John Hospers, R.I.P.

Pro-liberty philosopher John Hospers — who was a personal friend of Ayn Rand in the 1960s and the first presidential candidate for the Libertarian party in 1972 — passed away on June 12, 2011.

I had lunch with Hospers in Los Angeles in 1996, shortly after graduating from college, and enjoyed his gentleness and intelligence.

In 2004, the Atlasphere published a lengthy article by him titled “Election 2004: The Case for Bush.”

Jesse Walker offers a brief tribute at

For more background about Hospers, you can read his bio and also find some of his recent articles available online.

Reviewing the correspondence from Hospers that I’ve seen over the years, I came across this interesting tidbit from him (a reply to Richard Allen on the old We The Living discussion group) about Rand’s take on Charlie Chaplin:

No, Rand didn’t care for the ‘silent comedians’. Several times in our conversations the topic of Chaplin came up — all negative. At first I thought that his political leftism was the main issue — that along with his preference for girls a generation ‘too young’ for him. These all had an influence on her low estimate of Chaplin.

But the main thing was his art, not his life: it was repellent to her that Chaplin celebrated (or seemed to) the ‘hero’ as helpless victim, not in charge of his fate but being buffeted about on the whims of circumstance, always reacting but not initiating action. She didn’t find his antics cute or even funny. Not only did she dislike ‘Modern Times’ as an indictment of capitalism, she found his parody on Hitler in ‘The Great Dictator’ (after the ‘little tramp’ had been abandoned) unworthy of even a single smile.

Rest in peace, Dr. Hospers. And thank you.

2 thoughts on “John Hospers, R.I.P.

  1. This is really sad. I actually found out about John Hospers when he added me on Facebook and “liked” my blog. And then I found out that he is the first Libertarian Presidential Candidate and I was honored. I shared a quote from him on my Facebook wall, and in return he shared a quote from an article of mine as his status on his Facebook wall. I was so honored I had to brag about it. That’s our only interaction. Not even a message or a reply box conversation. I’m sad now that I didn’t pursue an opportunity to meet him.

  2. Jessica Lakis

    Rand’s low opinion of Chaplin stands as the greatest indictment against her. As an orphan who rose from the London slums to become one of film’s first great auteurs (writing, directing, acting, composing, even setting up Hollywood’s first independent production studio) while creating a character as timeless as “The Tramp,” it’s astonishing that she didn’t recognize that Chaplin, the man, embodied (abeit in a physically smaller form) her “ideal man.” His immortal character never gave up pursuing his hopes, loves, and dreams even though he was not powerful enough to control all the circumstances of his life, and to believe any of us has such control is the height of illogic, and hubris enough to make Oedipus blush. No matter what the misfortune, the Tramp always shrugged off adversity, hitched up his britches, and waddled courageously into the future with awe and enthusiasm for life and its adventure. Perhaps she disagreed with his politics, but as a woman who demonstrated a fondness for younger, and married, men she certainly has no grounds in objecting (pardon the pun) to his personal life. Or perhaps, the truth simply lies in that there will always be more “Little Tramps” than John Galts, and that we all have the right, as the Tramp, to pursue our happiness as best we can with whatever little we may have. I never experienced the same sheer joy of life through one of Rand’s characters as I have through watching the Tramp make rolls dance because a pretty girl likes him. And no loss has ever been as keenly expressed in her plots as when the Kid is taken from the Tramp. I have the sense that should the Tramp ever have encountered a character from a Rand novel, the Tramp would bow politely and dust off a seat for Dagney Taggart with his handkerchief, and when snubbed, simply give her a swift kick in the ass as she huffed off as he blames it on the nearest police officer. His work will long outlive hers. He’ll be eternally hiding behind a flower and asking “So, you can see now?” And so long as humanity endures, we shall respond, “Yes, I can see…now.” And, if you can’t, then more’s the pity for you. 

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