A great champion of the free market and free society, Arthur Seldon,
died peacefully at his home in Kent yesterday.
As an LSE student in the interwar years, he was influenced by
the liberal economist Lionel Robbins, and Friedrich Hayek brought
him into contact with the Austrian School. In 1958, when free-market
liberalism was at its lowest ebb, he teamed up with Ralph Harris
as Editorial Adviser (later Editorial Director) of the fledgling
Institute of Economic Affairs. In that role, he directed the pioneering
think-tank's formidable and influential output of free-market,
liberal publications. Economists who would subsequently become
Nobel laureates - Hayek, Stigler, Buchanan, Becker, Friedman -
came under his editorial direction: tough, but challenging, rigorous,
stimulating and improving. He discovered, and made celebrities,
of more. And in the process he became the personal friend of all
those he touched during his long career.
He wrote his own books and essays on free-market policy too, including
Charge!, Whither the Welfare State, and Corrigible Capitalism,
Incorrigible Socialism. Poignantly, the first five volumes of The
Collected Words of Arthur Seldon have just become available, with
two more to follow soon.
Arthur Seldon was awarded a CBE in 1983. He left us with epigrams
such as "socialism is a vast machine for churning out piles of
goods marked Take It or Leave It" and predicted, on Tony Blair's
accession to the Labour leadership, that "socialism as we have
known it will never rule again." If so, then that will be in no
small measure to the work and intellect of Arthur Seldon himself.