Friedrich Hayek and dictatorship

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Quotes about Friedrich Hayek and dictatorship

Quotes by Friedrich Hayek[edit]

  • In a nation where there is not yet a tradition of compromise...almost any attempt to put upon the government a great many tasks is bound to lead to dictatorial regimes.
    • New nations and the problem of power, The Listener (November 10, 1960)
  • It would be a body charged with creating that framework of traditional and moral rules which any Western democracy with a long history possesses as a result of its history. Such a background is lacking in these new states and is make government function.
    • New nations and the problem of power, The Listener (November 10, 1960)
  • As dictators themselves have known best at all times, even the most powerful dictatorship crumbles if the support of opinion is withdrawn. This is the reason why dictators are so concerned to manipulate opinion through that control of information which is in their power.
    • Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1 (1973), Ch. 4 : The Changing Concept of Law
  • The various modern authoritarian or dictatorial governments have of course no less proclaimed ‘social justice’ as their chief aim. We have it on the authority of Mr Andrei Sakharov that millions of men in Russia are the victims of a terror that ‘attempts to conceal itself behind the slogan of social justice’.
    • Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 2 (1976), Ch. 9 : ‘Social’ or Distributive Justice
  • 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.
    • Letter to Times of London (1978)
  • Even in a society in which all the different interests were organized as separate closed groups, this would therefore lead merely to a freezing of the existing structure and as a result, to a gradual decline of the economy as it became progressively less adjusted to the changed conditions. It is therefore not true that such a system is unsatisfactory and unjust only so long as not all groups are equally organized. The belief of such authors as G. Myrdal and J. K. Galbraith that the defects of the existing order are only those of a transitory kind which will be remedied when the process of organization is completed, is therefore erroneous. What makes most Western economies still viable is that the organization of interests is yet only partial and incomplete. If it were complete, we would have a deadlock between these organized interests, producing a wholly rigid economic structure which no agreement between the established interests and only the force of some dictatorial power could break.
    • Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 3 (1979), Ch. 15 : Government Policy and the Market
  • I have seen in some South American countries the most extraordinary progress. … In that much condemned country, Chile, the restoration of only economic freedom and not political freedom has led to an economic recovery that is absolutely fantastic. … You can have economic freedom without political freedom, but you cannot have political freedom without economic freedom.
    • quoted in John M. Geddes, "New Vogue for Critic of Keynes." The New York Times (May 07, 1979)
  • I visited Chile some time ago and I found that the country is being governed by members of Friedman's seminar! ... The economic system is working marvelously and the recovery is extraordinary. I did not see the system of political control in enough detail to have a serious opinion about it, but I can say that the economy is much freer in comparison to what it had been for a very long time. I also think that the way in which Chile is covered by the international press is scandalous.
    • Conversation in 1979, published in Diego Pizano, Conversations with Great Economists (2009)
  • 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

Quotes about Hayek and dictatorship[edit]

