May 8, 1899 is Hayek's birthdate. Gerald O'Driscoll has a nice piece at Investor's Business Daily on the staying power of Hayek's intellectual achievement at 115 years and counting.
One of my great sources of intellectual fun I have had lately is soaking and poking in the Buchanan archives. This archive is a treasure and provides a fascinating gateway to the world of post-WWII reconstruction of political economy. Buchanan's correspondence is fascinating, but the archive also has his class notes from his student days (he took price theory from Knight and 2 sections from Friedman), and drafts of papers (that later became major papers of his) as well as unpublished talks that he gave over the years. One of those unpublished talks is a tribute to Hayek delivered on February 15, 1979 in Miami. Buchanan in this talk stressed Hayek's years in the intellectual wilderness and the great courage that he showed in his quest to understand human affairs. As Buchanan put it, we must remember that Hayek alone stood against the emergence of macroeconomics and stressed the microeconomic aspects of inflationary finance. Hayek the coordination theorist stood against the "Keynesian simplisms" and after the breakdown of the Keynesian hegemony in the 1970s, Buchanan argues there is no alternative theory of business cycles that deserves our respect as economists except for Hayek's relative price distortion theory of discoordination.
Buchanan doesn't stop there, but instead moves to Hayek's work on the problems of socialism, and the institutional structure of the liberal order that Hayek develops in The Constitution of Liberty and Law, Legislation and Liberty. Hayek's career demonstrates, Buchanan argues, the power of ideas, and the importance of independent sources of funding in the social sciences and humanities. Without those independent sources of funding --- that were concerned with basic research and not only day-to-day public policy questions --- Hayek would have met almost insurmountable resistence to his ideas, and would have found it impossible to maintain his career during the "lean years" of the Keynesian hegemony. But he survived those lean years, as Buchanan puts it, with "intellectual integrity and courage" and the time lapse between 1949 and 1979 Buchanan conjectures must seemed to Professor Hayek far more distant than 3 decades! To those lonely investors in Hayek's ideas in the 1940s and 1950s, Buchanan assures them, your investment has paid off handsomely. Those meagre resources would have surely been squandered if at the time the foundations and individuals would have demanded that the resources be spent on policy relevant research rather than on basic research as what Hayek engaged in.
This is the important lesson says we must draw from Hayek's example of intellectual integrity and courage -- focus on what is important, not what is fashionable. The important battle ground is in the realm of ideas, not contemporary public policy. And then comes his bottom line:
The diverse approaches of intersecting "schools" must be the bases of conciliation, not conflict. We must "marry" the property rights, the law and economics, the public choice, and Austrian-subjectivist approaches. And we must continue to secure the independent and external financial support to ward off threats from the academic enemies within our institutions. Let us jointly resolve, those of us who labor in the academic vineyards, and those of us who provide support, that the Hayek's of the late 20th century and 21st century will, never again, be forced to endure the lean years that Professor Hayek suffered.
On this Hayek's 115th birthday, I think Buchanan's suggestion for an integrated political economy and his resolution about what we stand for in the world of ideas strikes the right cord of celebration of Hayek and his work, and our way forward as we take Hayek's legacy in ever new and fresh directions.