psychiatry.

History past events and their record

History is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.

Philosophy intellectual and/or logical study of general and fundamental problems

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Law system of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Although he shared the multidisciplinary approach with Rothbard, ten years his senior, on that point, one might too quickly overemphasize Rothbard's influence or Hamowy's time spent that was doing postgraduate work in Europe. Hamowy is best understood as the product of a unique scholarly era in America that was heavily influenced by thinkers immersed in the continental style, many of whom arrived, directly or indirectly, from Europe to the United States from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The best of the scholars gravitated to three American universities: the New School for Social Research in New York City; the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana; and most importantly, a cluster of these scholars formed at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, where Hamowy had done his doctoral work in the 1960s.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, often called New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

University of Notre Dame Catholic university in South Bend, Indiana, United States

The University of Notre Dame du Lac is a private, non-profit Catholic research university in Notre Dame, Indiana. The main campus covers 1,261 acres (510 ha) in a suburban setting and it contains a number of recognizable landmarks, such as the Golden Dome, the Word of Life mural, the Notre Dame Stadium, and the Basilica. The school was founded on November 26, 1842, by Father Edward Sorin, CSC, who was also its first president.

South Bend, Indiana City in Indiana, United States

South Bend is a city in and the county seat of St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States, on the St. Joseph River near its southernmost bend, from which it derives its name. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total of 101,168 residents; its Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 318,586 and Combined Statistical Area of 721,296. It is the fourth-largest city in Indiana, serving as the economic and cultural hub of Northern Indiana. The highly ranked University of Notre Dame is located just to the north in unincorporated Notre Dame, Indiana and is an integral contributor to the region's economy.

The continental émigrés who most directly influenced his intellectual development were Hans Kohn, Ludwig von Mises, and Hayek. That influence predated Hamowy's arrival in Chicago and began in New York City while he was an undergraduate.

He admired his City College intellectual history professor Kohn, who had arrived to America in the 1930s and later taught at City College for many years, beginning in the late 1940s. Indeed, it was Kohn who first interested him in intellectual history after he returned to New York City from Ithaca, New York, in 1956. At about the same time, he also began to attend open seminars and lectures offered by the outstanding Austrian economist Von Mises, who had also arrived to America in the 1940s.

Mises greatly influenced a generation of American thinkers in addition to Hamowy including Ralph Raico, Leonard Liggio, George Reisman, Israel Kirzner, and Rothbard. Hamowy first met Hayek when Hamowy arrived to Chicago in the fall of 1960 to do doctoral work under Hayek's supervision.

At the time, Hayek had been at the University of Chicago for ten years and remained there for another two years before he returned to Europe. Hayek had a substantial impact on the Committee on Social Thought and on Hamowy's intellectual development as a free market scholar.

Despite the breadth of Hamowy's political and social thought, there were streams of particular emphasis that were discernible to his students at Alberta and are emphasized in his scholarship.

One of the areas of emphasis and interest in his scholarship is the theory of "spontaneous order." That refers to the notion that important and complex social arrangements can arise through the spontaneous actions of countless individuals rather than from deliberate choice or central planning. Hamowy is considered an expert on the theory of spontaneous order.[ citation needed ]


Hamowy's first brush with libertarianism was through George Reisman who was an early classmate. By the mid-1950s Hamowy was associated with Ralph Raico and Murray Rothbard.

The group of younger libertarians that formed around Rothbard in the 1950s began to call themselves the Circle Bastiat, so named after the French classical liberal Frédéric Bastiat. The group's core included Hamowy, Rothbard, Raico, Reisman, Leonard Liggio, and Robert Hessen. Regular meetings and all night discussions at Rothbard's Manhattan apartment were routine. The close association and friendship between Hamowy and Rothbard continued unabated until Rothbard's death in January 1995, at the age of 68.

After he arrived at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1960, one year after Raico, who had departed New York for Chicago the previous year, Hamowy was appointed book review editor of the seminal libertarian student publication, the New Individualist Review. Soon after he joined Raico as co‑Editor in Chief. The Review, though only a student publication, received important scholarly contributions from numerous famous scholars including future Nobel Prize winners Hayek, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, and Ronald Coase. In addition to his editing responsibilities, Hamowy engaged in a friendly debate in print with his doctoral supervisor Hayek, and a perhaps less friendly though entertaining rapportage with the conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr.

He continued to make contributions to libertarian think tanks and journals throughout his career, including The Independent Institute, Institute for Humane Studies, The Cato Institute, Rampart College, the Journal of Libertarian Studies , and the Cato Journal .

During his years in Canada, he contributed to furthering the cause of the free society, particularly in Western Canada. He was published by the Fraser Institute and contributed to various student clubs and student seminars dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty and political freedom.


Related Research Articles

Austrian School school of economic thought

The Austrian School is a heterodox school of economic thought that is based on methodological individualism—the concept that social phenomena result from the motivations and actions of individuals.

Friedrich Hayek Austrian and British economist

Friedrich August von Hayek, often referred to by his initials F.A. Hayek, was an Anglo-Austrian economist and philosopher best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and [...] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena". Hayek was also a major social theorist and political philosopher of the 20th century and his account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals co-ordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement in economics, leading to his Nobel Prize.