  • Hayek was not doctrinaire about the importance of political freedom. In a 1979 interview with The Times, he defended the Chilean regime of Augusto Pinochet, which combined political repression with free-market economics, calling the results “absolutely fantastic.” Asked whether this view was inconsistent with his philosophy, Hayek replied, “You can have economic freedom without political freedom, but you cannot have political freedom without economic freedom.”
  • Hayek saw himself as developing a ‘scientific subjectivism’ and a scientific theory of spontaneous social order. If physical scientists can create the physical conditions for molecules to line up spontaneously to form a crystal, why not support a dictator who seems to be willing to impose the scientifically objective social conditions—i.e., Hayek’s rule of law—that shape a liberal market order, with all its attending benefits? If the task of the political philosopher is ‘to show possibilities and consequences of common action, to offer comprehensive aims of policy as a whole which the majority have not yet thought of’, and if the beneficial possibilities and consequences of free markets are held with reasonable certainty, what barriers should be allowed to stand in the way?
  • We gave a number of possible reasons for why Hayek failed to speak out about human rights abuses. Given the string of countries that he visited on his trips (others of which also had authoritarian governments in place with their own human right records), and his visits to confer with former Chilean presidents on his second visit, it may be that he hoped autocratic regimes that practiced what he considered to be sensible economic policies would find a way back to liberal democracy. Constitutional constraints on unlimited democracy might provide the means to do so. Chile had adopted a constitution in 1981 that promised to hold a referendum that would allow a return to democratic elections in 1988. This was just the sort of result for which Hayek hoped. And Chile’s success, after following economic liberalization, set a good example.
    • Bruce Caldwell and Leonidas Montes, "Friedrich Hayek and his Visits to Chile", The Review of Austrian Economics (2014)
  • Hayek is an economic (classical) liberal but a social conservative: a believer in respect for throne and altar. Social conservative Hayek can see Pinochet as a good thing: far better to have an authoritarian state that maintains the conservative moral order, if it can be persuaded to adopt laissez-faire economics, than it is to have a democracy that regulates the economy. Friedman, by contrast, hates and fears a government that prohibits use of recreational drugs in your home almost as much as he hates and fears a government that won't let you undersell your politically-powerful competitors. For Friedman, Pinochet is a bad--an aggressive, powerful military dictator--whose evil the Chicago Boys can curb by persuading him to adopt laissez-faire policies.
  • Hayek says that the problem with classical liberalism was that it was not pure enough. The government needed to restrict itself to establishing the rule of law and to using antitrust to break up monopolies. It was the overreach of the government beyond those limits, via central banking and social democracy, that caused all the trouble. A democratic government needs to limit itself to rule of law and antitrust–and perhaps soup kitchens and shelters. And what if democracy turns out not to produce a government that limits itself to those activities? Then, Hayek says, so much the worse for democracy. A Pinochet is then called for to, in a Lykourgan moment, minimalize the state.
  • Hayek chided the critics of the Chilean junta for their supposed sin of apparent omission: their supposed proclivity to denounce Pinochet without simultaneously roundly condemning dictatorial regimes such as the USSR and North Korea. Again, however, this is not to deny that Hayek himself does appear to provide much support for Pinochet and his economic policies: indeed, much the same charge that Hayek leveled against the international media in 1978 can be readily leveled at Hayek’s own lamentable failure to roundly condemn the legion human rights abuses of any and all dictatorial regimes.
    • Andrew Farrant, Edward McPhail, and Sebastian Berger, "Preventing the “Abuses” of Democracy: Hayek, the “Military Usurper” and Transitional Dictatorship in Chile?", American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 71, No. 3 (July, 2012)
  • Discussion of Hayek’s defense of transitional dictatorship tends to focus, rather narrowly, on his attitude toward the Pinochet regime per se. We have shown that Hayek’s assessment of transitional dictatorial power long predates Pinochet’s military coup in Chile.
    • Andrew Farrant and Edward McPhail, "Can a Dictator Turn a Constitution into a Can-opener? F.A. Hayek and the Alchemy of Transitional Dictatorship in Chile", Review of Political Economy (2014)
  • The Austrians place no value on democracy, recognizing that voters can make choices that undermine their notion of "reason," and therefore a liberal republic should not permit popular sovereignty to override the sanctity of private property and the principles of the minimal state. I recall vividly Hayek (who was a great economist but a poor policy analyst) commenting on the Pinochet overthrow of democratic government in Chile (Pinochet brought a gang of Chicago economists into town to implement the principles of laissez-faire markets, torturing and murdering thousands who had different ideas) commenting that he would prefer a [laissez-faire style] liberal dictatorship to an illiberal democracy.
  • 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. From this it appears to follow that any action of the government could be justified on instrumental grounds—and this, indeed, seems to have been Hayek’s position vis-a-vis Pinochet. While Hayek had a relatively sophisticated theory of transitional dictatorship to justify this position, Friedman’s analysis of the implications of discretionary power for freedom and for effective public policy provides a good basis for rejecting this Hayekian position.
    Hayek’s case should serve as a warning to scholars who pursue careers as public intellectuals that the compromises they make in the public arena may live as long as their more considered contributions to the world of ideas. It should also serve as a warning of the dangers that arise when individual liberty is seen as one value among many, rather than a universal and inviolable principle.
    • 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)
  • Hayek stressed the danger of hubris, of thinking you know more than you do, of imposing your idea of the world on others, and the importance of letting those closest to a problem use their local, tacit knowledge to help resolve it. He should have done the same here: he should have let the Chileans determine the level of their government’s involvement in economic life, using their own democratic means, even if that meant going further along the road towards socialism than he would have preferred.
    • Guinevere Nell, "The Alchemy of the Can Opener: How an Austrian Economist Found Himself Supporting Dictatorial Imposition of a Liberal Order", Review of Political Economy (2014)
  • Hayek’s opposition to organized labour was expressed through his support for dictatorships. … The contemporary erosion of political democracy can be consistently defended from a Hayekian position as necessary for the protection of individual liberty, i.e. private property and limited interference by government in the use of that property. For those who support greater democracy, perhaps it is necessary first to understand how antithetical free market capitalism is to democracy. Private property under capitalism implies ownership of wealth and control over the production of it. Once the production and ownership of wealth is removed from democratic control, its owners can use it as a weapon against those who have opposing visions about how it may be used.
  • Myrdal was certainly committed to democracy, even in developmental contexts, and firmly opposed to empires. Democratic or otherwise, he was highly pessimistic—in retrospect excessively so—about the prospects for international economic development. Hayek had no problem with “transitional” authoritarianism, as in Pinochet’s Chile, with which he was associated. Hayek, an Austrian aristocrat teaching in London, and Myrdal, a Social Democrat who attempted to rally his fellow Swedes against Hitler, were united and defined by their anti-Nazism.
    • Thomas Timberg, “William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts: The Undoubted Merits of Individual Liberty, Individual Initiative and Democracy” (2014)

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