Friedrich Hayek

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We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.

Friedrich August von Hayek CH (8 May 1899 - 23 March 1992) was an Austrian, later British, economist and philosopher most famous for his defense of classical liberalism. In 1974, Hayek shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (with Gunnar Myrdal) for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and … penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena". (Nobel Memorial Prize, 1974)

We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.
See Also
Prices and Production (1931, 1935)
The Road to Serfdom (1944)
Individualism and Economic Order (1948)
The Sensory Order (1952)
The Constitution of Liberty (1960)
Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973, 1976, 1979)
The Denationalization of Money (1976, 1978)
The Fatal Conceit (1988)


  • All economic activity is carried out through time. Every individual economic process occupies a certain time, and all linkages between economic processes necessarily involve longer or shorter periods of time.
    • "Intertemporal Price Equilibrium and Movement in the Value of Money" (1928)
  • The attack on economics sprang rather from a dislike of the application of scientific methods to the investigation of social problems. The existence of a body of reasoning which prevented people from following their first impulsive reactions, and which compelled them to balance indirect effects, which could be seen only by exercising the intellect, against intense feeling caused by the direct observation of concrete suffering, then as now, occasioned intense resentment.
    • "The Trend of Economic Thinking", lecture delivered at LSE on March 1, 1933, published in Economica (May 1933)
  • [Apartheid law in South Africa] appears to be a clear and even extreme instance of that discrimination between different individuals which seems to me to be incompatible with the reign of liberty. The essence of what I said [in The Constitution of Liberty] was really the fact that the laws under which government can use coercion are equal for all responsible adult members of that society. Any kind of discrimination — be it on grounds of religion, political opinion, race, or whatever it is — seems to be incompatible with the idea of freedom under the law. Experience has shown that separate never is equal and cannot be equal.
    • "Conversation with Systematic Liberalism," Forum (September 1961).
  • Since the value of freedom rests on the opportunities it provides for unforeseen and unpredictable actions, we will rarely know what we lose through a particular restriction of freedom.
    • “Principles or Expediency?” Toward Liberty: Essays in Honor of Ludwig von Mises on the Occasion of his 90th Birthday (29 September 1971)
  • I've always doubted that the socialists had a leg to stand on intellectually. They have improved their argument somehow, but once you begin to understand that prices are an instrument of communication and guidance which embody more information than we directly have, the whole idea that you can bring about the same order based on the division of labor by simple direction falls to the ground. Similarly, the idea [that] you can arrange for distributions of incomes which correspond to some conception of merit or need. If you need prices, including the prices of labor, to direct people to go where they are needed, you cannot have another distribution except the one from the market principle. I think that intellectually there is just nothing left of socialism.
  • I have arrived at the conviction that the neglect by economists to discuss seriously what is really the crucial problem of our time is due to a certain timidity about soiling their hands by going from purely scientific questions into value questions. This is a belief deliberately maintained by the other side because if they admitted that the issue is not a scientific question, they would have to admit that their science is antiquated and that, in academic circles, it occupies the position of astrology and not one that has any justification for serious consideration in scientific discussion. It seems to me that socialists today can preserve their position in academic economics merely by the pretense that the differences are entirely moral questions about which science cannot decide.
    • Conversation at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C. (9 February 1978); published in A Conversation with Friedrich A. Von Hayek: Science and Socialism (1979)
  • Nobody who has lived through the rise of the violent anti-Semitism which led to Hitler can refuse Mrs. Thatcher admiration for her courageous and outspoken warning. When I grew up in Vienna the established Jewish families were a generally respected group and all decent people would frown upon the occasional anti-Jewish outbursts of a few popular politicians. It was the sudden influx of large numbers of Galician and Polish Jews [during World War I] … which in a short period changed the attitude. They were too visibly different to be readily absorbed.
    • Letter to The Times after Thatcher claimed that British people were afraid of being "swamped" by people of a different culture. (11 February 1978)
  • I have certainly never contended that generally authoritarian governments are more likely to secure individual liberty than democratic ones, but rather the contrary. This does not mean, however, that in some historical circumstances personal liberty may not have been better protected under an authoritarian than democratic government. (...) More recently I have not been able to find a single person even in much maligned Chile who did not agree that personal freedom was much greater under Pinochet than it had been under Allende. Nor have I heard any sensible person claim that in the principalities of Monaco or Lichtenstein, which I am told are not precisely democratic, personal liberty is smaller than anywhere else!
    • Letter to Times of London (1978)
  • A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise. If Mrs. Thatcher said that free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box, she has merely uttered the truism that the first is indispensable for individual freedom, while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot.
It is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way. And it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism. Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism.
  • There is no salvation for Britain unless the special privileges granted to the trade unions in 1906 are revoked. the average level of real wages of British workers would undoubtedly be higher, and their chances of finding employment better, if the wages of different occupations were again determined by the market and all limitations on the work an individual is allowed to do were removed.
    • "Trade Unions — The Biggest Obstacle", Economic Affairs (October 1980)
  • Well, I would say that, as long-term institutions, I am totally against dictatorships. But a dictatorship may be a necessary system for a transitional period. At times it is necessary for a country to have, for a time, some form or other of dictatorial power. As you will understand, it is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way. And it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism. Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism. My personal impression — and this is valid for South America — is that in Chile, for example, we will witness a transition from a dictatorial government to a liberal government. And during this transition it may be necessary to maintain certain dictatorial powers, not as something permanent, but as a temporary arrangement.
    • Interview in El Mercurio (1981)
  • I cannot help but protest in the strongest possible terms against the cartoon on page 3 of your publication of the 30th of December equating the present governments of Poland and Chile. It can only be explained by complete ignorance of the facts or by the systematically promoted socialist calumnies of the present situation in Chile, which I had not expected the F.A.Z. to fall for. I believe that all the participants in the Mont Pelerin Society conference held a few weeks ago in Chile would agree with me that you owe the Chilean government a humble apology for such twisting of the facts. Any Pole lucky enough to escape to Chile could consider himself fortunate.
    • Letter to the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on a cartoon comparing Pinochet’s Chile to Jaruzelski’s Poland, which was published on 6 January 1982
  • A reconsideration of the discussion in which I took an active part more than 40 years ago has left me with a rather depressing view of the somewhat shameful state of what has become an established part of economic science, the subject of ‘economic systems’. It appears to me that in this subject political attractiveness has been preserved by the flimsiest of arguments. The kindest thing one can say is that some well-meaning people have allowed themselves to be deceived by the vague and thoughtless language commonly used by specialists in the theory of these issues.
    • "Two Pages of Fiction", Economic Affairs (1982)
  • On the scale on which [tax cutting] is being tried, I’m a little apprehensive. I’m all for reduction of government expenditures but to anticipate it by reducing the rate of taxation before you have reduced expenditure is a very risky thing to do.
    • in "Business People; A Nobel Winner Assesses Reagan", The New York Times (1 December 1982)
  • I don't know what monetarism is. If monetarism just means a good old-fashioned quantity theory, of course it has not failed. If it means the particular version of Milton Friedman, I think it has because he imagines that he can achieve — ascertain — a clear quantity relationship between a measurable quantity of money and the price level. I don't think that is possible. In fact, just about 40 years ago in the opening sentences of my book, Prices and Production, I wrote that it would be a great misfortune if people ever cease to believe in the quantity theory of money. It would be even worse ever to believe it literally. And that's exactly what Milton Friedman does.
    • "Interview with F. A. Hayek", in Cato Policy Report (February 1983)
  • I don't like criticizing Milton Friedman not only because he is an old friend but because, outside of monetary theory, we are in complete agreement. Our general views on what is desired and what is not are almost identical until we get on to money. But if I told him what I said before, that I very much doubt whether monetary policy has ever done anything good, he would disagree. He personally is convinced that a good monetary policy is a foundation for everything.
    • Exclusive Interview with F.A. Hayek by James U. Blanchard III, in Cato Policy Report (May/June 1984)
And since any inflation, however modest at first, can help employment only so long as it accelerates, adopted as a means of reducing unemployment, it will do so for any length of time only while it accelerates.
  • And since any inflation, however modest at first, can help employment only so long as it accelerates, adopted as a means of reducing unemployment, it will do so for any length of time only while it accelerates. "Mild" steady inflation cannot help—it can lead only to outright inflation. That inflation at a constant rate soon ceases to have any stimulating effect, and in the end merely leaves us with a backlog of delayed adaptations, is the conclusive argument against the "mild" inflation represented as beneficial even in standard economics textbooks.
  • I mean, it became particularly acute because Keynes, against his intentions, had stimulated the development of macroeconomics. And I was convinced that not only his particular conclusions, but the whole foundation of macroeconomics was wrong.
    So I wanted to demonstrate that we had to return to microeconomics, that this whole prejudice supported by the natural scientists that could deduce anything from measurable magnitudes, the effects of aggregates and averages, came to fascinate me much more. I felt in a way, that the thing which I am now prepared to do, I don’t know as there’s anybody else who can do this particular task. And I rather hoped that what I had done in capital theory would be continued by others. This was a new opening which was much more fascinating. The other would have meant working for a result which I already knew, but had to prove it. Which was very dull.
    The other thing was an open problem: How does economics really look like when you recognize it as the prototype of a new kind of science of complex phenomena which could not employ the simple model of mechanics or physics, but had to deal with what then I described as mere pattern predictions, certain limited prediction. That was so much more fascinating as an intellectual problem.
    • In a 1985 interview with Gary North and Mark Skousen, in Hayek on Hayek (1994)
  • … questions about the influence of socialism are increasingly more difficult to answer as the word socialism has so many meanings. The idea that the inequalities of incomes can be greatly reduced has come to be recognized as largely impractical. Practically all endeavours at just distribution express more or less arbitrary conceptions of what is just and the central idea of Marxian socialism of a rationalisation of the means of production has been largely abandoned as technically impracticable. I believe that in general the idea of justice is more closely met by a freely competitive market than by any deliberate allocation of income to some imagined ideal of the kind.
    • December 13, 1991, quoted in Friedrich Hayek: A Biography (2001) by Alan O. Ebenstein

