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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Why Mises (and not Hayek)?

By Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Let me begin with a quote from an article that my old friend Ralph Raico wrote some 15 years ago:
Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek are widely considered the most eminent classical liberal thinkers of this century. They are also the two best known Austrian economists. They were great scholars and great men. I was lucky to have them both as my teachers.… Yet it is clear that the world treats them very differently. Mises was denied the Nobel Prize for economics, which Hayek won the year after Mises's death. Hayek is occasionally anthologized and read in college courses, when a spokesman for free enterprise absolutely cannot be avoided; Mises is virtually unknown in American academia. Even among organizations that support the free market in a general way, it is Hayek who is honored and invoked, while Mises is ignored or pushed into the background.
I want to speculate — and present a thesis — why this is so and explain why I — and I take it most of us here — take a very different view. Why I (and presumably you) are Misesians and not Hayekians.
My thesis is that Hayek's greater prominence has little if anything to do with his economics. There is little difference in Mises's and Hayek's economics. Indeed, most economic ideas associated with Hayek were originated by Mises, and this fact alone would make Mises rank far above Hayek as an economist. But most of today's professed Hayekians are not trained economists. Few have actually read the books that are responsible for Hayek's initial fame as an economist, i.e., his Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle and his Prices and Production. And I venture the guess that there exist no more than 10 people alive today who have studied, from cover to cover, his Pure Theory of Capital.
Rather, what explains Hayek's greater prominence is Hayek's work, mostly in the second half of his professional life, in the field of political philosophy — and here, in this field, the difference between Hayek and Mises is striking indeed.
My thesis is essentially the same one also advanced by my friend Ralph Raico: Hayek is not a classical liberal at all, or a "Radikalliberaler" as the NZZ, as usual clueless, has just recently referred to him. Hayek is actually a moderate social democrat, and since we live in the age of social democracy, this makes him a "respectable" and "responsible" scholar. Hayek, as you may recall, dedicated his Road to Serfdom to "the socialists in all parties." And the socialists in all parties now pay him back in using Hayek to present themselves as "liberals."
Now to the proof, and I rely for this mostly on the Constitution of Liberty, and his three volumeLaw, Legislation, and Liberty which are generally regarded as Hayek's most important contributions to the field of political theory.