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Hayekians vs. Libertarians



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[Topics under debate]: GOOD GOVERNANCE
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This piece was so cogent that I thought I'd send it in. I firmly
believe, along with Hayek (as per this interpretation)  in debating and
letting the society choose. No impositions. No claims to perfect
knowledge. We need to debate and expand civil society and citizen
self-responsibility and let consensus build over time.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 17:57:25 -0400
From: Karun Philip <philip@imaginetechnologies.com>
To: HAYEK-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU
Subject: Re: [HAYEK-L:] Hayek as free enterpriser: reply to critics

I would tend to agree with Walter's contention that Hayek was not a
Libertarian, and that the distinction is important. The core of Hayek is his
concept of knowledge discovery and the human mind, from which he derives all
his views. For a Hayekian, Truth does not constitute Knowledge until it becomes
embedded in the minds of a large enough number of people. So even if the ideas
of Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists are correct, Hayekians would consider
it useless for a small elite to suddenly impose a change in laws in order to
construct a truly Libertarian society. Hayek clearly thought that dictatorial
rule by a small elite, even if guided by good intentions, would lead to a far
worse travesty of individual liberty than what currently can be seen occurring
in our pork-barrel democracies (Ref: The Constitution of Liberty, sections
defending democracy) because, ultimately, we are all human and no one have
perfect knowledge.

The main difference between Hayekians and Libertarians / Anarcho-Capitalists
seems to  be that Hayekians would view zero-government as an ideal goal that we
can progress toward only by participation in civil society to convince a
sufficient number of people that zero-government is worth supporting -- though
in the process we may get convinced to modify our own views. "True"
Libertarians, including Ayn Rand, would probably believe that they should have
their liberty and they should have it now, whether others are convinced or not.
The problem with the latter is that it is not clear what means should be used
to construct their alternate reality. They also do not help advance the cause
of liberty by vituperative attacks on those who do not readily agree with them
rather than engaging in mutually respectful debate. Fortunately, a significant
number of modern self-described libertarians (without the capital L) are more
Hayekian than Rand.

The example in my essay on Knowledge Theory & Regulating Free Markets
(http://www.k-capital.com/KT1.html) of privatizing the FDA illustrates a point
which highlights the difference. If the FDA was privatized and free competition
in drug approval was allowed suddenly, there is a risk of loss of life due to
bad drugs that slip through. I personally believe that free competition in drug
approval will eventually be much more effective than government monopoly on it.
However, the  American consumer does not realize that they have been
molly-coddled by the FDA for a long time. They have the "Knowledge" that if a
drug is available in the drugstore it must be safe. A pre-requisite for
privatizing drug approval would be for consumers to realize they now must take
responsibility for their choice of drug. Hence, it is up to the American people
to democratically decide if, when, and how the FDA should be privatized. In
fact, the process of democratically discussing the issue will tend to spread
the new Knowledge that consumers must take responsibility for their choice. So
by the time civil society decides to privatize the FDA, the new Knowledge will
be pervasive, and the change in laws will probably not result in disastrous or
unpredictable consequences.

The alternative of a Big Bang change may or may not be better, but looking what
is happening in Russia makes me, for one, think that the Hayekian way is
better.

Regards,

Karun

--
Karun Philip
Imagine Technologies, Inc.
Boston, MA
Email: philip@imaginetechnologies.com
http://www.k-capital.com




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