Prices and Production (1931, 1935)[edit]

Planning, Science and Freedom (1941)[edit]

"Planning, Science and Freedom", Nature (1941)

  • The reasons why the adoption of a system of central planning necessarily produces a totalitarian system are fairly simple. Whoever controls the means must decide which ends they are to serve. As under modern conditions control of economic activity means control of the material means for practically all our ends, it means control over nearly all our activities. The nature of the detailed scale of values which must guide the planning makes it impossible that it should be determined by anything like democratic means. The director of the planned system would have to impose his scale of values, his hierarchy of ends, which, if it is to be sufficient to determine the plan, must include a definite order of rank in which the status of each person is laid down. If the plan is to succeed or the planner to appear successful, the people must be made to believe that the objectives chosen are the right ones, Every criticism of the plan or the ideology underlying it must be treated as sabotage. There can be no freedom of thought, no freedom of the Press, where it is necessary that everything should be governed by a single system of thought. In theory Socialism may wish to enhance freedom, but in practice every kind of collectivism consistently carried thought must produce the characteristic features which Fascism, Nazism, and Communism have in common. Totalitarianism is nothing but consistent collectivism, the ruthless execution of the principle that 'the whole comes before the individual' and the direction of all members of society by a single will supposed to represent the 'whole'.
  • Nothing in this situation deserves to be studied and pondered so much as the intellectual history of Germany during the last two generations. What has to be realized is that the features which made her what she is are largely the same as those which made her admired and which still exert their fascination; and that the corruption of the German mind came largely from the top, the intellectual and scientific leaders.

The Road to Serfdom (1944)[edit]

Main article: The Road to Serfdom
  • Conservatism, though a necessary element in any stable society, is not a social program; in its paternalistic, nationalistic and power adoring tendencies it is often closer to socialism than true liberalism; and with its traditionalistic, anti-intellectual, and often mystical propensities it will never, except in short periods of disillusionment, appeal to the young and all those others who believe that some changes are desirable if this world is to become a better place.
    • p. xi.
  • The more the state "plans" the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.
    • Chapter 6. Planning and the Rule of Law.

Individualism and Economic Order (1948)[edit]

The Intellectuals and Socialism (1949)[edit]

"The Intellectuals and Socialism", in The University of Chicago Law Review (Spring 1949)

  • Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement. It is by no means an obvious remedy for the obvious evil which the interests of that class will necessarily demand. It is a construction of theorists, deriving from certain tendencies of abstract thought with which for a long time only the intellectuals were familiar; and it required long efforts by the intellectuals before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their program.
  • Paradoxically enough, one of the main handicaps which deprives the liberal thinker of popular influence is closely connected with the fact that, until socialism has actually arrived, he has more opportunity of directly influencing decisions on current policy and that in consequence he is not only not tempted into that long-run speculation which is the strength of the socialists, but is actually discouraged from it because any effort of this kind is likely to reduce the immediate good he can do.
  • The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and therefore an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote.

The Counter-Revolution of Science : Studies on the Abuse of Reason (1952)[edit]

It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation.
At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways.
It is essential for the growth of reason that as individuals we should bow to forces and obey principles which we cannot hope fully to understand, yet on which the advance and even the preservation of civilization depend.

The Influence of the Natural Sciences on the Social Sciences[edit]

  • It need scarcely be emphasised that nothing we shall have to say is aimed against the methods of Science in their proper sphere or is intended to throw the slightest doubt on their value. But to preclude any misunderstanding on this point we shall, wherever we are concerned, not with the general spirit of disinterested inquiry but with slavish imitation of the method and language of Science, speak of ‘scientism’ or the ‘scientistic’ prejudice.

The Problem and the Method of the Natural Sciences[edit]

  • To return to our more general conclusion: the world in which Science is interested is not that of our given concepts or even sensations. Its aim is to produce a new organisation of all our experience of the external world, and in doing so it has not only to remodel our concepts but also to get away from the sense qualities and to replace them by a different classification of events.

The Individualist and ‘Compositive’ Method of the Social Sciences[edit]

  • While the method of the natural sciences is … analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena … Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake … to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action. … The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results … If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation … people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order … it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions … The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.

‘Purposive’ Social Formations[edit]

  • Many of the greatest things man has achieved are not the result of consciously directed thought, and still less the product of a deliberately coordinated effort of many individuals, but of a process in which the individual plays a part which he can never fully understand.
  • Even more significant of the inherent weakness of the collectivist theories is the extraordinary paradox that from the assertion that society is in some sense more than merely the aggregate of all individuals their adherents regularly pass by a sort of intellectual somersault to the thesis that in order that the coherence of this larger entity be safeguarded it must be subjected to conscious control, that is, to the control of what in the last resort must be an individual mind. It thus comes about that in practice it is regularly the theoretical collectivist who extols individual reason and demands that all forces of society be made subject to the direction of a single mastermind, while it is the individualist who recognizes the limitations of the powers of individual reason and consequently advocates freedom as a means for the fullest development of the powers of the interindividual process.

‘Conscious’ Direction and the Growth of Reason[edit]

  • It may indeed prove to be far the most difficult and not the least important task for human reason rationally to comprehend its own limitations. It is essential for the growth of reason that as individuals we should bow to forces and obey principles which we cannot hope fully to understand, yet on which the advance and even the preservation of civilization depend. Historically this has been achieved by the influence of the various religious creeds and by traditions and superstitions which made men submit to those forces by an appeal to his emotions rather than to his reason. The most dangerous stage in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man has come to regard all these beliefs as superstitions and refuses to accept or to submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the powers of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. This may well prove a hurdle which man will repeatedly reach, only to be thrown back into barbarism … Common acceptance of formal rules is indeed the only alternative to direction by a single will man has yet discovered.

Comte and Hegel[edit]

  • The discussions of every age are filled with the issues on which its leading schools of thought differ. But the general intellectual atmosphere of the time is always determined by the views on which the opposing schools agree. They become the unspoken presuppositions of all thought, and common and unquestioningly accepted foundations on which all discussion proceeds.

The Constitution of Liberty (1960)[edit]

  • What a free society offers to the individual is much more than what he would be able to do if only he were free.
    • p. 6.
  • A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.
    • p. 79.
  • Justice, like liberty and coercion, is a concept which, for the sake of clarity, ought to be confined to the deliberate treatment of men by other men.
    • p. 99.

Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967)[edit]

  • We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible…Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.
  • If the human intellect is allowed to impose a preconceived pattern on society, if our powers of reasoning are allowed to lay claim to a monopoly of creative effort… then we must not be surprised if society, as such, ceases to function as a creative force.

Economic Freedom and Representative Government (1973)[edit]

  • I am certain that nothing has done so much to destroy the juridical safeguards of individual freedom as the striving after this mirage of social justice.
  • I hope that what I have said so far has made it clear that the task we shall have to perform if we are to re-establish and preserve a free society is in the first instance an intellectual task: it presupposes that we not only recover conceptions which we have largely lost and which must once again become generally understood, but also that we design new institutional safeguards which will prevent a repetition of the process of gradual erosion of the safeguards which the theory of liberal constitutionalism had meant to provide.

Nobel Banquet Speech (1974)[edit]

Speech at the Nobel Banquet (10 December 1974) Full text online
  • I must confess that if I had been consulted whether to establish a Nobel Prize in economics, I should have decidedly advised against it.
  • I feared that such a prize, as I believe is true of the activities of some of the great scientific foundations, would tend to accentuate the swings of scientific fashion. This apprehension the selection committee has brilliantly refuted by awarding the prize to one whose views are as unfashionable as mine are.
  • The Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess.
    This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence.
    But the influence of the economist that mainly matters is an influence over laymen: politicians, journalists, civil servants and the public generally.
    There is no reason why a man who has made a distinctive contribution to economic science should be omnicompetent on all problems of society — as the press tends to treat him till in the end he may himself be persuaded to believe.

The Pretence of Knowledge (1974)[edit]

