Hayek as Social Scientist


At some point, Hayek moved from pure economics to a broader understanding of economics within the social sciences. Hayek is known to many people thanks to his bestseller “The Road to Serfdom”. This is a critique of social planning and unintentional impacts of management of society. Within the social standards, Hayek distinguishes between Nomos (social, not necessarily written, spontaneous rules) and Thesis (written rules).

He is also well known for his works such as “Law, Legislation and Liberty”, “Fatal Conceit” or “Counter-revolution of Science”. Interestingly, he considered the little-known book The Sensory Order to be the most important work of his life.

What is the originality of Hayek theory of the self-organization of the human mind and how does it link to the contemporary problems of philosophy and social sciences? What does Hayek mean when he talks about so-called spontaneous social order? What can we imagine under the fatal conceit of the society’s central planning? What lead a liberal like Hayek to have respect for religion, even though he was an agnostic himself?

NOTE: Video available in Czech and Slovak / English subtitles available.


Tomáš Krištofóry has prepared useful links for all interested students, scholars and researchers to substantiate claims in the video and for educational purposes.

The third part of our documentary film is called “Hayek as a Social Scientist”. In the previous episodes, we introduced Hayek in his role as an economist and the Nobel laureate in economics. But Hayek was also a social scientist, namely a political and moral philosopher.

Ján Pavlík, a philosopher at the University of Economics in Prague and the author of the monumental book F. A. Hayek and the theory of spontaneous order (in Czech), Ján Oravec, President of the Entrepreneurs Association of Slovakia, who in the 1990s translated the outstanding book – Eamonn Butler: Hayek: His Contribution to the Political and Economic Thought of Our Time and Pavel Potužák, economist at the University of Economics in Prague and co-discoverer of the Hayek-Taylor´s rule of monetary policy (in English).

Explaining Hayek is not easy at all. Anyone who has ever tried and received good feedback knows that. We will, therefore, try to explain Hayek’s political philosophy in the context of his economic theories through the experience of Hayek’s most knowledgeable biographers. They definitely know something about it.

Friedrich A. Hayek was an Austrian economist,” emphasizes Steven Horwitz in his review (in English) of two intellectual biographies of Hayek – one by Bruce Caldwell (in English) and the other by Alan Ebenstein (in English). Why does Horwitz consider it so important to point out that Hayek was an Austrian economist in a review of two of his intellectual biographies? After all, they should know!

Horwitz’s answer in the review is that writers writing about Hayek’s political philosophy sometimes forget this even though they explicitly state that Hayek was an Austrian economist.

As we know from previous works, the Austrian school can mean different things: the ideology of libertarianism, the work of think-tanks bearing its name, the current Austrian school – operating mainly in some US universities or even as a school of economic thought that originated in Austria in the in the 1890s, which was active in Vienna during Hayek’s student years, and which he was actively involved in after graduation.

If we want to understand Hayek, we will not achieve much by analyzing the ideology of libertarianism. We will understand something, but we would miss a lot about Hayek as a man and a scientist. If we want to understand Hayek, we must become familiar how he has built upon in his early days in Vienna at various stages of his life – including through his political and moral philosophy.

Horwitz illustrates this with Ebenstein’s interpretation of Hayek’s political philosophy. To put it simply, to Ebenstein Hayek is a utilitarian libertarian, an economic liberal who was close to Milton Friedman and his Chicago school and who did not understand monetarism in the monetary policy too much. Associating Hayek with these ideas is not a complete mistake, but there is one big BUT.

How does such an interpretation go together with what Hayek studied and wrote in Vienna? With the emergence of order in human mind, with the imputation (Zurechnung) of the prices of factors of production from the prices of consumer goods, with the genesis of the structure of capital and the emergence and distortion of monetary equilibrium?

None of these are utilitarian theories; libertarianism arose in the 1970s in the work of Robert Nozick, to which Hayek just wrote a preface, but his contribution to political philosophy has differed significantly from Nozick in his evolutionary approach. He was close to Friedman politically, but not at all in methodology of science or the monetary theory – at the end of their life, they both criticized each other.

The fact that Ebenstein agrees with Friedman rather than with Hayek is his personal decision (he also wrote a book about Friedman), but this does not help us understand Hayek. It is Ebenstein who advocates utilitarianism, not Hayek. Ebenstein wrote a book on utilitarianism – The Greatest Happiness Principle: An Examination of Utilitarianism.

