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Friedrich August von Hayek (May 8, 1899 in Vienna – March 23, 1992 in Freiburg) was an Austrian economist and political philosopher, noted for his defense of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought in the mid-20th century. Widely regarded as one of the most influential members of the Austrian School of economics, he also made significant contributions in the fields of jurisprudence and cognitive science. He shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with ideological rival Gunnar Myrdal and in 1991 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States, “for a lifetime of looking beyond the horizon”. 
Life[edit | edit source]
Hayek was born in Vienna to a Catholic family of prominent intellectuals. He was a distant cousin of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. At the University of Vienna he received doctorates in law and political science in 1921 and 1923 respectively, and he also studied psychology and economics with keen interest. Initially sympathetic to socialism, Hayek's economic thinking was transformed during his student years in Vienna through attending Ludwig von Mises' private seminars along with Fritz Machlup and other young students. He was a student of Friedrich von Wieser.
Hayek worked as a research assistant to Prof. Jeremiah Jenks of New York University from 1923 to 1924. He then served as director of the newly formed Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research before joining the faculty of the London School of Economics at the behest of Lionel Robbins in 1931. Unwilling to return to Austria after its annexation to Nazi Germany, Hayek became a British citizen in 1938, a status he held for the remainder of his life.
In the 1930s Hayek enjoyed a considerable reputation as a leading economic theorist but his models were challenged by followers of John Maynard Keynes who argued for more active government intervention in economic affairs. The debate between the two schools of thought remains unresolved today, with Hayek's position gaining currency since the late 1970s. In 1950 Hayek left the London School of Economics for the University of Chicago, becoming a professor in the Committee on Social Thought (he was not a member of the Economics department). He found himself at Chicago amongst other prominent economists, such as Milton Friedman, but by this time Hayek had turned his interests towards political philosophy and psychology. From 1962 until his retirement in 1968, he was a professor at the University of Freiburg. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Prize for Economics, causing a revival of interest in the Austrian school of economics. In 1984 he was appointed as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on the advice of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his 'services to the study of economics'. Later he was a visiting professor at the University of Salzburg. Hayek died in 1992 in Freiburg, Germany.
Work[edit | edit source]
The economic calculation problem[edit | edit source]
Hayek was one of the leading academic critics of collectivism in the 20th century. Hayek believed that all forms of collectivism (even those theoretically based on voluntary cooperation) could only be maintained by a central authority of some kind. In his popular book, The Road to Serfdom (1944) and in subsequent works, Hayek claimed that socialism required central economic planning and that such planning in turn had a risk of leading towards totalitarianism, because the central authority would have to be endowed with powers that would impact social life as well.
Building on the earlier work of Mises and others, Hayek also argued that in centrally-planned economies an individual or a select group of individuals must determine the distribution of resources, but that these planners will never have enough information to carry out this allocation reliably. The efficient exchange and use of resources, Hayek claimed, can be maintained only through the price mechanism in free markets (see economic calculation problem). In The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945), Hayek argued that the price mechanism serves to share and synchronize local and personal knowledge, allowing society's members to achieve diverse, complicated ends through a principle of spontaneous self-organization. He coined the term catallaxy to describe a "self-organizing system of voluntary co-operation."
In Hayek's view, the central role of the state should be to maintain the rule of law, with as little arbitrary intervention as possible.
Spontaneous order[edit | edit source]
Hayek viewed the free price system, not as a conscious invention (that which is intentionally designed by man), but as spontaneous order, or what is referred to as "that which is the result of human action but not of human design". Thus, Hayek put the price mechanism on the same level as, for example, language. Such thinking led him to speculate on how the human brain could accommodate this evolved behavior. In The Sensory Order (1952), he proposed, independently of Donald Hebb, the connectionist hypothesis that forms the basis of the technology of neural networks and of much of modern neurophysiology.
Hayek attributed the birth of civilization to private property in his book The Fatal Conceit (1988). According to him, price signals are the only possible way to let each economic decision maker communicate tacit knowledge or dispersed knowledge to each other, in order to solve the economic calculation problem.
