Although our modern socialists' promise of greater freedom is genuine and sincere, in recent years observer after observer has been impressed by the unforeseen consequences of socialism, the extraordinary similarity in many respects of the conditions under "communism" and "fascism".
Friedrich August von Hayek was born in Vienna to August von Hayek and Felicitas Hayek (née von Juraschek). Friedrich's father, from whom he received his middle name, was born in 1871, also in Vienna. He was a medical Doctor employed by the municipal ministry of health, with a passion for botany, about which he wrote a number of monographs. August von Hayek was also a part-time botany lecturer at the University of Vienna. Friedrich's mother was born in 1875 to a wealthy, conservative, land-owning family. As her mother died several years prior to Friedrich's birth, Felicitas received a significant inheritance, which provided as much as half of her and August's income during the early years of their marriage. Hayek was the oldest of three brothers, Heinrich (1900–1969) and Erich (1904–1986), who were one-and-a-half and five years younger than him.
Hayek's principal investigations in economics concerned capital, money, and the Business cycle. Mises had earlier applied the concept of marginal utility to the value of money in his Theory of Money and Credit (1912), in which he also proposed an explanation for "industrial fluctuations" based on the ideas of the old British Currency School and of Swedish Economist Knut Wicksell. Hayek used this body of work as a starting point for his own interpretation of the Business cycle, elaborating what later became known as the "Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle". Hayek spelled out the Austrian approach in more detail in his book, published in 1929, an English translation of which appeared in 1933 as Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle. There he argued for a monetary approach to the origins of the cycle. In his Prices and Production (1931), Hayek argued that the Business cycle resulted from the central bank's inflationary credit expansion and its transmission over time, leading to a capital misallocation caused by the artificially low interest rates. Hayek claimed that "the past instability of the market economy is the consequence of the exclusion of the most important regulator of the market mechanism, money, from itself being regulated by the market process".
In 1917, Hayek joined an artillery regiment in the Austro-Hungarian Army and fought on the Italian front. Much of Hayek's combat experience was spent as a spotter in an aeroplane. Hayek suffered damage to his hearing in his left ear during the war, and was decorated for bravery. During this time Hayek also survived the 1918 flu pandemic.
With the help of Mises, in the late 1920s Hayek founded and served as Director of the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, before joining the faculty of the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1931 at the behest of Lionel Robbins. Upon his arrival in London, Hayek was quickly recognised as one of the leading economic theorists in the world, and his development of the economics of processes in time and the co-ordination function of prices inspired the ground-breaking work of John Hicks, Abba Lerner, and many others in the development of modern microeconomics.
At the University of Vienna, Hayek earned doctorates in law and political science in 1921 and 1923 respectively; and he also studied philosophy, psychology, and economics. For a short time, when the University of Vienna closed, Hayek studied in Constantin von Monakow's Institute of Brain Anatomy, where Hayek spent much of his time staining brain cells. Hayek's time in Monakow's lab, and his deep interest in the work of Ernst Mach, inspired Hayek's first intellectual project, eventually published as The Sensory Order (1952). It located connective learning at the physical and neurological levels, rejecting the "sense data" associationism of the Empiricists and logical positivists. Hayek presented his work to the private seminar he had created with Herbert Furth called the Geistkreis.
During Hayek's years at the University of Vienna, Carl Menger's work on the explanatory strategy of social science and Friedrich von Wieser's commanding presence in the classroom left a lasting influence on him. Upon the completion of his examinations, Hayek was hired by Ludwig von Mises on the recommendation of Wieser as a specialist for the Austrian government working on the legal and economic details of the Treaty of Saint Germain. Between 1923 and 1924 Hayek worked as a research assistant to Prof. Jeremiah Jenks of New York University, compiling macroeconomic data on the American economy and the operations of the US Federal Reserve.