I confess that I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false.
To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.
Cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants …
Nobel Prize lecture (11 December 1974)
  • On the other hand, the economists are at this moment called upon to say how to extricate the free world from the serious threat of accelerating inflation which, it must be admitted, has been brought about by policies which the majority of economists recommended and even urged governments to pursue. We have indeed at the moment little cause for pride: as a profession we have made a mess of things.
  • It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences — an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error. It is an approach which has come to be described as the "scientistic" attitude — an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, "is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed."
  • Unlike the position that exists in the physical sciences, in economics and other disciplines that deal with essentially complex phenomena, the aspects of the events to be accounted for about which we can get quantitative data are necessarily limited and may not include the important ones. While in the physical sciences it is generally assumed, probably with good reason, that any important factor which determines the observed events will itself be directly observable and measurable, in the study of such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process, for reasons which I shall explain later, will hardly ever be fully known or measurable.
  • While in the physical sciences the investigator will be able to measure what, on the basis of a prima facie theory, he thinks important, in the social sciences often that is treated as important which happens to be accessible to measurement. This is sometimes carried to the point where it is demanded that our theories must be formulated in such terms that they refer only to measurable magnitudes.
  • There may thus well exist better "scientific" evidence for a false theory, which will be accepted because it is more "scientific", than for a valid explanation, which is rejected because there is no sufficient quantitative evidence for it.
  • The social sciences, like much of biology but unlike most fields of the physical sciences, have to deal with structures of essential complexity, i.e. with structures whose characteristic properties can be exhibited only by models made up of relatively large numbers of variables. Competition, for instance, is a process which will produce certain results only if it proceeds among a fairly large number of acting persons.
  • There may be few instances in which the superstition that only measurable magnitudes can be important has done positive harm in the economic field: but the present inflation and employment problems are a very serious one.
  • I confess that I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false. The credit which the apparent conformity with recognized scientific standards can gain for seemingly simple but false theories may, as the present instance shows, have grave consequences.
  • To entrust to science — or to deliberate control according to scientific principles — more than scientific method can achieve may have deplorable effects. The progress of the natural sciences in modern times has of course so much exceeded all expectations that any suggestion that there may be some limits to it is bound to arouse suspicion. Especially all those will resist such an insight who have hoped that our increasing power of prediction and control, generally regarded as the characteristic result of scientific advance, applied to the processes of society, would soon enable us to mould society entirely to our liking.
  • Allow me to define more specifically the inherent limitations of our numerical knowledge which are so often overlooked. I want to do this to avoid giving the impression that I generally reject the mathematical method in economics. I regard it in fact as the great advantage of the mathematical technique that it allows us to describe, by means of algebraic equations, the general character of a pattern even where we are ignorant of the numerical values which will determine its particular manifestation. We could scarcely have achieved that comprehensive picture of the mutual interdependencies of the different events in a market without this algebraic technique. It has led to the illusion, however, that we can use this technique for the determination and prediction of the numerical values of those magnitudes; and this has led to a vain search for quantitative or numerical constants.
  • The confidence in the unlimited power of science is only too often based on a false belief that the scientific method consists in the application of a ready-made technique, or in imitating the form rather than the substance of scientific procedure, as if one needed only to follow some cooking recipes to solve all social problems. It sometimes almost seems as if the techniques of science were more easily learnt than the thinking that shows us what the problems are and how to approach them.
  • The conflict between what in its present mood the public expects science to achieve in satisfaction of popular hopes and what is really in its power is a serious matter because, even if the true scientists should all recognize the limitations of what they can do in the field of human affairs, so long as the public expects more there will always be some who will pretend, and perhaps honestly believe, that they can do more to meet popular demands than is really in their power. It is often difficult enough for the expert, and certainly in many instances impossible for the layman, to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate claims advanced in the name of science.
  • If I am not mistaken, psychology, psychiatry and some branches of sociology, not to speak about the so-called philosophy of history, are even more affected by what I have called the scientistic prejudice, and by specious claims of what science can achieve.
  • The chief point we must remember is that the great and rapid advance of the physical sciences took place in fields where it proved that explanation and prediction could be based on laws which accounted for the observed phenomena as functions of comparatively few variables — either particular facts or relative frequencies of events.
  • As we advance we find more and more frequently that we can in fact ascertain only some but not all the particular circumstances which determine the outcome of a given process; and in consequence we are able to predict only some but not all the properties of the result we have to expect. Often all that we shall be able to predict will be some abstract characteristic of the pattern that will appear — relations between kinds of elements about which individually we know very little. Yet, as I am anxious to repeat, we will still achieve predictions which can be falsified and which therefore are of empirical significance.
    Of course, compared with the precise predictions we have learnt to expect in the physical sciences, this sort of mere pattern predictions is a second best with which one does not like to have to be content. Yet the danger of which I want to warn is precisely the belief that in order to have a claim to be accepted as scientific it is necessary to achieve more. This way lies charlatanism and worse. To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.
  • In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the over-confident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims.
  • We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based — a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.
  • If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.
  • The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

Remembering My Cousin, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1977)[edit]

"Remembering My Cousin, Ludwig Wittgenstein", Encounter (August 1977)

  • What struck me most in this conversation was a radical passion for truthfulness in everything (which I came to know as a characteristic vogue among the young Viennese intellectuals of the generation immediately preceding mine only in the following university years). This truthfulness became almost a fashion in that border group between the purely Jewish and the purely Gentile parts of the intelligentsia in which I came so much to move. It meant much more than truth in speech. One had to "live" truth and not tolerate any pretence in oneself or others. It sometimes produced outright rudeness and, certainly, unpleasantness. Every convention was dissected and every conventional form exposed as fraud. Wittgenstein merely carried this further in applying it to himself. I sometimes felt that he took a perverse pleasure in discovering falsehood in his own feelings and that he was constantly trying to purge himself of all fraud.
  • The next time I met Ludwig Wittgenstein was in the spring of 1928 when the economist Dennis Robertson, who was taking me for a walk through the Fellows' Gardens of Trinity College, Cambridge, suddenly decided to change course because on the top of a little rise he perceived the form of the philosopher draped over a deckchair. He evidently stood rather in awe of him, and he did not wish to disturb him.

Coping with Ignorance (1978)[edit]

“Coping with Ignorance,” Imprimis 7 (1978)

  • The misconception that costs determined prices prevented economists for a long time from recognizing that it was prices which operated as the indispensable signals telling producers what costs it was worth expending on the production of the various commodities and services, and not the other way around. It was the costs which they had expended which determined the prices of things produced.
    It was this crucial insight which finally broke through and established itself about a hundred years ago through the so-called marginal revolution in economics.
    The chief insight gained by modern economists is that the market is essentially an ordering mechanism, growing up without anybody wholly understanding it, that enables us to utilize widely dispersed information about the significance of circumstances of which we are mostly ignorant. However, the various planners (and not only the planners in the socialist camp) and dirigists have still not yet grasped this.
  • The belief derived from physics that measurement is an essential foundation of all sciences is very old. There was more than 300 years ago a German philosopher named Erhard Weigel who strove to construct a universal science which he proposed to call Pantometria, based as the name says on measuring everything. Much of economics, and if I may add in parenthesis much of contemporary psychology, has indeed become Pantometria in a sense in the principle that if you don't know what measurements mean, measure anyhow because that is what science does. The social sciences building at the University of Chicago indeed still bears since it was built 40 years ago on its outside an inscription taken from the famous physicist Lord Kelvin: "When you cannot measure, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory." I will admit that that may be true, but it is certainly not scientific to insist on measurement where you don't know what your measurements mean. There are cases where measurements are not relevant. What has done much damage to microeconomics is striving for a pseudo-exactness by imitating methods of the physical sciences which have to deal with what are fundamentally much more simple phenomena. And the assumption that it is possible to ascertain all the relevant particular facts still completely dominates the alternative methods of dealing with our constitutional ignorance, which economists have tried to overcome. This of course, is what has come to be called macroeconomics as distinct from microeconomics.
  • It seems to me more and more that the immense efforts which during the great popularity of macroeconomics over the last thirty or forty years have been devoted to it, were largely misspent, and that if we want to be useful in the future we shall have to be content to improve and spread the admittedly limited insights which microeconomics conveys.
    I believe it is only microeconomics which enables us to understand the crucial functions of the market process: that it enables us to make effective use of information about thousands of facts of which nobody can have full knowledge.

New Studies in Philosophy Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (1978)[edit]

  • The picture of man as a being who, thanks to his reason, can rise above the values of his civilization, in order to judge it from the outside or from a higher point of view, is an illusion. It simply must be understood that reason itself is part of civilization. … Sudden complete reconstruction of the whole is not possible at any stage of the process, because we must always use the material that is available, and which itself is the integrated product of a process of evolution.
    • “The Errors of Constructivism” (1970), reprinted in New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (1978)
  • To discover the meaning of what is called "social justice" has been one of my chief preoccupations for more than 10 years. I have failed in this endeavour — or rather, have reached the conclusion that, with reference to society of free men, the phrase has no meaning whatever.
  • Is it really likely that a National Planning Officer would have a better judgement of 'the number of cars, the number of generators, and the quantities of frozen foods we are likely to require in, say, five years,' than Ford or General Motors etc., and, even more important, would it even be desirable that various companies in an industry all act on the same guess?

A Conversation with Professor Friedrich A. Hayek (1979)[edit]

Conversation in 1979, published in Diego Pizano, Conversations with Great Economists (2009)

  • My whole concept of economics is based on the idea that we have to explain how prices operate as signals, telling people what they ought to do in particular circumstances. The approach to this problem has been blocked by a cost or labor theory of value, which assumes that prices are determined by the technical conditions of production only. The important question is to explain how the interaction of a great number of people, each possessing only limited knowledge, will bring about an order that could only be achieved by deliberate direction taken by somebody who has the combined knowledge of all these individuals. However, central planning cannot take direct account of particular circumstances of time and place. Additionally, every individual has important bits of information which cannot possibly be conveyed to a central authority in statistical form. In a system in which the knowledge of relevant data is dispersed among millions of agents, prices can act to coordinate the separate actions of different individuals.
    Given this context, it is intellectually not satisfactory to attempt to establish causal relations between aggregates or averages in the manner in which the discipline of macroeconomics has attempted to do. Individuals do not make decisions on the basis of partial knowledge of magnitudes such as the total amount of production, or the total quantity of money. Aggregative theorizing leads nowhere.
  • I think the basic misconception is to speak of the so-called “best” allocation of resources. What is the best? In common economics it is defined as what would be if we knew everything. Economists operate with the fictitious assumption that all the relevant data is known, but this is totally unrealistic. Nobody knows all the data. What we have is widely dispersed knowledge, which cannot be concentrated in one mind. To call the situation—which would use all the knowledge available—“optimal” is nonsense because it is by definition a non-achievable solution. Our problem is not the full utilization of all knowledge but the best use we can achieve with any known institutional structure. In that sense, some oligopolistic (and even monopolistic situations), represent the best possible utilization of knowledge that we can achieve. Even the action of a monopolist can be extremely beneficial.
  • There is no doubt, and in this I agree with Milton Friedman, that once the Crash had occurred, the Federal Reserve System pursued a silly deflationary policy. I am not only against inflation but I am also against deflation! So, once again, a badly programmed monetary policy prolonged the depression! So, once again, a badly programmed monetary policy prolonged the depression. One consequence of this policy was, of course, the fact that confidence was destroyed.

Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973, 1976, 1979)[edit]

Interview in Silver & Gold Report (1980)[edit]

Interview in Silver & Gold Report, Vol. V, No. 20, (Late October 1980)

  • I did say in print, in February, 1929 that there was no hope for economic recovery in Europe before American interest rates came down. That wouldn’t be until the American boom collapsed — which was likely to happen within the next few months.And this did, in fact, happen in October 1929.
    What made me expect this, of course, was one of my main theoretical beliefs — that an inflationary boom cannot be maintained indefinitely. I was sure that a very unstable situation was created by the artificial prolongation of the boom in 1927, when the Federal Reserve tried to stave off a collapse by credit expansion.
  • I don’t believe we’re in for a crash now. It's much more likely that government will just conceal the continuation of inflation by price controls. But if anything is worse than an open inflation, it’s a repressed inflation. What you’re likely to get is not a violent deflation but increasing stagnation of productivity.
  • If the world as a whole returned to the gold standard there would be such fluctuations in the value of gold that it would very soon prove impractical. ... If a big country like the United States did return to the gold standard, it would start a great deflation.

The Fatal Conceit : The Errors of Socialism (1988)[edit]

Main article: The Fatal Conceit
  • Whereas, in fact, specialised students, even after generations of effort, find it exceedingly difficult to explain such matters, and cannot agree on what are the causes or what will be the effects of particular events. The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.
    To the naive mind that can conceive of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions order, and adaptation to the unknown, can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions and that a division of authority will actually extend the possibility of overall order. Yet that decentralization actually leads to more information being taken into account.
    • Ch. 5: The Fatal Conceit.

Quotes about Hayek[edit]

Alphabetized by author or source
I, like … others, owe him a great debt … his powerful mind … his lucid and always principled exposition have helped to broaden and deepen my understanding of the meaning and the requisites of a free society. ~ Milton Friedman

A - F[edit]

