Friday, October 20, 2006

Another light of liberty goes out.

Sad news I’m afraid. Lord Ralph Harris of High Cross has died. The London Telegraph headline for him simply said “Freedom fighter”. Harris, along with Sir Antony Fisher and Arthur Seldon, was one of the founders of the Institute for Economic Affairs in London. The Telegraph said: “He was the front man, the fixer, the journalist and academic who knew exactly how to plug away at a concept until, eventually, people sat up and listened. Thanks largely to his charisma, and the utter commitment and conviction with which he promoted the ideas of the IEA, what had until the mid-1970s been a sect had, by the early 1980s, become one of the intellectual powerhouses of British politico-economic life.”

An active member of the House of Lords, the paper says Harris’s “creed was the idea that the state was an evil to be kept at bay, and that nothing should take precedence over the freedom of the individual to be left alone within the law. His contribution to public discourse, economic thought and the idea of liberty was immense. His was, in its way, a heroic life.”

The London Times
said: “Ralph Harris was decisive in converting the British political consensus back to liberal economics.”

Of course the left-wing Guardian, always respectful in death, referred to him as a “Rightwing economist with a radical agenda.” They called him a “high priest of the libertarian right, whose creed included full-blooded monetarism, the unleashing of market forces, sharp tax cuts, unrestricted Sunday trading, the castration of trade unions and the abolition of minimum wages, nationalised industries and inflation-proof pensions.” And since they denigrate a dead man as a high priest then the Institute for Economic Affairs is called by them “his temple”.

The sneering article mentions Harris was a smoker who led a group of smokers “insisting on their ‘liberty’ to pollute the air of others” which, to say the least, distorts the actual position of Harris. Unlike so many socialist leaders Harris was actually born to a working class family in 1924 -- something true of a large number of leading free market intellectuals. His father was a tramsway inspector. Harris went on to read economics at Queens College, Cambridge.

Harris is survived by his wife of 57 years and his daughter. Two sons preceded him in death.