Friedrich Hayek


Friedrich Hayek : biography

8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992

In The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945), Hayek argued that the price mechanism serves to share and synchronize local and personal knowledge, allowing society’s members to achieve diverse, complicated ends through a principle of spontaneous self-organization. He contrasted the use of the price mechanism with central planning, arguing that the former allows for more rapid adaptation to changes in particular circumstances of time and place.Hein Schreuder, "Coase, Hayek and Hierarchy", In: S. Lindenberg et Hein Schreuder, dir., Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Organization Studies, Pergamon Press Thus, he set the stage for Oliver Williamson’s later contrast between markets and hierarchies as alternative coordination mechanisms for economic transactions.Douma, Sytse and Hein Schreuder, 2013. "Economic Approaches to Organizations". 5th edition. London: Pearson [1] ISBN 0273735292 • ISBN 9780273735298 He used the term catallaxy to describe a "self-organizing system of voluntary co-operation". Hayek’s research into this argument was specifically cited by the Nobel Committee in its press release awarding Hayek the Nobel prize.

Hayek also wrote that the state has a role to play in the economy, and specifically, in creating a "safety net". He wrote, "There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision."

Spontaneous order

Hayek viewed the free price system not as a conscious invention (that which is intentionally designed by man), but as spontaneous order or what he referred to as "that which is the result of human action but not of human design". Thus, Hayek put the price mechanism on the same level as, for example, language.

Hayek attributed the birth of civilization to private property in his book The Fatal Conceit (1988). He explained that price signals are the only means of enabling each economic decision maker to communicate tacit knowledge or dispersed knowledge to each other, in order to solve the economic calculation problem.

Investment and choice

Perhaps more fully than any other economist, Hayek investigated the choice theory of investment. He examined the inter-relations between non-permanent production goods and "latent" or potentially economic permanent resources – building on the choice theoretical insight that, "processes that take more time will evidently not be adopted unless they yield a greater return than those that take less time".The Pure Theory of Capital (), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941/2007 (Vol. 12 of the Collected Works): p. 90.

Hayek’s work on the microeconomics of the choice theoretics of investment, non-permanent goods, potential permanent resources, and economically-adapted permanent resources mark a central dividing point between his work in areas of macroeconomics and that of most all other economists. Hayek’s work on the macroeconomic subjects of central planning, trade cycle theory, the division of knowledge, and entrepreneurial adaptation especially, differ greatly from the opinions of macroeconomic "Marshallian" economists in the tradition of John Maynard Keynes and the microeconomic "Walrasian" economists in the tradition of Abba Lerner.

Social and political philosophy

In the latter half of his career Hayek made a number of contributions to social and political philosophy, which he based on his views on the limits of human knowledge, and the idea of spontaneous order in social institutions. He argues in favor of a society organized around a market order, in which the apparatus of state is employed almost (though not entirely) exclusively to enforce the legal order (consisting of abstract rules, and not particular commands) necessary for a market of free individuals to function. These ideas were informed by a moral philosophy derived from epistemological concerns regarding the inherent limits of human knowledge. Hayek argued that his ideal individualistic, free-market polity would be self-regulating to such a degree that it would be ‘a society which does not depend for its functioning on our finding good men for running it’.Individualism and Economic Order, p. 11