Sunday was the 80th birthday of one of the “founding fathers” of the modern Libertarian movement, and a major influence on my own intellectual development, Ralph Racio.
Ralph attended Mises’ seminars in the late 40’s and did graduate work under F.A. Hayek at the University of Chicago. While attending Mises’ graduate seminar, Ralph struck up a lifelong friendship with Murray Rothbard.
At Chicago, Ralph was an editor of New Individualist Review, which published important pieces by some of the leading libertarian and conservative thinkers of the day including Rothbard, Milton Friedman, William F Buckley Jr, Russel Kirk, and Ralph himself.
For many years, Ralph taught European history at the University of SUNY Buffalo. He also wrote and lectured for a variety of libertarian organizations, including CATO, the Institute for Humane Studies, and The Mises Institute, where he is a senior fellow.
As a lecturer on the history of liberty, Ralph influenced generations of libertarian scholars, writers, and activists. I am proud to be one of those who benefited from Ralph’s knowledge and passion for liberty.
I met Ralph at an Institute for Humane Studies seminar in 1990, where he delivered a series of lectures on the history of liberty. I was fascinated by Ralph’s exploration of how societies gained and lost freedom. I was especially intrigued by the role decentralization played in advancing freedom and the role militarism and empire played in losing it.
I also enjoyed talking to Ralph during “off hours” in large part because Ralph is not just one of the smartest people I have met but one of the wittiest.
Ralph deepened my knowledge of, and commitment to, libertarianism. In particular, Ralph and his friend Leonard Liggio spoke about the importance of decentralized political institutions to liberty.
Ralph was also a key influence in my understanding of the importance of a non-interventionist foreign policy to the preservation of liberty.
Ralph also inspired me to expand my reading of Rothbard beyond his economics to his political and historical work.
Like Murray Rothbard, Ralph was fascinated by politics. As a young republican in the forties, he was an enthusiastic booster of Robert Taft. In 2008, Ralph cheered as Ron Paul launched as liberty r3VOLution.
Happy Birthday Ralph from one of the many students who you inspired to not just learn more about the ideas of liberty, but devote our lives to the cause of liberty.
Read some of Ralph’s best work at Mises.org.