His liberal view of the economy is fairly clear from Hayek’s books, but his analysis of state intervention, including the approval of some, makes him interesting for his opinion opponents. It is a well-known statement by Mises that Hayek was a Social Democrat, and Theodore Burczak even imagines Hayek socialism in his book Socialism after Hayek (in English). Even libertarianism is not easy to associate with Hayek’s student work.

About monetarism Hayek wrote – and it is probably worth remembering – that little worse can happen to economics than if people no longer believe in the main idea of ​​quantitative theory of money.

One of the few worse things would be to believe it literally (Hayek: “it’s now 50 years that I once said in effect that one of great misfortunes could happen to the field of economics if people ever cease to believe in the quantity theory of money, except for that they ever come to take it literally” – in an interview with John O’Sullivan, 1985 (in English).

This is a decisive criticism of Friedman and monetarism. As Hayek’s statement suggests, it is possible to deduce from what Hayek studied and wrote in his 20’s more than Ebenstein presents, for example. His interpretation of Hayek speaks much more about Ebenstein than about Hayek. This is not what we expect from a good biographer.

According to Horwitz, Caldwell’s intellectual biography of Hayek is much more convincing in that he also explains later Hayek in the light of the early one. Before getting to Hayek at all, Caldwell devotes over 100 pages to the environment and methodological debates that shaped his development.

Every biographer brings something of himself into his book or his interpretation, but reviewers of Hayek’s biographies have agreed that in this way the interpretation of Hayek’s contributions is much more believable.

I have criticized Ebenstein quite a lot, but he also deserves our respect, because in his honesty he drew richly from Hayek’s archive, more than Caldwell did in his book. Ebenstein thus gives the reader a chance to learn about such episodes of Hayek´s life as his encounter with John Paul II. in Vatican or he would allow the reader to look into the ideas of Hayek’s latest and never published article on the Austrian school of 1985.

If the honorable reader feels that I mind Ebenstein that he is a political philosopher, then I acknowledge hereby that in many ways the best intellectual biography of Hayek is from another political philosopher and historian – Hans Jörg Hennecke (in German). And this one certainly respects that Hayek was an Austrian economist; he provides the most compelling picture of Hayek so far in his student days.

He introduces him as a liberal traditionalist, from the 1920s until his death. Without losing intelligibility of his book, Hennecke illustrates his image of Hayek with a hardly surmountable amount of quotes from Hayek’s archive, his books, and articles.

If anyone felt we knew everything about Hayek a long time ago, I would hope our document would cure him of this mistake. But if our efforts do not succeed, then this book is a powerful remedy. Outside Germany, Hennecke’s book is almost unknown; the above mentioned biographers of Hayek either do not cite him at all or cite him only marginally.

But that’s not all. Historical research of Hayek is far from complete. In the video, I introduced myself as a doctoral student writing a dissertation on Hayek. Although in my ongoing dissertation research I do not focus on the criticism or response to these biographers, the reader may like to know what I have to do with Hayek’s biographers.

What I do can be understood as a combining of the new facts that Ebenstein brought with a compelling methodological Caldwell’s Hayek picture and a convincing traditionalist-liberal Henneck’s view, with the aim of correcting several of their mistakes.

Next year is expected the first volume of the first proper biography (a description of life rather than its scientific development) by Hayek from Bruce Caldwell and Hansjörg Klausinger, who gave a lecture on Hayek in June at the invitation of the Conservative Institute of Milan Rastislav Štefánik in Bratislava.

Caldwell’s Methodist Pupil Scott Scheall is preparing a book to reconsider Hayek’s methodology with a sufficient time passing since Hayek’s death, which Caldwell did not have, as he was involved in the methodological debates about Hayek during his lifetime and even corresponded with him about it.

Thus, it is definitely not possible to say that there is nothing new going on with Hayek. But back to our problem – since authors dealing with Hayek often have a strong opinion (whether positive or negative) on his political philosophy, there is a great risk that the reader will learn more about the teacher’s views than Hayek’s himself.

When reading Hayek’s books on political and moral philosophy, it is therefore necessary to seek a link to Hayek’s early views. That is why the Horwitz challenge also applies to us. Not that Hayek would be the most consistent author in the history of philosophy and as far as I know no one pretends that.

But almost always there is a more convincing interpretation that shows how he came to his later opinions from his early opinions – even when he changed his mind.

In fact, by an argument regarding why Hayek changed some of his views, a scientific research of Hayek began. It was a controversy in the early 1980s between science methodologists Terence W. Hutchison and Bruce Caldwell on why Hayek changed his methodology.

Hutchison wrote a book in 1981 on the methodology of economics (The Politics and Philosophy of Economics: Marxians, Keynesians and Austrians, in English), where in the chapter on the Austrian School he wrote that Hayek has undergone a “methodological U-turn” (see in English) in the famous 1937 Economics and Knowledge article.

According to Hutchison, Hayek had been a Misesian apriorist until then, while in this article for the first time he had consistently quoted Charles Popper and his falsificationism. According to Hutchison, Hayek shifted from “apriorism” to “falsificationism”.

If these are just unknown words for you, the first term derive the whole true economics from one true piece of knowledge (axiom), while the second one claims we can never be sure of the truth of our knowledge and in science we can and should try to deny the theories, of which we still think today that they are true.

Can you imagine a greater methodological twist – from one attitude to another? It is really difficult. It was absurd at that time to the young Bruce Caldwell, it was like imagining a round square. In fact, it was the beginning of his fascination with Hayek – as he admits in his preface to his book on Hayek.

When Caldwell opened Hayek, Hutchison’s claim did not seem to add up to him – on one hand, Hayek did not seem to him to be a strict apriorist prior to 1936 (today Caldwell’s former student Scott Scheall even claims that Hayek was never ever an apriorist!, in English) on the other hand, Hayek did not seem to him to be a strict falsificationist – though he admired both approaches and was partly inspired by them in his new approach to methodology.

In other words, unlike Hutchison, Caldwell sees no leap in Hayek’s thinking. Rather, he sees it as a continuum of gradual development. Caldwell, as a young ambitious academic, wrote his dissenting article, and so began a series of decent scientific responses that actually continued for two decades and culminated for Caldwell by becoming the general editor of Hayek’s Collected Works and publishing Hayek’s biography.

Caldwell summed up this debate after Hutchison’s death, in recognition of his work. The article was called One Skirmish in the Popper Wars: Hutchison versus Caldwell on Hayek, Popper, Mises, and methodology (in English). Hutchison remained convinced of his truth until his death, but his conviction of leap change had not become the standard of Hayek’s interpretation.

In Hayek’s research, Hutchison’s approach has kept relevance by the fact that there are very obvious changes in Hayek’s mind over time – for example, the transition from pure economics to the broader social sciences we discussed with our guests in the video – and they call for explanation. It is also to Hutchison’s credit that Hayek is almost impossible to interpret as completely consistent today.

Anyone who wants to interpret Hayek must also interpret the pressures and tensions in his gradually evolving thinking.

Our speakers began by asking why Hayek – by that very article Economics and Knowledge – changed the field of activity from pure economics to economics understood through political and moral philosophy. The change in his mind is very obvious, but now I hope it is clear that when I talk about Hayek’s moral or political philosophy, I also mean the link to his early economics, although it is not always reasonable to mention it.

Pavel Potužák gave a very interesting answer to this question. In the video, he said that Hayek, as a young scientist, decided to specialize in one science, which after some hesitation was economics. At the same time, Potužák explains that Hayek was interested in philosophy at an early age, writing his first dissertation on the subject of order in the human mind before he finally decided on an academic career in economics.

It was, therefore, a lack of time rather than a lack of interest on Hayek’s part. Hayek has been devoted almost exclusively to economics for 15 years, and in the 1930s became briefly famous in economics, but this was followed by a fall after his de facto defeat with Keynes in the struggle for the right approach to economics. Economists simply began to follow Keynes’s rather than Hayek’s approach. This led to temporary frustration, but in a sense Hayek came out strengthened.

On the one hand, he could start exploring the philosophical reasons that led economists – in his view, incorrectly – to follow Keynes, and on the other hand he could return to the social sciences from the first dissertation on the division of knowledge and the formation of order in the human mind.

His dissertation on the subject of the 1920s – as I mentioned in the previous episode – became the basis for his book The Sensory Order (in English) from the 1950s and whose critical edition was recently published with his early dissertation.

He returned to the problems of socialism, at the beginning (in 1935) especially to the problem of the possibility of rational economic planning under socialism, to which he was inspired in the 1920s by his mentor Ludwig von Mises through his book Die Gemeinwirtschaft (Socialism).

In early 1940s, Hayek developed the topic of misuse of reason by scientific philosophy and uncritical adoption of natural science methods in a series of articles that later formed an important methodological book, The Counter-revolution of Science (1952, version published in Collected Works in English), formulating methodological individualism and pointing out the problems of methodological collectivism. From the article Freedom and Economic System (1939, published in Collected Works in Socialism and War (in English) he later formulated the famous Road to Serfdom (1944, in English).

