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David Boaz, a Leading Voice of Libertarianism, Dies at 70

David Boaz, a Leading Voice of Libertarianism, Dies at 70


David Boaz, an apostle of “cheap, radical libertarianism” who argued that Americans are entitled to pursue life, liberty and happiness with out authorities meddling of their bedrooms or boardrooms or with their hashish, died on Friday at his house in Arlington, Va. He was 70.

The trigger was issues of esophageal most cancers, his longtime companion, Steve Miller, mentioned.

Mr. Boaz encapsulated libertarianism, the philosophy that prioritizes particular person freedom over authorities overreach, with attribute perspicuity:

“You study the essence of libertarianism in kindergarten,” he wrote in “Libertarianism: A Primer,” a 1997 ebook that was up to date and rereleased in 2015 as “The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.” “Don’t hit different individuals, don’t take their stuff, and maintain your guarantees.”

As govt vice chairman of the Cato Institute, the Washington-based libertarian suppose tank, since 1989, Mr. Boaz was a frequent contributor to its journal, Reason. He additionally wrote opinion essays for The New York Times and different publications, advancing a philosophy that had been embraced for hundreds of years by thinkers like John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, however whose sensible utility posed challenges to some potential disciples.

Summing up his holistic view of particular person liberty, Mr. Boaz advised The Times in 1984, “I don’t suppose it’s any of the federal government’s enterprise to guard individuals from themselves, whether or not it’s seatbelts, cyclamates or marijuana.”

Nor, he argued, did it make any sense to disclaim homosexual individuals authorized equality. Government advantages, for instance, shouldn’t be withheld from same-sex companions in steady relationships, he mentioned, when kids of single-parent households or of single heterosexual companions had been receiving that help. Mr. Boaz was overtly homosexual and a founding member of the Independent Gay Forum, a web site that aggregated articles by homosexual conservative economists within the mid-Nineteen Nineties.

Mr. Boaz issued an early plea to declare defeat within the authorities’s declared battle on medicine, saying that antidrug legal guidelines violated privateness and had failed.

“We can both escalate the battle on medicine, which might have dire implications for civil liberties and the appropriate to privateness, or discover a technique to gracefully withdraw,” Mr. Boaz, who neither drank nor smoked, wrote in The Times in 1988. “Withdrawal shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of drug use; it could merely be an acknowledgment that the price of this battle — billions of {dollars}, runaway crime charges and restrictions on our private freedom — is just too excessive.”

In an explanatory article for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Mr. Boaz wrote that libertarians consider that authorities’s main goal is to guard residents from the illegitimate use of drive and that “people must be free to behave and to get rid of their property as they see match, supplied that their actions don’t infringe on the equal freedom of others.”

For libertarians, he added, “the central philosophical problem just isn’t individuality versus group, however moderately consent versus coercion.”

David Douglas Boaz was born on Aug. 29, 1953, in Mayfield, Ky., to Seth Thomas Boaz Jr., an elected Circuit Court judge, and Martha (Pruitt) Boaz, who had earned a grasp’s diploma in economics and managed the family. An uncle by marriage, Frank Albert Stubblefield, was a Democratic congressman from Kentucky.

In addition to Mr. Miller, Mr. Boaz is survived by his sister, Mary Boaz, and his brother, Seth Thomas Boaz III.

Mr. Boaz first grew to become enamored with libertarianism when he learn Henry Hazlitt’s 1946 ebook, “Economics in One Lesson,” from his mom’s bookshelf. He went on to earn a bachelor’s diploma in historical past from Vanderbilt University in 1975 and joined the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom.

“In my misguided youth, I used to be a teenage Young Democrat, a College Republican and a younger grownup Libertarian Party activist, earlier than I gave up politics,” he as soon as recalled.

Parting from the Young Americans, he persuaded Edward H. Crane, chairman of the Libertarian Party and a founding father of the Cato Institute, to rent him for the campaigns of Edward Clark, a Libertarian, for governor of California in 1978 and president in 1980.

Described by National Review as “a titan within the freedom motion,” Mr. Boaz was at Cato for greater than 43 years, retiring as govt vice chairman in 2022. When he died, he was a distinguished senior fellow on the institute, a place held by solely three different individuals, all Nobel laureates in economics.

Mr. Boaz described libertarianism as traditional liberalism and was against what he referred to as “the creeping forces of populism.” He advised NPR in 2002 that to take care of his independence he was not enrolled within the Libertarian Party, including that if libertarians, in the course of the 2016 presidential marketing campaign, had a gun to their heads and had “to decide on between Clinton and Trump, the right reply is take the bullet.”

But in April, waiting for a 2024 contest between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump, he advised CNN, “The huge freedom problem that Biden has over Trump is that Trump tried to steal an election.”

Mr. Boaz challenged misty-eyed fantasts of American historical past. “I’m notably struck by libertarians and conservatives who have fun the liberty of early America, and deplore our decline from these halcyon days,” he wrote in 2010, “with out bothering to say the existence of slavery.”

Asked why he spent his profession advocating for what appeared like a Sisyphean motion, Mr. Boaz advised Brian Doherty, the editor of Reason, in 1998: “Particularly in the event you’re a libertarian, you may’t say it’s morally compulsory to be preventing for these values — however it does really feel proper, and at another degree extra than simply being proper, it’s enjoyable. It’s what I need to do.”

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