A Conversation With Harris & Seldon (Occasional Paper, 116) by Ralph Harris, Arthur Seldon

By Ralph Harris, Arthur Seldon

From the mid Fifties to the past due Eighties, Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, as basic director and editorial director respectively of the IEA, battled opposed to a standard knowledge which used to be opposed to markets. finally, by way of strength of argument, they overcame a lot of the resistance to industry principles, and within the strategy demonstrated 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 stumbling blocks they encountered. 8 distinct students, each one accustomed to the paintings of the Institute, then offer commentaries which verify its effect on considering and the problem to executive which it constituted in the course of the Harris/Seldon years.

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A c o n v e r sat i o n w i t h h a r r i s a n d s e l d o n SE: You quickly developed a publishing arm, and very quickly sought out people who would write for you, is that right? AS: Even at that time, people of adequate quality to write the kinds of works that we had in mind were so scarce that Ralph and I had to join together and write three of the main works ourselves in 1958/9 and 1960. Those were the ones we wrote on hire-purchase credit. We also wrote books which made their mark on advertising, which was universally scorned as wasteful, taught wrong values, and so on.

And you suddenly glowed, incandescent as a candle in the pitch black. He was an enormous inspiration. You knew exactly, transparently, exactly what this man believed, and I hope he felt the same of us. 64 t h e c o n v e r s at i o n SE: Well, many of us believe that the IEA has been that candle and – how shall I put it? – the two of you have been its flame. Thank you very much for our time together. The 42 questions were not pre-announced.

He may have found his backroom boy. As the saying goes, I ran the engine room. RH: I kept the shop! How much is just pure chance and happy accident? But we had a complete division of labour. I would consult Arthur about financial matters and all of that, and he would always let me see manuscripts and even proofs. But he was publications. ’ And I learned not to try and breathe down his neck too fiercely. On the other hand, he was happy for me to raise money. The only arguments we ever had were: ‘Why don’t we spend more on publicity?

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