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Walter Grinder turns 75

Walter E. Grinder turns 75 years old today. He has been an important mentor to several of the contributors to the Free Banking blog and many other people interested in Austrian economics, spontaneous order in human society, classical liberalism, and modern libertarianism. Tributes to Walter are appearing here and on other sites today; send us a link if you see one on another site. Happy birthday, Walter! (Thanks to Chuck Moulton for setting up the pages listed below.)

  • kevin

    Thanks, Kurt, for putting together this tribute! My contribution here:

  • Kurt Schuler
  • Kurt Schuler
  • Kurt Schuler

    Here is an appreciation from George Selgin that will be posted in the Tributes section when the Webmaster has time:

    As I reflected upon how I came to know you, Walter, I realized that had it not been for that encounter, my life would have been utterly different than it has been. And I don’t merely mean that you changed my life in the sort of way that a Brazilian butterfly might change the weather in Texas. Your influence was as certain as it was decisive.

    It must have been in the late spring of 1981 that I came across that tiny ad in Reason magazine. It was from this place I’d never heard of called the Institute for Humane Studies, and it offered summer research grants. I’d just begun working on a paper inspired by Hayek’s Denationalisation of Money, which I’d read earlier that spring, so I decided to apply. I got the money, which was great.

    But I also got to know you, which was far better. You gave me all sorts of advice on the project, in letters and occasionally on the phone (of course we had not email back then). It was all good, but I’m especially grateful for your having alerted me to the work of a UCLA grad student on the Scottish free banking episode. His name was Larry White. You sent me drafts of Larry’s chapters, and I instantly became a Larry White fan. Soon I was corresponding with him, asking all sorts of questions. I remember one in particular. It was, “Where do you plan to teach?” I’d already decided to be his student. That’s how I ended up at NYU.

    Of course you and I stayed in touch, eventually meeting at the old IHS headquarters in Menlo Park–I think that was when Hans Eicholz showed up on his motorcyle, in full leather kit; he made me wonder whether I was tough enough to be a classical liberal! When I’d finished my NYU coursework, you invited me to come back as an intern. I leapt at the opportunity, thinking it would be a great one for writing my dissertation. Well, from 9 to 5 you mostly had me slaving away on IHS stuff–planning seminars and organizing the contact list, among other things. But from 7 until 9 every morning, and again from 6PM til midnight, I worked on “The Theory of Free Banking,” half the time at the (late, lamented) Printer’s Ink at Stanford, and half at the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto. (Remember those half-moon cookies they had? Mmm!)

    The writing went even better than I could have hoped. But that was also mainly your doing, because every morning around 11 we walked over to Pete’s for coffee (Major Dickason’s–I still have the mug I bought there, white ceramic with red-brim), and then sat on a nearby park bench to discuss my progress over it. So every idea I put into the dissertation–and plenty that, thank goodness, I didn’t put in–got a dry run. If every doctoral student had someone like you to talk to, there’d be a lot fewer ABDs hanging around.

    IHS and I moved to George Mason at the same time–I even got you guys to transport my little Honda Passport for me, only to end up ditching it after an Alexandria policeman politely informed me that Virginia, unlike California back then, insisted on my insuring it, acquiring a special motorcycle license, and wearing a helmet. Miserable tyrants! But at least I had a teaching job, which meant that instead of just having me serve as a factotum at them you let me lecture at IHS seminars. I did that until 1995, when, along with all the old-guard faculty, I quite over your dismissal from the Institute. I know you didn’t want us to do that, but you shouldn’t blame us: so far as we were concerned, you were the Institute! And though the place now has oodles more $$$ to toss around, I don’t suppose it will ever again be a source of the unique sort of intellectual inspiration and encouragement that you were able to give to students like me. If classical liberal scholarship is thriving now, that’s in no small way thanks to you.

    Happy Birthday, ol’ buddy.

  • Larry White

    My debt to you, Walter, is at least as large as George's. I met you at a Libertarian Scholars Conference in NYC when I was a college sophomore and you were part of the Center for Libertarian Studies. You were immediately and thereafter a font of intellectual and strategic ideas. When I needed to write a term paper in American Intellectual History, I asked you for a suggestion, and you offered me a name I hadn't heard of, William Leggett. One result was that I eventually edited a collection of Leggett's writings for Liberty Fund. But the more important result was that in Leggett's writings I discovered a reference to the highly positive record of a free banking system in Scotland. Could Leggett actually be right about this?, I wondered. Nobody else I spoke to had ever heard of free banking in Scotland. That led to a graduate school term paper, my dissertation, and a research program that has driven my entire career and George's. So in a very real sense you are the intellectual midwife of the free banking movement and hence of this blog!

    Happy (belated) birthday and many more.