The business cycle[edit | edit source]
Hayek's writings on capital, money, and the business cycle are widely regarded as his most important contributions to economics. Mises had earlier explained monetary and banking theory in his Theory of Money and Credit (1912), applying the marginal utility principle to the value of money and then proposing a new theory of industrial fluctuations based on the concepts of the British Currency School and the ideas of the Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. Hayek used this body of work as a starting point for his own interpretation of the business cycle, which defended what later become known as the "Austrian business cycle theory". In his Prices and Production (1931) and The Pure Theory of Capital (1941) he explained the origin of the business cycle in terms of central bank credit expansion and its transmission over time in terms of capital misallocation caused by artificially low interest rates.
The "Austrian business cycle theory" has been criticized by advocates of rational expectations and other components of neoclassical economics, who point to the neutrality of money and to the real business cycle theory as providing a sounder understanding of the phenomenon. Hayek, in his 1939 book Profits, Interest and Investment, distanced himself from other theorists of the Austrian School, such as Mises and Rothbard, in beginning to shun the wholly monetary theory of the business cycle in favor of a more eccentric understanding based more on profits than on interest rates. Hayek explicitly notes that most of the more accurate explanations of the business cycle place more emphasis on real instead of nominal variables. He also notes that this more eccentric explanation model of the business cycle which he proposes cannot be wholly reconciled with any specific Austrian theory.
Social and political philosophy[edit | edit source]
While known more as an economist than a philosopher, in the latter half of his career Hayek made a number of contributions to social philosophy and political philosophy, derived largely from his views on the limits of human knowledge, and the role played by his spontaneous order in social institutions. His arguments in favor of a society organized around a market order (in which the apparatus of state is employed solely to secure the peace necessary for a market of free individuals to function) were informed by a moral philosophy derived from epistemological concerns regarding the inherent limits of human knowledge. In his philosophy of science, Hayek was highly critical of what he termed scientism—abuses of the methods of science in the attempt to justify inherently unknowable propositions, particularly in the fields of economics and economic history (see The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies in the Abuse of Reason, 1952). In The Sensory Order: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Theoretical Psychology (1952), he develops his social theory of spontaneous order into a bold philosophy of mind which has recently become the focus of a renewed level of interest within the fields of cognitive science and evolutionary psychology.
Hayek and conservatism[edit | edit source]
Hayek attracted new attention in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of conservative governments in the United States and the United Kingdom. Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative British prime minister from 1979 to 1990, was an outspoken devotée of Hayek's writings. Shortly after Thatcher became Leader of the party, she "reached into her briefcase and took out a book. It was Friedrich von Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. Interrupting [the speaker], she held the book up for all of us to see. 'This', she said sternly, 'is what we believe', and banged Hayek down on the table."  After winning the 1979 election, Thatcher appointed Keith Joseph, the director of the Hayekian Centre for Policy Studies, as her secretary of state for industry in an effort to redirect parliament’s economic strategies. Likewise, some of Ronald Reagan’s economic advisors were friends of Hayek. .
Hayek wrote an essay entitled Why I Am Not a Conservative , (included as an appendix to The Constitution of Liberty) in which he disparaged conservatism for its inability to adapt to changing human realities or to offer a positive political program. His criticism was aimed primarily at European-style conservatism, which has often opposed capitalism as a threat to social stability and traditional values. Hayek identified himself as a classical liberal, but noted that in the United States it had become almost impossible to use "liberal" in the older sense that he gave to the term. In the U.S., Hayek is usually described as a "libertarian", but the denomination that he preferred was "Old Whig" (a phrase borrowed from Edmund Burke).
Influence and recognition[edit | edit source]
By 1947, Hayek was an organizer of the Mont Pelerin Society, a group of classical liberals who sought to oppose what they saw as "socialism" in various areas. In his speech at the 1974 Nobel Prize banquet, Hayek, whose work emphasized the fallibility of individual knowledge about economic and social arrangements, expressed his misgivings about promoting the perception of economics as a strict science on par with physics, chemistry, or medicine (the academic disciplines recognized by the original Nobel Prizes).
While there is some dispute as to the matter of influence, Hayek had a long standing and close friendship with philosopher of science Karl Popper, also from Vienna. In a letter to Hayek in 1944, Popper stated, "I think I have learnt more from you than from any other living thinker, except perhaps Alfred Tarski." (See Hacohen, 2000). Popper dedicated his Conjectures and Refutations to Hayek. For his part, Hayek dedicated a collection of papers, Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, to Popper, and in 1982 said, "...ever since his Logik der Forschung first came out in 1934, I have been a complete adherent to his general theory of methodology." (See Weimer and Palermo, 1982). Their friendship and mutual admiration, however, do not change the fact that there are important differences between their ideas (See Birner, 2001).