  • The most important player on Ronald Reagan's economic team is Ronald Reagan. The person most responsible for creating the economic program that came to be known as Reaganomics is Reagan himself. For over twenty years he observed the American economy, read and studied the writings of some of the best economists in the world, including the giants of the free market economy — Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman — and he spoke and wrote on the economy, going through the rigorous mental discipline of explaining his thoughts to others. Over the years he made all the key decisions on the economic strategies he finally embraced. He always felt comfortable with his knowledge of the field and he was in command all the way.
  • At Chicago, Hayek put aside his more technical economic work for the development of a social and political theory that became in time the most ambitious and complete synthesis to emerge from the ranks of the post-war Right. Among its themes — the overriding significance of the rule of law, the need for social inequality, the function of unreflective tradition, the value of a leisured class — were many cultivated by Strauss across the campus. Neither thinker, however, ever referred to the other. Did temperamental antagonism, or intellectual indifference, dictate the silence? Whatever the case, latent tensions of outlook between them were to find expression in due course.
    • Perry Anderson, Spectrum (2005), Ch. 1 : The Intransigent Right: Michael Oakeshott, Leo Strauss, Carl Schmitt, Friedrich von Hayek
  • [Estonian Prime Minister] Mart Laar came to my office the other day to recount his country's remarkable transformation. He described a nation of people wh are harder-working, more virtuous — yes, more virtuous, because the market punishes immorality — and more hopeful about the future than they've ever been in their history. I asked Mr. Laar where his government got the idea for these reforms. Do you know what he replied? He said, "We read Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek".
    • Dick Armey, in his address at the dedication of the Hayek Auditorium", Cato Institution, Washington, D.C., (9 May 1995)
  • People sometimes say that they don’t know what they think until they’ve said it, you know. But mind you, even as a graduate student, I’ve never thought that utility theory implies consciousness. Of course you discover things and learn about your own preferences. This is a point that I haven’t explored and that I probably should study more. It seems especially important from the point of view of innovation. By the way, what has always bothered me about Hayek is that all this local knowledge has to be transmitted before the process of social interaction can generate any new knowledge, but he doesn’t show us how that is going to happen.
    • Kenneth Arrow, in Karen Ilsen Horn (ed.) Roads to Wisdom, Conversations With Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics (2009)
  • Right after we published our first findings, we started getting letters from all over the country saying, "You know, all you guys have done is rediscover Austrian economics" … I admit I wasn't familiar with Hayek and von Mises as the time. But now that I've read them, I can see that this is essentially true.
  • As the title of his 1941 book indicates, the theory of capital lay at the heart of his theory of the cycle. The reason is that he attributes the cycle not to changes in aggregate demand, or even to changes in the quantity of capital, but to changes in the structure of production and hence the structure of the capital stock. In this, his theory was highly unusual: one of the reasons for his failure to engage more effectively with Keynes was the latter’s inability to see how the theory of capital could be of any importance for the cycle. Because the theory of capital is so central, and because it is so complex, it needs to be explained carefully. After that, the rest of his theory falls into place comparatively easily.
    • Roger E. Backhouse, "Hayek on money and the business cycle", in Edward Feser(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • F. A. Hayek, probably the most prominent advocate of capitalism in the present period would not quite agree with Smith's notions of what is natural, but his defense of capitalism is indirect by reference to its linkage with liberty, and he explicitly rejected the idea that a legitimating concept of justice is relevant to the operations of a market system.
    • Peter Berger, The Capitalist Revolution : Fifty Propositions about Prosperity, Equality and Liberty (1988), p. 205
  • It may not be amiss to seen in my calculations of comparative productivity [between entrepreneurial economics and communist economies] verification of a prescient forecast [made by Hayek in 1935 in his essay "The Present State of the Debate".].
    • Abram Bergson, "Communist Economic Efficiency Revisited", AEA Papers and Proceedings, Vol. 82, No. 2, (May 1992), p. 30
  • Hayek’s reasons for holding that planning cannot work are not limited to the problem that the information required for the task of coordinating the plans of a multitude of individuals is too vast to organize effectively. The knowledge utilized within the market by entrepreneurs does not exist outside that local context and thus cannot even be organized in principle. It is not that planners would face a complex computational task; it is that they face an impossible task, because the knowledge required is not accessible to them no matter what technological developments may come along to ease the computational burden.
    • Peter J. Boettke, "Hayek and market socialism", in Edward Feser(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • My basic criticism of F. A. Hayek’s profound interpretation of modern history and his diagnoses for improvement is directed at his apparent belief or faith that social evolution will, in fact, insure the survival of efficient institutional forms. Hayek is so distrustful of man’s explicit attempts at reforming institutions that he accepts uncritically the evolutionary alternative. We may share much of Hayek’s skepticism about social and institutional reform, however, without elevating the evolutionary process to an ideal role. Reform may, indeed, be difficult, but this is no argument that its alternative is ideal.
  • I did not call him "Fritz." To me he remained always "Professor Hayek," despite his own graciousness in treating me as a peer. I shall not attempt to evaluate Professor Hayek's monumental contribution to our understanding of the events of this turbulent century, to the influence of his ideas on these events themselves or even to the development of economic theory in a strictly scientific sense.
    • James M. Buchanan, "I did not call him “Fritz”: Personal recollections of Professor F. A. v. Hayek." Constitutional Political Economy 3.2 (1992): 129-135
  • In some of their implicit modeling of political behavior aimed at furthering special group or class interests, the Marxists seemed to be closet associates of public choice, even as they rejected methodological individualism. But how was the basic Marxist critique of politics, as observed, to be transformed into the idealized politics of the benevolent and omniscient superstate? This question was simply left glaringly unanswered. And the debates of the 1930s were considered by confused economists of the time to have been won by the socialists rather than by their opponents, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both sides, to an extent, neglected the relevance of incentives in motivating human action, including political action.
  • I did fully learn from Hayek the distinction between what I later called moral community and moral order and moral anarchy – this is about the sense that our genetic predisposition is all for the insider tribe.
    • James M. Buchanan, in Karen Ilsen Horn (ed.) Roads to Wisdom, Conversations With Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics (2009)
  • In the end, Hayek’s free society depends upon a set of wise rulers, whether they be judges, village elders, or (temporary) military dictators, who can stand in the way of an untutored democratic mass seduced by redistributive envy.
  • Hayek was no opponent of theory; indeed, he frequently defended it from its historicist detractors. But he also understood the limitations of theory.
    • Bruce Caldwell, "Hayek and Socialism", Journal of Economic Literature (December 1997)
  • I grant that there is one big defect in the neoclassical approach to imperfect knowledge. But it is a defect that Austrians almost never mention! The problem: Do the probabilities that people assign fit the facts? At least as researchers, most economists assume that beliefs about the world are on average correct. But empirically, this is often not so. Flying is much safer statistically than driving, but many people refuse to accept the fact. A large field known as behavioral economics documents such biases. Or to take more policy-relevant beliefs: Basic economics shows us the benefits of free trade, but few non-economists recognize them. I have a series of papers on systematically biased beliefs about economics that explores this topic.
    Now what is Prof. Boettke going to tell you? I suspect that he is going to say that merely focusing on people’s erroneous beliefs “makes me an Austrian." I call this the “Hayek said the sky is blue" tactic. If you say the sky is blue, that makes you an Austrian because Hayek defended the sky-is-blue thesis back in the 30’s. Hayek talked a bit about mistaken beliefs; therefore anyone who ventures within a thousand intellectual miles of this topic is a “Hayekian.”
    This is ridiculous. By this standard not only does Hayek get credit for ideas that he did not anticipate; he gets credit for ideas that preceded his birth! Hayek made some contributions here - though frankly he was very repetitious. But he did little to advance modern rational expectations theorizing, and even less to anticipate its empirical weaknesses.
    Would I have done any better? Probably not, but if I hadn’t done a lot more I wouldn’t want my posthumous admirers showering me with undeserved credit. (Well, maybe I would, but I wouldn’t deserve it).
  • I've long since lost all patience with Hayek. His original, true ideas could have been five good blog posts, his errors and bizarre obsessions are numerous, and his writing style insults every person who ever tried to write a decent sentence.
  • In fact, a large part of what we think of as economic activity is designed to accomplish what high transaction costs would otherwise prevent or to reduce transaction costs so that individuals can negotiate freely and we can take advantage of that diffused knowledge of which Friedrich Hayek has told us.
    • Ronald Coase, Nobel Memorial Prize Lecture, "The Institutional Structure of Production", in Essays on Economics and Economists (1994), p. 9
  • I will be discussing what happened in economics in England, but these were times when, to a very considerable extent, this was what happened in economics. The first episode I will discuss is local, but the economists involved were among the best in the world. In February 1931, Friedrich Hayek gave a series of public lectures entitled 'Prices and Production' at the London School of Economics … They were undoubtably the most successful set of public lectures given at LSE during my time there, even surpassing the brilliant lectures Jacob Viner gave on international trade theory. The audience, notwithstanding the difficulties of understanding Hayek, was enthralled. What was said seemed to us of great importance and made us see things of which we had previously been unaware. After hearing these lectures, we knew why there was a depression. Most students of economics at LSE and many members of the staff became Hayekians or, at any rate, incorporated elements of Hayek's approach in their own thinking. With the arrogance of youth, I myself expounded the Hayekian analysis to the faculty and students at Columbia University in the fall of 1931.
    • Ronald Coase, "How Should Economists Choose?"in Essays on Economics and Economists (1994), p. 19
  • For all his brilliance, Hayek didn’t — at the critical time — have a good enough understanding of the dangers of deflation. He didn’t fully realize the extent of sticky wages and prices and, more deeply, he didn’t see that ongoing deflation would render the “calculation problem” of a market economy more difficult. Hayek stressed that a market calculates value in a way that a central planner cannot — but lying behind this ability to calculate is some basic macroeconomic stability. At the key moments, Hayek did not offer the proper recipe for that stability.
    • Tyler Cowen, "The Eternal Struggle", National Review (2011)
  • Hayek and Marx are similar in their research programs concerning the dynamics of capitalism, its cycles, and the way in which money is vital to capitalism. They both worked a long time to master the problem, but failed to arrive at a neat solution. Hence they both abandoned the program and went on to other, more urgent, concerns. But along the way, they both left a trail of great insights and unsettled debates.
    • Meghnad Desai, "Hayek and Marx", in Edward Feser(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • The human mind, Hayek says, is not just limited in its ability to synthesize a vast array of concrete facts, it is also limited in its ability to give a deductively sound ground to ethics. Here is where the tension develops, for he also wants to give a reasoned moral defense of the free market. He is an intellectual skeptic who wants to give political philosophy a secure intellectual foundation. It is thus not too surprising that what results is confused and contradictory.
    • Arthur M. Diamond, "F. A. Hayek on Constructivism and Ethics". The Journal of Libertarian Studies IV/4: 353-365.(Fall 1980)
  • Hayek gave the best exposition ever of the unpopular ideas of economic freedom that somehow triumph anyway, alleviating far more national and global poverty than more fashionable Scandinavia-envy and grandiose plans to "make poverty history."
  • Hayek did not talk about it at the time, but his warnings about the drift toward top-down planning were perhaps most relevant of all in the so-called Third World. It is the misfortune of the field called development economics that it was born at the moment of maximum doubt about individual liberty. As a result, economists conceived of development from the beginning—and to a frightening extent still do today—as a top-down process run by development experts operating on a blank slate.
    • William Easterly, "Hayek vs. The Development Experts" (23 October 2008)
  • Nor does [Ebenstein's] book offer any real historical setting for Hayek's career. Although often naive in his political judgments, Hayek was intensely concerned with public issues throughout his life. Yet we learn virtually nothing of the development of his views on the affairs of the day. What did he make, for example, of the Dollfuss dictatorship in Austria, where his teacher Ludwig von Mises served its clerical predecessor under Monsignor Seipel, and where Hayek himself planned to return in the 1930s? Mr Ebenstein never even mentions these conservative authoritarian regimes of the period. In later years, he records Hayek's efforts to secure South Tyrol for Austria once again; his organisation of the Mont Pelerin Society, an influential post-war group of free-market intellectuals; his recommendation that West Germany, France and Britain sue for entry as states into the United States; his reception in Verwoerd's South Africa and his admiration for General Pinochet's achievements in Chile; his wish that Iran be bombed in 1979 and Argentina in 1982. Homages from Barry Goldwater, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Yegor Gaidar roll past (the only discordant note comes from Ayn Rand, once Alan Greenspan's muse: “As an example of our most pernicious enemy, I would name Hayek. That one is real poison.”; or again: “The kind who do more good to the communist cause than ours”). Yet no coherent picture of Hayek's political commitments ever emerges, still less their relation to such important works as “The Constitution of Liberty” (1960).
  • The great theme of his remarkable explorations in intellectual history is the danger of all constructivism, the belief that we can deliberately design social arrangements which will be better than those we unwittingly hit upon. Paradoxically, however, the drive of Hayek's own work is itself characteristically that of a rationalist construction. Admiring David Hume and detesting Auguste Comte, his genius was to marry the sceptical insights of the one to more than a touch of the compulsive rigour of the other.
    • "The man who knew enough", The Economist (29 March 2001)
  • The investigation of this problem — How is spontaneous order possible? — is sometimes referred to as the 'Hayek programme'.
    • Jon Elster, "The Cement of Society: A Study of Social Order", 1989, p. 250
  • I think that permanence and stability are the cardinal virtues of the legal rules that make private innovation and public progress possible. To my mind there is no doubt that a legal regime that embraced private property and freedom of contract is the only one that in practice can offer that permanence and stability … In reaching this conclusion, I have been heavily influenced by the work of Friedrich Hayek.
  • Though Hayek clearly allows for the possibility of a retreat from socialism, whether of the hot (command planning) or cold (welfare state) variety, and planning, Hayek’s critics, apparently taking Hayek at his word, use ‘inevitability’ to refer to the outcome (a totalitarian polity) that, according to Hayek, is supposedly generated by the cumulative logic inherent to interventionist policy and welfare state practices. Though taking care to note that a change in policy may occur, Hayek apparently considers the logic of intervention as primarily nudging policy in one direction, necessitating ever-further government intervention.
    • Andrew Farrant and Edward McPhail, "Hayek, Samuelson, and the logic of the mixed economy?", Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 69 (2009)
  • Hayek frequently argued that any failure to adequately mend our ways—abandon “our” supposed infatuation with “social justice” and other “high ideals”—would inexorably put us in the hands of the devil. Arguably, “we”—Obama and company clearly included—have yet to change our ways.
    • Andrew Farrant and Edward McPhail, "Hayek’s New Popularity: The False Claims That He Was Right", Challenge, vol. 53, no. 5 (September/October 2010)
  • Much as Hayek’s penchant for claiming that “bad” interventionist policy will ineluctably drive us along the road to serfdom—ultimately culminating in full-blown command planning and political tyranny— is clearly apparent in his 1940s writings, the very same sentiments pervade the third part of The Constitution of Liberty.
    • Andrew Farrant and Edward McPhail, "Supporters Are Wrong: Hayek Did Not Favor a Welfare State", Challenge, vol. 55, no. 5, (September/October 2012)
  • Hayek was never blind to the potential difficulties inherent in this political synthesis, nor dismissive of the serious criticisms of capitalist society and liberal theory presented by thinkers of the left. He explicitly disavowed the ideal of laissez faire and distanced himself from the sort of free market utopianism common among more extreme libertarians. He thought it foolish to pretend that capitalism always rewards those who work the hardest or are otherwise deserving, advocated a minimal social safety net for those incapable of supporting themselves in the market, and had no objection to government taking on tasks far beyond those defining the ‘‘minimal state’’ of Nozick’s libertarianism, so long as this did not result in monopoly and private firms were allowed to compete with government for provision of the services in question. Like Marx, he believed that liberal capitalist society has a tendency to produce alienation, insofar as the impersonal rules of conduct upon which it rests necessarily eschew any reference to a common social end or purpose, and thus cannot satisfy the deepest human yearnings for solidarity. Unlike Marx, he also thought we nevertheless simply have no alternative to capitalism if we want to maintain the level of individual autonomy and material prosperity that are the most prized characteristics of modernity, and that it is naive and dangerous to pretend otherwise.
    • Edward Feser, Introduction, in Edward Feser(ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • What of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and their battles against government control of the economy? Here Hayek surprises. He does not disapprove of Reagan and Thatcher, but he has no high opinion of modem politicians in general. He does, however, say that Reagan's and Thatcher's policies "are as reasonable as we can expect at this time. They are modest in their ambitions." Modesty. The capacity to understand that well-meaning politicians — and their advisers, the intellectuals — will only wreak mischief if they try to guide economic development: This antipolitical concept is at the heart of Hayek's theory of economic and social development.
    • Interview of F. A. Hayek, Forbes, May 15, 1989
  • There was someone who is clearly very important who also was not a member of the scientific commission, but whose career and trajectory was ultimately very important for the definition of contemporary neo-liberalism. This is the Austrian von Hayek. He came from Austria and from neo-liberalism; he emigrated at the time of, or just before, the Anschluss. He went to England and also to the United States. He was very clearly one of the inspirations of contemporary American liberalism, or of American anarcho-capitalism if you like, and he returned to Germany in 1962 where he was appointed professor at Freiburg, thus closing the circle.
    • Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-1979, five (7 February 1979)
  • I’ve always thought, incidentally, that many of us should welcome the fact that...a particular policy idea we hold does have this adverse effect on the opinions of other people. I think this is a very good thing, because it means that those of us who hold our views have to be better to get recognized than people who hold the other views. And in the long run, what matters is the quality of people who propose the ideas and not their number and not their position. It is because it is the quality of these ideas that matters so much that Hayek’s ideas have been so wide-spread and have had such an influence, and that you are now seeing the rise in the scientific as well as in the other parts of the world of more people of this particular kind of persuasion....
    . . . I am one of those who has learned a great deal from Hayek. I hope he is as effective as I think he will be in his teaching in Germany, but I also hope that we will see him back here very often indeed.
    • Milton Friedman, impromptu remarks at the 1962 testimonial dinner, quoted in Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 13. The Chicago School of Economics and Milton Friedman
  • Friedrich Hayek's influence has been tremendous. His work is incorporated in the body of technical economic theory; has had a major influence on economic history, political philosophy and political science; has affected students of the law, of scientific methodology, and even of psychology.
  • Over the years, I have again and again asked fellow believers in a free society how they managed to escape the contagion of their collectivist intellectual environment. No name has been mentioned more often as the source of enlightenment and understanding than Friedrich Hayek's … I, like the others, owe him a great debt … his powerful mind … his lucid and always principled exposition have helped to broaden and deepen my understanding of the meaning and the requisites of a free society.
  • In terms of his personal characteristics Hayek was a very complicated personality. He was by no means a simple person. He was very outgoing in one sense but at the same time I would say very private. He did not like criticism, but he never showed that he didn’t like criticism. His attitude under criticism . . . was to say “Well, that’s a very interesting thing. At the moment I’m busy, but I’ll write to you about it more later.” And then he never would!
    On the other hand, he wasn’t like von Mises. He wasn’t in tolerant at all. You cannot conceive of Hayek doing the kind of thing that Mises did when, for example, he wouldn’t talk to Machlup for three years because Machlup had come out for floating exchange rates at a Mont Pelerin meeting. Hayek did not do that. That was, I believe, because of the influence of the London School on him. He was very much tempered by the London School....
    • Milton Friedman, Friedman-Ebenstein interview in 1995, quoted in Alan Ebenstein's Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003) Ch.11. The Constitution of Liberty
  • There is no figure who had more of an influence, no person had more of an influence on the intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain than Friedrich Hayek. His books were translated and published by the underground and black market editions, read widely, and undoubtedly influenced the climate of opinion that ultimately brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

