The Obituary ($$) in this week’s Economist is of Ralph Harris — or Lord Harris of High Cross as he became late in his remarkably productive life. Along with the late Arthur Seldon, Harris made Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) an intellectual powerhouse showing the benefits of markets and freedom under the rule of law.
I met Harris only once, in 1999 at the Summer University in Aix-en-Provence. We sat together in the hotel lobby one morning sipping coffee. (Or perhaps he had tea; I don’t recall.) He was elegant yet spirited, his smile ready and his wits sharp. I liked him very much.
Here’s a passage from The Economist‘s fine obit:
To critics, the ideas of the IEA were all the worse for being “German”. Their source was Freidrich Hayek, in fact and Austrian. Mr. Harris, fresh down from Cambridge in 1947, had fallen under the spell of Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”. Serfdom was all around him then: ration books, travel restrictions, the persistent shadow of wartime central planning, and most of all the depressing disposition of people to do what they were told and to suppose that this was modern life. He never believed it. The way to freedom was to unleash the millions of individual actions that made up a working economy, and never to seek to control them.