In August 1926, Hayek married Helen Berta Maria von Fritsch (1901–1960), a secretary at the civil Service office where Hayek worked, on the rebound upon hearing of his cousin's marriage. They had two children together. Upon the close of World War II, Friedrich restarted a relationship with his cousin, who had married since they first met, but kept it secret until 1948. Friedrich and Helen divorced in July 1950 and he married his cousin Helene Bitterlich (1900–1996) just a few weeks later, after moving to Arkansas to take advantage of permissive divorce laws. His wife and children were offered settlement and compensation for accepting a divorce. The divorce caused some scandal at LSE where certain academics refused to have anything to do with Hayek. In a 1978 interview to explain his actions, he stated 'He was unhappy in his first marriage, and his wife would not grant him a divorce, he had to enforce it'. He rarely visited his children after the divorce.
In 1929, Lionel Robbins assumed the helm of the London School of Economics (LSE). Eager to promote alternatives to what he regarded as the narrow approach of the school of economic thought that then dominated the English-speaking academic world (centred at the University of Cambridge and deriving largely from the work of Alfred Marshall), Robbins invited Hayek to join the faculty at LSE, which he did in 1931. According to Nicholas Kaldor, Hayek's theory of the time-structure of capital and of the Business cycle initially "fascinated the academic world" and appeared to offer a less "facile and superficial" understanding of macroeconomics than the Cambridge school's.
Notable economists who studied with Hayek at the LSE in the 1930s and 1940s include Arthur Lewis, Ronald Coase, william Baumol, John Kenneth Galbraith, Leonid Hurwicz, Abba Lerner, Nicholas Kaldor, George Shackle, Thomas Balogh, L. K. Jha, Arthur Seldon, Paul Rosenstein-Rodan, and Oskar Lange. Some were supportive and some were critical of his ideas. Hayek also taught or tutored many other LSE students, including David Rockefeller.
Hayek's influence on the development of economics is widely acknowledged. Hayek is the second-most frequently cited Economist (after Kenneth Arrow) in the Nobel lectures of the prize winners in economics, which is particularly striking since his own lecture was critical of the field of orthodox economics and neo-classical modelisation. A number of Nobel Laureates in economics, such as Vernon Smith and Herbert A. Simon, recognise Hayek as the greatest modern Economist. Another Nobel winner, Paul Samuelson, believed that Hayek was worthy of his award but nevertheless claimed that "there were good historical reasons for fading memories of Hayek within the mainstream last half of the twentieth century Economist fraternity. In 1931, Hayek's Prices and Production had enjoyed an ultra-short Byronic success. In retrospect hindsight tells us that its mumbo-jumbo about the period of production grossly misdiagnosed the macroeconomics of the 1927–1931 (and the 1931–2007) historical scene". Despite this comment, Samuelson spent the last 50 years of his life obsessed with the problems of capital theory identified by Hayek and Böhm-Bawerk, and Samuelson flatly judged Hayek to have been right and his own Teacher, Joseph Schumpeter, to have been wrong on the central economic question of the 20th century, the feasibility of socialist economic planning in a production goods dominated economy.
In 1932, Hayek suggested that private investment in the public markets was a better road to wealth and economic co-ordination in Britain than government spending programs, as argued in an exchange of letters with John Maynard Keynes, co-signed with Lionel Robbins and others in The Times. The nearly decade long deflationary depression in Britain dating from Churchill's decision in 1925 to return Britain to the gold standard at the old pre-war, pre-inflationary par was the public policy backdrop for Hayek's dissenting engagement with Keynes over British monetary and fiscal policy. Well beyond that single public conflict, regarding the economics of extending the length of production to the economics of labour inputs, Hayek and Keynes disagreed on many essential economics matters. Their economic disagreements were both practical and fundamental in nature. Keynes called Hayek's book, Prices and Production, "one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read", famously adding, "It is an extraordinary Example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end in Bedlam." Many other notable economists have also been staunch critics of Hayek, including John Kenneth Galbraith and later, Paul Krugman, who wrote: "the Hayek thing is almost entirely about politics rather than economics".
In 1935, Hayek published Collectivist Economic Planning, a collection of essays from an earlier debate that had been initiated by Ludwig von Mises. Hayek included Mises's essay, in which Mises argued that rational planning was impossible under socialism.
