By Ralph Harris, Arthur Seldon

From the mid Fifties to the overdue Eighties, Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, as basic director and editorial director respectively of the IEA, battled opposed to a traditional knowledge which used to be antagonistic to markets. finally, by way of strength of argument, they overcame a lot of the resistance to industry principles, and within the approach tested the Institute's bold effect in shaping either opinion and coverage. This Occasional Paper starts with a transcript of a talk with Harris and Seldon which gives many insights into how they labored and what hindrances they encountered. 8 unique students, each one conversant in the paintings of the Institute, then supply commentaries which verify its impact on pondering and the problem to govt which it constituted through the Harris/Seldon years.

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And that’s the way they chose to describe you, and then of course went on to say they weren’t altogether sure about how true or important that was. AS: I would say it is difficult to think of any fundamentally justifiable exceptions. Even the things that government does, it has no right to do unless it has given the market a chance to show whether it can supply better. RH: I remember a marvellous phrase that I used on public platforms and university debates; that the collectivists (we didn’t always say socialists, there were collectivists from all parties) were people who believed in free-range chickens, but not in free-range people.

SE: Yes, but you are saying that governments aren’t even honest competitors in the market. AS: No. ’ 48 t h e c o n v e r s at i o n RH: What is good for you – what they think is good for you. AS: ‘We are the one supplier. ’ So you are caught. ‘We are the sole supplier of the things that we think you ought to have. ’ Government is not run by the people, it’s run by the bosses, the bosses who can organise and activate and influence. This notion of government has made prisoners of us all. RH: Alas, you need government, but big government is subject to such flaws, incorrigible flaws.

Who was your target audience? 30 t h e c o n v e r s at i o n RH: I will tell you, this is where financing came in. We hadn’t the money to set up a major publishing effort, produce books for everyman, get into the bookshops and build up a sales force and all the rest of it. We had to think, how do we, with a few thousand pounds a year, make any impression? And so our target was frankly journalists, writers on good papers, the Financial Times, The Times, the Guardian, because if they would review our books, they would multiply the effect, and the books themselves were devised accordingly.

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