Lord Ralph Harris, R.I.P.


Lord Ralph Harris, longtime general director (from 1957 to 1987) of the British free-market think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs, has died at age 81. William Rees-Mogg sums up his importance to Britain and Thatcher's market-oriented reforms in the London Times, under the headline "The Man Who Saved Britain":

In the 1960s and early 1970s the IEA moved from the fringe to a position of rising influence, largely as the result of the failure of economic controls. Many free-society pamphlets were published, brilliantly edited by Arthur Seldon. Meetings were held, lunches were given and Hayek and Friedman were introduced to a new British audience. The IEA became a focus of criticism when the Heath Government did a U-turn and tried to fight inflation by price and wage controls–by a policy that I was ignorant enough to support. What folly that now seems.

Ralph Harris was a very likeable man who knew what he believed. He did not invent the ideas of a free society based on a free economy, but he did convert the British establishment from Fabianism to Thatcherism. His ideas–put into effect by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s–saved Britain from the decline of 1960s and 1970s. The ideas that the IEA was advocating in the 1970s provided a large part of the intellectual basis of the Thatcherite revolution. He deserves a statue: he helped to save the freedom of his country.

Steven Hayward at National Review's Corner has an anecdote on the Lighter Side of Ralph Harris:

I first encountered [Harris] in 1990 at the Mont Pelerin Society meeting in Munich. He won me over when he turned up at an unusual panel about whether the EU should incorporate some kind of "social market" dimension. When the moderator introduced the panel with the remark that went something like, "The topic of this panel is whether the European Union should have a social market dimension," Lord Harris, sitting in the front row, loudly interrupted: "No! Let's go home!"