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.
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was famous in his time for his economic journalism and political work. In our time, he remains one of the most profound and compelling expositors of the classically liberal worldview. On economics, he remains indispensable. On matters of philosophy, law, and the sweep of history, he is incredibly insightful. Countless people have been shocked out of their current worldview by his writings and have come to embrace a consistent view of the free society. His own audience was what might be called “everyman” and this remains true in our time. He spoke to the masses because he was convinced that a public devoted to freedom was the best guarantor of the free society.
Claude Frederic Bastiat was born during the Napoleonic Wars in the port city of Bayonne, France in 1801. His father, Pierre, was a prominent partner in the family merchant business with Bastiat’s uncle. When Bastiat’s mother died in 1808, his father moved to Mugron to live on the Bastiat family estate with Bastiat’s paternal grandfather and aunt, an estate which was received by them after the revolution of 1789. Unfortunately, Bastiat’s father died in 1810 and little Frederic was raised by his grandfather and aunt. The story goes that his aunt took a liking to little Frederic and was responsible for his education and upbringing. Then, at the age of 17, Bastiat returned to Bayonne to work for his uncle. It is reported that Bastiat was not a good bookkeeper and was more interested in reading and quiet study. Furthermore, his experience in business taught him the real lessons of trade restrictions. Everyday Bastiat would walk up-and-down the streets seeing shops closed or put out of business because of the trade controls. It was due to this experience that he first developed his dislike of trade controls and his philosophy that economic prosperity demanded economic liberty.
After several years of working for his uncle in Bayonne, Bastiat was forced to return to Mugron to oversee the estate due to his grandfather’s poor health. While in Mugron, he spent the next twenty years in quiet study and reflection. It was his publication on English and French tariffs on the future of the two countries which was published in the prestigious Journal des economists that made him an overnight sensation. He was soon elected into the French Academy of Science. He moved to Paris in 1845 to work on publishing a book on the English free trade advocate, Richard Cobden, as well as Economic Sophisms (which was a collection of his previous writings) and Economic Harmonies. In addition, he started the Bordeaux Association of Free Trade and the French Free Trade Association, established a newspaper publication entitled, “Le Libre-Exchange”, and was finally elected to the French General Assembly. It was in the Assembly where Bastiat put his principles into practice, for as we read in What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, the legislator is supposed to write laws which protect life, liberty, and property. Bastiat’s mission in the Assembly was to do just that—repeal laws which were unjust and replace them with those that were “just.”
So significant have the works and life of Bastiat become to the world that his writings have been translated into numerous languages; and societies, websites, blogs, radio shows, and online discussion groups have been established in his honor. It is no wonder that Bastiat biographer, George Charles Roche III, writes of the man, “The battles he fought as a mid-nineteenth-century public figure were the battles which still mold the events and thinking of the Western world.” Bastiat departed this earth in Rome on Christmas Eve of 1850.
“The worst thing that can happen to a good cause,” wrote Bastiat, “is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.” Bastiat remains our best teacher on what a good defense looks like, which is precisely why the Bastiat Society of the American Institute for Economic Research exists to carry on his great task.