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"This fact in Hayek studies if recognized, would move us beyond what I consider fruitless litmus tests of whether Hayek was a social democratic or a classical liberal."

Good point. What matters is what the ideas actually entail, and not necessarily what Hayek thought they entailed.

Any folks reading Hayek in NYC. Right now I am reading LLL with a few friends.

The things that sucks about reading The Constitution of Liberty instead of Law, Legislation and Liberty is that Hayekians always have to apologize for Hayek. Why not read the clearer, cooler, more inventive and more radical LLL?

It was partly for these reasons that Jerry got chapters of the Constitution of Liberty replaced with Vol. 1 of LLL on the political philosophy comp list at Arizona.

On a side point, I think Hayek was inspired in his "ignorance" case for liberty by John Stuart Mill's defense of free speech and expression in On Liberty. (In fact, I would recommend reading both of these books in succession.) Further, Popper's argument against historicism is clearly in the same world: Future knowledge cannot be gained before its time, etc.

The trick is to have institutions that are abstract enough to permit the flowering of new ideas and the destruction of old without thereby risking the destruction of those institutions themselves. Which institutions are essential and which are not?

The upshot of all this is that "conservatives" who think Hayek is one of their own really don't understand the full implications of what he argued. And, in the spirit of Pete Boettke's remarks, neither did Hayek. Of course, he did know that he was not a conservative.

The only problem with the ignorance argument (not for me, but for people like Hoppe and Block) is that it leaves us without an a priori defense of the libertarian great society.

That said, Constitution of Liberty is one of my least favorite analytical books by Hayek. The book itself might be to blame for the confusion between Hayek and Hayekianism.

I share similar feelings: constitution of liberty is often imprecise and not-persuasive enough, especially the third part (which is his 'applied' theorizing, wich contains basic economic mistakes.)

CoL is a good introduction and a challenging book, but it just doesn't have enough clear/cut arguments in it. It is clear that Hayek didn't recognize (yet) the value of his own theoretical framework. As Hasnass proves in his 'the myth of the rule of law'-article: adherence to the rule of law requires anarchy.

And I do tend to agree that the Hayekian case (given in CoL) just isn't enough to argue for a free society. (But I do not agree with some that the Hayekian framework as such isn't worth pursuing further.)

I agree with Josh. I've always thought that what Rothbard couldn't accept of Hayek's thought is that Hayekian arguments are also valid against Rothbard's institutional constructivism.

Probably that's also the same reason of Rothbard's interpretation of Mises as a hyperrationalist. It is true that Hayek said a similar thing regarding "Socialism", but Mises's works contain various hints against a hyperrationalist interpretation: the apriori may have an evolutionary origin, theories are always incomplete, history is too complex to be reduced to theory (I also tend to interpret Mises 1919 statement regarding the "intellectual division of labor" as an instance of bounded rationality, but I may exagerate :-D).

"The things that sucks about reading The Constitution of Liberty instead of Law, Legislation and Liberty is that Hayekians always have to apologize for Hayek. Why not read the clearer, cooler, more inventive and more radical LLL?"

Awesome comment Kevin. I feel the same way.


I was in the Telluride Association Summer Program at Princeton in 1965 taught by the late Robert Nozick on "The Philosophical Conception of Liberty." The two core readings were John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" and Hayek's _Constitution of Liberty_. Of course this was before LLL was published (and just before Nozick went to Harvard).

Of course I find it amusing to see Pete and others here all embarrassed by some of Hayek's views. Yeah, the old boy was for the government "organizing" health insurance for everybody, oh woeful embarrassing scandal (eeek!).

I agree in substance with Scott and Kevin about the relative merits of LLL and CofL, but the reason to read CofL is that LLL would not exist without it. And there are parts of CofL that I think are better.

Both are tracts of their times. Writing in the 1950s, CofL was as far as Hayek could go. By the 1970s, it was a different story.

Plus, you're both missing Pete's point: If the reason you feel you have to apologize for CofL is that Hayek isn't radical enough, then you're not reading for the implications of the underlying ideas, which are plenty radical. I don't ever feel like I have to apologize for CofL, only that I have to say that Hayek didn't always, as he admitted later in life, see the full implications of his own ideas.

For those who forgot about it, this post of mine makes this point as well: http://austrianeconomists.typepad.com/weblog/2009/12/the-false-dichotomy-of-rothbardian-anarchism-and-hayekian-classical-liberalism.html

Where's the embarrassment Barkley? Pete never says that and neither did I. In fact, I actually like the fact that Hayek's substantive policy positions in CofL are more interventionist than my own. It suggests that there are multiple ways one can go with the underlying analytics, which makes them more interesting and enables better conversations to take place that shift the focus away from policy positions.

