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This review is from: Arthur Seldon: A Life For Liberty (Hardcover)
This is superb book about a virtually unknown man whose influence was very great. Though a biography, this is also a book about the importance of ideas, the tyranny of conventional wisdom and the virtue of perseverence.
The first pleasure is a single verse from a poem by Longfellow which is memorable and I had not seen before. It seems apt for Seldon.
I think the author makes an error in repeatedly noting that Seldon's impoverished childhood mitigated by altruistic Jewish self-help and voluntary private welfare-provision naturally led to his 'hardly surprising' conclusion that these things were more effective than state provision and overbearing government solutions. If only it was so natural and unsurprising! Mr. Robinson does not discuss the unfortunate fact that the majority came - and still come - to exactly the opposite conclusion and consistently vote for parties of the left.
I also believe the effects of the work of the IEA, along with other free-market, limited-government think tanks, although considerable in political terms can be overstated. I know about the great President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. Above all, I know about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rest. But although attitudes have changed, the period seems almost an abberation. The great public exponents of individual liberty are gone; we look for their successors. Meanwhile, the UN is only the latest body to call for big government solutions and, terrifyingly, even to say that capitalism has been tried and found wanting. Seldon might gently point out that it was not tried at all! But here's the point: there is no Milton Friedman around to stand in front of a couple of dozen cameras and robustly put the case for capitalism and eloquently pour scorn on the arguments of socialists.
It is a shame about the peerage incident, where his colleague was raised to the House of Lords and Seldon was not. However, the fact is that the Upper House is a legislative debating forum; a natural playground for Harris; anathema to Seldon.
But I regretted the inclusion of Appendix 2: 'Major awards to Arthur Seldon'. The fact is, he got none, and that is a disgrace.
F. A. Hayek is somewhat difficult to read. It is great pity Seldon was not permitted, presumably, to edit all his work, especially 'The Constitution of Liberty' with some rigor to make this most important classical liberal scholar to date to my mind more accessible.
But this is a wonderful book, and I have now ordered Seldon's 'Capitalism' to get the self-edited story straight from the horse's mouth! Don't miss 'Arthur Seldon, A life for Liberty'.
S. H. Murray Wells.