Blogs > Liberty and Power > From Russia With Love

Mar 1, 2006 4:07 pm

From Russia With Love

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

Guess the mystery philosopher:

I was a Russian Jew by birth, but an American and an atheist by choice. In early adulthood I fled Russian tyranny to come to America, where I became involved in the fledgling libertarian movement. One of the chief libertarian newspaper writers of that era was my friend and intellectual mentor, though we later had a somewhat acrimonious break. I never held an official academic post, but I wrote widely on philosophical and political questions, favouring secularist rationalism, ethical individualism, and extreme economic and political laissez-faire. After an early flirtation with a somewhat Nietzschean version of egoism, I developed more of a natural-rights approach, drawing on the classical liberal tradition. Later in life, I annoyed many of my former associates by sharply condemning libertarianism – especially in its anarchistic form. My spouse pre-deceased me by several years.

Who am I?

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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Great post. The only reason I excluded Rand is that her husband didn't pre-decease her by "several years," but only by one.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Well, er, I thought O'Connor died late in 1979, and Rand died early in 1982, narrows the gap, doesn't it? I was interpreting "several" very loosely to mean "a whole bunch." But I think "several" really means "more than two." I seem to remember that we've had a debate about the meaning of "several" before.

OK, the short answer is, no I wasn't sure.

Mark Brady - 3/3/2006

My first port of call when I'm trying to track down a person is the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, an online resource provided by Gale. I find it usually provides at least one citation. Yarros receives just one, in the Biography Index, vol. 4, 9/1955-8/1958 (New York: H. W. Wilson & Co., 1960). Now I've disclosed the tricks of my trade, what can you share with us? :)

Roderick T. Long - 3/3/2006

According to my dictionary, "several" means "privately owned."

Roderick T. Long - 3/3/2006

Thanks, Mark!

Where did you find the info? I've been scouring lucklessly.

Mark Brady - 3/2/2006

Yarros was born in 1865 and died, as Rod mentioned, in 1956.

Roderick T. Long - 3/2/2006

Irfan, are you sure? This seems to suggest otherwise.

I may have made an error, however, in saying that Victor Yarros never held an official academic post; he seems to have been affiliated at one point with the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, whatever that is.

Kenneth R. Gregg - 3/2/2006

I'll have to rack my brains on this. There was an obit in a freethought periodical in the '50's on Yarros, but I doubt it's online. I don't recall which one, but it narrows the search considerably, as there were only a few freethought periodicals at the time.

One of the things that I found when I started to focus on freethought history beginning in the 1980's is that there was a LOT of crossover between libertarian and freethought circles. I would find the same people writing in freethought literature who were writing in libertaria, and vice-versa.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

Roderick T. Long - 3/2/2006

Incidentally, the only evidence I've been able to find of Victor Yarros's death date is this listing in the Chicago Literary Club membership list: 1956. His birth date I haven't been able to ascertain. (The "1903" refers to the year Victor joined the club, not to the year of his birth.) Presumably it was some time in the 1860s -- probably no earlier, assuming he was under 100 when he died, and probably no later, since he was writing for Liberty in the 1880s.

Victor wrote a brief autobiographical sketch (which I plan to post soon, 'cause it's interesting) but although it mentions what he did at age 17, etc., it doesn't mention what year that was. And the Rachelle bio doesn't give her husband's dates either. Any clue on this?

Kenneth R. Gregg - 3/1/2006

Thanks Rod!
I think that Victor Yarros's career was quite interesting. I saw the nice Wikipedia piece and some of the individualist anarchist updates on Wikipedia. It makes for a good intro to Yarros, although not scholarly in nature.

Victor's wife, Dr. Rachelle Slobodinsky Yarros (1869-1946), was an associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois, and the first American woman to hold such a position in a coeducational university. She was a member of Hull House and an active feminist leader of the time by this link: which is useful. It doesn't mention all of her writings, however, but it does give you a feeling of her life.

Grant Gould - 3/1/2006

Count me totally fooled by that one.

John W. Payne - 3/1/2006

The only thing I was sure of was that it wasn't Rand because everything pointed to her.

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/1/2006

Wow, that's quite the mystery guest! Who'da thunk it?