Hayek challenged this vision in a series of contributions. In "Economics and Knowledge" (1937), he pointed out that the standard equilibrium theory assumed that all agents have full and correct information. In the real world, however, different individuals have different bits of knowledge, and furthermore, some of what they believe is wrong.
Unwilling to return to Austria after the Anschluss brought it under the control of Nazi Germany in 1938, Hayek remained in Britain. Hayek and his children became British subjects in 1938. He held this status for the remainder of his life, but he did not live in Great Britain after 1950. He lived in the United States from 1950 to 1962 and then mostly in Germany but also briefly in Austria.
Hayek continued his research on monetary and capital theory, revising his theories of the relations between credit cycles and capital structure in Profits, Interest and Investment (1939) and The Pure Theory of Capital (1941), but his reputation as an economic theorist had by then fallen so much that those works were largely ignored, except for scathing critiques by Nicholas Kaldor. Lionel Robbins himself, who had embraced the Austrian theory of the Business cycle in The Great Depression (1934), later regretted having written the book and accepted many of the Keynesian counter-arguments.
Hayek had made contact with many at the U. of Chicago in the 1940s, with Hayek's The Road to Serfdom playing a seminal role in transforming how Milton Friedman and others understood how society works. Hayek conducted a number of influential faculty seminars while at the U. of Chicago, and a number of academics worked on research projects sympathetic to some of Hayek's own, such as Aaron Director, who was active in the Chicago School in helping to fund and establish what became the "Law and Society" program in the University of Chicago Law School. Hayek, Frank Knight, Friedman and George Stigler worked together in forming the Mont Pèlerin Society, an international forum for libertarian economists. Hayek and Friedman cooperated in support of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, later renamed the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an American student organisation devoted to libertarian ideas.
Hayek never produced the book-length treatment of "the dynamics of capital" that he had promised in the Pure Theory of Capital. After 1941, he continued to publish works on the economics of information, political philosophy, the theory of law, and psychology, but seldom on macroeconomics. At the University of Chicago, Hayek was not part of the economics department, and did not influence the rebirth of neoclassical theory that took place there (see Chicago school of economics). When, in 1974, he shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with Gunnar Myrdal, the latter complained about being paired with an "ideologue". Milton Friedman declared himself "an enormous admirer of Hayek, but not for his economics. I think Prices and Production is a very flawed book. I think his [Pure Theory of Capital] is unreadable. On the other hand, The Road to Serfdom is one of the great books of our time."
Hayek's greatest intellectual debt was to Carl Menger, who pioneered an approach to social explanation similar to that developed in Britain by Bernard Mandeville and the Scottish moral Philosophers in the Scottish Enlightenment. He had a wide-reaching influence on contemporary economics, politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology and anthropology. For Example, Hayek's discussion in The Road to Serfdom (1944) about truth, falsehood and the use of language influenced some later opponents of postmodernism.
In "The Use of Knowledge in Society" (1945), Hayek argued that the price mechanism serves to share and synchronise local and personal knowledge, allowing society's members to achieve diverse, complicated ends through a principle of spontaneous self-organization. He contrasted the use of the price mechanism with central planning, arguing that the former allows for more rapid adaptation to changes in particular circumstances of time and place. Thus, he set the stage for Oliver Williamson's later contrast between markets and hierarchies as alternative co-ordination mechanisms for economic transactions. He used the term catallaxy to describe a "self-organizing system of voluntary co-operation". Hayek's research into this argument was specifically cited by the Nobel Committee in its press release awarding Hayek the Nobel prize.
By 1947, Hayek was an organiser of the Mont Pelerin Society, a group of classical liberals who sought to oppose what they saw as socialism in various areas. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free-market think tank that inspired Thatcherism. He was in addition a member of the Philadelphia Society.
Lord Gladwyn pointed out that the German Free Democrats were in coalition with the German Social Democrats. Hayek was defended by Professor Antony Flew who stated that the German Social Democrats, unlike the British Labour Party, had, since the late 1950s, abandoned public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and had instead embraced the social market economy.
