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We note with great sorrow the loss of David Mayer, who died November 23, 2019 at 63, of a lengthy illness.
David was a professor of law and history at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, from 1990 to his retirement as emeritus in 2015, teaching courses across a wide range of topics in his field, especially in the history of the Founding Fathers and their work in creating the U.S Constitution. Previously, he taught at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and worked in private practice. He earned his law degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia.
David’s special interest was Jefferson; his book The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson (1995) is the authoritative work on the subject. He also published a seminal work for the Cato Institute, Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right (2011), and was working on a magisterial book on the Constitution until his untimely death.
David was a great friend of The Atlas Society, as he was to many other organizations. He was a generous donor, a member of our Board of Advisors, and—most of all—a regular speaker at our conferences. From his first appearance at our annual Summer Seminar in 1996, and for the next 20 years, he gave many talks at that Seminar and other events. He was one of our “stars,” invariably earning top ratings from participants along with comments that convey his charm, enthusiasm, and breadth of knowledge:
“David's knowledge and enthusiasm makes me wish the class was an all-day session.”
“Mayer is great! So clear, such a natural delivery, such enthusiasm for his subject, such obvious knowledge of the material. His fresh insights into history’s great figures never cease to amaze, impress, and encourage me!”
David’s topics at our events covered a wide range of historical and constitutional issues. Taken together, they are the best introduction you will find to Constitutional law and the animating ideals of our Founding Fathers, from a perspective that honors their intent. See the titles below for links to some of David’s best talks on the subject.
David also wrote frequently for our publications, Navigator (1997-2004) and The New Individualist (2005-2011). My favorite work of his (hard as it is to choose) is his article “Completing the American Revolution,” based on his talk at our 2007 celebration of Atlas Shrugged’s 50th anniversary. Ayn Rand said (in “Man’s Rights”), “America’s inner contradiction was the altruism-collectivist ethics. Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism and with individual rights.”
David took that briefly-stated philosophical insight and, as an historian and legal scholar, spelled out in detail why it was true. I love the conclusion to his article:
To resolve the conflict, and to place the Founders' "new science of politics" upon a firm philosophical footing—and thus to complete the work of the American Revolution—we need not only to reaffirm the Founders' commitment to individual rights but to ground that commitment in a coherent theory of rights….
By presenting a new code of ethics—the morality of rational self-interest—Rand’s novel [Atlas Shrugged] helps to provide what the Founders failed to grasp, the missing element of the American Revolution: the moral justification of capitalism, and with it, of the rights of all persons—including the American businessman….
To fully protect property rights and all aspects of the basic right to liberty, including economic liberty, it might even be necessary to add such provisions to the text as the amendment suggested by Judge Narragansett, in the concluding section of Atlas Shrugged: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade.”
To complete the American Revolution, much work has yet to be done. Thanks to Ayn Rand’s magnificent novel, however, we can identify the path along which we must travel to reach that destination. As John Galt states in the closing lines of the novel, “The road is cleared.”
David was a consummate scholar, a prolific writer, a generous teacher and mentor, and a dear friend. His death is a loss to TAS, to the Objectivist movement, and to the future of freedom.
For Further Review
David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.