Liberal? Conservative? Some Thoughts about Hayek….

With the Republican Convention under way, today seemed like a good day to talk about the cherry picking of Freidrich von Hayek’s views to promote neoclassical policies when Hayek was anything but neoclassical in his very complex ideas about economics. In the his book, The Constitution of Liberty’s postscript, “Why I Am Not a Conservative,” Hayek distinguished his classical liberalism from conservatism. Among his grounds for rejecting conservatism were that moral and religious ideals are not “proper objects of coercion” and that conservatism is hostile to internationalism and prone to a strident nationalism. Having more than one type of tax system, as Ryan proposes, is anything buy Hayekian. One of Hayek’s central ideas was known as the “generality norm.” If any government program benefits one, it must benefit all. Medicare and Medicaid must be expanded to cover all citizens, for instance. All corporate and agricultural subsidies must be eliminated. Government housing programs must be eliminated or expanded to serve everyone.  Hayek also believed that the state should provide a base income for all poor citizens and in the idea of universal healthcare. Hayek was always concerned with the welfare of the poor. He proposed a very generous welfare system and would not have allowed taxes to be cut with such a high deficit. It seems that the Tea Party is ready to embrace not Hayek, but a very misquoted version of his anti-government views which has nothing to do with Hayek’s actual beliefs. Hayek’s ideas are quite radical and it is interesting to see career politicians try to use them, although quite frightening to see how badly they misinterpret his vision.

There are many good sites for further reading, besides reading Hayek’s books themselves. His ideas on how the capitalist market works are fascinating, especially his thoughts on individual knowledge and its contribution and value in the market: