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One of the great political works of our time the twentieth century successor to John Stuart Mill's essay 'On Liberty'—Henry Hazlitt NewsweekA reflective often biting commentary on the nature of our society and its dominant thought by one who is passionately opposed to the coercion of human beings by the arbitrary will of others who puts liberty above welfare and is sanguine that greater welfare will thereby ensue—Sidney Hook New York Times Book ReviewIn this classic work Hayek restates the ideals of freedom that he believes have guided and must continue to guide the growth of Western civilization Hayek's book first published in 1960 urges us to clarify our beliefs in today's struggle of political ideologies

10 thoughts on “The Constitution of Liberty

  1. says:

    THE CONSTITUTION OF LIBERTYBy Friedrich A HayekThis is Hayek's magnum opus a long but not too long book that combines his previous studies in economics and political theory to explore the nature of freedom and liberty to answer the eternal uestion What system will deliver the most freedom to the most people? If you are at all familiar with Hayek's thought his answer shouldn't surprise you; he was a true believer in liberal democracy and free markets; a descendant simultaneously of John Locke and Adam Smith What is surprising about this book is his analysis of the contemporary 1960 political scene where Hayek saw very little freedom even in countries that seemed to offer its citizens limitless personal license Hayek's great insight originally made in the Thirties when he was fighting on the anti Keynsian side of the economic denates of the day was that human knowledge was so vast and complex that is was simply impossible for one person or group of people to centralize that knowledge and make use of it in a useful efficient manner Rather knowledge is better spread and utilized when it is dispersed throughout a population so that it is instantly available to those who can best utilize it for the benefit of themselves and the rest of society In Hayek's day and ours apparently the emphasis was on the technocrat who could form a committee and direct society Hayek originally made applied this insight in economics but in this book he moves it to the realm of politics Hayek begins by asking what is the best system for spreading knowledge His answer is that a political system offering liberty and freedom to all is likely to be one in which knowledge is spread most efficiently and uickly because ideas are allowed to spread and evolve organially without any interference from government Thus the dynamism of the American economy is possible because of the freedom guaranteed by its Constitution while socialist and communist countries become economically moribund because knowledge is held to be the proper province of the government and none other The middle part of Constitution is Hayek's analysis of the development of liberty in the west he credits the British and the US with providing the most political and economic liberty to their citizens Under Hayek's analysis the British were the first people whom you could call free although their institutions were not as strong as they could be He sees America's great innovation to be its creation of consitutitional liberty What is truly interesting in this section is his analysis of European approaches to liberty especially in France and Germany While both countries spoke often about liberty and euality both had gone through periods of dicatorship and by Hayek's time were countries marked by strong central governments In Hayek's analysis the reason for this was the strong tradition of bureaucratic government in each country As Hayek puts it the French Revolution may have marked the end of absolute monarchy but the bureaucracies set up by the kings of old continued as if nothing had changed Hayek spends uite a bit of time discussing the development of the German welfare state and the simultaneous encroachment on liberty He spends an inordinate amount of time analyizing the development of administrative law but this is to make the point that the bureaucracy used its procedures to create a sort of separate legal system that eventually weighed heavily upon the freedom of the citizenry The third part of Constitution is Hayek's analysis of contemporary issues such as rent control minimum wage laws state education and the like Hayek is of course in favor of as little government interference in any of these areas That we have not pursued the Hayekian path is obvious But just as obvious should be the realization that there are many people including many who are wealthy and well educated who would rather look to the government for protection rather than look to themselves And the government is always there to give that protection so long as it can dictate the parameters of how its wards shall liveThis is a thought provoking and worthwhile book As Hayek puts it the liberal left ideal of activist central government was and remains the dominant political philosophy in his day and in ours Its promises are seductive to say the least euality social justice protection from life's troubles Now we have a left wing president promising to save us from climate change and offering to deliver free health care Wow is there anything liberalism can't do? It is difficult to make the argument for limited decentralized government because it seems to offer so little we won't do much for you won't rally the troops after all But that's not really the point The Hayekian model is a government that sees its job as protecting liberty and guaranteeing the safety of the citizenry It has been a long time maybe since the Coolidge Administration since a US president saw that as his mission in life If you only want to read one of Hayek's books you should read The Road To Serfdom But once you have finished that remarkable work you'll want to read This should be next on your list

  2. says:

    2020 06 26 I read this book my senior year in college as part of an independent study class I took with the Government Dept chairman Robert Wells at St Lawrence University It is a fantastic book I read most of it again about 12 15 years ago in a fun group called a priori cats If you are interested I can tell you about that group and the name if you contact meOne thing that is a bit uirky but fun is that the book does not deal with the details of a written constitution but rather with the health of a free society think morning constitutional walk type frame of mind Hayek lays out the ideas and parameters for a free society and what are some of the killers to oneI remember he took great care to define his terms something that should be refreshing these days due to the sloppiness or malevolence of those who speak and write without doing soHayek goes into great depth on many issues crucial to this subject It is not an easy book but a greatly rewarding oneHayek is too much of a compromiser on various issues for me I prefer his mentor and older friend from Vienna Ludwig Mises For those interested I recommend Liberalism by Mises But that does NOT mean that I discount this book or most of the important and clear ideas in it On the contrary I highly recommend The Constitution of Liberty

  3. says:

    Hayek's book is one of the crowning achievements in the socialism capitalism debate of the last 100 years It is a deserved classic of liberalism an argument for a market oriented society with all its faultsIt provides a classical liberal defence mostly on utilitarian grounds for a limited government under what he called rule of law the reign of non arbitrary non coercive abstract and general rules that apply to all citizens eually The state although minimal should offer the maximum protection for individual liberty and safeguard the efficient operation of the free market Hayek's system places heavy emphasis on the virtues of private property and the vices of government interventionism especially of the benign and well meaning kind He sees his work as continuing the work of the British Whigs the originators of today's liberalism As we know this Whig lover has inspired many Tories including Thatcher but he has always considered himself a classical liberal rather than a conservative See the last paragraph belowThe Constitution in the name is a pun on the two meanings of the term active and passive A The actively written constitution that safeguards liberty the rule of law; and B the non deliberate passive emergence of liberty out of social evolution via the market forcesThe book traces the history of liberalism in the Anglo Saxon countries from the days of Common Law to the philosophers of early Anglo Scottish liberalism Locke Hume Smith Burke He also traces the way these ideas affected American constitutionalism with its Bill of RightsHe sees the British Common Law tradition with its emphasis on individual liberty as laying the basis for the idea of limiting government action ie chaining sovereign power Such a concern he claims was the guiding principle of 18th 19th centuries liberal politics But due to shifting intellectual currents he puts the blame on Franco Teutonic rationalism and positivism by the 20th Century this tradition of liberalism in its original form had mostly been either forgotten or supplanted by socialist authoritarian and social democratic ideologies with their faith shared by Marxism and social democratic reformism alike on shaping society according to deliberate design The main argument of the book is that we need methods of making sure that government despite being a useful servant should not be granted arbitrary and discretionary powers Hayek argues that such dangerous powers should NEVER be granted to such a powerful monopolizing competition killing institution EVEN if done for all the best intentions and in the service of good sounding causes Indeed we should be wary of using the blunt powers of government with the noble but misguided aim of shaping society according to human will and design ESPECIALLY when faced with the ever present danger of bleeding heart zealousness due to some notion of social justice which may blind our long term interests and cause us to accept mild forms of socialist interventionism into the economy Such interventionism only serves to destroy the basis for a free society A good example of such a danger according to Hayek is the support in the name of egalitarianism for progressive taxation in order to achieve heavy redistributionIf the main obstacle for freedom in the 18th and 19th Centuries used to be the power of sovereign kingship and the police state with its arbitrary and often unlimited powers of discretion in the 20th and 21st Centuries the main obstacle according to Hayek has become the DEMOCRATIC AND BUREAUCRATIC STATE From being the promise of human dignity and infinite progress the welfare state which is the norm in the Western countries has turned into a scourge The welfare state even with its obvious achievements has nearly destroyed the legacy of spontaneous human development replacing dangerous freedom with the promise of an all knowing authority The line of argument is familiar to anyone who has read The Road to SerfdomIndeed even the social democratic proponent of welfare state measures must admit that the current welfare state has everywhere turned into a network of power wielding authorities and a never ending supply of liberty infringing laws Hayek argues the power of the democratic legislature and the power of the bureaucratic committee are JUST AS BAD as the power of say absolute monarchy if not EVEN WORSE because ostensibly based on the will of the people and in the service of higher causes such as social justice which for Hayek is mere babbleHowever despite his reputation Hayek does NOT see the solution as being the complete abolition of democratic sovereignty or even of welfare state measures many of which he supports at least in theory to some extent despite his official protestations Rather he argues that we should strengthen the institutional safeguards of our legal economic and political framework to make sure that our laws do not infringe on the people's basic liberties On top of this Hayek crucially admits that the state may well without infringing on human liberty provide a wide range of social services usually supported by socialists but also many classical liberals including but not limited to social security basic education zoning laws housing rules public parks roads bridges spreading important information supporting universities protecting wildlife reserves etc At this point it becomes clear Hayek is no strict libertarian Whatever you may say about the list this is hardly a minimal state at least of the kind Ayn Rand or Robert Nozick would wantHayek's argumentation is rather circuitous so it becomes difficult to say what his primary argument for the importance of private property accumulation is and on the other hand why he nonetheless accepts a wide range of government activities It is NOT enough to say that he is a typical utilitarian minded classical liberal because this only pushes the uestion back a few arguments a few centuries Hayek's position because of its strong anti rationalism seems to waver between intuitive liberal prejudice and relativistic utilitarianismThe problem is from Hayek's not very precise premises not very precise conseuences will follow In the same book he can claim that social justice is a completely meaningless concept and yet a few pages later without blinking an eye argue that the state probably has a useful role in the name of the public good in a dozen or important fields besides letting the markets operate freely I even think that Hayek's position would be tenable and logical if he had accepted SOME part of the ethical principles of egalitarianism But such principles Hayek recalcitrantly refuses to even consider Thus his anti egalitarianism may seem like a prejudiceAs I see it Hayek's work's has three main problems 1 An excessive distrust of ethical principles other than a Humanist fascination with human freedom and a Puritan fascination with legal orderliness; 2 The wavering argumentation in SIMULTANEOUSLY attacking and defending welfare state institutions he seems to want to have his cake and eat it too ie to destroy the ethical basis of the welfare state and nonetheless to salvage many of its features 3 His shortcomings as a writer and thinker leave his prose to be somewhat repetitive and dry He repeats the same arguments over and over againAll these faults aside the book contains so much scholarship and erudition that the reader is bound to be both enlightened and delighted Hayek's principled criticism of the welfare state and his eually principled defence of limited government under the rule of law are very timely and useful But so is his surprising and forceful defence of the POSITIVE role that government can play in actually making the society a better place for everybody The fact that this is bound to piss off many orthodox libertarians and small government conservatives makes it all the valuable because perhaps it makes them reconsider some of their doctrinaire anti government attitudesIt is my opinion that we should replace the welfare state not with cutthroat capitalism but with something like a mixture of Hayek and the welfare state free market fairness or social liberalism which respects both individual liberty AND the effective minimally coercive role that limited government can play in a free just societyThe resurgence of liberalism in the last couple of decades has shown that the idea of maximizing human freedom is far from dead and buried In order to make this revolution stick Hayek's work should be the Bible or at least one of the Holy Texts for the next decades PS See John Tomasi's book Free Market Fairness to learn about bleeding heart libertarianism See also Milton Friedman's Free to ChoosePPS The book also contains the classic short essay Why I Am Not A Conservative which explains the difference between Whig and Tory mentality or between classical liberalism and a Tea PartyRon Paul Republicanism uite succinctly Hayek's work is in the line of humanists and progressive forces of society against defenders of the status uo Although in essence there is not much difference between his liberalism and much of what passes for economic conservatism in the Anglo Saxon countries We are back at the old uestion was Edmund Burke a conservative or a classical liberal or perhaps an imperfect combination of both?