Why should anyone interested in Hayek's IDEAS be embarrassed by his policy preference at one time or another? That's Pete's whole point about "Hayekianism" rather than "Hayek": it's about the ideas not the particular views of the man in question, so why would we be "embarrassed" by any of those views?


Well, neither you nor Pete used the word "embarrassed," and Pete makes it clear that he is annoyed by all those "litmus tests" that some have put on Hayek. But we have commentators such as Kevin above complaining about "having to apologize" for Hayek, with Scott chiming in his agreement.

As someone who believes in an informational ontology, the argument from ignorance is extremely persuasive. The elements of a system inherently cannot know anything about the full nature of the system they are in. They can only know about themselves and their local environment. But it turns out that in complex adaptive systems, such local actions coordinate to move the system itself in particular directions. We see this happening in living cells, for example. As it so happens, I also believe in rights -- and I believe in an evolutionary and informational basis for rights. This suggests to me that Hayek's ideas are hardly incompatible with the concept of rights -- at least, negative rights.

What Hayek learned from Wittgenstein only begins to appear at about the same time Hayek finished writing _The Constitution of Liberty_. You see Hayek's theme of culturally learned rule following getting integrated with his idea of "the primacy of the abstract" at this time, and tied to ethics and law and social order in a sophisticated manner.

Hayek's reading of R. S. Peter's 1958 book _The Concept of Motivation_ marks the transition point.

I think Hayek was also "radicalized" intellectually by Mancur Olson's _The Logic of Collective Action_ which Hayek's graduate seminar translated into German in the mid 1960s.

Hayek says he began to rethink things in 1962 -- when he started drafting _Law, Legislation, and Liberty_ after fumbling around with an aborted idea to turn his economic notes of the 1950s into a text on economics (Hayek's 1950s economics notes can be found in the Hoover Archives).

Hayek completed his draft of _Law, Legislation and Liberty_ in 1968.

Hayek says in the introduction to _L, L & L_ that his _Constitution of Liberty_ was an attempt to restate classic liberal idea in contemporary terms.

Hayes says in the same place that his _Law, Legislation and Liberty_ was an attempt to advance his own new ideas and make new addition to the science of social order and political economy of liberty.

Hayek's economic notes of the 1950s provide evidence in support of Hayek's statements that he was originally planning to follow up _The Constitution of Liberty_ with a text on the problems, foundations, and explanatory framework of economic science.

I note that Hayek talked about writing the same text on economics again after completing _Law, Legislation and Liberty_, and fumbled around with it for a year or two before launching his Great Debate / _The Fatal Conceit_ project.

"Hayek's statements that he was originally planning to follow up _The Constitution of Liberty_ with a text on the problems, foundations, and explanatory framework of economic science."

I strongly agree with Pete's distinction between Hayek and Hayekianism. I would amend it with a comment implicit in what has already been said. Hayek himself evolved, as he worked out further the implications of what he had already written.

Hayek also encouraged younger scholars to advance his ideas. He did so in writing in the Preface to Economics as a Coordination Problem. And he did so on multiple conversations with the IHS summer fellows in 1975 and 1977.

This is all interesting to me, as I belong to a book club with a libertarian bent and tomorrow night I have to lead a discussion on Hayek.

Last month, we read "The Price of Everything" and I handed out a few articles - "The Pretense of Knowledge," "The Use of Knowledge in Society," and "The Theory of Complex Phenomena." Well, the group decided that we should discuss those articles this month, and shoe-horned me into leading the discussion.

Researching what I wanted to talk about lead me to read up on Popper and Wittgenstein, and all kinds of stuff that deepened my appreciation for Hayek and what he was trying to do.

I really like the use of ignorance as a path to liberty. While many in our group are big on the natural rights/Rothbardian path, I think Hayek gets us near the same place from a different angle. Anyway, I'm expecting a lively debate.

FWIW, I like the Hayek of CoL just fine, social insurance and all. Josh is right to say that Hayek "leaves us without an a priori defense of the libertarian great society." I view that as a plus, however. It is true that Hayek is all fuzzy edges and no sharp lines. But that way of thinking is the only suitable to the complexity of the social order relative to our limited minds. It is also the only way of thinking consistent with the skepticism and liberalism of David Hume, who favored muddling through over radical reconstruction.

Which comes first, recognition of our ignorance or commitment to liberty? Liberalism is a social theory first and a political program second.

It was partly for these reasons that Jerry got chapters of the Constitution of Liberty replaced with Vol.

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