Friday, November 7, 2014

When Hayek Abandoned Mises

By Gary North

Reality Check

In June 1960, I received in the mail two books: Frederick Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty and Ludwig von Mises's Human Action. I had ordered them from the Foundation for Economic Education. I paid $7.50 for Hayek's book; I paid $10 for Mises's book. In 1960, that was the equivalent in today's money of about $140. That was a lot of money for someone who had just come home from his first year in college.

I marked the inside cover of both books: June 1960. Over the next two years, I got each author to autograph his book.

I began reading The Constitution of Liberty (1960) almost immediately. I did not read Human Action (1949) until the summer of 1963. I read it after I had read Murray Rothbard's book, Man, Economy, and State (1962), which I also read in the summer of 1963.

In 1960, I regarded Hayek's book as one of the most profound books I had ever read. In retrospect, it was the first profound book that I had ever read. I have reread it two times since then, and I still regard it as a profound book. It is also a deeply flawed book. Part I of the book, The Value of Freedom, is a defense the ideal of freedom. Part II, Freedom of the Law, is his attempt to outline the kind of political order that is necessary to sustain freedom. Part III, Freedom in the Welfare State, is probably the most profound defense of conceptual errors in the history of the libertarian movement.

When I reached Section 5 of Chapter 16, I came to these words:

There are all kinds of public amenities which it may be in the interest of all members of the community to provide by common effort, such as parks and museums, theaters and facilities for sports -- though there are strong reasons why they should be provided by local rather than national authorities.

At that point, a yellow flag went up in my mind.

Read the rest here.

1 comment:

  1. i agree that Hayek did some muddled thinking and concessions to the progressives, but this was mostly in the 1950s after the vitriolic attacks on him re The Road to Serfdom. It is a fact that he became radicalized again, in part because of arguments presented him while he was at IHS by young Rothbardians. This is reflected in Law, Legislation, and Liberty (which, however, esp. Volume III, has some pretty far-fetched stuff).

    It is, of course, the case that he remained a limited government "old Whig" (and Mises also rejected "anarcho-capitalism" as being impractical). Both refused to travel where their arguments logically led, although Hayek, because he came later in time probably ended up in his old age more radical than Mises. For example, during the cold war and because of his association with some on the sure enough far right, he even spoke in favor of conscription. As far as I recall Hayek never did that. North overstates his case.