  4. says:

    ‘Bruce Caldwell in his excellent study of Hayek's social and economic thought has suggested that The Constitution of Liberty most likely constituted a part of Hayek's broader project to respond to the increasingly fashionable view that the application of the methodology of the natural sciences to social phenomena in the form of social planning by a team of experts could in theory solve all problems of human organization This conclusion was predicated on the assumption that the laws of human interaction were analogous to the laws of physics which once uncovered would permit the engineering of social relationships with the same predictability of outcome as obtained with respect to the physical world’‘Hayek begins his analysis of the nature of a free society by attempting to define personal freedom One is free he maintains when one is not coerced And coercion he continues “occurs when one man's actions are made to serve another man's will not for his own but for the other's purpose”26 but only when the possibility of alternative action is open and only when that alternative action serves the other person's desires’‘”The conception of freedom under the law rests on the contention that when we obey laws in the sense of general abstract rules laid down irrespective of their application to us we are not subject to another man's will and are therefore free”’’The recognition that each person has his own scale of values which we ought to respect even if we do not approve of it is part of the conception of the value of the individual personality How we value another person will necessarily depend on what his values are But believing in freedom means that we do not regard ourselves as the ultimate judges of another person's values that we do not feel entitled to prevent him from pursuing ends which we disapprove so long as he does not infringe the eually protected sphere of others”’

  5. says:

    In 1943 Friedrich von Hayek published The Road to Serfdom In this little book he explained how collectivist ie socialist theories and thinking destroy humanity when applied in practice But first this book was of an essay than a clear exposition and second it was focused primarily on economic policy ie the issue of central planning in collectivism So in 1959 Hayek decided to publish another book on the same subject; this time a comprehensive and very broad book spanning than 400 pages This is The Constitution of Liberty I'd like to start my review with mentioning the downsides of The Constitution of Liberty Hayek isn't a gifted writer the subject matter is abstract and dry the topics involved reuire much background knowledge and the scope and hence length of the book is immense Therefore this book cannot be recommended to read for fun; one has to be truly committed to understand Hayek's thoughts in order to read this book In other words if one wants to read an accessible statement against socialism read The Road to SerfdomBut why the four stars? Because The Constitution of Liberty is the bible of liberalism In it Hayek explains all the pros and cons of liberalism; and does so in a much nuanced way than is commonly understood Hayek is commonly seen as one of the founders of the radical neoliberalism movement of the 1970's and 1980'sHayek's message can be summarized in a few sentences Liberalism sees individual freedom as the guiding principle for politics and ethics Making it specific liberalism strives to minimize coercion and violence in the personal sphere Basically this individual freedom can only be accomplished if two conditions are established First the rights of the individual which centre around life and property should be limited only insofar as the freedom of some individual limits the freedom of life and property of some other individual In other words one should be free of violence and coercion This is as radical as liberalism can get Second there has to be a coercive power that enforces this liberalism on society the state The state translates the coercive restrictions into general laws according to the guiding principle of individualism Hence the state is subject to the same principles as the people; this is penned down in a constitution This therefore is the only legitimate form of coercion with in a society and its legitimacy lies in the fact that 1 even the enforcer ie the state is subject to it and 2 it is general ie not particular or arbitrary in natureSo the state as well as the people are subject to the consitution which is itself based on the principles of liberty and individualism The state legislates according to these principles and the laws it makes take the form of general laws ie no arbitrariness The state is checked by the judicial power; each citizen is eual before the law and in hisher dealings with the stateOne thing has to be remarked here Hayek promotes liberalism ie radical individual freedom not democracy Democracy is only a means of government; type of government is not that important when dealing with the limits of government as such Of course when compared to monarchy aristocracy or tiranny democracy is the best type of government It ensures the channeling of the opinions of the people into policy and law but democracy is no sinecureAs a matter of fact democracy can be viewed as an enemy of indiviual freedom Democracy slides easily into the rule of the majority but this is opposed to individual freedom One only has to look at Hitler's rise to power via democracy to get Hayek's point Only a constitution that garantuees the freedom of individual people independent of current majority opinions is the solution to tiranny and oppression As Hayek mentions himself a constitution is a prereuisite for a functioning democracy; without it oppression and hence stagnation and decline will followThe principle of individual freedom is not only applied to ethics and rights but importantly Hayek also applies it to economics There has to be a free market to allocate to each his own Only individual freedom will ensure that the laws of supply and demand will funtion You decide how and if you want to earn your money and how to spend it This in effect is the translation of human desires into economics Of course this will lead to ineuality but at least it's ineuality based primarily on merit According to Hayek all other systems especially socialism presuppose an all knowing authority who will redistribute the wealth of a society All redistribution presupposes norms and standards; and all norms and standards are as varied as there are people In other words there will by definition be no consensus on redistribution leading to favoritsm and arbitrariness and destroying the incentives for individual people to better their lifesIn a free market ie radical individual freedom Hayek says the economic elite will because of their better position pave the way technologically socially and culturally for the betterment of the rest of society In other words the economic elite will spend their money on new fashions and technologies and thereby make the products over time cheaper so the rest of society can benefit According to Hayek if you take away the ineuality in society for example by applying collectivism you will put a brake on development and society will suffer as a whole This economic liberalism shows interesting parallels with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection Evolution happens because individuals differ from each other in traits and characteristics; the most suited will procreate at the cost of the rest of the population; since these successful traits are inherited by offspring these traits will spread numerically in populations gradually changing populations and thereby species over eons of timeWhy the comparison? According to Hayek society needs progress since stagnation or decline will lead to immense suffering wars starvation diseases etc Progress can only happen if their is money to make it happen If everybody earns the same amount their is not enough surplus money to spend on innovation and technology the drivers of economic progress Hence ecnomic progress feeds on economic ineuality like evolution feeds on biological inealityBut here the parallel stops It is important to realize that Hayek describes the mechanism he doesn't promote it and he certainly is no radical libertarian who only sees safety and order as the tasks of a very small government Hayek even says there is a role for the government to ensure a just economic game the government should promote competition and prevent monopolies if at all and other un economical trends of the free market Hayek goes even further and says it is absolutely possible for a government to ensure all of its citizens ie the unlucky ones a minimum level of subsistence and protection This minimum over can be decided democratically Hayek only points out that the egalitarian society becomes the it costs the society in terms of progress and hence an increase of suffering There has to be a balance between freedom and humanity preferably democratically decided I stress Hayek's point because he is often cited as being one of the founding fathers of modern neoliberalism or even libertarianism This is simply untrue and it doesn't help in serious debates if there is a deliberate? misrepresentation of Hayek's points It is a common strategy of scare tactics used by so called progressives to lure the masses into believing that liberalism and capitalism are bad or even the same thing So to sum up all of the above we need individual freedom economically and politically This principle of freedom has to be translated into a constitution which limit and guides government in making general laws and citizens in obeying the law The a government tries to promote radical egaliterianism the the government will encroach on and endanger the individual freedom of its citizens In that sense social welfare is a clear and present danger to society The road to hell is paved with good intentions and Hayek uses the third part of his book to apply his principle of liberalism to social issues of the welfare state like trade unions social security monetary planning etcSocial welfare has to be viewed as a democratic compromise to ensure citizens a minum level of subsistence This is not an argument against social welfare but an argument for carefully weighing the importance of freedom and the importance of helping those who need it Freedom is not buying all you want freedom is deciding as far as possible over your own life When it comes to social welfare we need to be careful about centralizing this in the national government which tends to grow unlimited in power We also need to be very careful about progressive taxation as a principle Hayek convincingly argues that progressive taxation can be used for ever increasing taxes This is dangerous according to Hayek because it is based on emotion is ineffective in alleviating the poor and is a threat to the progression of society It is better to agree on a minimum of subsistence and leave social welfare to local politics for example townships which are much less prone to usurping power and