Quotes on Hayek & the Triumph of the Liberal Order


Daniel Yergin* & Joseph Stanislaw*

".. Underlying all this has been a fundamental shift in ideas .. The dramatic redefinition of state and marketplace over the last two decades demonstrates anew the truth of Keynes' axiom about the overwhelming power of ideas. For concepts and notions that were decidedly outside the mainstream have now moved, with some rapidity, to center stage and are reshaping economies in every corner of the world. Even Keynes himself has been done in by his own dictum. During the bombing of London in World War II, he arranged for a transplanted Austrian economist, Friedrich von Hayek, to be temporarily housed in a college at Cambridge University. It was a generous gesture; after all, Keynes was the leading economist of his time, and Hayek, his rather obscure critic. In the postwar years, Keynes' theories of government management of the economy appeared unassailable. But a half century later, it is Keynes who has been toppled and Hayek, the fierce advocate of free markets, who is preeminent ..". (Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stanislaw, The Commanding Heights: The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace that Is Remaking the Modern World.  New York: Simon & Schuster. 1998. pp. 14-15)

*President & Managing Director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Milton Friedman* (Economics, U. of Chicago)

" . . I think the Adam Smith role was played in this cycle [i.e. the late twentieth century collapse of socialism in which the idea of free-markets succeeded first, and then special events catalyzed a complete change of socio-political policy in countries around the world] by Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom."

"Over the years, I have again and again asked fellow believers in a free society how they managed to escape the contagion of their collectivist intellectual environment. No name has been mentioned more often as the source of enlightenment and understanding than Friedrich Hayek's . . I, like the others, owe him a great debt . . his powerful mind . . his lucid and always principled exposition have helped to broaden and deepen my understanding of the meaning and the requisites of a free society."

*Nobel Prize winner in Economics.

Irving Kristol* (editor, The Public Interest)

".. the most intelligent defender of capitalism [in the contemporary period has been Friedrich Hayek] .. Hayek .. has as fine and as powerful a mind as is to be found anywhere."

"It is in good part because of Professor Hayek's work [on 'social engineering' and 'scientism'], and also because of his profound insights -- most notably in The Constitution of Liberty -- into the connection between a free market, the rule of law, and individual liberty, that you don't hear professors saying today, as they used so glibly to say, that 'we are all socialists now'."

"As a result of the efforts of Hayek .. and the many others who share [his] general outlook, the idea of a centrally planned and centrally administered economy, so popular in the 1930s and early 1940s, has been discredited."

*Kristol is well-known as the intellectual leader of the 'neo-conservatives' in America.

Thomas Sowell* (Hoover Institute)

"The 20th Century looked for many decades as if it were going to be the century of collectivism .. Anyone who would have predicted the reversal of this trend .. would have been considered mad just a dozen years ago. Innumerable factors led to [the reversal of the rise of collectivism], not the least of which was the bitter experience of seeing 'rational planning' degenerate into economic chaos and Utopian dreams turned into police-state nightmares. Still, it takes a vision to beat a vision .. An alternative vision had to become viable before the reversal of the collectivist tide could begin with Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States. That vision came from many sources, but if one point in time could mark the beginning of the intellectual turning of the tide which made later political changes possible, it was the publication of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek ..".

*Sowell is a leading historian of economic thought, and an internationally recognized authority on the problems of race, politics, and culture.

Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister, 1979-1990)

".. the most powerful critique of socialist planning and the socialist state which I read at this time [the late 1940's], and to which I have returned so often since [is] F. A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom." (Margaret Thatcher,  The Path to Power, New York:  Harper Collins, 1995, p. 50).

"Our inspiration was less Rab Butler's Industrial Charter than books like Colm Brogan's anti-socialist satire, Our New Masters . . and Hayek's powerful Road to Serfdom, dedicated to 'the socialists of all parties'. Such books not only provided crisp, clear analytical arguments against socialism, demonstrating how its economic theories were connected to the then depressing shortages of our daily lives; but by their wonderful mockery of socialist follies, they also gave us the feeling that the other side simply could not win in the end. That is a vital feeling in politics; it eradicates past defeats and builds future victories. It left a permanent mark on my own political character, making me a long-term optimist for free enterprise and liberty ..". (Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, New York: Harper Collins, 1993, pp. 12-13.)

John Ranelagh writes of Margaret Thatcher's remark at a Conservative Party  policy meeting in the late 1970's, "Another colleague had also prepared a paper arguing that the middle way was the pragmatic path for the Conservative party to take .. Before he had finished speaking to his paper, the new Party Leader [Margaret Thatcher] reached into her briefcase and took out a book.  It was Friedrich von Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty.  Interrupting [the speaker], 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."  (John Ranelagh, Thatcher's People:  An Insider's Account of the Politics, the Power, and the Personalities.  London:  HarperCollins, 1991.)

"For Dicey, writing in 1885, and for me reading him some seventy years later, the rule of law still had a very English, or at least Anglo-Saxon, feel to it.  It was later, through Hayek's masterpieces The Constitution of Liberty and Law, Legislation and Liberty that I really came to think this principle as having wider application."  (Margaret Thatcher,  The Path to Power, New York: Harper Collins, 1995, pp. 84-85.)

".. all the general propositions favouring freedom I had .. imbibed at my father's knee or acquired by candle-end reading of Burke and Hayek ..".  (Margaret Thatcher,  The Path to Power, New York:  Harper Collins, 1995, p. 604).

