Friedrich Hayek

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Friedrich Hayek : biography

8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992

In 1977, Hayek was critical of the Lib-Lab pact, in which the British Liberal Party agreed to keep the British Labour government in office. Writing to The Times, Hayek said, "May one who has devoted a large part of his life to the study of the history and the principles of liberalism point out that a party that keeps a socialist government in power has lost all title to the name ‘Liberal’. Certainly no liberal can in future vote ‘Liberal’"."Letters to the Editor: Liberal pact with Labour", The Times (31 March 1977), p. 15. Hayek was criticised by Liberal politicians Gladwyn Jebb and Andrew Phillips, who both claimed that the purpose of the pact was to discourage socialist legislation.

Lord Gladwyn pointed out that the German Free Democrats were in coalition with the German Social Democrats."Letters to the Editor: Liberal pact with Labour", The Times (2 April 1977), p. 15. Hayek was defended by Professor Antony Flew who stated that the German Social Democrats, unlike the British Labour Party, had, since the late 1950s, abandoned public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and had instead embraced the social market economy."Letters to the Editor: German socialist aims", The Times (13 April 1977), p. 13.

In 1978, Hayek came into conflict with the Liberal Party leader, David Steel, who claimed that liberty was possible only with "social justice and an equitable distribution of wealth and power, which in turn require a degree of active government intervention" and that the Conservative Party were more concerned with the connection between liberty and private enterprise than between liberty and democracy. Hayek claimed that a limited democracy might be better than other forms of limited government at protecting liberty but that an unlimited democracy was worse than other forms of unlimited government because "its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise".

Hayek stated that if the Conservative leader had said "that free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box, she has merely uttered the truism that the first is indispensable for individual freedom while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot"."Letters to the Editor: The dangers to personal liberty", The Times (11 July 1978), p. 15.

Influence on central European politics

US President Ronald Reagan at his time listed Hayek as among the two or three people who most influenced his philosophy, and welcomed Hayek to the White House as a special guest.Martin Anderson, "Revolution" (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), p. 164 In the 1970s and 1980s, the writings of Hayek were also a major influence on many of the leaders of the "velvet" revolution in Central Europe during the collapse of the old Soviet Empire. Here are some supporting examples:

There is no figure who had more of an influence, no person had more of an influence on the intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain than Friedrich Hayek. His books were translated and published by the underground and black market editions, read widely, and undoubtedly influenced the climate of opinion that ultimately brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

—Milton Friedman (Hoover Institution)
The most interesting among the courageous dissenters of the 1980s were the classical liberals, disciples of F. A. Hayek, from whom they had learned about the crucial importance of economic freedom and about the often-ignored conceptual difference between liberalism and democracy.Andrzy Walicki, “Liberalism in Poland”, Critical Review, Winter, 1988, p. 9.

—Andrzej Walicki (History, Notre Dame)
Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar came to my office the other day to recount his country’s remarkable transformation. He described a nation of people who are harder-working, more virtuous – yes, more virtuous, because the market punishes immorality – and more hopeful about the future than they’ve ever been in their history. I asked Mr. Laar where his government got the idea for these reforms. Do you know what he replied? He said, "We read Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek."Dick Armey, "Address at the Dedication of the Hayek Auditorium", Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., May 9, 1995.

—U.S. Representative Dick Armey