Late yesterday I received a note from Tibor’s daughter that he had passed away. I knew that his health was not good, but her news was a blow.
I met Tibor sometime in the 1970s, when we were young firebrands in the Objectivist-libertarian world. It was a time when one could actually read most of the pro-freedom literature. That stream has turned into a firehose, far beyond my capacity to keep up. But Tibor seemed to. In more than 40 books, hundreds of articles, and virtually uncountable numbers of newspaper columns, he kept drilling at the bases of collectivist thought and making the case for freedom.
Tibor was Hungarian by birth. His father smuggled him out of Hungary in 1953 at the age of 14. As Tibor later recounted, “We trekked out to Austria, through mine fields and a booby-trapped barb wire . . . ” The family emigrated to the United States in 1956, but Tibor left home at 18 to make his way in the world. He graduated Claremont McKenna College, received his MA from New York University, and his PhD in philosophy from UC Santa Barbara. During a distinguished academic career, he taught philosophy at Auburn College in Alabama and earned an endowed chair at Chapman University in California. Along with Robert Poole and Manny Klausner, he helped launch Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation.
Tibor was a handful. He was excitable, voluble, sometimes running on in streams you could hardly take in—until he paused and you could digest it all, usually for insight. A prolific but often hasty writer, he counted on editors to spin his prose into gold. As one of those editors, I can say it wasn’t always easy.
On his feet, though, Tibor was wonderful. In talks for The Atlas Society over the years; his energy and clarity always engaged our audience, and he was always ready —with an apparently unlimited reserve of energy and patience–for the many participants who wanted to follow up.
I miss him. My condolences to his family and his many friends.
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.