Leonard Liggio: A Snapshot, Part 1

This is the first in a three part series about Leonard Liggio’s life and influences. 

My progress to Classical Liberalism began as a child. Until the Summer of 1941 we lived in Miami Beach, Florida. Then and until the early 1950s there were many 15-minute radio commentaries on politics on the four radio networks. My parents listened to them and the news broadcasts. They held opposing views. My father was an Al Smith Democrat (Smith was NY governor & 1928 Dem presidential candidate) and opposed the Republican party on its immigration restriction, its protective tariffs, its alcohol prohibition, etc., which created the FDR majority. He adhered to the Democratic tradition of Personal Liberty. My mother favored sound money and lower government spending as did the Republicans. My father blindly followed FDR’s leadership to take the US into World War II. My mother’s conservatism led her to support Republican traditional non-interventionism. She opposed any alliance with Stalin’s Soviet Union. My mother viewed FDR as she did Bill & Hillary Clinton (which is not printable). The facts from 1941-45 led me to agree with my mother. My mother was strongly opposed to Progressive Education and enrolled my brother and I in a Catholic primary school (and later high school and university) even though my mother was Lutheran. The Bronx was a Communist stronghold with more Communist Party district offices than Republican ones.

In 1945 the Communists elected two members to the New York City Council as well as a number of Communist-front members; the Communists had cells at Time and at many newspapers. (My father finally turned against the Democrats in 1952 when he saw that ‘Our Soviet Allies’ had been spying on the US as in the Hiss Trial. He finally accepted that it was the graduates of Jesuit universities which had to discover the spies from the Ivy League universities, such as Harvard and Yale.)

When the family returned to NYC in 1941 we regularly read most of the daily newspapers. On Sundays we read the Daily NewsHearst’s Daily Mirror and Journal-American;  World-Telegram & SunNew York Times, and New York Herald Tribune. (In addition we listened daily to the radio commentators such as Hans von Kaltenborn, Fulton Lewis, Jr. and Felix Morley on SUNOCO Three-Star-Extra). The most valuable columnist was John O’Donnell of the four million circulation New York Daily News. His exposures of FDR’s plots to enter the war led FDR during a small news conference in his office to pin an iron cross on his suit. (When I was a student at Georgetown and the Washington Times-Herald was closed (aChicago Tribune affiliate), I arranged daily delivery of the NY Daily News to my door in the GU dorm to know each morning what I should think by reading O’Donnell. Other important sources were Hearst columnists, Karl von Weigand and George Sokolsky in the New York Journal-American.

I was particularly happy with the Republican victory in November 1946, winning the House and Senate as well as governorships. In my northeast Bronx district, David M. Potts scored a victory in winning the Congressional seat. Sen. Robert Taft became the chairman of the Labor Com and passed the Taft-Hartley Labor Relations Act of 1947 creating the Right to Work which freed 22 states from Union Tyranny. It was passed over Truman’s veto and I listened as the Senate vote to override was broadcast on the radio. Taft strengthened the Republican tradition against foreign and domestic intervention.

In December 1950,the American Historical Association held a major debate on FDR’s taking the US into WW II. Charles C. Tansill had published his BACK DOOR TO WAR (Regnery) on FDR getting the US into war in Europe through the back door of the Pacific (those were Herbert Hoover’s words). He was joined by Harry Elmer Barnes who later published Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. They were opposed by two Harvard apologists for FDR. John O’Donnell reported on the AHA debate in Chicago.

In high school I read the works of Hilaire Belloc and Lord Acton and continued when I decided that Georgetown University with Charles C. Tansill was the university for me to attend. GU Foreign Service dean, Edmund Walsh S. J., was the leading US geopolitican; and Tibor Kerekes was Chairman of History and Political Sc. Department.  (In addition to Henry Regnery Publishers, there were Devin-Adair in NY (publisher ofChodorov: One is a Crowd; and The IncomeTax: The Root of All Evil(introduction by Gov. J. Bracken Lee of Utah) and Caxton Publishers in Caldwell, Idaho, publishing classics by Herbert Spencer (Man Against the State) and Albert Jay Nock (Our Enemy The State).

After arriving at Georgetown I joined Students for Taft and became acquainted with its leaders in NYC, Ralph Raico and George Reisman at the Bronx High School of Science. Ralph called to my attention theFoundation for Economic Education in 1952 after Taft’s defeat for Republican presidential nomination during the June, 1952 Chicago convention. Leonard Read and F. A. Harper were always hospitable to our visits to FEE and Harper would invite me to FEE to attend seminars that they were having when I was in NYC. Harper continued to communicate with me as occasions arose. Ralph discovered Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action in the summer of 1952 and insisted I read it. Through FEE Ralph with George Reisman went to visit Mises at NYU to ask admission to his graduate seminar as auditors. Mises tested their German and admitted them while Ralph translated Liberalism, and George translated Heinrich Ricket’s Science and History (the English translations were published for the Volker Fund by Van Nostrand, in Princeton.

This is the first in a three part series about Leonard Liggio’s life and influences, to read the second installment, click here.