".. Adam Smith, the greatest exponent of free enterprise economics till Hayek and Friedman." (Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, New York:  Harper Collins, 1993, p. 618)

Ronald Reagan (U.S President, 1981-1989)

"Rowland Evans: "What philosophical thinkers or writers most influenced your conduct as a leader, as a person?" Ronald Reagan: "Well .. I've always been a voracious reader -- I have read the economic views of von Mises and Hayek, and .. Bastiat .. I know about Cobden and Bright in England -- and the elimination of the corn laws and so forth, the great burst of economy or prosperity for England that followed." (Rowland Evans & Robert Novak, The Reagan Revolution, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1981, p. 229).

"The most important player on Ronald Reagan's economic team is Ronald Reagan. The person most responsible for creating the economic program that came to be known as Reaganomics is Reagan himself. For over twenty years he observed the American economy, read and studied the writings of some of the best economists in the world, including the giants of the free market economy -- Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman -- and he spoke and wrote on the economy, going through the rigorous mental discipline of explaining his thoughts to others. Over the years he made all the key decisions on the economic strategies he finally embraced.  He always felt comfortable with his knowledge of the field and he was in command all the way." (Martin Anderson, Revolution, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988, p. 164.)

George Bush (U.S. President, 1989-1993)

"[Hayek is] one of the great thinkers of our age .. [he] revolutionized the world's intellectual and political life." (Presidential Statement, 1992).

Andrzej Walicki* (History, Notre Dame)

"The most interesting among the courageous dissenters of the 1980s were the classical liberals, disciples of F. A. Hayek, from whom they had learned about the crucial importance of economic freedom and about the often-ignored conceptual difference between liberalism and democracy." (Andrzy Walicki, "Liberalism in Poland", Critical Review, Winter, 1988, p. 9.)

*Walicki is formerly of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Mart Laar (Prime Minister -- Estonia)

U.S. Representative Dick Armey, "[Estonian Prime Minister] Mart Laar came to my office the other day to recount his country's remarkable transformation. He described a nation of people who are harder-working, more virtuous -- yes, more virtuous, because the market punishes immorality -- and more hopeful about the future than they've ever been in their history.  I asked Mr. Laar where his government got the idea for these reforms.  Do you know what he replied?  He said, 'We read Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek'."  (Dick Armey, "Address at the Dedication of the Hayek Auditorium", Cato Institution, Washington, D.C., May, 9, 1995.)

Vaclav Klaus (Prime Minister - Czech Republic)

"I was 25 years old and pursuing my doctorate in economics when I was allowed to spend six months of post-graduate studies in Naples, Italy.  I read the Western economic textbooks and also the more general work of people like Hayek.  By the time I returned to Czechoslovakia, I had an understanding of the principles of the market.  In 1968, I was glad at the political liberalism of the Dubcek Prague Spring, but was very critical of the Third Way they pursued in economics."  (Vaclav Klaus, "No Third Way Out:  Creating a Capitalist Czechoslovakia", Reason, 1990, (June): 28-31).

Alan Brinkley* (History, Columbia)

"The publication of two books .. helped to galvanize the concerns that were beginning to emerge among intellectuals (and many others) about the implications of totalitarianism. One was James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution .. [A second] Friedrich A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom .. was far more controversial -- and influential.  Even more than Burnham, Hayek forced into public discourse the question of the compatibility of democracy and statism .. In responding to Burnham and Hayek .. liberals [in the statist sense of this term as used by some in the United States] were in fact responding to a powerful strain of Jeffersonian anti-statism in American political culture .. The result was a subtle but important shift in liberal [American statist] thinking."

*Brinkley is a leading authority on intellectual currents in 20th century American politics.

J. Bradford De Long* (Economics, UC-Berkeley)

"Hayek's adversaries -- Oskar Lange and company -- argued that a market system had to be inferior to a centrally-planned system: at the very least, a centrally-planned economy could set up internal decision-making procedures that would mimic the market, and the central planners could also adjust things to increase social welfare and account for external effects in a way that a market system could never do. Hayek, in response, argued that the functionaries of a central-planning board could never succeed, because they could never create both the incentives and the flexibility for the people-on-the-spot to exercise what Scott calls metis.

Today all economists -- even those who are very hostile to Hayek's other arguments .. agree that Hayek and company hit this particular nail squarely on the head.  Looking back at the seventy-year trajectory of Communism, it seems very clear that Hayek .. [is] right: that its principal flaw is its attempt to concentrate knowledge, authority, and decision-making power at the center rather than pushing the power to act, the freedom to do so, and the incentive to act productively out to the periphery where the people-on-the-spot have the local knowledge to act effectively."

*Specialist in 20th century economic history.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.* (commentatory, The Washington Post)

".. the publication of Friedrich A. von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom in 1944 [is rightly seen] as the first shot in the intellectual battle that was to turn the tide in favor of conservatism."

*Dionne is a well-known popular writer on contemporary intellectual trends in American politics.

Milton Friedman* (Economics, U. of Chicago)

" .. My interest in public policy and political philosophy was rather casual before I joined the faculty of the University of Chicago. Informal discussions with colleagues and friends stimulated a greater interest, which was reinforced by Friedrich Hayek's powerful book The Road to Serfdom, by my attendance at the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947, and by discussions with Hayek after he joined the university faculty in 1950. In addition, Hayek attracted an exceptionally able group of students who were dedicated to a libertarian ideology. They started a student publication, The New Individualist Review, which was the outstanding libertarian journal of opinion for some years. I served as an adviser to the journal and published a number of articles in it .. ".  (Milton & Rose Friedman, Two Lucky People: Memoirs, Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1998. p. 333).

*Nobel Prize winner in economics.