Friedrich Hayek


Friedrich Hayek : biography

8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992

The economist Walter Block observed critically that while The Road to Serfdom is "a war cry against central planning", it does show some reservations with a free market system and laissez-faire capitalism, with Hayek even going so far as to say that "probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez-faire".Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents (University Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 71 In the book, Hayek writes that the government has a role to play in the economy through the monetary system, work-hours regulation, institutions for the flow of proper information, and other principles on which most members of a free society will tend to agree. These are contentions associated with the point of view of ordoliberalism. However, when central planning reaches into areas on which people will probably not agree, the tendency is created for dictatorship and totalitarianism (i.e. "serfdom"), as a means of coercing implementation of one’s plan.

Through analysis of this and other of Hayek’s works, Block purports, "in making the case against socialism, Hayek was led into making all sort of compromises with what otherwise appeared to be his own philosophical perspective – so much so, that if a system was erected on the basis of them, it would not differ too sharply from what this author explicitly opposed". Notwithstanding such criticisms, the book is still widely popular and is prominent among works advocating individualism and classical liberalism.


In 1950, Hayek left the London School of Economics for the University of Chicago, becoming a professor in the Committee on Social Thought. Hayek’s first class at Chicago was a faculty seminar on the philosophy of science attended by many of the University’s most notable scientists of the time, including Enrico Fermi, Sewall Wright and Leó Szilárd. During his time at Chicago, Hayek worked on the philosophy of science, economics, political philosophy, and the history of ideas. Hayek’s economic notes from this period have yet to be published. He did not become part of the Chicago School of Economics, but his recognition of the impact that demand and velocity had on money were a fundamental influence on it.F. A. Hayek, Hayek On Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue (Liberty Fund, 2008) p. 128. It can be noted that he never taught at the Economics Department which unwaveringly refused him access.

After editing a book on John Stuart Mill’s letters he planned to publish two books on the liberal order, The Constitution of Liberty and "The Creative Powers of a Free Civilization" (eventually the title for the second chapter of The Constitution of Liberty).Ebenstein, p. 195. He completed The Constitution of Liberty in May 1959, with publication in February 1960. Hayek was concerned "with that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as is possible in society".F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960), p. 11. Hayek was disappointed that the book did not receive the same enthusiastic general reception as The Road to Serfdom had sixteen years before.Ebenstein, p. 203.

Freiburg, California, and Salzburg

From 1962 until his retirement in 1968, he was a professor at the University of Freiburg, West Germany, where he began work on his next book, Law, Legislation and Liberty. Hayek regarded his years at Freiburg as "very fruitful".Ebenstein, p. 218. Following his retirement, Hayek spent a year as a visiting professor of philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he continued work on Law, Legislation and Liberty, teaching a graduate seminar by the same name and another on the philosophy of social science. Primary drafts of the book were completed by 1970, but Hayek chose to rework his drafts and finally brought the book to publication in three volumes in 1973, 1976 and 1979.