dominating society For the 'progressives' among us Hayek argues that a decentralized system of social welfare albeit one that purely caters to the needy is fully compatible with a society based on liberal principles ie preventing coercion of and violence to individualsLiberalism needs ineuality but it is an illusion to think that alternative systems like socialism or facism do away with ineuality A strong case can be made as Hayek does that liberalism is the system that offers the best system for society as a whole At least liberalism is the only political system that makes ineuality random ie based on individual characteristics instead of arbitrary ie based on the relationship between individual and ruler In that sense liberalism to paraphrase Churchill is the worst political system possible except all the rest that have been triedI think anno 2017 The Constitution of Liberty should be mandatory reading for schoolchildren We see the hun for radical euality all around us Genders are said to be constructs sexuality is declared to be preference unwelcome political ideas are told to be facism traditional cultural values are proclaimed to be boursgious oppression etc The progressives who ironically call themselves left liberals are a threat to the existence of Western culture as we know it They promote radical euality and declare biological and cultural differences to be non existent In other words every individual should be forced to be the same This is marxism 20 applied to culture cultural marxism and I cannot help but wonder if these spoiled brats they are mostly young students have any historical insight Hence my plea to make Hayek's works mandatory reading it would do well to remember ourselves the importance of individual freedom its conseuent ineualities and the dangers that threaten it This realization will let us make informed decisions about how to conuer ineuality and promote a better world without falling into the same traps as our ancestors After writing this review I'd like to add a personal remark I consider myself a liberal and I value much of what Hayek argues I agree on liberalism as a principle for society and I even agree on the totalitarian tendency of government any government that is built on social engineering Nevertheless I have personal problems with liberalism's underlying assumption of humanity Hayek's system looks from a rational point of view perfect; yet I see serious humanitarian problems with his systemScience has progressed a lot ever since the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century Not only do we know about the universe we live in we know a lot about ourselves Neuroscience and psychology and much else tell us that we are not the rational beings that liberalism presupposes even so called rational thinkers cannot deny David Hume's conclusion reason is a slave of the passionsIt is common knowledge that we share a common ancestor with chimpanzee's and bonobo's Most of our current psychological functions and feelings have been shaped by the process of evolution by natural selection A human being is primarily primed to save his own skin and to look out for number one; there is only a small circle of relatives family and friends for which we care less Also we use our emotions to guide our actions; without feeling there's no incentive to ever do somethingLiberalism especially in combination with capitalism pushes our worst buttons It incentivizes us to compete with the rest endlessly if necessary and because ineuality is inevitable it leads us to envy the success of others This sets us up for social problems We cannot deny these feelings; they exist and have to be dealt with one way or anotherHence we do not accept the 10% of the population owning 90% of the capital leaving the remaining 90% to fend for themselves This is injustice in our eyes and only the people belonging to the 10% or the ones aspiring to get there will accept this state of economics as a status uo For most of us the 90% we feel resentment and unfairness How is someone able to buy an umteenth car while my neighbor cannot pay his medical bills? This is only a logical outcome of our biological make up but it's something radical liberals tend to overlook or ignoreNot all people are eual and these biological differences in euality have a practical outcome some earn than others So far all is good But some people will not be able to fend for themselves while others will be visited by disasters or bad luck It is easy to accept this until it happens to you or someone you care about At that moment you expect them to be helped This is also a logical outcome of our biological make up and it too is overlookd or ignored by most liberalsSo I will make a bold assertion and claim there is absolutely no evidence that in a fully functioning free market and liberal society suffering is less than in a socialist or any other society There will be just different winners and losers If you look at the World Happiness Index as an example you'll see the most happy and happiest people living in Scandinavian countries countries with a huge social welfare system and a heavy redistribution of wealth These same countries are among the most competitive economies of the world and are relatively speaking richSo the countries with the most intense redistributive mechanisms contain the most happy and happiest people in Earth Is this a paradox? Only if you adhere rigidly to Hayek's system Once you take into account human nature the paradox resolves We do not like to see suffering in our streets and we certainly don't like to see our family and friends being treated unfairly or left to themselves in times of despair In the end most of us want a safe happy and fulfilled life And to ensure that the maximum amount of people lead such lives one reuires the redistribution of wealth Human beings are not rational robots they have feelings feelings that are not calculated in rigidly applied liberalismHence I'd advocate liberalism but policies have to be scientifically informed and with the aim of maximizing the alleviation of suffering And NOT to aim at preventing people becoming rich or climbing in society We establish a certain minimum of health care and security higher than in a radical liberalist society but above this anything goesOf course one could argue among the following lines In a fully functioning liberal society people can use their money to help their friends and family so the need for a system of social welfare is non existent This a much heard objection but not such a serious one First there are many people who don't have friends or family who are willing or able to care for them This includes people who due to their psychological make up ie mental diseases and such cannot establish social relations Second along similar lines not all people are able to pay in order to help the people they care about Third capitalism has led to the accumulation of masses of people in the cities destroying the old family and regional networks There is no bond between the city dwellers that will make sure that people donate money to help complete strangers So far the practical very real arguments the fourth is a moral one The rich or those that are becoming rich have profited from the social capital that was built by preceding generations For example they can earn money because they enjoyed a decent education This creates a moral obligation to uphold these institutions If not then these people may legitimately be labeled parasites and hence the society as a whole has no obligation towards themThe last argument is not so much practical or moral but an inductive one There is absolutely no evidence that rich people care for poor people In other words a historical induction leads us to observe that Hayek's arguments on this point are not valid But let us grant him this point Even then we would trade in a system of relative objectivity for one of complete arbitrariness Now the law decides who gets what help; in a fully liberal society it is up to the whims of the rich who gets what This cannot function as a stable system of society So in general I do agree with Hayek on most of his points In his economics there is a serious flaw it uses an idealized conceptions of a human being Hence radical free market politics will not work in practice; people have feelings of envy of hate of suffering of justice etc Only a system that recognizes these feelings not bows to these feelings will workIn that sense contemporary neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris might have a solution In The Moral Landscape he argues on the basis of the scientific knowledge of what makes us happy and what makes us suffer to develop an ethics that caters to these human traits If we extrapolate his ethical system to economics we could argue for an economic policy that ensures the greatest happiness and the least suffering for society as a whole In other words we should make informed economic decisions on how to alleviate suffering as much as possible This doesn't reuire the need for a totalitarian government; it can be democratically decided and applied in a decentralized way At least it sounds to me much realistic than Hayek's system

