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Ralph Raico: Champion of Authentic Liberalism

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02/24/2017Daniel P. Stanford

This is a biography of Ralph Raico written as part of a Masters Thesis by one of his students.

As Professor Hunt Tooley acknowledges, today we are seeing a rebirth of interest in the Austrian school and classical liberalism, with no small part played by Ralph Raico.  In his easily accessible books, essays, seminars, and lectures, Raico is increasingly becoming known as the acknowledged champion of historic, authentic liberalism. 

From the Introduction:

This paper is a brief intellectual biography of retired Buffalo State College history professor Ralph Raico (1936-present), who is known as “the godfather of liberalism in the classical tradition.”1 He is, according to Professor David Gordon, “our foremost historian of classical liberalism.”2 And as Professor Joseph Stromberg summarized,
“[Ralph] Raico…has made important contributions to the history of German liberalism, translated Ludwig von Mises’s Liberalism, broadened our knowledge of liberal class-conflict theory, and accomplished much more.”3

Few libertarians outside of Raico can claim to have had relationships with all the giants of the modern American libertarian movement.  The acquaintances include Ludwig von Mises, Frederick Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, Bruce Goldman, Benjamin Rogge, Leonard Liggio, Hans Herman-Hoppe, Guido Hülsmann, Walter Block, Lew Rockwell, Thomas DiLorenzo and Raico’s high school friend, economist George Reisman.  Through various connections, Raico also became friends or associated with famous intellectuals outside the libertarian spectrum such as Milton Friedman, Peter Bauer and Noam Chomsky.  

Raico’s intellectual contributions to the libertarian movement are numerous and profound.  He created and edited one of the first and only libertarian magazines of the 1950s, the New Individualist Review, and edited the Cato Institute’s original magazine Inquiry. He is the translator of Ludwig von Mises’s Liberalism (1922) from German to English. He wrote a definitive book about German liberalism, Die Partie der Freiheit (1999), a book of revisionist history called Great Wars and Great Leaders: a Libertarian Rebuttal (2010), and a masterpiece of intellectual history, Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School (2012). Raico is also the author of dozens of articles and book chapters. 

This paper is based upon readily available materials. I have undertaken very few or perhaps none of the standard requirements which constitute a biography. There are enormous gaps in the biographical events of his life and in the overview of Raico’s scholarly work. Despite these deficiencies, I hope this paper is useful as an introduction to one the founding fathers of the modern libertarian movement, a movement which is finally seeing a bit of fruition. This study falls short of a hagiography; it is a partisan appreciation of an original, powerful thinker, and influential promoter of libertarian thought. 

Raico’s intellectual development is traced in its several contexts, as well as his overall influence and importance as a scholar, teacher, and libertarian activist. First I attempt to establish Raico’s intellectual framework and focus on his most important influences: Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard and Friedrich A. Hayek.  I then bring to light Raico’s impact on the current popular libertarian movement, drawing heavily on the testimony of other libertarian scholars. Finally, Raico’s major scholarly achievements are summarized, along with a consideration of his overall importance to libertarian thought.

  • 1. See Mark Thornton’s introduction to the lecture by Ralph Raico, “The Life and Work of Ludwig von Mises” (speech given at the Mises University, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama, July 31, 2006.)
  • 2. David Gordon, “Ralph Raico on Authentic Liberalism” forward to Ralph Raico’s Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2012), p. xiii.
  • 3. Joseph Stromberg review of Ralph Raico’s Great Wars & Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, in The Independent Review, Vol. 17, N. 1, pp. 121-125.
     
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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