Having heavily influenced Margaret Thatcher's economic approach, and some of Ronald Reagan's economic advisors, in the 1990's Hayek became one of the most-respected economists in Eastern Europe. There is a general consensus that his analyses of socialist as well as non-socialist societies were proven prescient by the breakup of communist Eastern Europe.
Hayek's intellectual foundation was based on the ideas of David Hume, Adam Smith and other Scottish thinkers of the 1700s. He had a wide-reaching influence on contemporary economics, politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology and anthropology. Even after his death, Hayek's intellectual presence was noticeable, especially in the universities where he had taught: the London School of Economics, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg.
A number of tributes resulted, many posthumous. A student-run group at the LSE Hayek Society, was established in his honor. At Oxford University, there is also a Hayek Society. The Cato Institute, one of Washington, D.C.'s leading think tanks, named its lower level auditorium after Hayek, who had been a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Cato during his later years.
Selected bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle, 1929.
- Prices and Production, 1931.
- Profits, Interest and Investment: And other essays on the theory of industrial fluctuations, 1939.
- The Road to Serfdom, 1945.
- The Constitution of Liberty, 1960.
- The Fatal Conceit, 1989.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- John Ranelagh, Thatcher's People: An Insider's Account of the Politics, the Power, and the Personalities. 1991
- Muller, Jerry Z. The Mind and the Market. Anchor Books, New York. 2003.
References[edit | edit source]
- Caldwell, Bruce, 2005. Hayek's Challenge : An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek.
- Birner, Jack, 2001, "The mind-body problem and social evolution," CEEL Working Paper 1-02.
- Birner, Hack, and Rudy van Zijp, eds. Hayek: Co-ordination and Evolution: His legacy in philosophy, politics, economics and the history of ideas (1994)
- Ebenstein, Alan O., 2001. Friedrich Hayek: A Biography.
- Gray, John, 1998. Hayek on Liberty.
- Hacohen, Malachi, 2000. Karl Popper: The Formative Years, 1902 – 1945.
- Kasper, Sherryl, 2002, The Revival of Laissez-Faire in American Macroeconomic Theory: A Case Study of Its Pioneers. Chpt. 4.
- Kley, Roland, 1994. Hayek's Social and Political Thought. Oxford Univ. Press.
- Muller, Jerry Z., 2002. The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought. Anchor Books.
- Rosenof, Theodore, 1974, "Freedom, Planning, and Totalitarianism: The Reception of F. A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom," Canadian Review of American Studies.
- Shearmur; Jeremy, 1996. Hayek and after: Hayekian Liberalism as a Research Programme. Routledge.
- Touchie, John, 2005. Hayek and Human Rights: Foundations for a Minimalist Approach to Law. Edward Elgar.
- Weimer, W., and Palermo, D., eds., 1982. Cognition and the Symbolic Processes. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Contains Hayek's essay, "The Sensory Order after 25 Years" with "Discussion."
See also[edit | edit source]
- Chicago School (economics)
- List of Austrian Scientists
- List of Austrians
- Austrian School of economics
- Liberalism in Austria
[edit | edit source]
- The FA Hayek Prophecies - is a never-before-seen interview of FA Hayek. TheHayekProphecies.com
- Bio from the Ludwig von Mises Institute
- The Hayek Scholar's Page
- Hayek's influence on Friesian philosophy
- Official 1974 Nobel Prize page
- Bio and online works on Econlib
- The Road to Serfdom in Five Minutes Hayek's book, as illustrated by Look Magazine, condensed into a 5-minute movie
- Hayek, F. A Directory of links on Hayek from the Open Source Directory
- F A Hayek on the Adam Smith Institute website
- Hayek Bio at hayek.de
- Reason magazine's article on what Hayek might think of gay marriage (describes the conservatism vs. liberalism dispute)
- Information and Economics: A critique of Hayek essay included in the book Towards a New Socialism reviewed by the hayekian Len Brewster
- The economics of information, market socialism and Hayek's legacy
- Hayek and Socialism
- The Market Dynamics of Speculation: Hayekian Market Signals and the Rise of the Culture Industries
- Hayek Links The most extensive list of links on Hayek
- Oxford Hayek Society
- "The Road from Serfdom", interview in Reason by Thomas W. Hazlett
- The Individualist on MSN Spaces
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