Dennis O'Keeffe RIP

Posted by Helen Tuesday, December 16, 2014 ,

This morning I heard the news that my good friend and well known political scientist Dennis O'Keeffe has passed away. He is, I was rightly told, at peace after his appalling suffering.

About three and a half years ago Dennis had a very nasty accident and his life since then has been very difficult and constrained, the last couple of weeks particularly so. It would be far too easy to remember that and not the Dennis O'Keeffe of many social and political meetings, the man who would manage to crack jokes about the most unlikely subjects.

My other friend John O'Sullivan described him as a brave and strong fighter for the right cause and that could be described as the cause of the right. Dennis wrote extensively about social and educational problems, arguing on the basis of much evidence that intervention by the state and control by the state made those problems far worse. (Here is a list of some of his publications.)

Nor must we forget Dennis's work in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland, which he visited several times in the eighties as part of the Jagiellonian group, giving various talks to the underground university. It is fair to say that he and his colleagues were at some risk but continued the work because they thought it was necessary. Dennis learned some Polish and had a decent accent though his vocabulary, as he admitted himself, was limited. Nor did he forget it. I heard him speak Polish to at least one nurse in the care home where he, unfortunately, spent the last few years.

From the conservative point of view, Dennis's achievements are great. He wrote the best introduction to Edmund Burke anyone would need, as this blog has pointed out before, better really, for someone who does not know much about the subject than Jesse Norman's study.

He also translated into English Benjamin Constant's Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments, first published in 1815. For anyone who is interested in an interview Dennis gave about Constant, they can listen to it here.

At the time of that terrible accident Dennis O'Keeffe was working on a six volume edition of Frédéric Bastiat's work, editing and translating it. Several of the volumes were completed and published and are available on the Liberty Fund website, an outstanding source for all who want to read the conservative and liberal (in the old, true sense of the word) classics.

One can only rejoice that the work Dennis did has been done and will be of use to many of us and many to come while feeling sad that there will be no more as there will be no more jokes and laughter, talks and arguments. Rest in Peace Dennis. We shall miss you.


  1. S.M. MacLean Says:
  2. The volume on Constant is very good (curiously, Bastiat chided his economics which, according to Dean Russell, were more sound).

    Professor O’Keeffe also has an impressive list of publication on the IEA website.

    I’m sorry I never had an opportunity to meet him. R.I.P.

  3. Helen Says:
  4. I've added a link to the IEA publications. There will be many more additions, I expect, and thank your for pointing it out.

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