In The Sensory Order: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Theoretical Psychology (1952), Hayek independently developed a "Hebbian learning" model of learning and memory – an idea he first conceived in 1920, prior to his study of economics. Hayek's expansion of the "Hebbian synapse" construction into a global brain theory has received continued attention in neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science, behavioural science, and evolutionary psychology, by Scientists such as Gerald Edelman, and Joaquin Fuster.
Hayek's first class at Chicago was a faculty seminar on the philosophy of science attended by many of the University's most notable Scientists of the time, including Enrico Fermi, Sewall Wright and Leó Szilárd. During his time at Chicago, Hayek worked on the philosophy of science, economics, political philosophy, and the history of ideas. Hayek's economics notes from this period have yet to be published. Hayek received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1954.
After editing a book on John Stuart Mill's letters he planned to publish two books on the liberal order, The Constitution of Liberty and "The Creative Powers of a Free Civilization" (eventually the title for the second chapter of The Constitution of Liberty). He completed The Constitution of Liberty in May 1959, with publication in February 1960. Hayek was concerned "...with that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as is possible in society." Hayek was disappointed that the book did not receive the same enthusiastic general reception as The Road to Serfdom had sixteen years before.
Hayek sent António de Oliveira Salazar a copy of The Constitution of Liberty (1960) in 1962. Hayek hoped that his book – this "preliminary Sketch of new constitutional principles" – "may assist" Salazar "in his endeavour to design a constitution which is proof against the abuses of democracy."
From 1962 until his retirement in 1968, he was a professor at the University of Freiburg, West Germany, where he began work on his next book, Law, Legislation and Liberty. Hayek regarded his years at Freiburg as "very fruitful". Following his retirement, Hayek spent a year as a visiting professor of philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he continued work on Law, Legislation and Liberty, teaching a graduate seminar by the same name and another on the philosophy of social science. Preliminary drafts of the book were completed by 1970, but Hayek chose to rework his drafts and finally brought the book to publication in three volumes in 1973, 1976 and 1979.
Hayek became a professor at the University of Salzburg from 1969 to 1977 and then returned to Freiburg, where he spent the rest of his days. When Hayek left Salzburg in 1977, he wrote: "I made a mistake in moving to Salzburg". The economics department was small and the library facilities were inadequate.
Hayek visited Chile in the 1970s and 1980s during the Government Junta of general Augusto Pinochet and accepted being appointed Honorary Chairman of the Centro de Estudios Públicos, the think tank formed by the economists who transformed Chile into a free market economy.
In 1973, Hayek reiterated in Law, Legislation and Liberty that:
During the Nobel ceremony in December 1974, Hayek met the Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Hayek later sent him a Russian translation of The Road to Serfdom. He spoke with apprehension at his award speech about the danger the authority of the prize would lend to an Economist, but the prize brought much greater public awareness to the then controversial ideas of Hayek and has been described by his biographer as "the great rejuvenating event in his life."
In February 1975, Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the British Conservative Party. The Institute of Economic Affairs arranged a meeting between Hayek and Thatcher in London soon after. During Thatcher's only visit to the Conservative Research Department in the summer of 1975, a speaker had prepared a paper on why the "middle way" was the pragmatic path the Conservative Party should take, avoiding the extremes of left and right. Before he had finished, Thatcher "reached into her briefcase and took out a book. It was Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. Interrupting our pragmatist, 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".
In 1977, Hayek was critical of the Lib-Lab pact, in which the British Liberal Party agreed to keep the British Labour government in office. Writing to The Times, Hayek said, "May one who has devoted a large part of his life to the study of the history and the principles of liberalism point out that a party that keeps a socialist government in power has lost all title to the name 'Liberal'. Certainly no liberal can in Future vote 'Liberal'". Hayek was criticised by Liberal politicians Gladwyn Jebb and Andrew Phillips, who both claimed that the purpose of the pact was to discourage socialist legislation.
In 1978, Hayek came into conflict with the Liberal Party leader, David Steel, who claimed that liberty was possible only with "social justice and an equitable distribution of wealth and power, which in turn require a degree of active government intervention" and that the Conservative Party were more concerned with the connection between liberty and private enterprise than between liberty and democracy. Hayek claimed that a limited democracy might be better than other forms of limited government at protecting liberty but that an unlimited democracy was worse than other forms of unlimited government because "its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise".