Gustave de Molinari Belgian political economist and classical liberal theorist

Gustave de Molinari was a Belgian political economist and classical liberal theorist born in Liège, Wallonia associated with French laissez-faire economists such as Frédéric Bastiat and Hippolyte Castille.

Murray Rothbard American economist of the Austrian School, libertarian political theorist, and historian

Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, historian, and a political theorist whose writings and personal influence played a seminal role in the development of modern right-libertarianism. Rothbard was the founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism and a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics and other subjects. Rothbard asserted that all services provided by the "monopoly system of the corporate state" could be provided more efficiently by the private sector and wrote that the state is "the organization of robbery systematized and writ large". He called fractional-reserve banking a form of fraud and opposed central banking. He categorically opposed all military, political and economic interventionism in the affairs of other nations. According to his protégé Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "[t]here would be no anarcho-capitalist movement to speak of without Rothbard".

Mises Institute Austrian Economics educative organization

The Mises Institute, short name for Ludwig von Mises Institute for Austrian Economics, is a tax-exempt educative organization located in Auburn, Alabama, United States. It is named after Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973).

Leonard P. Liggio was a classical liberal author, research professor of law at George Mason University, and executive vice president of the Atlas Network in Fairfax, Virginia, US.

The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) is a libertarian non-profit organization that engages with students and professors throughout the United States. IHS offers educational and career programs, holds seminars and on-campus programs for university students, awards scholarships, provides mentoring and research grants for aspiring professors, and sponsors a collection of online videos.

<i>Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought</i>

Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought was a libertarian journal published between 1965 and 1968. Founded by Murray N. Rothbard, Karl Hess, George Resch, and Leonard P. Liggio, it was edited and largely written by Murray Rothbard.

Foundation for Economic Education nonprofit organization

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is a libertarian economic think-tank dedicated to the "economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society." FEE publishes books and hosts seminars and lectures.

Peter Thomas Bauer, Lord Bauer, FBA was a Hungarian-born British development economist. Bauer is best remembered for his opposition to the widely-held notion that the most effective manner to help developing countries advance is through state-controlled foreign aid.

Roderick Tracy Long is an American professor of philosophy at Auburn University and libertarian blogger. He also serves as an editor of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, director and president of the Molinari Institute, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society.

Frank Chodorov American libertarian thinker

Frank Chodorov was an American member of the Old Right, a group of libertarian thinkers who were non-interventionist in foreign policy and opposed to both the American entry into World War II and the New Deal. He was called by Ralph Raico "the last of the Old Right greats."

Ralph Raico was an American libertarian historian of European liberalism and a professor of history at Buffalo State College.

Libertarianism in the United States

Libertarianism in the United States is a movement promoting individual liberty and minimized government. Although the word "libertarian" continues to be widely used to refer to anti-state socialists internationally, its meaning in the United States has deviated from its political origins. The Libertarian Party asserts the following to be core beliefs of libertarianism:

Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.

Ludwig von Mises Austrian-American economist

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian School economist, historian, and sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. He is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action.

Right-libertarianism, or right-wing libertarianism, usually simply referred to as libertarianism in the United States and other countries, refers to libertarian political philosophies that advocate negative rights, natural law and a major reversal of the modern welfare state. Right-libertarians strongly support private property rights and defend market distribution of natural resources and private property. This position is contrasted with that of some versions of left-libertarianism. Right-libertarianism includes anarcho-capitalism and laissez-faire minarchist liberalism.

Fusionism philosophical and political combination of traditionalist and social conservatism with political and economic right-libertarianism

In American politics, fusionism is the philosophical and political combination or "fusion" of traditionalist and social conservatism with political and economic right-libertarianism. The philosophy is most closely associated with Frank Meyer.

Libertarian conservatism political ideology

Libertarian conservatism or conservative libertarianism is a political philosophy and ideology that combines right-libertarian politics and conservative values. Libertarian conservatism advocates the greatest possible economic liberty and the least possible government regulation of social life, mirroring laissez-faire liberalism, but harnesses this to a belief in a more traditional and conservative social philosophy emphasizing authority and duty. Libertarian conservatism prioritizes liberty as its main emphasis, promoting free expression, freedom of choice and free market capitalism to achieve socially and culturally conservative ends as they reject liberal social engineering, or in the opposite way but not excluding the above, libertarian conservatism could be understood as promoting civil society through conservative institutions and authority - as family, fatherland, religion, education - in the quest of libertarian ends for less state power.

F. A. Harper American economist

Floyd Arthur "Baldy" Harper was an American academic, economist and writer who was best known for founding the Institute for Humane Studies in 1961.


  1. "Ronald Hamowy, RIP | Cato @ Liberty". Retrieved 2012-09-10.
  2. "Ronald Hamowy, Fellow in Social Thought", Cato Institute. Accessed: March 14, 2012
  3. Cox, Stephen (9 September 2012). "Ronald Hamowy, R.I.P." Liberty.