G - L[edit]

  • The [seminar in economic theory conducted by Hayek at the L.S.E. in the 1930s] was attended, it came to seem, by all of the economists of my generation — Nicky [Kaldor], Thomas Balogh, L. K. Jah, Paul Rosenstein-Rodan, the list could be indefinitely extended. The urge to participate (and correct Hayek) was ruthlessly competitive.
    • John Kenneth Galbraith, in "Nicholas Kaldor Remembered", in "Nicholas Kaldor and Mainstream Economics: Confrontation or Convergence?"
  • Sixty-two years ago I spent a year in what is known at Harvard as the other Cambridge. It was then in the high pulse of the Keynesian Revolution. Economic discussion was constant, intense, but London also called; once a week I came up to seminars here at the London School of Economics. A major attraction was Friedrich von Hayek, the noted conservative, author of “A Road to Serfdom,” his widely read analysis of the disastrous but emerging welfare state. He, however, was only slightly heard. The two hours were given over, all but exclusively, to telling him he was wrong. I found myself in support of this correction; it was education by the rebuke of error. (I trust that will not be the tendency on this pleasant and, for me, nostalgic occasion.) Over the years I’ve often presented myself to ardent conservatives as a student of von Hayek; it has added in an agreeable way to their normal confusion.
    • John Kenneth Galbraith, “The Unfinished Business of the Century” (1999)
  • Hayek’s lasting achievement was to focus attention on the limited and fragmented nature of knowledge in modern societies and the need for social and economic theorists to make that the cornerstone of their thinking. Yet in some ways he remained trapped in the rationalism he was so keen to reject. If our reason is so feeble, and if knowledge is necessarily imperfect and dispersed, how do we know this to be true? To make that claim Hayek has to take up the privileged status of observer that he is so critical of in constructivist rationalism. If he were not prepared to do so he could not justify his project of social and economic theory at all. Despite his denunciation of the ills of scientism and constructivism, Hayek is closer to the rationalism he criticizes than he might like to acknowledge.
    • Andrew Gamble, "Hayek on knowledge, economics, and society", in Edward Feser(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • Friedrich A. von Hayek, one of the strongest, and at times one of the few, economic voices advocating the reduction of government's role in the economy, is finally finding himself in the position of a Cassandra who suddenly that discovers people are listening.
    • John M. Geddes, "New Vogue for Critic of Keynes." The New York Times (May 07, 1979)
  • Hayek's work composes a system of ideas, fully as ambitious as the systems of Mill and Marx, but far less vulnerable to criticism than theirs because it is grounded on a philosophically defensible view of the scope and limits of human reason.
  • No-one who knows Hayek's work can doubt that his attempt to restate liberal principles in a form appropriate to the circumstances and temper of the twentieth century has yielded a body of insights wholly comparable in profundity and power with those of his forebears in the classical liberal tradition.
  • At the time of his death, F. A. Hayek was unquestionably the world's preeminent spokesman for classical liberalism and its most important thinker.
    • Ronald Hamowy, "F. A. Hayek, on the Occasion of the Centenary of his Birth", in Cato Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2. (Fall 1999)
  • There were two explanations, and one is that in Hayek and Friedman you had an absolutely marvelous cast—two people, one very bouncy and saucy and cheeky and outspoken, vigorous. This is Friedman. He was always bouncing out with ideas; sometimes they were a bit farfetched. Then you had Hayek, this very correct and rather serious, portly, gracious, slow, rather ponderous-speaking, sometimes thinking what his next sentence is going to be. And they were men unruled by any ambition, not trying to create a party, to get elected, to win votes—any of that. It was an amazing success of upright men of integrity, intellectual brilliance, not flashy, but very impressive to watch them performing over a wide range of topics.
  • It was from Hayek that I began.
    • John Hicks, Money, Interest and Wages (1982), p. 28; on his "Equilibrium and the Cycle" (1933), an influential work on the topics of intertemporal equilibrium, monetary theory, and trade cycle phenomena.
  • Hayek was making us think of the productive process as a process in time, inputs coming before outputs.
  • I did not begin from Keynes: I began from Pareto, and Hayek (footnote 10: There is evidence for this, in the paper 'Equilibrium and the Cycle')
  • If Hayek believes that the spending of newly-printed currency on employment and consumption will worsen our current terrible depression, then Hayek is a nut.
  • The book, as it stands, seems to me to be one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read, with scarcely a sound proposition in it beginning with page 45, and yet it remains a book of some interest, which is likely to leave its mark on the mind of the reader. It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in bedlam.
    • John Maynard Keynes, Collected Works, vol. XII on Hayek's Prices and Production (1931); Hayek provided historical background up to page 45, after that came his theoretical model.
  • I am in full agreement, also, with Dr. Hayek's rebuttal of John Stuart Mill's well-known dictum that "there cannot, in short, be intrinsically a more insignificant thing, in the economy of society, than money," which he expresses admirably in the following passage from his last lecture: "it means also that the task of monetary theory is a much wider one than is commonly assumed; that its task is nothing less than to cover a second time the whole field which is treated by pure theory under the assumption of barter, and to investigate what changes in the conclusions of pure theory are made necessary by the introduction of indirect exchange. The first step towards a solution of this problem is to release monetary theory from the bonds which a too narrow conception of its task has created."
    • John Maynard Keynes, "The Pure Theory of Money : A Reply to Dr. Hayek" § IV, in Economica (November 1931), p. 395
  • I was 25 years old and pursuing my doctorate in economics when I was allowed to spend six months of post-graduate studies in Naples, Italy. I read the Western economic textbooks and also the more general work of people like Hayek. By the time I returned to Czechoslovakia, I had an understanding of the principles of the market. In 1968, I was glad at the political liberalism of the Dubcek Prague Spring, but was very critical of the Third Way they pursued in economics.
    • Václav Klaus, "No Third Way Out: Creating a Capitalist Czechoslovakia" in Reason (June 1990), p. 28
  • What is becoming a scarce resource is any sense of the significance of this welter of information. We are losing the sense of what matters, of the habits of mind that can identify problems and learn from mistakes. Some of this can be traced to a loss of context; abstract ideas are not easily conveyed absent a recognisable embodiment, and the subtext, that which is not said, may be missing. Hayek’s quarrels with Aristotle are of the same character as his conversations with Sir Karl Popper and Milton Friedman: the welcome criticism of peers, those who can recognise the same premisses needed to define a given problem, however they may come to differ over their conclusions. Only now do we begin to realise that something valuable may have been driven from the world when the continuity and tradition of Western civilisation was shattered in the same blows that destroyed unwanted empires. Now in Eastern Europe there is nostalgic talk of the good old days under the Hapsburg empire.
    The evolution of knowledge is inseparable from the evolution of language, and something invaluable is lost when ‘sound bytes’ replace the human voice, heard in face-to-face discussion of mutual concerns. Inflection counts for much, and what is not said can only be recognised when allusion and irony are possible. So Vienna waltzes.
    • Stephen Kresge, "Introduction" in F. A. Hayek, The Trend of Economic Thinking (1991)
  • The most intelligent defender of capitalism today … who has as fine and as powerful a mind as is to be found anywhere.
    • Irving Kristol, in "When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness" — Some Reflections on Capitalism and "The Free Society" in The Public Interest (1970), and Capitalism Today (1971)
  • As a result of the efforts of Hayek, Friedman, and the many others who share their general outlook, the idea of a centrally planned and centrally administered economy, so popular in the 1930s and early 1940s, has been discredited.
    • Irving Kristol, Neoconservatism : The Autobiography of an Idea (1995), Ch. 9 : Capitalism, Socialism, and Nihilism, p. 93
  • Hayek has as fine and as powerful a mind as is to be found anywhere, and [his] "Constitution of Liberty" is one of the most thoughtful works of the last decades.
  • It is in good part because of Professor Hayek's work [on the topic of social engineering], and also because of his profound insights — most notably in "The Constitution of Liberty" — into the connection between a free market, the rule of law, and individual liberty, that you don't hear professors saying today, as they used so glibly to say, that 'we are all socialists now.
  • The central dilemma of Hayek's political philosophy is, given his view of the limited role reason can play in social life, how is it possible to mount a systematic defence of liberalism without falling victim to the very kinds of rationalism he criticises? This difficulty stays unresolved in Hayek’s political thought because it is informed by two incompatible assumptions about what reason can achieve.
    • Chandran Kukathas, Hayek and Modern Liberalism (1990)
  • Hayek’s views should be considered because, in addressing institutional questions, he has not made the mistake of confining the problems of liberalism within national boundaries.
    • Chandran Kukathas, "Hayek and liberalism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • Hayek should be taken seriously because he has correctly identified as the most serious problems confronting civilization in the twentieth century the problems of nationalism and totalitarianism. Even with the dereliction of European communism at the end of the twentieth century, the problems which remain or are reemerging in the shape of ethnic conflict, separatist national movements, and regional trading blocs stem from practices and ideas which the liberal tradition has consistently criticized: ideas hostile to individualist, universalist, and egalitarian moral principles. While thinkers like Hannah Arendt have also recognized the threat and moral danger posed by totalitarianism, it is in Hayek’s work that we have the most thorough attempt to understand the logic of its institutional alternative.
    • Chandran Kukathas, "Hayek and liberalism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • In the 20th century, three world wars facilitated a Communist revolution, a Fascist backlash and the subsequent collapse of both. The weakness of bureaucratic information flows (relative to market-based competitors) undermined Communist economies – a point emphasized by Frederick Hayek, the co-leader (with Murray Rothbard) of the fourth generation Austrian School of Economics. Flows of information and disinformation played pivotal roles in the First, Second and Third (that is, Cold) World Wars.
    • Robert Leeson, Introduction in Hayek: A Collaborative Biography, Part III, Fraud, Fascism and Free Market Religion (2015), edited by Robert Leeson
  • Friedrich Hayek is the twentieth-century social theorist who, probably more than any other, found himself vindicated by events — if not wholly, then at least in his central contention. He is also the one who, more than any other, himself exercised a significant political influence.
    • Michael Lessnoff, in "Political Philosophers of the Twentieth Century" (1999), p. 146
  • Although he is very probably unaware of this book and of my work in general, I want to express a very belated thanks to Friedrich A. Hayek. His work had much more of an influence on me than I realized during the writing of the First Edition [of "The End of Liberalism"] I neither began nor ended as a Hayekist but instead found myself confirming, by process of elimination and discovery, many of his fears about the modern liberal state.
    • Theodore J. Lowi, 'Preface to the Second Edition', in The End of Liberalism (1979), 2nd Edition, p. xiv,
  • It is likely that many modern economists would have no difficulty accepting Hayek's statement of the problem (of macroeconomics) as roughly equivalent to their own. Whether or not this is so, I wish … to argue that it should be so, or that the most rapid progress toward a coherent and useful aggregate economic theory will result from the acceptance of the problem statement as advanced by [Hayek].
    • Robert Lucas, Jr., in "Understanding Business Cycles", in Studies in Business-Cycle Theory (1981), p. 216

