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Tibor Machan, Friend and Colleague, RIP

I have just heard that yesterday, Thursday, March 24, 2016, Tibor Machan passed away. He was my dear friend and colleague of many, many years, and I can hardly believe it. I know he was very sick for many months, and I'd been in touch with him regularly. He never forgot my birthday (and sent me a birthday e-card back in February, while awaiting a CAT Scan!), and I never forgot his. We last corresponded at the beginning of March, about the great film, "Judgment at Nuremberg." He was an indefatigable warrior for liberty, with a larger-than-life personality ... and handshake. He published hundreds of articles and scores of books that covered more topics than I could count, so important to the emergent modern libertarian movement, whether one agreed or disagreed with this or that point.

I first encountered the name of Tibor Machan when I found a book called The Libertarian Alternative, which had "selections in social and political philosophy" from a vast array of libertarian thinkers. This 1974 edited collection offered a kaleidoscopic vision of so many different approaches to the defense of liberty, from authors as diverse as Nathaniel Branden, Roy Childs, Milton Friedman, John Hospers, Israel Kirzner, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, James Sadowsky, Thomas Szsaz, and Joan Kennedy Taylor. I largely credit that book with opening the door to what became a vast library in libertarian thinking; I never knew that it would also be a door that would lead to correspondence with many of its authors, some of whom became my teachers ... and friends.

Though I had published before in New York University periodicals, I had never been professionally published outside of the university, from which I earned my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. So it was Tibor Machan who first engaged me when I emerged from the university, with the idea that I was going to drag dialectical method and libertarian thinking into constructive engagement with one another. My first attempt, "The Crisis of Libertarian Dualism," an article published in Critical Review in 1987, elicited a stern response from Tibor, to which I replied in the Spring/Summer 1988 issue of the journal. It was clear that we were on the same side, politically, even though my criticisms of certain forms of libertarianism must have raised my colleague's eyebrows just a bit. A year later, Tibor would publish my very first professional article on Ayn Rand, entitled, "Ayn Rand's Critique of Ideology," [.pdf link] which appeared in the Spring 1989 issue of Reason Papers. Suffice it to say, that single article did more to propel my percolating work on Rand as a dialectical thinker than any publication or presentation I'd done. I sent it to scores of people I'd never met, most of whom responded with courteous and respectful criticisms that only propelled my interest in the subject exponentially. I met scholars such as Douglas Rasmussen, Douglas Den Uyl, and so many other individuals, who I am today, proud to call my dearest friends and colleagues; many of them eventually became advisory board members for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, which I co-founded with Bill Bradford and Stephen Cox in the Fall of 1999. And I was proud to publish Tibor's essays in that journal (indeed, JARS eventually published seven essays written by Tibor). He was a regular subscriber to the journal, and never lost an opportunity to praise it, or severely criticize a particular essay that enraged him. His emotional range was remarkably wide. One might say his passion burned: you could feel the deep warmth of a friend, and the scalding fire of a critic, in the same conversation. But in the end, it was that deep warmth that touched my heart.

I will always thank him from the bottom of that heart for all the opportunities he gave me and especially for all of the support he showed me when so many were shocked at the 1995 appearance of the first edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. So incensed was he by the chorus of boos that he provided a rousing endorsement for the book. He was especially supportive during some of my own darkest medical adventures. He was a comrade, a colleague, and a friend to the end, and I will miss him very, very much.