  6. says:

    An Exposition Of A Theory Of LibertyHayek's The Constitution of Liberty is a comprehensive work of political philosophy It sets forth defends and applies an important view of the nature of human liberty government and economics that is worth considering at the least and that has much to commend it The book is carefully written and argued with extensive and substantive footnotes and with an analytical table of contents that is useful in following the details of the argument The book is highly erudite It is also passionately argued Hayek believed he had an important message to conveyHayek states his theory in part I of this book titled The Value of Freedom He seeks to explore the nature of the ideal of freedom liberty and to explain why this ideal is valuable and worth pursuing He finds the nature of freedom in the absence of coercion on a person by another person or group He argues that in giving the broadest scope of action to each individual society will benefit in ways that cannot be foreseen in advance or planned and each person will be allowed to develop his or her capacities Hayek summarizes his views near the end of his book The ultimate aim of freedom is the enlargement of those capacities in which man surpasses his ancestors and to which each generation must endeavor to add its share its share in the growth of knowledge and the gradual advance of moral and aesthetic beliefs where no superior must be allowed to enforce one set of views of what is right or good and where only further experience can decide what should prevailThe book focuses on issues of economic freedom and on the value of the competitive market Hayek has been influenced by writers such as David Hume Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill in On LibertyPart II of the book discusses the role of the State in preserving liberty It develops a view of law which sees its value in promoting the exercise of individual liberty The approach is historic Hayek discusses with great sympathy the development of the common law and of American constitutionalism particularly as exemplified by James MadisonIn Part III of the book Hayek applies his ideas about the proper role of government in allowing the exercise of individual liberty to various components of the modern welfare state Each of the chapters is short and suggestive rather than comprehensive Hayek relies on technical economic analysis and on his understanding of economic theory as well as on his philosophical commitments in his discussion What is striking about Hayek's approach is his openness sometimes to the point of possible inconsistency with his philosophical arguments He tries in several of his chapters to show how various aspects of the modern welfare state present threats to liberty in the manner in which he has defined liberty But he is much favorably inclined to some aspects of these programs than are some people and on occasion he waffles This is the sign of a thoughtful mind principled but undoctrinaireI think there is much to be learned from Hayek He probably deserves of a hearing than he gets For a nonspecialist returning to a book such as this after a long time off it is good to think of other positions which differ from Hayek's in order to consider what he has to say and to place it in context For example in an essay called Liberty and Liberalism in his Taking Rights Seriously 1977 the American legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin discusses Mill's On Liberty with a reference to Hayek Dworkin argues that for Mill liberty meant not the absence of coercion but rather personal independence Mill was distinguishing between personal rights and economic rights according to Dworkin Thus Dworkin would claim that Hayek overemphasizes the value of competitiveness and lack of state economic regulation in the development of Hayek's concept of libertyThe British political thinker Isaiah Berlin seems to suggest to me as I read Hayek's argument that there are other human goods in addition to liberty as Hayek defines liberty Further Hayek does not establish that liberty as he understands it is always the ultimate human good to which others must give place It may often be that good but there may also be circumstances in which other goods should be given a preeminent role when human well being is at issue In thinking about Hayek it would also be useful to understand and to assess his concept of liberty by comparing and contrasting his approach to that of John Rawls in his A Theory of JusticeHayek's book is important thought provoking and valuable Probably no writer of a book of political philosophy can be asked for It deserves to be read and pondered It has much to teach both where it may persuade the reader and where it encourages the reader to explore competing ideasRobin Friedman