Hayek received new attention in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of conservative governments in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. After winning the United Kingdom general election, 1979, Margaret 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, David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's most influential financial official in 1981 was an acknowledged follower of Hayek.
For Hayek, the supposedly stark difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism has much importance and Hayek places great emphasis on this distinction in his defence of transitional dictatorship. For Example, when Hayek visited Venezuela in May 1981, he was asked to comment on the prevalence of totalitarian regimes in Latin America. In reply, Hayek warned against confusing "totalitarianism with authoritarianism," and said that he was unaware of "any totalitarian governments in Latin America. The only one was Chile under Allende". For Hayek, however, the word 'totalitarian' signifies something very specific: the intention to "organize the whole of society" to attain a "definite social goal" – which is stark in contrast to "liberalism and individualism".
In 1984, he was appointed as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on the advice of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his "services to the study of economics". Hayek had hoped to receive a baronetcy, and after he was awarded the CH he sent a letter to his friends requesting that he be called the English version of Friedrich (Frederick) from now on. After his twenty-minute audience with the Queen, he was "absolutely besotted" with her according to his daughter-in-law, Esca Hayek. Hayek said a year later that he was "amazed by her. That ease and skill, as if she'd known me all my life." The audience with the Queen was followed by a dinner with family and friends at the Institute of Economic Affairs. When, later that evening, Hayek was dropped off at the Reform Club, he commented: "I've just had the happiest day of my life."
Hayek attributed the birth of civilisation to private property in his book The Fatal Conceit (1988). He explained that price signals are the only means of enabling each economic decision maker to communicate tacit knowledge or dispersed knowledge to each other, to solve the economic calculation Problem.
Hayek was brought up in non-religious setting and decided that he was an agnostic from age 15. He died in 1992 in Freiburg, Germany, where he had lived since leaving Chicago in 1961.
Since the 2007–08 financial crisis there is a renewed interest in Hayek's core explanation of boom-and-bust cycles, which serves as an alternative explanation to that of the savings glut as launched by Bernanke. Economists at the Bank of International Settlements, e.g. william White, emphasize the importance of Hayekian insights and the impact of monetary policies and credit growth as root causes of financial cycles. A. Hoffmann and G. Schnabl provide an international perspective and explain recurring financial cycles in the world economy as consequence of gradual interest rate cuts led by the central banks in the large advanced economies since the 1980s. N. Cachanosky outlines the impact of US monetary policy on the production structure in Latin America.
His opponents have attacked Hayek as a leading promoter of neoliberalism. A British Journalist, Samuel Brittan, concluded in 2010, "Hayek's book [The Constitution of Liberty] is still probably the most comprehensive statement of the underlying ideas of the moderate free market philosophy espoused by neoliberals." Brittan adds that although Raymond Plant (2009) comes out in the end against Hayek's doctrines, Plant gives The Constitution of Liberty a "more thorough and fair-minded analysis than it has received even from its professed adherents".
In Why F A Hayek is a Conservative, British policy analyst Madsen Pirie claims Hayek mistakes the nature of the conservative outlook. Conservatives, he says, are not averse to change – but like Hayek, they are highly averse to change being imposed on the social order by people in authority who think they know how to run things better. They wish to allow the market to function smoothly and give it the freedom to change and develop. It is an outlook, says Pirie, that Hayek and conservatives both share.
With regard to a social safety net, Hayek advocated "some provision for those threatened by the extremes of indigence or starvation due to circumstances beyond their control" and argued that the "necessity of some such arrangement in an industrial society is unquestioned—be it only in the interest of those who require protection against acts of desperation on the part of the needy." Summarizing Hayek's views on the topic, Journalist Nicholas Wapshott has argued that "[Hayek] advocated mandatory universal health care and unemployment insurance, enforced, if not directly provided, by the state." Critical theorist Bernard Harcourt has argued further that "Hayek was Adam Ant about this." In 1944, Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom that: