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Economics professor, founder of the Institute for Humane Studies
F. A. Harper

Floyd Arthur "Baldy" Harper (7 February 1905 – April 1973) was an American academic, economist and writer who is best known for founding the Institute for Humane Studies in 1961.


Harper, Floyd Arthur "Baldy" (1905-1973), by Will Wilkinson, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Encyclopedic biographical essay of F. A. "Baldy" Harper
Floyd Arthur Harper, better known as Baldy Harper, is best remembered as the founder of the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) ... Harper attended Michigan State University as an undergraduate and obtained a doctorate in economics at Cornell University, where he taught for many years ... In 1946 ... Harper left the academy and joined the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education ... In 1958, Harper decamped to become Senior Research Economist at the William Volker Fund ... in 1963, he set up the IHS on a shoestring budget ... Harper, as executive director, patiently built the IHS into a significant institution ...


7 Feb 1905, Floyd Arthur Harper, in Middleville, Michigan


21 Apr 1973, in California


Foundation for Economic Education, Economist, 1946-1958
Institute for Humane Studies, Founder; President 1965-1973


Alternative Medicine Is Libertarian Medicine, by Butler Shaffer, 2 Dec 2006
Discusses several aspects of healthcare, including self-ownership, being responsible for our own care, decentralized information, the collapse of external authorities and the dehumanizing decisions resulting from institutionalized healthcare
[M]en and women are, in increasing numbers, walking away from [the state agencies'] hallowed halls, in search of alternatives that serve their interests. As this progression continues, these liberated souls will give real-world expression to the prognosis offered by one of the most thoughtful of all libertarian thinkers, the late F.A. Harper. In words that underlie the sentiments of all who seek those alternative ways of living that best suit their individual interests, Harper observed: "the man who knows what freedom means, will find a way to be free."
The Early History of FEE, by Henry Hazlitt, The Freeman, Mar 1984
Excerpted from Hazlitt's remarks at the Leonard E. Read Memorial Conference on Freedom, November 1983; reprinted in the May 2006 issue, including photos of early FEE senior staff
Another effect of Leonard [Read]'s initiative soon followed. Other libertarian foundations were set up in emulation. Baldy Harper, who had been working as an economist for FEE from its first year, left in 1958 and started his Institute for Humane Studies in 1963 in California ...
The staff [of FEE], as of September 1946, consisted of Leonard Read as President, ... "Baldy" Harper as Economist ...
In 1948 FEE published F. A. Harper's 71-page pamphlet on High Prices, and in 1949 Harper's 159-page book Liberty: A Path to its Recovery.
Floyd Arthur 'Baldy' Harper, RIP, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Libertarian Forum, May 1973
Biographical remembrance of "Baldy" including his involvement in the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Volker Fund and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS)
On the evening of Saturday, April 21, Dr. F.A. "Baldy" Harper died suddenly, of a heart attack, at the age of 68 ... Ever since he came to [FEE] in 1946 as its chief economist ... Harper, in a very real sense, has been the libertarian movement. For all these years, this gentle and lovable man, this wise and Socratic teacher, has been the heart and soul and nerve center of the libertarian cause ... [He] carried on an enormous and inspiring correspondence, seeking out all promising libertarians, encouraging any signs of their productivity, by his wise teaching and example developing a large and devoted following of friends and students.
How to Become a Teacher [PDF], by Robert LeFevre, The Voluntaryist, Feb 1983
Autobiographical summary of the events in LeFevre's life that led to the founding of the Freedom School, including LeFevre's relationship with Baldy Harper and the offer for him to lead the School
[Leonard] Read ... quickly assigned me to Dr. Harper for further discussions. Dr. Harper was the complete scholar. He was thoughtful, gentle and profound. Also, he had an ample supply of hair which caused me to ask about his nickname. He revealed that his students at Cornell University where he had served with distinction for years, always called him that ... Baldy refused to take credit for his own book. He insisted that it was as much the product of the other scholars at FEE as it was his. It had apparently emerged, at least to some degree, out of the discussions which had been held.
In Search of a Word: Limited Government versus 'Anarchy', by Spencer H. MacCallum, The Voluntaryist, Oct 1996
Contrasts the positions of Hornberger, who endorses "limited government, with that of Baldy Harper, who preferred to hold "the ideal of a 'total alternative' to political government" as a guiding light towards a voluntary society
Baldy Harper, Leonard Read's first associate at FEE and later founder of the Institute for Humane Studies, ... had no more idea than the man in the moon whether we or our descendants will ever actually see a 'total alternative,' as he put it, to political, tax-supported-government. But he pointed out the importance of holding the ideal clearly in mind as ... a compass to help us keep moving always in the direction of freedom. ... We need a transcendent ideal always in mind, Baldy would say, to help guide our everyday decisions that determine whether or not we keep on our heading toward freedom.
The life and times of Murray N. Rothbard, by Jim Powell
Full title: The life and times of Murray N. Rothbard, who showed why private individuals can do just about everything that needs to be done
Lengthy biographical essay
Rothbard evidently heard about ... Mises ... probably from F.A. "Baldy" Harper who worked at FEE ... [When his Volker Fund grant ran out,] Rothbard's income virtually dried up ... F.A. Harper, who had left the Foundation for Economic Education to work at the Volker Fund, tried to find him work ... Harper, who by this time had started the Institute for Humane Studies, in Burlingame, California, expressed interest in Rothbard's new book, called Power and Market. With funding which probably came from Kansas oil entrepreneur Charles Koch, Harper published it under the IHS imprint in 1970.
Socialism: Illegitimate, Not Just Inefficient, by Gary North, 15 May 2001
Discusses two aspects in the criticism of socialism: whether it is efficient compared to capitalism (according to the theory of value-free economics) and whether it is immoral (or contrary to human nature)
Floyd A. "Baldy" Harper was not bald ... He was hired by Leonard Read to work at the Foundation for Economic Education. Read later severed his formal connection with Harper over the issue of anarchism. Harper then moved to the William Volker Fund for a few years, supervising the publication of the Volker Fund's series in economics ... Harper wrote two small books, Why Wages Rise and Liberty: A Path to Its Recovery. In the second book, he made one crucial observation: if you do not have the right to disown a piece of property, then you do not own it.


Blessings of Discrimination, In Brief, 1951
Discusses the human ability to discriminate, e.g., to feel the heat of a stove, which Buddha considered an "essential" virtue, contrasting it with the policy of nondiscrimination on employment, association and other areas
When a child is born, his development is watched with anxious anticipation by those who wish him well. He begins to laugh and scream with pleasure and displeasure about more and more things ... This is not a tragedy; it is a blessing. A child without any sense of discrimination is cursed with the threat of self-destruction ... If man is to continue his self-improvement, he must be free to exercise the powers of choice with which he has been endowed. When discrimination is not allowed according to one's wisdom and conscience, both discrimination and conscience will atrophy in the same manner as an unused muscle.
Liberty Defined, 4 Sep 1957
Speech to the Mont Pelerin Society; Harper first offers his definition of liberty, then explores "adulterated" definitions, its relation to morals, moral law and basic humans rights, ending with his hope for the cause of liberty
There are times when one's humility seems to go on vacation, as it did, for me when Professor Hayek proposed tackling this topic for discussion. Then later when reality returned to plague the victim, there ended a beautiful, balmy sense of well-being during which all had seemed perfectly clear and simple ... If [one] sets as his star the mere furtherance of liberty rather than its full attainment for the entire world, he need never lack hope and purpose in life. Merely to perfect his own conduct provides plenty of work for him to do—more than the best can attain in a lifetime.
Morals and the Welfare State, 1951
Examines five moral principles by which the idea of the Welfare State (described in more detail in an appendix) can be judged; extension of talk given 13 June 1951; later published as "Morals and Liberty" (see The Freeman, Sep 1971)
To many persons, the Welfare State has become a symbol of morality and righteousness. This makes those who favor the Welfare State appear to be the true architects of a better world; those who oppose it, immoral rascals who might be expected to rob banks, or to do most anything in defiance of ethical conduct. But is this so? ... [P]erhaps it is ... a temporary grant of freedom ... such as when a master allows his slave a day off ...; but the person who is permitted some freedom by the Welfare State is still a vassal of that state just as a slave is still a slave on his day off from work.
A New Scheme, The Freeman, Feb 1956
Comments on the implications of a plan whereby the United States government would act as guarantor for private ventures wishing to invest in Indian projects, providing compensation in the event of subsequent nationalization by the Indian government
A new scheme is afoot by which the people of the United States—rich and poor alike—are likely to become trapped into financing national socialism abroad. This is the pattern: It all starts innnocently enough. Private investors here would gladly pour funds into a country like India ... It is difficult to see why our government should redesign the deal this way: "Heads, the investor wins; tails, all United States taxpayers lose." But in addition, the proposal could easily create an international incident at some time in the future, while forcing us all to help pay for socialism abroad.
Related Topics: Government, India, Taxation
Roots Of Economic Understanding, Ideas on Liberty, Nov 1955
Explains the rudiments of economics by specifying required attributes (desirability, scarcity, exchangeability) then delving into how people, from the earliest age, become cognizant of economic concepts, but ending with criticism of econmic ignorance
The game of economics in the United States is something like a ball game where the home team fails to score. The record shows a lack of economic understanding. Despite the abundance of material splendor parading before us in the show of ostentatious consumption, we seem to be losing most of our games in terms of economic principles ... My final admonition is that every aspiring leader review the records of history ... From these and other excellent sources one can come to see clearly what lies at the end of the road of economic ignorance on which we have been traveling here in the United States.
Try This On Your Friends [PDF], Faith and Freedom, Jan 1955
Poses a riddle about the extent to which government is needed
The elections are over and the campaign dirt has settled a bit. Do you enjoy riddles? This one challenges many students of liberty. Once we see the problem, lack of a solution will bedevil us until we can solve it logically to the satisfaction of our own conscience. We want to answer this question: To what extent should politicians be enthroned ... Does it make sense to say that when good and evil are compounded in society, political rulership comes to attain a virtue denied to it otherwise? Can one man make another man good by force at some precise point of a mixture of good and evil? At what precise point? How and why?
Related Topics: Ethics, Government, Society
Why Pay For Things?, The Freeman, Jan 1956
Explains the options to how people can obtain things, in terms a five-year old can understand
'Why do we have to pay for things?' asked a five-year-old boy at dinner one evening. Probably his question was prompted by the suffering of privation endured by all small boys, with their many wants to be served by few pennies. ... One way to do it would be for everyone to grab what he can. ... Under that way of doing things in its pure form, people fight over what little there is to be had. ... The other way to decide who gets what is for each person to own things. ... You own what you make. ... Under this system, the person who makes anything may sell it or give it to other people.
Related Topics: Children, Private Property


The Writings of F. A. Harper—A Review, by Paul L. Poirot, The Freeman, Aug 1979
Slightly amended from the "Introduction" to The Writings of F. A. Harper, published in 1978 by the Institute for Humane Studies, and serving as a review of the "two-volume memorial edition"
Dr. F. A. (Baldy) Harper left a position as Professor of Marketing at Cornell University to join the staff of The Foundation for Economic Education from 1946 through 1958 ... Baldy did adhere to the guiding rule of Socrates, "Know thyself." He believed with Socrates that goodness is based on knowledge, wickedness on ignorance. Like Socrates, he sought truth all his life, in ways that attracted young scholars. By the Socratic method of a series of carefully directed questions, he would encourage the other person to find out the truth for himself.


An Interview With David Theroux, by David J. Theroux, Strike The Root, 2 Sep 2003
Topics discussed include: the Independent Institute, Theroux's life before founding it, possible connection to Thoreau, the Vietnam War, his heroes and influencers, activism, September 11 and book recommendations
Which people have influenced you the most?
... In the process of my reading, I had discovered the ... Institute for Humane Studies ... and other groups ... When I first attended the University of California, I became friends with IHS's founder and president, the economist F.A. ("Baldy") Harper, because IHS was then located in the Bay Area. Although I had read some of the popular work of Murray Rothbard, it was Baldy who more directly encouraged me to read Rothbard's major works ... as well as major works by others in economics, revisionist history and libertarian political theory, including people ranging from Robert Nozick to Lysander Spooner.

Books Authored

Liberty: A Path to Its Recovery [PDF], by F. A. Harper, Hans Sennholz (foreword), Foundation for Economic Education, 1949
Partial contents: The Nature of Liberty - Forms of Liberty - Liberty and Charity - Government in a Liberal Society - Democracy and Liberty - Liberty and Peace - A Measure of Liberty - The Extent of Lost Liberty - Special Privilege - Recovering Liberty
Related Topic: Liberty
  • ISBN 0910614954: Paperback, Foundation for Econ Education, 2nd edition, 1993


Leonard Liggio on the Rise of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Leonard Liggio, 9 Mar 1995
Talk given at Vienna Coffee Club (Future of Freedom Foundation). Liggio starts off with the New Deal and covers many events and individuals both at the core and the periphery of the modern libertarian movement

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "F. A. Harper" as of 26 Sep 2017, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.