  7. says:

    I forced myself to read it and it was not a pleasant experience First it is boring Unless you support exactly the same ideology than Hayek you will very soon be aware that the author does not try to be funny or witty and that he has the same relation with his dogma than the Spanish Inuisition had with CatholicismBeyond that a good example of the nonsense he defends is when he tries to justify ineuality He says for instance that the consumption of the rich is what drives innovation because the rich can pay for expensive things and it would be a necessary step between an idea for an invention and the mass production of this invention except one little thing in reality it is not true of course As a list of inventions can easily demonstrate governmental organizations followed by the middle class were actually the most common by far investors in the first steps of what we use in our day to day life computer British and American armies internet American and European public research centers most medical inventions and discoveries hospitals and universities financed by the government and the middle class photography cinema plane French and American middle class with some subsidies mobile phone American government car German middle class microwave oven the allies during WW II etcSo it is an authoritative and boring book that defends ideas that would lead to a plutocracy Well

  8. says:

    This is best non fiction book I've read Absolutely incredible Hayek is difficult to read but once you get into it his language is beautiful and most directHe explains WHAT liberty is and shows that most people across history and nations actually have rejected true liberty duh He explain WHAT liberty DOES Thus he shows WHY we want liberty So if we know why we want liberty then we have a reason to stand up for itHe explains the concept of spontaneous order He also contrasts the two disparate theories of liberty and democracy The French version you can learn about especially in Cambridge MA or at any university or public school It is about human instigated planning of society and popular democracy He decries this sort of liberty and sides with British liberty that is about trial and error haphazard evolution of good institutions and getting rid of bad institutions It is the opposite of state planning it is the free marketThe free market is certain a necessary outcome of liberty and he discusses this as wellRumor has it that Margaret Thatcher threw this book on the table at one of her first meetings when she was selected as Prime Minister and she said THIS is what we believe I have to concur with Margaret this is what I believe as well

  9. says:

