Friedrich Hayek


Friedrich Hayek : biography

8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992

Initially sympathetic to Wieser’s democratic socialism, Hayek’s economic thinking shifted away from socialism and toward the classical liberalism of Carl Menger after reading Ludwig von Mises’ book Socialism. It was sometime after reading Socialism that Hayek began attending Ludwig von Mises’ private seminars, joining several of his university friends, including Fritz Machlup, Alfred Schutz, Felix Kaufmann,and Gottfried Haberler, who were also participating in Hayek’s own, more general, private seminar. It was during this time that he also encountered and befriended noted political philosopher Eric Voegelin, with whom he retained a long-standing relationship.Federici, Michael. Eric Voegelin: The Restoration of Order, ISI Books, 2002, p. 1

With the help of Mises, in the late 1920s Hayek founded and served as director of the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, before joining the faculty of the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1931 at the behest of Lionel Robbins. Upon his arrival in London, Hayek was quickly recognized as one of the leading economic theorists in the world, and his development of the economics of processes in time and the coordination function of prices inspired the ground-breaking work of John Hicks, Abba Lerner, and many others in the development of modern microeconomics.

In 1932, Hayek suggested that private investment in the public markets was a better road to wealth and economic coordination in Britain than government spending programs, as argued in a letter he co-signed with Lionel Robbins and others in an exchange of letters with John Maynard Keynes in The Times. Perrine McNair, Richard Stockton Meriam, Problems in business economics, McGraw-Hill, 1941, p. 504 The nearly decade long deflationary depression in Britain dating from Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return Britain to the gold standard at the old pre-war, pre-inflationary par was the public policy backdrop for Hayek’s single public engagement with Keynes over British monetary and fiscal policy, otherwise Hayek and Keynes agreed on many theoretical matters, and their economic disagreements were fundamentally theoretical, having to do almost exclusively with the relation of the economics of extending the length of production to the economics of labor inputs.

Economists who studied with Hayek at the LSE in the 1930s and the 1940s include Arthur Lewis, Ronald Coase, John Kenneth Galbraith, Abba Lerner, Nicholas Kaldor, George Shackle, Thomas Balogh, Vera Smith, L. K. Jha, Arthur Seldon, Paul Rosenstein-Rodan, and Oskar Lange. Hayek also taught or tutored all sorts of other L.S.E. students, including David Rockefeller.

Unwilling to return to Austria after the Anschluss brought it under the control of Nazi Germany in 1938, Hayek remained in Britain and became a British subject in 1938. He held this status for the remainder of his life, but he did not live in Great Britain after 1950. He lived in the United States from 1950 to 1962 and then mostly in Germany but also briefly in Austria.Samuel Brittan, ”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 28 April 2009.

The Road to Serfdom

Hayek was concerned about the general view in Britain’s academia that fascism was a capitalist reaction to socialism and The Road to Serfdom arose from those concerns. It was written between 1940 and 1943. The title was inspired by the French classical liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville’s writings on the "road to servitude".Ebenstein, p. 116. It was first published in Britain by Routledge in March 1944 and was quite popular, leading Hayek to call it "that unobtainable book", also due in part to wartime paper rationing.Ebenstein, p. 128. When it was published in the United States by the University of Chicago in September of that year, it achieved greater popularity than in Britain.A. J. Tebble, F.A. Hayek, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010, p. 8 At the arrangement of editor Max Eastman, the American magazine Reader’s Digest also published an abridged version in April 1945, enabling The Road to Serfdom to reach a far wider audience than academics.