Making Statism
















Ralph Smeed, alias the "Curmudgeon" has often been called the "H. L. Menckin of the West." He is a not-so quiet blend of Barry Goldwater, Walter Matheau and H. L. Menkin. Ralph was born December 30, 1921 in Caldwell , Idaho. He was the second of two sons born to John and Florence Smeed. Ralph’s father was a prominent livestock man, rancher, livestock auction owner, part owner of a meat packing company and well respected citizen of SW Idaho . Ralph’s early years were spent traveling with his father buying feed and cattle.

He graduated from high school at Caldwell in 1940 and attended the College of Idaho for two years after which time he went to work for Lockheed as an experimental mechanic in California (Summer of 1941). Soon after Pearl Harbor, he tried to enlist in the Army. By that time the only way you could get in was to make yourself available for the draft.

This may have been Ralph’s first experience with the mindless bureaucracy which he came to oppose in his lifelong battle to preserve freedom.

Ralph’s s spent some time in Japan during the occupation. On returning to Caldwell after the war, Ralph’s father recommended he talk to James Gibson Sr., owner of Caxton Printers in Caldwell. It seems that Ralph had a burgeoning interest in public affairs. Mr. Gibson was a nationally known publisher of books oriented toward conservative/libertarian ideas. He was one of the few in the publishing industry who had courage enough to publish something besides the collectivist/socialist/statist agenda that had budded in the early 20th century and then exploded during Roosevelt ’s New Deal.

Mr. Gibson suggested that Ralph buy a copy of Frederick Bastiat’s “The Law", subscribe to Human Events and The Freemen and begin a process of self-education. Ralph’s father died in 1949 and he began to assume major management responsibilities with his Father’s estate.

Ralph gradually began taking part in Republican political events and over the years became a prominent player in Republican party politics culminating in attending the 1964 Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco as an Idaho State delegate.

Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative, was nominated the presidential candidate and was eventually chosen to head the party ticket, much to the chagrin of many liberal Republicans lead by Nelson Rockefeller, hence the term, “Rockefeller Republican”. In the presidential campaign that followed, Ralph observed the liberal wing of the Republican Party do everything they could to sabotage Goldwater’s campaign and thus followed one of the worst defeats that any Republican candidate had ever suffered. Ralph began to understand that the Democrats were not the biggest problem the conservative Republicans had to deal with.

Ralph next learned of a libertarian group called “Foundation for Economic Education” (FEE). It was located in Irvington-on the-Hudson, New York . It’s founder and director was Leonard Read, a brilliant writer, speaker and motivator. FEE nurtured and promoted the libertarian ideals that formed the ideological foundation for our nation in 1776. Ralph attended a week long seminar at “FEE” in 1965 and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

At FEE Ralph was introduced to a host of great libertarians such as Ludwig Von Mises, Frederick Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Milton Freidman, Ben Rogge and many others. He studied the works of authors such as John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Henry Hazlitt, Henry Grady Weaver, Rose Wilder Lane and H. L. Mencken.

After spending considerable time studying the classical libertarians, Ralph set out to change the world. In 1976 he sponsored his own think-tank, “The Center for the Study of Market Alternatives.” This effort included nationally famous guest speakers teacher seminars, high school debates, position papers, newsletters and the establishment of the most comprehensive libertarian library in the northwest. He hosted his own radio and TV talk shows. He wrote a column that ran for 20 years in a combination of newspapers (Lewiston Tribune, Nampa-Caldwell Press Tribune and the Idaho Statesman ). He funded and donated a vast libertarian library to the College of Idaho.

One of his more interesting projects was the construction of a 15’ x 36’ foot reader board sign at the edge of Caldwell , Idaho. Its messages continue to amuse, tantalize and provoke the citizens of Caldwell and SW Idaho . He is a frequent attendee at the annual meetings of the “Philadelphia Society” and the “Mont Pelerine Society”. He served on the Board of Trustees of FEE for many years.

If if you meet Ralph on the streets of any town in Idaho, at any social or business function or bump into him at the hallowed marble halls at the statehouse in Boise, you can bet he will have a printed message for you to put in your shirt pocket with a reminder that you must read it later.

Ralph’s efforts to defend and promote the principles of liberty have touched many people over the years. Among some of the more illustrious beneficiaries was U. S. Senator Steve Symms who co-published a newsletter with Ralph prior to his entering politics and employed Ralph as advisor and confidant during his long and successful political career. C.L. "Butch Otter", present governor of Idaho acknowledges a strong debt to Ralph for his maturation as an outspoken advocate for limited government. These are but a few examples of hundreds of others who have been influenced by Ralph’s message.

Ralph has been a tireless crusader for the cause of freedom for most of his life. He  is 85 years old now. Most people at his age would be retired and letting others take up the baton. Not Ralph. He can’t wait to start the next project.

The Pragmatic Side of Principle in Pursuit of Public Policy