It is with great sadness that I must report the death of David McDonagh. Details are as yet scarce, but I am told that he suffered a heart attack on the 12th June.
I first met David in 1980, back in the days when there was just one Libertarian Alliance. We would attend LA meetings at the Conway Hall in London – I as an earnest student, sat in the audience, he as one of the luminaries of the Movement, sat behind one of those trestle tables that shook every time someone breathed.
When the Libertarian Alliance suffered its Great Schism, I found myself in the Chris Tame Faction. However, though David was part of the other Faction, we remained on friendly terms. We became significantly more friendly after Chris died in 2006, when I became a semi-regular speaker at events organised by his part of the Libertarian Alliance.
In all the time I knew him, David never seemed to change. Except he grew more battered over the years, he wore much the same clothes, and he never changed the style of his hair or moustache. He also never changed his opinions. From first to last, he was a Cobdenite Liberal. There was always something about him of the early twentieth century, when Cobdenism was last a viable movement. He could be irritating in debate – pedantic, repetitive, very much in love with the sound of his own voice. These were traits he carried into his written correspondence. At the same time, he possessed a large fund of simple goodness, and I am not aware of anyone who disliked him. I certainly never did.
Because he had been for so long a fixture of the British libertarian movement, predating even my own involvement, I had retained a young man’s belief that his elders would live forever. His death is a shock to me and a cause of much sadness. I will pay tribute to all that he did to keep libertarianism alive – let us face it, a thankless task given the circumstances of at least the past thirty years. He lived and died a man of immoveable principle and personal decency. We must lament his death, but also celebrate his life.
He will not be forgotten.
Time’s Feathered Arrow
14th December 2019
I feel a vague duty to write something about the general election. However, since everyone else has written almost everything about it that can be written, this is a duty that I will shirk. I will write instead about a subject I have always found of compelling interest – that is, about me.
The week before last, I had my sixtieth birthday. I glared at my women when they insisted on presenting me with birthday cards, and was glad to receive only two other cards through the post. I made sure not to put them on display. I made sure to tell none of my colleagues or students that I was now officially old and past it. However, Keir Martland – a most wicked young man – knew the truth, and has arranged a series of flattering appreciations published on the MisesUK Blog. You can see them here, here, here, here and here. Read more
To Sean Gabb on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday
One of the unanticipated pleasures of my adult life has been the diverse number of intellectuals, scholars, and liberty lovers, from all over the world, that I’ve met, and often befriended, through various libertarian and Austrian economic events, seminars, and connections, since the mid-1990s. The singular and intriguing Sean Gabb stands out in my mind as an excellent example. I don’t know if I had previously heard of Sean when we first met at the inaugural meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey, in May 2006. Well, we call it Bodrum, but historical-minded Sean insists on calling it by its proper name, Halicarnassus (in his delightful account of that first meeting (see below)). Read more
by Swithun Dobson
I believe my first memory of Sean was him defending the introduction of the R18 certification by the BBFC in 2000 on a 5 Live phone-in – even though this maybe a phantom, it is certainly an apt one given Sean’s unwavering belief that consenting adults should legally be able to do as they please. In the year 2000, I had very little idea who he actually was. In sixth form, a few years later, I began to really discover classical liberalism, reading many of the works of the Institute for Economic Affairs. In my early years at university I devoured more hardcore libertarian texts and then stumbled across the Libertarian Alliance blog. What was refreshing about it was that it was an uncompromisingly radical organisation from England. Sean linked his appearances on BBC radio in which he called for the entire abolition of alcohol licensing laws and the rolling back of the police state. This was a far cry from some of the dull, wonkish publications from the IEA, in particular the egregiously dull title, The Dangers of Bus Re-Regulation. There was simply no-one else who was vaguely in the public eye who would defend some of the more radical libertarian positions. Read more
by Robert Grözinger
Apart from us both being staunch libertarians, Sean and I share a few things more in common. For example, we both were enthusiastic amateur astronomers in our youth. And we both love Richard Wagner. Especially the latter’s music came in handy once when Sean helped me collect some personal effects from my deceased father’s house in Braunschweig, Germany. It was early January 2012. I had to hire a van, driving from my home in the south-west of England. Sean and his lovely wife Andrea kindly allowed me to stay the night in their home in Deal, near Dover. Not only that: Sean had even agreed to accompany me to my old home country and share some of the driving. (When I first put my plan to him some weeks before and asked him to help me, he immediately said he would be “delighted”.) Having gone all the way to Braunschweig, we used the free day we had before returning to pass through the now defunct (indeed, virtually invisible) Iron Curtain nearby and visit the east German medieval town of Halberstadt. Here we soaked in the old history on display in a local museum. I think something he saw there inspired Sean to include it in one of his rip-roaring Alaric-novels. A wax tablet with a richly adorned silver frame it was, if I remember correctly, part of the spoils brought back from Constantinople by a Bishop of Halberstadt during the Crusades. Anyway, on the way out from, and back to, England, we listened to almost the whole of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (Sean provided the CDs), all the while debating how best to fix the world. Conclusion: If you have to cross half a continent in a van both ways, there is no better way of doing this than by being accompanied by one of the most learned and formidable thinkers of our time, with whom you can conduct a formidable intellectual tour d’horizon, while both of you enjoy music from the most formidable opus by the most formidable composer who ever lived. Thank you, Sean. That trip was a great experience and honour. Read more
by Keir Martland
Over the next few days, there shall follow a short series of articles extolling the virtues of Dr Sean Gabb. A lengthier series could be devoted to his manifold sins and naughtiness. Since Sean is so secretive about his actual birthday, I have decided to start this series some distance from the date itself. The first instalment is by yours truly.
How to begin? Well, if the term means anything, Sean Gabb has been my ‘best friend’ for more years than is medically recommended. Not only can I be sure we are always on the same page politically-speaking, but we also share many of the same social and cultural prejudices, and a common black sense of humour, not to mention cynicism by the bucketload. This is no small feat for both of us since he is without question an Enlightenment man – a Millian liberal, a religious sceptic, a believer in scientific Progress – and I am a Counter-Enlightenment Catholic. For all this, somehow our outlooks often represent two sides of the same coin. Read more
Mises UK invites you to its second day conference at the Charing Cross Hotel in central London. A programme of Austrolibertarian and Brexit-themed lectures throughout the day, with time for socialising, and lunch included. Join us on Saturday 30th March, the day after Brexit – or not. Speakers to be confirmed soon.
Book your ticket to the Mises 2019 conference here