Dagsarkiv: 19. oktober 2006

Lord Harris of High Cross (1924-2006), R.I.P.

En af de helt store profiler i den britiske renæssance for den klassiske liberalisme, Lord Harris of High Cross, afgik i morges ved døden.  Man plejer i den slags situationer ofte at sige, at det var i en "alt for tidlig alder"; det kan ikke helt siges her, da Lord Harris trods alt var 82–men man kunne sagtens have undt ham, og brugt ham, en del årtier endnu.

Ralph Harris–som han var født–blev uddannet fra Cambridge og havde derefter en kort karriere som universitetsforsker i politisk økonomi.  Så slog han sig på en karriere som journalist.  Han opstillede også ved flere valg til det britiske Underhus som Tory-kandidat, men heldigt nok for både Harris og britisk politik (men knap så godt for toryerne) blev han aldrig valgt.  I stedet var han i årtier den ene af hovedmændene bag skabelsen, driften og udviklingen af en af den vestlige verdens mest indflydelsesrige tænketanke, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), hvis direktør og ydre ansigt han var i årtier (1957-87).  Den anden, Arthur Seldon, døde–som omtalt her på bloggen–sidste år.  Tilsammen var de i 1950erne Storbritanniens "last two economists who believed in free markets".

Harris' politiske karriere indskrænkede sig i stedet til en plads i Overhuset, da Margaret Thatcher (som han havde introduceret til F.A. Hayek) i 1979 placerede ham som nr. 1 på Dronningens "Honours List"–hvorefter han straks efter adlingen erklærede sig som "cross-bencher".

Men selv i dette ikke helt socialistiske forum, oplevede han hvor skarp modstanden var imod Thatcher frimarkeds-filosofi:

"I see chaps in the House of Lords whom I know, who were contemporaries of mine at university. They won't talk to me, and I'm not even Thatcher. I didn't like Harold Wilson as Prime Minister, but I never felt the hatred and animus towards him that they have towards her. Itching to kill."

I stedet for en politisk karriere blev den senere Lord Harris medlem af Mont Pelerin Society–og dettes præsident (1982-84).  Jeg havde selv fornøjelsen af, ved flere lejligheder, at møde Lord Harris, og jeg kan kun sige, at han var en klassisk gentleman, en skarp analytiker (selv i en høj alder), en stor og vittig humorist, og en idealistisk ven af friheden i alle dens former.  Han var, med andre ord, en mand, som denne blogs skytshelgen, H.L. Mencken (som figurerer prominent på bloggens sider), ville have haft svært ved at have noget imod–og det er de færreste, man kan sige dét om.  Han kunne have været en Punditokrat–og vi ville have været glade for at have ham iblandt os! For her er, hvad han sagde om frihed, Hayek og betydningen af ideer:

"Hayek set this down in a marvelous essay called "Socialism in Intellectuals," in which he paid enormous tribute to the socialist intellectuals. He said that the whole of the direction of policy in the end depended upon a battle of ideas in a stratospheric bank of high intellectuals, refining their concepts and engaging in argument, and the fallout of all that is among the voters and the politicians and journalists who will be guided by the outcome. He argued that the great strength of the socialists is that they had the courage to be idealistic, to have a theory, to have a project and a vision, and to go on working towards that, through thick and thin, and not to deviate, whereas the non-socialists, Conservatives and so on, were pragmatic people who were always involved in bits of compromise and what was practical and how to accommodate the existing opinion. Ignore existing opinion, Hayek said, because in the long run it's ideas. But Keynes said the same in The General Theory. Keynes said it's ideas that rule the world. And people, said Keynes, who think they're exempt from any intellectual interest are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. That was Keynes — who became in turn a defunct economist, incidentally. So this notion [was] that we were the high command, the military terms of high command and high strategy. Don't look for immediate successes, but keep on driving towards this vision of a free society, of individual responsibility, self-help as a foundation of an individual fulfillment, and then of wealth creation, innovation, investment, and all the great things that follow from it."

PS. Her er et par hurtige nekrologer/omtaler: