HAYEK ON HAYEK is a companion volume to a projected nineteen volume edition of F. A. Hayek’s collected works being prepared by Stephen Kresge. Hayek, who died in 1992, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974. Nevertheless, Hayek’s interests and scholarly production defied the limitations of any one discipline. His work includes highly idiosyncratic (and insightful) treatises on psychology, law, and the history of thought.
Hayek was a particularly avid critic of centralized planning, even in the watered down forms of fiscal policy or “industrial planning.” He believed that the effort to substitute government for market mechanisms was both futile and dangerous: futile because of the daunting complexity of modern economies, dangerous because of the temptation to invest ever greater powers in government, leading ultimately to totalitarianism.
Hayek’s positions rest on serious economic analysis, and he constantly qualifies his apparent exclusion of government from people’s social and economic lives (for example, advocating a guaranteed minimum income). Nevertheless, many observers see Hayek as a free-market polemicist rather than the free thinker he was. This is because Hayek’s work has often been used as a gross rhetorical club by critics of government intervention. HAYEK ON HAYEK helps to dispel this image, showing that Hayek disagreed in important ways with other free market paragons such as Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman, and that he was a brilliantly intuitive man of ideas rather than an ideologue.
Stitched together from Hayek’s abortive attempt at an autobiography, interviews, and the transcript of a radio debate, HAYEK ON HAYEK is too fragmentary to provide a good introduction to its subject. For those familiar with Hayek, it offers worthwhile insight into his career and the underlying unity of his seemingly disparate work.