M - R[edit]

  • One of the most original and most important ideas advanced by Hayek is the role of the "division of knowledge" in economic society … [But if] I had to single out the area in which Hayek's contributions were the most fundamental and pathbreaking, I would cast my vote for the theory of capital. As I said before, when I reviewed Hayek's book on The Pure Theory of Capital, it is "my sincere conviction that this work contains some of the most penetrating thoughts on the subject that have ever been published." If two achievements may be named, I would add Hayek's contributions to the the theory of economic planning. Most of what has been written on systems analysis, computerized data processing, simulation of market processes, and other techniques of decision-making without the aid of competitive markets, appears shallow and superficial in the light of Hayek's analysis of the 'division of knowledge', its dispersion among masses of people. Information in the minds of millions of people is not available to any central body or any group of decision-makers who have to determine prices, employment, production, and investment but do not have the signals provided by a competitive market mechanism. Most plans for economic reform in the socialist countries seem to be coming closer to the realization that increasing decentralization of decision-making is needed to solve the problems of rational economic planning.
    • Fritz Machlup, in "Hayek's Contribution to Economics", Swedish Journal of Economics, Vol. 76, (December 1974)
  • Hayek’s view that liberty was only instrumentally valuable, and his resultant rejection of a rights-based approach, left him with no basis on which to demarcate the legitimate actions of the state.
    • John Meadowcroft and William Ruger, "Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan: On Public Life, Chile, and the Relationship between Liberty and Democracy", Review of Political Economy (2014)
  • Q. [McCallum] … are there other economists who have had a really major influence on your thinking? A. [Melzer] Well I mentioned Hayek. There are two ways. One is because of my interest in political economy. The other way is that Hayek was a pioneer in the use of information in economics. One of the papers that Karl and I wrote together that I continue to like was a paper called "The Uses of Money". In that paper we tried to incorporate information and the cost of information to explain why people use money. One of Hayek's most basic ideas is that institutions are a way of reducing uncertainty. Man struggles to find institutional arrangements which on average make life a bit more predictable. Our "Uses of Money" is not so much about money as we conventionally think about it, it's about the idea of a medium of exchange, the function of an institution called the medium of exchange and how the medium of exchange as an institution resolves a part of peoples uncertainty about the future.
  • All of this, of course, establishes Hayek's primacy over Hicks in the origin of the notion of intertemporal equilibrium.
    • Murry Milgate, in Capital and Employment : A Study of Keynes's Economics (1982), p. 132
  • If the central contest of the twentieth century has pitted capitalism against socialism, then F. A. Hayek has been its central figure. He helped us to understand why capitalism won by a knockout. It was Hayek who elaborated the basic argument demonstrating that central planning was nothing else but an impoverishing fantasy.
    • Kenneth Minogue, "Giants Refreshed II: The Escape from Serfdom: Friedrich von Hayek and the Restoration of Liberty" in Times Literary Supplement (14 January 2000), p. 11
  • The dilemma of a socialized system is that the information flow overwhelms a centralized system if it is open to new ideas and data, that closing the system and forcing the plan to work forecloses alternatives and risks unhedged mistakes, and that decentralizing without real markets poses the problems discussed by Hayek. These information problems permeate virtually all economic processes.
  • Friedrich A. von Hayek, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, says that on the whole he approves of the economic policy of the Reagan Administration.
    Yet, when he discusses particulars, Professor von Hayek - a conservative who is best known as an unrelenting opponent of Socialism and lesser forms of economic interventionism -sounds less than approving. He applauds the determination in Washington and London to stop inflation but laments that both Governments seek gradual progress. "You have to do it rapidly and drastically," he says.
    • "Business People; A Nobel Winner Assesses Reagan", The New York Times (December 1, 1982)
  • Information costs are reduced by the existence of large numbers of buyers and sellers. Under these conditions, prices embody the same information that would require large search costs by individual buyers and sellers in the absence of an organized market. (footnote 4: The original contributions were those of Hayek (1937 and 1945)).
    • Douglass North, in "Structure and Change in Economic History" (1981), p. 36
  • Regarding social order, Fukuyama writes, "The systematic study of how order, and thus social capital, can emerge in spontaneous and decentralized fashion is one of the most important intellectual developments of the late twentieth century." He correctly attributes the modern origins of this argument to F.A. Hayek, whose pioneering contributions to cognitive science, the study of cultural evolution, and the dynamics of social change put him in the forefront of the most creative scholars of the 20th century. But Hayek's views about the "spontaneity" of social order remain controversial. In their extreme form, they imply that all deliberate efforts to manipulate social order — social engineering — are doomed to failure because the complex nature of our cultural heritage makes a complete understanding of the human condition impossible.
    Hayek was certainly correct that we have, at best, a very imperfect understanding of the human landscape, but "spontaneous" it is not. What distinguishes human evolution from the Darwinian model is the intentionality of the players. The mechanism of variation in evolutionary theory (mutation) is not informed by beliefs about eventual consequences. In contrast, human evolution is guided by the perceptions of the players; their choices (decisions) are made in the light of the theories the actors have, which provide expectations about outcomes.
  • I was very flattered when I once got a note from Hayek saying that he would like to come and talk with me. He had read The Rise of the Western World, and he thought it was a very interesting book. He came to Seattle and spent two days with me. We had a good time and I really enjoyed him. But I wish I had known then what I have learned since, so that I could have appreciated his visit more appropriately. I had never read his stuff on cognitive science in those days. He still seems to me the greatest economist of the twentieth century, and by a long way. If you look for people who really want to try and understand the world, Hayek came closer to that ideal than anybody who has ever lived.
    • Douglass North, in Karen Ilsen Horn (ed.) Roads to Wisdom, Conversations With Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics (2009)
  • Arguably the most influential economist of this century.
    • Tom Peters, as quoted in The American Scholar (1994), p. 324
  • I can testify from personal experience to the immense stimulus and direction which Hayek's migration to this country [Great Britain] gave to economic research in the 1930s, not only in London and economics faculties throughout the United Kingdom, but also in the international world of scholarship.
    • Arnold Plant, in "A Tribute to Hayek — the Rational Persuader" in Economic Age (January-February 1970)
  • I think that I have learned more from you than from any other living thinker, except perhaps Alfred Tarski … but not even excepting Russell.
  • Our intellectual productivity is declining. Still, yours is admirable. You can still lecture (I cannot)....I know that you feel that you cannot do the work you used to do, and although you have told me and others about it, you kept it hidden from your observant friends—even though you complain to them of it, and draw their attention to it....
    But apart from the field of intellectual production, you have done so much for others. There are many former students you have encouraged and helped on their way. And there are many who, like myself, have been helped by you in the most critical stages of their development.
    • Karl Popper, on Friedrich Hayek, in 1974, in Hayek Archive 2-6, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, quoted in Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 15. Karl Popper
  • I have created myself a kind of generational gulf between you and myself. Although you were only 3 years old when I was born, you became, as I now realize, a kind of father figure....[E]ven now, when I am 82, and we have been friends for so many years, you still are! And, strangely enough, you yourself...described your feelings towards me as those towards a young man who has made good.
    • Karl Popper, on Friedrich Hayek, in 1984, in Hacohen, Popper, quoted in Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 15. Karl Popper
  • I should like to mention that I did not know Hayek’s book (The Road to Serfdom) when I wrote mine; in fact, my book was finished about six months before his. All I knew was a little pamphlet “Freedom and the Economic System,” in which he advocates “Planning for Freedom.”...The acknowledgement in my book refers to his practical help rather than to his influence; but since I wrote my book, I have read Hayek’s book (and several excellent articles), and I can only say that I have learned a very great deal from it. A few leftists here in England are in the same position ....Hayek, who I had seen only four or five times before, has been really wonderful to me in his many repeated approaches to various publishers, and I understand from the people here in the School [the London School of Economics] that he is always so. His interest in my book was mainly due to the fact that he too is hoping for a common basis of discussion for socialists and liberals.
    • Karl Popper, on Friedrich Hayek, in 1984, In Notturno, “Popper’s Critique,” quoted in Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 15. Karl Popper
  • Well … I've always been a voracious reader — I have read the economic views of von Mises and Hayek, and … Bastiat … I know about Cobden and Bright in England — and the elimination of the corn laws and so forth, the great burst of economy or prosperity for England that followed.
    • Ronald Reagan, in response to the question "What philosophical thinkers or writers most influenced your conduct as a leader, as a person?" when interviewed by Rowland Evan, in The Reagan Revolution (1981) by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, p. 229
  • I very well remember Hayek's visit to Cambridge on his way to the London School. He expounded his theory and covered a black-board with his triangles. The whole argument, as we could see later, consisted in confusing the current rate of investment with the total stock of capital goods, but we could not make it out at the time.
    • Joan Robinson, Contributions to Modern Economics, Chapter 1, p. 2
  • Hayek's criticisms of market socialism … are for the most part on the mark.
  • While often right and enormously influential, Hayek himself agreed that some of his predictions did not become true.
    • J. Barkley Rosser, "The Road to Serfdom and the world economy: 60 years later", European Journal of Political Economy Vol. 21 (2005)
  • Hayek and Nozick both think that talk of distributive justice is misleading, because it suggests the presence of a distributing person or mechanism; in a developed economy there is no such thing, and in a free society, the attempt to institute such a thing would destroy all freedom. Hayek, however, supports this view with an account of the computational impossibility of deciding what to produce and dis tribute in order to achieve justice, while Nozick is more concerned to emphasize that the state has no right to seize the resources of individuals in order to distribute them according to any principle whatever.
    • Alan Ryan, Introduction in Justice (1993) edited by Alan Ryan

S - Z[edit]

  • The Hayek I met on various occasions – at the LSE, at the University of Chicago, in Stockholm (1945), at Lake Constance-Lindau Nobel summer conferences – definitely bemoaned progressive income taxation, state-provided medical care and retirement pensions, fiat currencies remote from gold and subject to discretionary policy decisions by central bank and treasury agents.
    • Paul A. Samuelson, "A few remembrances of Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992)", Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 69 (2009)
  • Hayek himself gradually identified with classical liberalism in a more specific sense. But it seems to me an open question just where his arguments should lead us. Hayek himself started with socialist concerns and sentiments. He also clearly favored extra-market welfare provision, at least within rich countries, and his Road to Serfdom allows for government to play quite a considerable role. I would have thought that his arguments point us in the direction of ideas that everyone should pay attention to, rather than just offering a positive program for one specific view of politics. At the same time we may find that the kind of structural characteristics that he discerns in our society, and the kind of freedom we need in order to learn, may make certain kinds of otherwise attractive ideals difficult to pursue. They may also, however, make it difficult for us to solve certain other kinds of problem – such as some issues concerned with the environment.
    • Jeremy Shearmur, "Hayek’s politics", in Edward Feser(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • No one has characterized market mechanisms better than Friedrich von Hayek.
    • Herbert Simon in "The Sciences of the Artificial" (1981), p. 41
  • Friedrich Hayek, who died on March 23, 1992 at age 92, was arguably the greatest social scientist of the twentieth century. By the time of his death, his fundamental way of thought had supplanted the system of John Maynard Keynes — his chief intellectual rival of the century — in the battle since the 1930s for the minds of economists and the policies of governments."
    • Julian Simon, in "Hayek's Road Comes to an End" (3 April 1992)
  • [Hayek] became [in his later years] the dominant intellectual influence of the last quarter of the twentieth century.
    • Robert Skidelsky, in a review of Hayek: The Iron Cage of Liberty in The Times Literary Supplement (20 September 1996)
  • Hayek, in my view, is the leading economic thinker of the 20th century.
    • Vernon L. Smith, in "Reflections on Human Action after 50 years", in Cato Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2. (Fall 1999)
  • I first had to discover certain things for myself, and essentially it was the behavior I observed in human subjects in my laboratory study of markets that motivated me eventually to study Hayek seriously. Reading with the eyes of a new mind, I was able to appreciate an enormous depth of understanding in the work of Hayek that would have escaped me if I had not had this personal experience in the laboratory.
    • Vernon L. Smith, "Hayek and experimental economics", The Review of Austrian Economics (2005)
  • Mrs. Hayek, I want you each day in the future to address your husband and inquire what his progress has been in what I consider to be one of the most interesting and intriguing fields, the evolution of the work of scholars.
    • George Stigler, at a going-away party in Hayek’s honor at the University of Chicago in 1962, Hayek Archive 116.10., Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • What's the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today? What I tried to leave my students with is the view that the invisible hand is more powerful than the [un]hidden hand. Things will happen in well-organized efforts without direction, controls, plans. That's the consensus among economists. That's the Hayek legacy.
    • Lawrence Summers, as quoted in "The Commanding Heights : The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace that Is Remaking the Modern World" (1998) by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, p. 150
  • During the following decade [of the 1950's] modern economic history took a dramatic swing away from the liberal-left consensus established by the Hammonds, Tawney and the Webbs. The seminal text for this change of direction was the 1954 collection of essays compiled by F. A. Hayek, "Capitalism and the Historians".
    • Miles Taylor, "The Beginnings of Modern British Social History?" in History Workshop Journal, Vol. 43, (Spring 1997), p. 163
  • Our inspiration was less Rab Butler's Industrial Charter than books like Colm Brogan's anti-socialist satire, Our New Masters … and Hayek's powerful Road to Serfdom, dedicated to 'the socialists of all parties'. Such books not only provided crisp, clear analytical arguments against socialism, demonstrating how its economic theories were connected to the then depressing shortages of our daily lives; but by their wonderful mockery of socialist follies, they also gave us the feeling that the other side simply could not win in the end. That is a vital feeling in politics; it eradicates past defeats and builds future victories. It left a permanent mark on my own political character, making me a long-term optimist for free enterprise and liberty.
  • Adam Smith, the greatest exponent of free enterprise economics till Hayek and Friedman.
  • For Dicey, writing in 1885, and for me reading him some seventy years later, the rule of law still had a very English, or at least Anglo-Saxon, feel to it. It was later, through Hayek's masterpieces "The Constitution of Liberty" and "Law, Legislation and Liberty" that I really came to think this principle as having wider application.
  • All the general propositions favouring freedom I had … imbibed at my father's knee or acquired by candle-end reading of Burke and Hayek .."
  • The key importance of the amount of information available and the frequent lack of relevant information have been dealt with only in the last decades. L. von Mises and F. A. von Hayek can rightly be regarded as pioneers in this connection.
    • Jan Tinbergen, in 1979, as quoted in Recollections of Eminent Economists (1988) by J. A. Kregel, Vol. 1, p. 90
  • The most interesting among the courageous dissenters of the 1980s were the classical liberals, disciples of F. A. Hayek, from whom they had learned about the crucial importance of economic freedom and about the often-ignored conceptual difference between liberalism and democracy.
    • Andrzy Walicki, "Liberalism in Poland" in Critical Review (Winter 1988), p. 9
  • Everyone in Boston of a certain age knows the story of Rosie Ruiz, … Something of the sort has been going on recently with the shade of Friedrich von Hayek.
  • Nearly two decades ago, during dinner with the late Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, I asked him if he had the power to write one law that would get government out of our lives, what would that law be? Hayek replied he'd write a law that read: Whatever Congress does for one American it must do for all Americans. He elaborated: If Congress makes payments to one American for not raising pigs, every American not raising pigs should also receive payments. Obviously, were there to be such a law, there would be reduced capacity for privilege-granting by Congress and less influence-peddling.

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