First Published at Forbes.com here…
The economist Steven G. Horwitz, who spent most of his career teaching at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York before moving to Ball State University as the Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Political Economy, passed away this morning at the age of 57.
He was a dedicated scholar, a passionate teacher, a good friend, and an insightful mentor. Dr. Horwitz earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1985 and his PhD in economics from George Mason University in 1990. In 2020, he was honored with the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
He made his most distinguished contributions to monetary economics, including his 1992 book Monetary Evolution, Free Banking, and Economic Order (republished in 2019) and his 2000 book Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective. 34(2) of the Review of Austrian Economics features a collection of articles evaluating the book after twenty years.
In 2016, he published Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. In 2020, the Cato Institute published his short book Austrian Economics: An Introduction, which I reviewed here and which you can download here.
Throughout his work, and especially in some of the work he did on private and public responses to Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Horwitz explored how free people unencumbered by mandates, regulations, and restrictions come together to solve important problems. Disaster relief is an especially important example: at the risk of sounding hackneyed, disaster response is too important not to be left to the market—as Horwitz shows by contrasting how Walmart and the Red Cross responded to Hurricane Katrina with FEMA’s actions. As he emphasized throughout his work, individual intentions matter less than the systemic characteristics of social processes. I use the language of Thomas Sowell to describe Horwitz’s work because they were economists cut from the same Smithian-Hayekian cloth.
He was also a dedicated teacher and economic communicator who spent years writing columns for organizations like the Foundation for Economic Education, the Future of Freedom Foundation, Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and the Library of Economics and Liberty. We collaborated on popular commentaries occasionally, as with this article on eugenics in the Progressive Era and this article on market failure. A few minutes with some of his interviews and videos on Libertarianism.org and YouTube will introduce you to someone who spent a lot of time thinking not just about how to apply the ideas of a free and prosperous society but how to teach them effectively, as well.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him know him as a good mentor and a gracious friend. He helped me with my work at various stages and was kind enough to comment on an early version of my book Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich (with Deirdre McCloskey) in 2014. I have very fond memories of my visit to him and his students at Saint Lawrence University in 2010 and enjoying the culinary treasures of the area (corned beef hash at one of his favorite restaurants, poutine at a St. Lawrence University hockey game, one of the biggest cinnamon rolls I’ve ever eaten). I also have very fond memories of a visit he made to me and my students at Samford University a few years later.
Steve Horwitz was a public economist who used social media wisely. He once described Facebook at its best as being like a wedding reception combined with an academic seminar that never ends. He was a gracious host to his many friends on Facebook, who got to partake of his passion for Detroit sports, his family, his dog, the music of Rush, and, of course, economics. He made the people around him better—even when we only got to be “around him” online.
Farewell, Steve. Your memory is a blessing. It always will be.