Who was F. A. Hayek?

January 24, 2016 8:33 PM | Anonymous

The Hayek Group is dedicated to promoting a free and prosperous society along the set of ideals developed by Friedrich August von Hayek. Professor Hayek one of the most influential thinkers of the Twentieth Century. He was a juris doctor, political philosopher, psychologist and Nobel laureate economist.

His work made clear that rational economic planning is impossible under a socialist system because central planners can never possess the information needed to make the best decisions. Instead, much of knowledge within society about who values what and in what quantity, as well as many of the productive skills and expertise possessed by individuals, is tacit and dispersed among the many individuals who hold their own portions of this knowledge. As such, it can never be aggregated and quantified in a manner that would allow central planners to make rational decisions about how to direct society’s productive resources. This tacit and dispersed knowledge is implicit, though, in freely arising market prices, which are the result of individuals’ choices. Each individual incorporates their own tacit knowledge and desires into these choices and market prices therefore reflect society’s total body of knowledge in a way that could never otherwise be estimated accurately.

Hayek concluded that a society which allows freely determined market prices to guide its decisions over how best to allocate resources will necessarily grow happier and wealthier than a society that is centrally planned.

These lessons gained confirmation after the two great socialist societies of the Twentieth Century suffered internal economic collapse: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Hayek’s most targeted criticisms were aimed at the economic policies of the Third Reich and issued with a warning to other Western nations that were showing early proclivities toward adopting the same types of interventionism. As a native Austrian, Hayek fled the Reich following the Anschluss and took up residence in the United Kingdom before eventually moving to the United States. In his most famous non-academic book, The Road to Serfdom, Hayek warned that the growth of central power and the erosion of economic freedom will always be followed the loss of other civil freedoms and the growth of a totalitarian state.

Over the course of his life, Professor Hayek wrote dozens of books and articles intended for academic and lay audiences alike. We have made many of them available here.

Hayek’s work strongly influenced the political philosophies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, cementing their views on the virtues of a free society. Reagan explicitly listed Hayek as among the most influential people on his philosophy, while both leaders maintained close advisors who were acknowledged followers of Hayek.

Even those with differing views have recognized the importance of Hayek’s work and he is among the most frequently cited economists in the world. Larry Summers, a Harvard economist and U.S. Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton perhaps said it best: “What I tried to leave my students with is the view that the invisible hand is more powerful than the [un]hidden hand. Things will happen in well-organized efforts without direction, controls, plans. That’s the consensus among economists. That’s the Hayek legacy.”

The Hayek Group is dedicated to furthering the Hayek legacy among a new generation of Americans. We wish everyone to know that a free society is also a prosperous society.

 

The Hayek Group has been recognized as a 501(c) non-profit organization. Federal Tax ID #46-4489924

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