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Some Links on David Boaz (1953-2024)

Tom Palmer remembers David Boaz, who died yesterday. A slice:

Over 49 years that combination of wit and intellect and humility characterized him. For five decades he worked to secure equal liberty for each and every human being. It was his life mission, to which he hewed with extraordinary steadfastness. He was a passionate champion of ending the drug war and was active in and served on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, despite never having tried marijuana, tobacco, or any other intoxicating substance. (David never drank alcohol or smoked anything. His only vice was his preference for Coca‐​Cola, which would lead him to choose restaurants on the basis of which cola products they served.)

He was honest. He was generous of spirit; he never questioned the motives of others, but sought to understand them, to learn from them, and to win them over to the cause of liberty, the only political idea that can be embraced by every human being without conflict or violence.

His book The Libertarian Mind is one of the finest, most accessible, and most reasonable cases for liberty. David wrote it to introduce, to persuade, to motivate. Like his dear friend P. J. O’Rourke, who effectively rewrote Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, which in turn was a rewriting of Frédéric Bastiat’s “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen,” David knew that writers who are today teenagers will need to make the case for liberty anew for their generation. And that the case will need to be made again by people yet unborn. (The Libertarian Mind will come out next year in a revised paperback edition, David’s last gift to us.)

Reason‘s Brian Doherty. Two slices:

Boaz began working at the Cato Institute when it moved to D.C. in 1981, where he became executive vice president and stayed until his retirement in 2023. He was Cato’s leading editorial voice for decades, setting the tone for what was among the most well-financed and widely distributed institutional voices for libertarian advocacy. Cato, with Boaz’s guidance, provided a stream of measured, bourgeois outreach policy radicalism intended to appeal to a wide-ranging audience of normal Americans, not just those marinated in specifically libertarian movement heroes, styles, and concerns.


Meeting Boaz in 1991 when I was an intern at Cato (and later an employee until 1994) was bracing to this wet-behind-the-ears young libertarian who arose from a more raffish, perhaps less civilized branch of activism. As a supervisor and colleague, Boaz was a civilized adult, stylish, nearly suave, but was patient nonetheless with wilder young libertarians, of whom he’d dealt with many.

His very institutional continuity—though it was barely two decades long at that point—was influential in a quiet way to the younger crew. It imbued a sense that one needn’t frantically demand instant victory, no matter how morally imperative the cause of freedom was. Boaz’s calm sense of historical sweep both as a living person and in his capacious knowledge of the history of classical liberal ideas was an antidote to both despair and opportunism for the young libertarians he worked with.

Sheldon Richman. Two slices:

He was a good man and a giant of the libertarian movement. Very much because of David’s influence and example, libertarian organizations not only embraced a rigorous dedication to individual liberty, private property, free markets, and peace, but also a commitment to professionalism. He is one big reason libertarianism moved from amateur status to the big league. The value of his multifaceted work, predominantly for the Cato Institute for over 40 years, can not be overstated. Whether they know it or not, libertarians owe much to David Boaz.


David’s final speech from just a few months ago is here.

Adam Thierer.

Bob Levy.

Peter Goettler.

Jim Dorn.

Roger Pilon.

Michael Cannon.

Ryan Bourne.

Gabriela Calderon de Burgos.

Wally Olson.

Aaron Steelman.

Maria Santos Bier.

David Bier.

Sallie James.

Harrison Moar.

Neal McCluskey.

Patrick Eddington.

Diego Costa.

Wolf von Laer.

Christian Schneider.

The Orange County Register.

The Washington Post.