Hayek's Letter to the Times
Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, here, and Peter Boettke at Coordination Problem, here, have already replied to Francis Fukuyama's review in Sunday's New York Times of the new edition of F.A. Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. (Update: as has NYU's William Easterly). Through the wonders of the Internet, however, FutureOfCapitalism has managed, miraculously, to obtain a copy of a letter to the Times in response to the review from Hayek himself, who died in 1992. Here it is:
To the editor:
Thank you for the review of The Constitution of Liberty, which included some high praise directed toward me and my work. Allow me, however, to reply to a few points. First, regarding race relations. Your reviewer writes:
Neither the Civil War nor the end of segregation, however, arrived sua sponte as government actions. They were products of a whole series of individual actions by abolitionists, by northerners who harbored runaway slaves, by individuals who marched and volunteered, by religious groups. Those actions were examples of what I'd call spontaneous order. And if government was on the side of freedom for African-Americans (which, by the way, I have no problem with, any more than I had any problem with the government fighting Nazism or Communism), it's worth also remembering that government was also on the side of segregation and slavery, not only in the Confederacy and in Southern state governments, but at the national level both in the form of the Fugitive Slave Act that forced northerners to return runaways to bondage and in the form of the Supreme Court's 1896 "Separate but Equal" decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.
Second, regarding my supposed insistence "that the dividing line between state and society must be drawn according to a strict abstract principle rather than through empirical adaptation" and that "the smallest move toward the expansion of government would lead to a cascade of bad consequences that would result in full-blown authoritarian socialism." Since elsewhere in the review the reviewer claims that "'The Constitution of Liberty' argues that the government may need to provide health insurance and even make it compulsory," the review seems to contradict itself. I've written elsewhere (see my December 18, 1980 letter to Paul Samuelson excerpted in Bruce Caldwell's introduction to Road to Serfdom) that this "slippery slope" allegation is "a malicious distortion" of my views. If I really felt this cascade were somehow inevitable, as the reviewer suggests, and without "ledges and handholds by which we can brake our descent into serfdom and indeed climb back up," as the reviewer puts it, I would have never bothered writing anything at all. One of the points of my work was to help slam on the brakes.
Third, your claim that "financial markets were left dangerously unregulated prior to the financial crisis." Rather than proving your point about the need for big government, the financial crisis proved my point about the dangers of big government. The many regulators we had failed and in some cases even made the panic worse by seizing private property and by distorting incentives and price signals in the housing market.
Fourth, your claim that, "One searches in vain through this or any of his other books for a serious treatment of religion or the moral concerns that animate religious believers." What about the final chapter of my The Fatal Conceit, whose title is "Religion and the Guardians of Tradition"?
Fifth, your swipe at Glenn Beck as not a very serious thinker, without any specific examples. Beck has been wonderful for my book sales, so I admit I have an interest here, but I'd take Mr. Beck's thought over what the New York Times passes off as serious thinking any day. If the Times is going to go ad hominem, I can, too — the reviewer your book review hired, Francis Fukuyama, reportedly consulted to Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy, a fact the Times bizarrely omitted in a recent long and flattering profile of Mr. Fukuyama. If there were ever an example of the dangers of big government, Colonel Khadafy personifies it, and your reviewer's apparent blindness to that raises questions about his judgment and critical thinking skills.
Again, thanks for the review. I hope it may encourage some more people to read my work for themselves and to form their own opinions of it.
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