    The Constitution of Liberty is often considered the second magnum opus of Hayek after Road to Serfdom Although it is not as widely read as The Fatal Conceit and The Road to Serfdom it is nonetheless one of the most important contributions of the great intellectual perhaps even surpassing the former Probably one of the reasons for the lesser popularity enjoyed by the book is its size and comparatively drier prose The book is written in a style which is not characteristic of the usual Hayek and lacks his tongue in cheek remarks directed against those whom he opposes The style adapted here also lacks the usual sentimental spirit that one can identify in Hayek when he speaks of Liberty However in the introduction to the book he admits that he has tried to conduct the discussion in as sober a spirit as possible keeping in mind the objective he wishes to achieve with this book Be that as it may his reasoning is as authoritative his arguments as methodical and his attacks as vicious as always The book is divided in three parts each consisting of eight chapters The first part largely relates to political philosophy the second to legal philosophy and the third to the economic The general theme that runs across these parts is of course the idea of liberty or freedom The amount of labor put in this work is clear from the volume of works that he has referred to Indeed this book almost entirely contains all that had been and could be said about the principles of liberty by 1960 Moreover even though Hayek had a comparative advantage in Economics the part of this work which relates to Political Science and Philosophy are as careful and perspicacious as that which relates to economics And indeed his insights on the Economic issues are robust to the current state of affairs in the subject even after 60 years One can admit that at certain points Hayek's personal views betray sexism elitism or even homophobia on his part but his dedication to liberty vindicates him of these charges in that despite holding such views he would never promote them in a society since they are against the very principles of liberty A careful reading of this work would also convince others that he is not as radical or impractical as he is often declared to be Unlike the ideas of Robert Nozick Murray Rothbard and even Milton Friedman among others the conception of an ideal society which Hayek puts forth here does sound achievable On a final note however I do believe that Hayek conveniently sidesteps on the violations of the principles of liberty committed by the colonists against the natives both in Asian countries as well as in America He keeps on reminding us the contributions of America and England to the movement of liberty but misses out on some of the most gruesome infringements committed by these very communities against several native populations

  10. says:

    Hayek has gotten a lot of press lately; some of it from corners of the media world that are uit a bit um colorful than he would himself appreciate Most of his renewed popularity surrounds his first major political tract The Road to Serfdom written in 1943 which I read 8 or 9 years ago While that was an important work it suffered I think from somewhat leaden prose and a reactive view of developments in the world a that time especially in Germany and Britain I liked the message but didn't really enjoy the readThe Constitution of Liberty on the other hand is a much readable work as political philosophy goes It's highly positive in its arguments laying out a carefully constructed argument in favor of freedom and restricted government Hayek is eminently reasonable unlike for example Ayn Rand who was much strident and dismissive of alternative viewpoints even if they only deviated slightly from her own The book is divided into 3 parts The first section defines freedom in a careful and limited way so as not to leave any doubt that Hayek's main concern is the exercise of arbitrary coercive power by one person over another He distinguishes his view form the anarchic strains of libertarianism a term he disliked as well as the hyper rationalistic versions he makes a strong case for the basic insight that reason as we know it at any given point in time is the product of our culture and environment and does not exist outside of a specific societal context This means that radical movements seeking to tear down a traditional society and reconstruct society along rational lines tend to meet a problematic fate see France 1793; Russia 1917; China 1949; etc However he concerns himself primarily with expounding the benefits of freedom and the need for restraint of authority over the lives and actions of individuals primarily from a moral point of view The next section deals primarily with the rule of law and the interactions of the legal system with a free state There is uite a lot of interesting history here including a uick overview of the evolution of the Rechtsstaat in Prussia that was killed in the cradle by Bismarck and a well developed analysis of what does and does not ualify as the Rule of Law The third part was the hardest to get through and in some ways the most anachronistic for a modern reader the book was written in 1960 after all but still worth the effort This section concerned itself with the modern welfare state and the ways in which Hayek's concept of freedom and the rule of law could still be compatible with many of the aims of the welfare state but seldom are The chapters in this section deal primarily with specific areas of policy such as taxation social security agriculture and education policies I suppose I found this applied section difficult to read than the abstract portions of the book because I'm already familiar with most of the basic arguments and thus found much of it to be old news though it wasn't at the time I assure you However there were still illuminating ideas and there was an interesting tone suffusing this section that evoked the very isolated feeling libertarian minded thinkers felt during the fifties Ultimately this book makes a sensible non hysterical case for freedom and limited government while reassuringly pointing out that the philosophical case for freedom and the rule of law does not have to exclude the possibility of societal solutions for the poor and downtrodden It's no page turner but the message is worth the time and effort