Saturday, May 30, 2009

I also discuss his gentlemanly style--going on the offensive without being offensive--and his sense of humor

From EconLog:

"The Road to Serfdom
My review of Friedrich Hayek's classic, The Road to Serfdom, is on-line.

In it, I summarize the book's message and discuss its relevance today. One passage:

In the United States today, the intellectuals' and the public's belief in freedom seems to be in decline and certainly freedom itself is in decline. On the civil liberties side, government agents monitor phone calls, often without a court's permission; SWAT teams invade people's homes; and a federal government agency insists that we get its permission before we board commercial flights. In economics, the federal government has become a much bigger decisionmaker in investments, choosing -- regardless of investor or customer desires -- to give billions of dollars to various firms. And both George W. Bush and Barack Obama embrace the "fatal conceit," to use one of Hayek's terms, that government can allocate hundreds of billions of dollars better than the owners of those resources can.

I also discuss his gentlemanly style--going on the offensive without being offensive--and his sense of humor:

While he is polite and generous to a fault toward those with whom he disagrees, he is not defensive. Instead, in page after page, he points out mistaken thinking and the horrible problems that arise from extensive government economic control. Throughout it all, he maintains a subtle sense of humor. Consider Hayek's statement about one of the main British totalitarian intellectuals: "It deserves to be noted that, according to Professor [Harold] Laski, it is "this mad competitive system which spells poverty for all peoples, and war as the outcome of that poverty" -- a curious reading of the history of the last hundred and fifty years."
CATEGORIES: Political Economy"


"Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance—where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks—the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong."

This is my current view. I'm often told that I can't be a libertarian because of this view. Frankly, I'm for a guaranteed income as well, like Milton Friedman.

My question is this: Was Hayek a libertarian as he presented his views in The Road To Serfdom? I know that he seems to have changed his mind, and who can blame him when he saw government getting bigger and bigger. But, still, I would have thought that The Road To Serfdom and Capitalism And Freedom were written by libertarians. Were they?

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