After a long and distinguished career, we celebrate the remarkable contributions of Professor Hannes Gissurarson as he embarks on a well-deserved retirement from the University of Iceland. Although I never had the chance to study under Professor Gissurarson, I was lucky enough to participate in a few of his lectures. Enthralling and captivating as they were, having the chance to speak to Hannes afterwards was even more rewarding. It would be an understatement to say that Professor Gissurarson is a beacon of knowledge. Listen carefully and one can gain a deeper understanding of the post-war liberal movement and the world. If you get the chance to share a meal or have a conversation over drinks, know that you are before greatness.
In celebration of Hannes Gissurarson's retirement
Following the international conference held to celebrate the retirement of Hannes H. Gissurarson, a dinner was organized by Icelandic Finance Minister and friend Bjarni Benediktsson. In his welcoming speech, the Minister said that Professor Gissurarson had been an inspiration to himself and many others of his and younger generations. Gissurarson is known for nurturing intellectual growth, while installing a sense of curiosity, critical thinking, and a thirst for knowledge in his students. This is something that truly defines a great Professor.
Even after retirement, Hannes’ scholarly contributions will remain, which have been both far-reaching and impactful. With a broad range of research interests, including political philosophy, economics, and the history of ideas, he has enriched academic discourse and stimulated important debates. His numerous publications, encompassing books, articles, and essays, demonstrate an exceptional depth of knowledge and a rigorous approach to intellectual inquiry.
Director Barbara Kolm emphasized his influence, saying "he has not only been an inspiration to young Icelanders but also to young people in Europe, North America, and South America where he had lectured, not least on themes from his excellent recent book, Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers – Part I & Part II.”
“In those books, Hannes tries to answer the question: What kind of liberalism is defensible today? He adheres to conservative liberalism…conservative liberalism [that] prefers the concrete over the abstract and utopian.” Once you start reading the chapter summary of the book, you come naturally to wonder how Hannes connects the thought behind these 24 thinkers and what is so conservative about them. Before letting you enjoy this masterpiece for yourself, I’ll leave you with Hannes’s definition: “In conservative liberalism ‘conservative’ is the adjective, and ‘liberalism’ is the noun. The adjective is an attitude embracing piecemeal reform and being allergic to the temptation to remake human beings. The noun comports the separation between laws and morals.” In Gissurarson’s pithy phrase: “Virtue cannot be legislated.” Moreover, in a rousing conclusion to the second volume, Gissurarson writes that “we are not only customers of one another but also citizens, joined together in recognition and appreciation of our civilization, Western in origin, but of universal application.” This is Hannes's plea for conservative liberalism.
Hannes Gissurarson has been an unwavering advocate for individual liberty, free markets, and limited government. He was not only a man of words, research, and scholarly articles but a champion of liberty and free markets in action. He demonstrated his conviction by operating an illegal radio station in 1984 in protest against the government's monopoly on broadcasting.
As we bid farewell to Professor Hannes Gissurarson upon his retirement, we reflect on the enduring legacy he leaves behind. While he may be retiring from his formal academic role, Gissurarson confirmed he was not retiring from the things that brought him joy—his scholarly research, writing, and lecturing.
I invite you to raise your glass in the words of his friend and another great champion of liberty, Sir Antony Fisher: To Hannes H. Gissurarson and “To peace and low taxes.”
The AEC’s fundamental goal is to promote a free, responsible and prosperous society. Through education and improving public understanding of key economic questions, the AEC promotes the idea of a free market economy and the ideal of a free society.