Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Hayek Problem

Friedrich Hayek was often very good on freedom and Austrian economic theory, but at other times he wandered away from freedom principles and bizarrely advocated various government interventions (SEE: 48 Non-Libertarian Positions Held By Friedrich Hayek). This can be thought of as the Hayek Problem.

This becomes a problem because Hayek is thought of as a strong advocate of freedom, though he doesn't come close to being the consistent freedom advocate that Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard were. Hayek's wandering off the freedom reservation is used by interventionists as support for their various interventions. They launch into justification of some intervention by stating, "even Hayek was for this intervention."

The latest to pull this stunt is Cass Sunstien in his new book, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas. At one point he writes:
Friedrich Hayek, perhaps the greatest critic of socialism and excessive state authority, wrote, “In no system that could be rationally defended could the state just do nothing. An effective competitive system needs an intelligently designed and continually adjusted legal framework as much as any other.”
Greatest critic? Not quite. Although Hayek probably didn't have in mind the types of regulations that Sunstein is advocating, when he quotes Hayek, the Hayek quote is simply giving up a lot to the enemies of freedom. And Hayek did this a lot. Thus, it is odd that supposed libertarian institutions such as the Cato Institute and George Mason University give so much prominence to Hayek, with little to no attention to Mises and Rothbard.

Sunstein would never be able to pull a quote like the above from Mises or Rothbard. That is why liberty advocates must put the focus on the hardcore Mises and Rothbard and not on Hayek.


  1. I once read someone describing Mises as a marine storming the beaches with a single minded determination whereas Heyek was more of the light footed diplomat.

  2. I remember reading that Hayek was converted by Mises book 'Socialism'. But Hayek didn't seem to have quite the courage to let it go completely.

  3. A brutalist libertarian Hayek wasn't.

  4. If you are not talking about ending fractional reserve banking, then you are really just talking about the Chicago School of Economics and dropping Hayek's name to attract some Ayn Rand/Ron Paul kids.

    Tell a typical Ron Paul supporter that Rothbard did not believe that you could use economic facts to refute theory and they'll accuse you of lying.

    1. Jerry "The Resident Troll" Wolfgang, how many non sequitur can you pack in 4 lines of text?

    2. no Jerry. you should really read some what Murray wrote You won't be able to put it down (hurling it aside with great force prehaps).. He had a problem with the Statistics a lot of mainstream economists presented because of the underlying assumptions in those stats.

  5. Here is Hoppe on the subject:

    And here is Hoppe making more or less the same points in his 2012 speech "The Hayek Myth":

  6. It always bothered me that Cato and others were dismissive of Mises. For some reason the Koch brothers thought of him as a "troublemaker." Yet they liked Hayek. I follow and very much like Café Hayek but they are also rather dismissive of Mises. When I pressed Boudreaux on that he just said that Mises "didn't do much for him". Of course, I replied, there wouldn't have been a Hayek without his mentor Mises. I'm not looking for ideological purity, but why is Mises seen in that light? Any thoughts on that Bob?