Friedrich Hayek


Friedrich Hayek : biography

8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992

Hayek and conservatism

Hayek received new attention in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of conservative governments in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. After winning the United Kingdom general election, 1979, Margaret Thatcher appointed Keith Joseph, the director of the Hayekian Centre for Policy Studies, as her secretary of state for industry in an effort to redirect parliament’s economic strategies. Likewise, David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s most influential financial official in 1981 was an acknowledged follower of Hayek.Kenneth R. Hoover, Economics as Ideology: Keynes, Laski, Hayek, and the Creation of Contemporary Politics (2003), p. 213

Hayek wrote an essay, "Why I Am Not a Conservative" (included as an appendix to The Constitution of Liberty), in which he disparaged conservatism for its inability to adapt to changing human realities or to offer a positive political program, remarking, "Conservatism is only as good as what it conserves". Although he noted that modern day conservatism shares many opinions on economics with classic liberals, particularly a belief in the free market, he believed it’s because conservatism wants to "stand still", whereas liberalism embraces the free market because it "wants to go somewhere". Hayek identified himself as a classical liberal but noted that in the United States it had become almost impossible to use "liberal" in its original definition, and the term "libertarian" has been used instead.

However, for his part, Hayek found this term "singularly unattractive" and offered the term "Old Whig" (a phrase borrowed from Edmund Burke) instead. In his later life, he said, "I am becoming a Burkean Whig." However, Whiggery as a political doctrine had little affinity for classical political economy, the tabernacle of the Manchester School and William Gladstone.E. H. H. Green, Ideologies of Conservatism. Conservative Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 259. His essay has served as an inspiration to other liberal-minded economists wishing to distinguish themselves from conservative thinkers, for example James M. Buchanan’s essay "Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism".

A common term in much of the world for what Hayek espoused is "neoliberalism". A British scholar, Samuel Brittan, concluded in 2010, "Hayek’s book [The Constitution of Liberty] is still probably the most comprehensive statement of the underlying ideas of the moderate free market philosophy espoused by neoliberals."Samuel Brittan, "The many faces of liberalism," , January 22, 2010] Brittan adds that although Raymond Plant (2009) comes out in the end against Hayek’s doctrines, Plant gives The Constitution of Liberty a "more thorough and fair-minded analysis than it has received even from its professed adherents".

In Why F A Hayek is a Conservative,"Why F A Hayek is a Conservative" Eamonn Butler and Madsen Pirie (eds) Hayek on the Fabric of Human Society (Adam Smith Institute, 1987) British policy analyst Madsen Pirie believes Hayek mistakes the nature of the conservative outlook. Conservatives, he says, are not averse to change – but like Hayek, they are highly averse to change being imposed on the social order by people in authority who think they know how to run things better. They wish to allow the market to function smoothly and give it the freedom to change and develop. It is an outlook, says Pirie, that Hayek and conservatives both share.

Legacy and honours

Even after his death, Hayek’s intellectual presence is noticeable, especially in the universities where he had taught: the London School of Economics, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg. A number of tributes have resulted, many posthumous:

  • A student-run group at the LSE Hayek Society, was established in 1996 in his honor.
  • At Oxford University, the Oxford Libertarian Society was previously known as the Hayek Society.
  • The Cato Institute named its lower level auditorium after Hayek, who had been a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Cato during his later years.
  • Also, the auditorium of the school of economics in Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala is named after him.
  • The Hayek Fund for Scholars of the Institute for Humane Studies provides financial awards for academic career activities of graduate students and untenured faculty members.
  • The Ludwig von Mises Institute holds a lecture named after Hayek every year at its Austrian Scholars Conference and invites notable academics to speak about subjects relating to Hayek’s contributions to the Austrian School.
  • George Mason University has an economics essay award named in honor of Hayek.
  • The Mont Pelerin Society has a quadrennial economics essay contest named in his honor.
  • Hayek was awarded honorary degrees from Rikkyo University, University of Vienna, and University of Salzburg.
  • Hayek has an investment portfolio named after him. The Hayek Fund invests in corporations who financially support free market public policy organizations
  • 1974: Austrian Decoration for Science and Art
  • 1974: Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (Sweden)
  • 1977: Pour le Mérite for Science and Art (Germany)
  • 1983: Honorary Ring of Vienna
  • 1984: Honorary Dean of WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management
  • 1984: Order of the Companions of Honour (United Kingdom)
  • 1990: Grand Gold Medal with Star for Services to the Republic of Austria
  • 1991: Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States)