RIP, Richard Cornuelle, Classic Liberal, Former NAM EVP

From The New York Times, “Richard Cornuelle, Libertarian Author, Dies at 84“:

Richard Cornuelle, a libertarian writer whose best-known book, “Reclaiming the American Dream,” championed volunteerism as a means of addressing social problems like poverty, unemployment, delinquency and urban blight, died on April 26 at his home in Manhattan. He was 84.

Richard Cornuelle

Published in 1965, “Reclaiming the American Dream” was Mr. Cornuelle’s first book. In it, he used the phrase “independent sector” to describe the network of existing voluntary associations — foundations, churches, labor unions, trade groups and fraternal organizations — that, he argued, could marshal their resources to solve a range of contemporary ills more efficiently than government could….

In the 1950s, Mr. Cornuelle was vice president and editorial director of the Princeton Panel, a center for the study of American capitalism; he was later executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

In reading about Cournelle (pronounced Cornell), we discovered a jeremiad against the NAM of the 1970s in his book, “De-managing America: the final revolution (1975).” The tone is harsh, and the passages ask a trade association to be something it is not, but that was 35 years ago. It’s an interesting read.

Peter Boettke, a professor of economics at George Mason University, also cites the book in a tribute to Cornuelle in a blog post, “The Passing of a True Prince of Modern Classical Liberalism: Richard Cornuelle (1927-2011)“:

He was one of the true princes of the modern classical liberal movement. And I use that term — “prince” — in full knowledge that Dick rejected all forms of aristocracy and authoritarianism and in all walks of life — between citizen and politician; between worker and boss; between student and teacher; between wife and husband, etc. He would be the first to deny any princely status to himself. His book De-Managing America (1975) is a radical denunciation of the “front office” view of society as requiring management by an educated technocratic elite and any idea of a natural aristocracy. But Dick understood as well that in real democratic ways of relating with one another that granted authority did play an essential role in social progress. Earned authority was real and in fact vital, but imposed authority was pretend and destructive. Dick’s critique of modern US policy was that we had lost sight of the power of individuals and communities to mobilize and effectively address even the most pressing social issues, and instead we were derailed into thinking that we needed politicians and the state to realize the good society.

See also Bill Dennis, “Richard Cornuelle: A Great Champion of Liberty, which recalls Cornuelle’s 1949 membership in the famous economic seminar of Ludwig von Mises that met twice a week in Manhattan.

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