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Hayek's 100th Birth Anniversary



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[Topics under debate]: GOOD GOVERNANCE
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Tomorrow, on the 8th of May, 1999, the world celebrates the 100th birth
anniversary of Hayek. Here is a tribute to him from the Wall Street
Journal. I do believe that Hayek stands tall and resolute among the 20th
century thinkers, and can only hope that we imbibe some of his 'talking
to the people' spirit. Staying in ivory towers was not his forte; and
defending human and economic freedom was his first priority. Many
interpretations of Hayek abound; I prefer to hold on to his analysis of
the price system and 'competitive equilibrium' that is far superior, in
my mind, to the implausible interpretation of these things in many
'standard' graduate textbooks of economics today. All the knowledge of
the 'experts' will in the end, I believe, simply validate the often
descriptive understanding displayed by Hayek in most of his writings.

"Hayek's Revolution", _The Wall Street Journal_, May 7, 1999


"The Good Book tells us that a prophet is not without honor, except in
his own country.  Of no one was this more true than of F.A. Hayek. Born
in Vienna on May 8, 1899, Friedrich August von Hayek would prove himself
the most formidable opponent of the particularly malignant threats to
human freedom spawned in a century his long life tracked so closely.  
Yet despite the ultimate vindication of his work by a Nobel Prize in
1974 and the discrediting of both socialism and Keynes, the man who
predicted it all so very long ago remains largely ignored, at least in
the America that was for some time his home.

Elsewhere on this page Edwin J. Feulner notes that Hayek's pursuit of
truth earned him derision and scorn among his peers.  This is no
coincidence.  He had stung their pride.  Back when the fad for planning
had hit fever pitch -- whether New Deal Democrat or national socialist
-- Hayek exposed not just the faulty economics, but the presumption upon
which the economics itself rested.
 Not for nothing would he entitle one of his books "The Fatal Conceit."

Certainly his enemies understood.  In 1945, Hayek's "The Road to
Serfdom" was kept out of Berlin by the Allies lest it offend the
Soviets, one of the occupying powers.  Mao's China was also quick to ban
his works, though the government did publish restricted, pirate editions
to keep high-ranking cadres abreast of what he was saying; the Chinese
introduction to "The Road to Serfdom" describes it as "full of poison."  
Closer to home, a just-published Modern Library list of the 20th
century's 100 most influential works of nonfiction found room for Rachel
Carson's "Silent Spring" in the top 10, but left Hayek unmentioned.

Hayek's view was that information was too widely distributed to allow
for central planning, and that the attempt to do so would inevitably
lead to coercion.  Understand this, and you understand the link between
economic freedom and political freedom, indeed between liberty and
civilization.  "The conception that government should be guided by
majority opinion," he wrote, "makes sense only if that opinion is
independent of government."  Without property and freedom, there could
be no real independence. Marx understood this too, of course, which is
why he summed up communism not as redistribution of wealth, but the
abolition of private property.

Let out of his bottle, Hayek has proved a potent genie. In Communist
Czechoslovakia, the government ran a Department of Bourgeois Studies as
part of an effort to inoculate its academics against the virus; instead,
a young Vaclav Klaus read Hayek and ended up steering his country toward
freedom's shores in wake of the Velvet Revolution. In the mid-1970s,
when Margaret Thatcher was laying the plans for her revolution, she
thumped down a copy of Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" before a
group of Tory researchers, telling them "this is what we believe." Only
a year ago too in Beijing, a new Chinese translation of "The
Constitution of Liberty" became a best-seller, with a subsequent
conference attracting a veritable Who's Who of Chinese dissidents.

All roads may not lead to Rome.  But on the 100th anniversary of his
birth, it is hard not to notice how many of those seeking the path of
human liberty sooner or later find themselves passing through Hayek's
door."


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