Ralph Harris, Baron Harris of High Cross

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Ralph Harris, Baron Harris of High Cross (born December 10, 1924 in Tottenham , † October 19, 2006 in London ) was a British economist and university professor who, between 1957 and 1987, together with Arthur Seldon, was general director of the economically liberal think tank founded by Antony Fisher in 1955 Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and became a member of the House of Lords in 1979 as Life Peer under the Life Peerages Act 1958 . He was the first peer appointed at the suggestion of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and was considered the intellectual thought leader of the Thatcherism that was named after her . Harris, who described himself as "radically reactionary," was an outspoken advocate of libertarianism , which he believed included monetarism , the unleashing of market forces, sharp tax cuts, unrestricted trading on Sunday, restrictions on trade union influence , and the prohibition of minimum wages , Nationalization of industry and inflation-proof pensions.


University professors and unsuccessful lower house candidates

Harris, the son of a railway inspector, graduated after attending the Grammar School in Tottenham studying economics at Queens' College of the University of Cambridge , where he graduated with honors. After completing his studies with a Master of Arts (MA), he became a lecturer in political economy at the University of St Andrews in 1949 , where he taught until 1965.

As a university lecturer, he was seen as a strong advocate of libertarianism, which he believed included monetarism, the unleashing of market forces, sharp tax cuts, unlimited trade on Sundays, restrictions on trade union influence, as well as the ban on minimum wages, nationalization of industry and inflation-proof pensions.

At the beginning of his teaching activity, the advocacy of market freedom was viewed extremely critically, as the collective efforts during the Second World War and the government of the Labor Party under Prime Minister Clement Attlee from 1945 to 1951, state intervention and Keynesianism shaped economic policy. The book Der Weg zur Knechnung , published by Friedrich August von Hayek in 1943 , which was also published in English in 1944 under the title The Road to Serfdom, revealed minor approaches to libertarianism.

During this time he ran for the Liberal Unionists of the Conservative Party in the general election of October 25, 1951 in the constituency of Kirkcaldy Burghs for the first time unsuccessfully for a member of the House of Commons . In the elections of May 26, 1955 , he ran in the constituency of Edinburgh Central again without success for a seat in the House of Commons.

Director General of the IEA and ideological pioneer of Thatcherism

In the mid-1950s, Hayek succeeded in convincing the poultry breeding entrepreneur Antony Fisher and the national liberal entrepreneur Oliver Smedley to found a market-liberal research institute.

In 1957 Harris was together with Arthur Seldon General Director of this economically liberal think tank founded in 1955 as the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and held this position until 1987.

In later years Harris and Seldon, along with Enoch Powell and other right-wing Tory politicians, published a number of easy-to-understand writings such as Down With the Poor (1971) and The Challenge of the Radical Reactionary (1981). These writings contributed to the post-war consensus , which, after the two creators, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rab Butler of the Conservative Party and the chairman of the Labor Party, Hugh Gaitskell , also called Butskellism , was the balance of forces between the Conservative Party and companies on the one hand and the Labor Party and the unions on the other hand, eliminate it. At the same time they created the intellectual basis for the emergence of the politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who has ruled since 1979, and the Thatcherism named after her.

Member of the House of Lords and President of the Mont Pelerin Society

By a Letters Patent of July 19, 1979 Harris was as a life peer with the title Baron Harris of High Cross , of Tottenham in the County of Greater London, according to the Life Peerages Act 1958 into the nobility raised and was until his death the House of Lords as a member. This made him the first peer to be appointed on the proposal of the new Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His official introduction ( Introduction ) in the House of Lords was carried out with the support of Lionel Robbins, Robbins Baron and Douglas Houghton, Baron Houghton of Sowerby on 24 July 1979th

During Prime Minister Thatcher's tenure, which lasted from 1979 to 1990, the IEA was an unofficial government think tank alongside the Center for Policy Studies founded in 1974 by Thatcher and Keith Joseph . Although he many introduced by the introduced by Margaret Thatcher Thatcherism changes like the poll tax ( Poll Tax supported), he underlined the other hand, the ideological independence of the IEA. In 1985 he formed a circle of Thatchers with the No Turning Back group.

In 1982, Harris succeeded Chiaki Nishiyama as President of the Mont Pelerin Society , an association of liberal intellectuals founded in 1947 whose goal is the defense and promotion of freedom , the rule of law , private property and competition . In 1984 he was followed by James M. Buchanan in this role.

In 1987 he was replaced as Director General of the IEA by Graham Mather and instead became chairman of the institute before he became co-founder of the IEA in 1990 with Arthur Seldon. After Seldon resigned in 1991 because of the institute's close proximity to the government of Prime Minister John Major , Thatcher's successor, it appeared that Harris would resign as well. However, after Mather resigned in 1992, Harris and Seldon remained connected to the IEA as trustees.

In the House of Lords, Harris joined the group of nonpartisan peers, the Crossbencher , which enabled him to reject the lease reform initiated in 1993 by the Major government as "completely regrettable", which violated the "sanctity of the contract with the landlords."

Anti-smoking opponents, Eurosceptics and admission for freedom of the press and broadcasting

As chairman of FOREST, he has also campaigned for the rights of smokers since 1989 and in 1995 was one of those who unsuccessfully advocated the smoking ban on the Brighton-Victoria route. In his 1998 book Murder a Cigarette he dismissed the danger of passive smoking as based on "pseudo-science, anecdotal evidence, selective surveys and statistical hocus-pocus" ('pseudo-science, anecdotal evidence, selective surveys and statistical jiggery-pokery').

In 1989 he also became chairman of the EU-skeptical Bruges Group, although as an advocate of free trade he preferred the European internal market provided for by the Treaty of Rome . On the other hand, he opposed the interventions on the part of the European Commission and criticized the Maastricht Treaty as "a distraction from completing the single market". In 1991 he was replaced as chairman of the Bruges Group by Nicholas Ridley , who had to resign as trade and industry minister in July 1990 because of anti-German remarks. Nonetheless, he remained a firm opponent of the European Central Bank and the monetary union , and emphasized that it was difficult for a single nation like Great Britain to find a uniform interest rate taking into account the economic situation of the different parts of the country. It was all the more impossible that he held a common interest rate for the entire euro area .

Harris, who had been a member of the board of directors of the daily newspaper The Times since 1988 and a staunch supporter of Rupert Murdoch , criticized in 1996 that the broadcasting bill introduced at the time deliberately discriminated against the pay-TV channel British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). In 1999 he stood against the proposal of the Liberal Democrat- Peer Thomas McNally, Baron McNally , who demanded that the newspapers published by Murdoch may be offered under price.

In April 1998, Harris found himself in a bind as a business liberal when Bertram Bowyer, 2nd Baron Denham , demanded public funds to save the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company . He explained this in the debate in the House of Lords.

“Should an honest market liberal be confused by what looks so suspiciously like a call for subsidies, if for a good reason? For me, public money is always tainted money. ”('Should an honest market man get mixed up in what looks suspiciously like an appeal for subsidies, even for so good a cause? To me, public money has always been tainted money.')

For this reason, as a supporter of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, he held talks with the British Arts Council in support of the opera company, which mainly performed comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan .


  • Politics Without Prejudice: a biography of RA Butler , 1956
  • Hire Purchase in a Free Society , 1958
  • Advertising in a Free Society , 1959
  • Murder a Cigarette , 1998

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. London Gazette . No. 47912, HMSO, London, July 24, 1979, p. 9365 ( PDF , accessed December 20, 2013, English).
  2. Entry in Hansard (July 24, 1979)