The Bastiat Society began in 2004 when Walter LeCroy (physicist and founder of LeCroy Industries) and Ben Rast (Senior V.P. of the Rast Group) hosted a symposium on globalization. The symposium was a success, and a semi-regular discussion group began at Walter’s home in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the years, these meetings became more regular and grew in size.
By 2010, the Bastiat Society was hosting monthly meetings in Charleston featuring academics and think-tank leaders from around the world. Under the management of Brad DeVos, the Society launched a successful membership program and had a surplus of excellent speakers.
In 2011, Ben Rast and Brad DeVos met Surse Pierpoint at a Liberty Fund conference. They immediately realized Surse’s discussion group “The Freedom Hour” at the Fundacion Libertad in Panama City, Panama was very similar to the Bastiat Society in Charleston. Seeing an advantage to networking and co-branding, he soon decided to co-brand his monthly meetings as “The Bastiat Society of Panama.” During that same weekend, the group developed a chapter-based business plan for the Bastiat Society, and Brad DeVos accepted the role of executive director soon thereafter.
By 2017, the Bastiat Society network had grown to over 28 chapters and was acquired by the American Institute for Economic Research to become our central outreach program to the business community.
Now, in 2020, AIER’s Bastiat Society program has grown to host over 200 lectures, discussions, seminars, workshops, and conferences in over 18 countries each year.
Walter LeCroy was born in Alabama in 1935 and was educated at the University of Alabama and Columbia University, receiving a BA in physics in 1956 from Columbia College. He pursued graduate study in physics at Columbia, and became chief electronics engineer at Columbia’s Nevis Laboratories in Irvington, New York.
In 1964 he left Nevis to form the LeCroy Corporation, which specialized in the design and development of electronic instrumentation based on these techniques. The company grew from very small beginnings to become a worldwide leader in particle physics instrumentation, displacing several larger companies in this field.
The company continued to grow, and in 1995 went public, offering its shares on NASDAQ. Today, LeCroy Corporation is the acknowledged leader in high-speed digital oscilloscopes, which are vital in the design of fast computer communication systems. It employs 450 people worldwide, with primary locations in Chestnut Ridge, New York and sales, service and development subsidiaries in the US and throughout Europe and Asia, including China, where it has a design and manufacturing partner.
Mr. LeCroy was instrumental in introducing a Young Astronauts program to local elementary schools. This program engages both teachers and students alike in math and science through the study of space exploration. He was President of the Board of the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack for many years, serving with Helen Hayes until her death in 1993.
Recently Mr. LeCroy has renewed an old passion for photography, and after several shows in New York City he and his wife have opened a gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.
Mr. LeCroy has been active in classical liberal causes for some years. He served on the board of the Foundation for Economic Education for many years, and one year as its Chairman. He and his wife , with Ben Rast, are co-founders of the Bastiat Society.
Today, Mr. LeCroy lives in Hendersonville, NC with his wife Dori, a psychologist who writes and teaches in the field of evolutionary psychology. They count between them five children, three grandchildren, two parrots, a dressage horse, and two dogs. Only the dogs and parrots live at home.
Ben A. Rast
Ben Rast is the founder and senior partner of The Rast Group, a team of wealth management specialists in Columbia, South Carolina. His team works with a limited number of individuals and institutions to develop appropriate investment and financial planning strategies.
Mr. Rast holds the title of Senior Vice President – Wealth Advisor, and is a Certified Financial Planner. He is also an Estate Planning Consultant, through the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He completed executive education programs at Wharton and the Stern School of Business, NYU.
He has been a member of the Partnership Board of the South Carolina Honors College. He is a member of the Columbia Economics Club. He is the Founder, past Chairman, and past Treasurer of the South Carolina Club for Growth. He is a founding member and past Chairman of the Bastiat Society. He served on the Leadership Advisory Council of South Carolinians for Tort Reform.
Rast has been a weekly guest on NBC affiliate WIS-TV, the leading television news organization in the state. He hosted his own radio program for over thirteen years, and was a regular commentator on South Carolina Public Radio.
He has published numerous articles in local and national periodicals, including work for Barron’s. He is a former member and past president of the SC Chapter of the Financial Planning Association.
Mr. Rast frequently speaks to professional, civic, and fraternal groups on the topics of business, economics, investments and financial planning.
He has been an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College, has taught courses for the Department of Continuing Education at the University of South Carolina, and has served as an adjunct professor in the USC School of Business.
Ben Rast also has participated in continuing education for the South Carolina BAR. Mr. Rast graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BA/BS in 1979, and a MBA in International Business and Finance in 1986.