Old books
The recent death of Norman Barry is a great loss to the cause of classical liberalism. For Norman was one of its most effective advocates. He was a rare example of a person who was a master of the underlying social and political theory but who could then engage with the practical issues of his time. He wrote papers in the top journals – such as ‘Agreement, Unanimity and Liberalism’ in Political Theory – where he deconstructed the philosophical foundations of James Buchanan’s work (work that he nevertheless greatly admired). At the same time he could write in pamphlets and newspapers on issues ranging from the pensions problem, through marriage and divorce to insider dealing and business ethics. His textbook, An Introduction to Modern Political Theory went to four editions. He was a sturdy defender of Anglo-American capitalism against its critics and the supporters of the ‘social market economy’ or ‘the third way’. He had a great interest in the post-war history of the German Ordo-liberals, such as Walter Eucken, and those who laid the foundations of the great post-war recovery – such as Ludwig Erhard.

More than is usual amongst political theorists, Norman had a profound grasp of economics. No doubt this derived from his early immersion in the work of Friedrich von Hayek and the publication of Hayek’s Social and Economic Philosophy (1979). His very unfashionable view that liberty depended ultimately on the defence of property led him naturally to ‘public choice’ theory and the study of whether constitutional limits to the domain of democratic collective decision making could ever be sustained in the long run. As a scholar who had taken a course against the orthodoxy of the age, his Chair at the University of Buckingham provided a congenial academic environment, while his long association with The Institute of Economic Affairs (as an author and as a member of the Advisory Council) helped to provide him with a network of contacts throughout the world.

A conference to mark Norman’s life and work will be held at the University of Buckingham next year.

7 thoughts on “Norman Barry (1944-2008)”

  1. Posted 10/11/2008 at 15:00 | Permalink

    Norman sparked my interest in the Salamanca school with an excellent article in Economic Affairs just after I became Editorial and Programme Director. He also has a very nice chapter in our recent book The Legal Foundations of Free Markets which I assume was his last piece of writing.

  2. Posted 10/11/2008 at 15:00 | Permalink

    Norman sparked my interest in the Salamanca school with an excellent article in Economic Affairs just after I became Editorial and Programme Director. He also has a very nice chapter in our recent book The Legal Foundations of Free Markets which I assume was his last piece of writing.

  3. Posted 30/11/2008 at 02:00 | Permalink

    I first met Norman at a Liberty Fund Conference in the US. His book on liberalism, libertarianism, and classical liberal thinking constituted the text of the seminar. That meeting with him caused a number of important locks to open up in my thinking about liberty and public policy.

    Bill Beach

  4. Posted 30/11/2008 at 02:00 | Permalink

    I first met Norman at a Liberty Fund Conference in the US. His book on liberalism, libertarianism, and classical liberal thinking constituted the text of the seminar. That meeting with him caused a number of important locks to open up in my thinking about liberty and public policy.

    Bill Beach

  5. Posted 16/12/2008 at 11:40 | Permalink

    Arthur Seldon used to refer to him very affectionately as ‘Norah Batty’, a character in ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.

  6. Posted 16/12/2008 at 11:40 | Permalink

    Arthur Seldon used to refer to him very affectionately as ‘Norah Batty’, a character in ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.

  7. Posted 04/06/2016 at 20:51 | Permalink

    Norman Barry was my politics tutor at Buckingham, a likeable eccentric, but the epitome of what was (and is) wrong with the University, namely that it has been better at importing proponents of classical liberalism than at producing and exporting them – the opposite of Austria, which produced and exported the likes of Mises and Hayek, but is one of the most statist economies in Western Europe.

    How many of Barry’s students have gone on to great things in politics, including working in think tanks like the IEA? He was hardly Vernon Bogdanor, much less being to politics what Norman Stone has been to history!

    Buckingham is an intellectual desert, and the School of Humanities is at best an Economics Department in disguise (why else would Martin Ricketts be its Dean?) and at worst a sheltered workshop cum sinecure for libertarian fantasists like Barry subsidised by Nigerian lawyers and Malaysian accountants too stupid to notice or care what their money was being wasted on.

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