About IHS

Mission and History


A free society vitally depends on dedicated individuals continually defending and renewing the ideals of freedom.  Recognizing that pressing need, F.A. “Baldy” Harper founded the Institute for Humane Studies in 1961.  Baldy was a rare mid-century academic who appreciated free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.  Understanding the critical role of ideas in social change, he envisioned the Institute as an incubator of talent to advance the ideas of liberty.

Pursuing Baldy’s vision over 50 years, IHS has cultivated a growing network of students, scholars, and other intellectuals who are today an essential resource in the battle of ideas.  Now, with government power increasing rapidly and free enterprise once again under ferocious attack, IHS is taking bold new steps to combat the dangerous ideas that threaten our freedom, our prosperity, and the very future of America as a beacon of freedom.

With three major initiatives, IHS is stepping up to the extraordinary challenges and opportunities of our time:

  • Educating and inspiring millions of college students about the power of markets and freedom through a vibrant, online education resource.
  • Transforming the intellectual landscape in America’s universities by building a critical mass of freedom-friendly professors.
  • Activating our network of scholars for greater impact by connecting them to strategic opportunities to make a difference in today’s urgent fights for freedom.

 IHS Founder, F.A. "Baldy" Harper
The Institute for Humane Studies was founded in 1961 by Dr. F. A. "Baldy" Harper, a former economics professor at Cornell University. Part of a generation that had lived through two devastating world wars and seen the rise of numerous totalitarian dictatorships, Harper set up an institute devoted to research and education in the conviction that greater understanding of human affairs and freedom would foster peace, prosperity, and social harmony.

History demonstrated the great capacity of humans to solve their problems through "the practice and potentials of freedom," and Harper envisioned this as the primary focus of the Institute for Humane Studies. "Not in government or force, not in slavery or war, but in the creative, and thereby spiritual, power of freedom, shall our inspiration be found," he wrote in an early proposal for the Institute.

Based for many years in Menlo Park, California, IHS moved in 1985 to Fairfax, Virginia, and associated with George Mason University. At George Mason, IHS has been able to pursue its mission more effectively in cooperation with other organizations affiliated with the university. 50 years later, IHS continues the work begun by Baldy Harper, cultivating a growing network of more than 10,000  students, scholars, and other intellectuals who to serve in the battle of ideas.