Finally, in the article “The Economic Conditions of Interstate Federalism” (1939), he expressed his fear of the nationalist nation-state and argued for transnational cooperation, primarily, but not only, in economic matters.

Although several political and non-political libertarians use it rhetorically to criticize the EU today, Hayek was also one of the forerunners of the reunified post-war Europe (in English), which he is criticized for by the critics of neoliberalism on one hand, and on the other hand it is highlighted today by Dalibor Roháč in his Towards the Imperfect Union (in English). In an expanded interpretation of Potužák’s commentary on Hayek as a person long-time interested for philosophy, especially political, I might as well quit.

It should be clear that Hayek is increasingly expanding his articles on political philosophy in the second half of the 1930s. It is both compatible with his previous interest in economics and secondly in his early, but not yet realized interest in philosophy, especially political.

In political philosophy, Hayek has earned a reputation with his Road to Serfdom, but as Caldwell writes in the introduction to the critical edition, this book must be read carefully, even cautiously. Everyone today has a strong view of the book already in advance – and this is a completely different situation than it was when the book was published.

At the time of its edition, the book shocked by comparing the political system of the Ally (Soviet Union) and the Enemy (Nazi Germany). Today, we tend to see what we want to see in it: our own political views. When reading this book, you should block your opinion.

It is said that the book is simple, and its reading today is often advertised by arguing that it was a bestseller at the time of publication (someone would add that it was a bestseller on Amazon for a short time during the 2008 recession).

But this is history, today it is not so easy book. It still reads quite well, is really well written and Hayek was proud of his English in this book.

However, some contexts are far remote from the reader. With a good introduction – such as from Caldwell in the critical edition or in our edition by Jan Pavlík (in Slovak) the book can still be read with great benefit. As elsewhere in our interview, Potužák and other guests say, the book shocked the British public at the time by pointing to the common collectivist roots of their enemy – Nazi Germany, as well as their ally – the Soviet Union.

Both systems also ended up in totalitarianism, which was then of interest to philosophers, writers and sociologists (Otto Friedrich Bollnow in German, Eric Voegelin in English, Karl Popper, George Orwell). Without a good introduction to Hayek’s book, reading it is a risky venture with an uncertain end – a road into the realm of Hayek myths and often myths about the world we live in (yes, even libertarians have their myths – see Hayek’s comments of Rothbard in English).

Ján Pavlík argues that in Hayek’s transition from pure economics to philosophy his re-evaluation of “tradition” played a role. By this he means the philosophical tradition, or the tradition of Western philosophical thinking (about this e. g. Etienne Gilson).

Pavlík recalls that Hayek has placed economics in the context of moral sciences and emphasizes constantly that he was a value-neutral scientist. He reminds that Hayek has in some sense returned to the founder of economics as a science Adam Smith who understood economics as part of moral philosophy (about this also see Michael Novak´ in a beautiful article on the Austrian School of Economics as Humanism).

Another aspect was his rejection of statistics in economics dominated by Keynes’s macroeconomic approach. He moved away from statistics to moral sciences. Facing totalitarianism, Hayek was a “man against perish” (Pavlík’s statement from the first video) and in this struggle he understood that he could not argue exclusively using the economy. In society there is more than just an economy at a stake.

Therefore, Hayek gradually began to study the legal and moral assumptions of the establishment of the economic order, its non-economic conditions.

Pavlík’s interpretation of NOMOS and THESIS follows the arguments of Hayek’s book Law, Legislation and Liberty. Who remembers the legendary lectures of Tomáš Ježek at the University of Economics, where this book served as a textbook will revive the memories, almost everyone enjoyed them. Ježek gladly gave them to everyone and his enthusiasm could also have inspired otherwise disinterested students.

Who hasn’t seen it, check out a few of his videos – Interview 1 (in Czech) or Historic Magazine (in Czech), ”Can they understand Christianity and wealth?” (in Czech). Who did not have the luck to experience Ježek, Pavlík represents him here very well. NOMOS and THESIS are Greek words for two different types of rules, general and specific.

These correspond to two types of order, with which they are compatible: KOSMOS and TAXIS. In the spontaneous order of KOSMOS, where millions of unknown individuals are coordinated, NOMOS rules must apply, equally applicable to everyone and to an indefinite number of future cases.

On the contrary, in the organizational order of TAXIS, the THESIS organizational rules must be applied, determining how each individual should contribute to the common purpose. KOSMOS, on the other hand, has no common purpose, each individual is pursuing its own purposes.

At TAXIS, the improvement of one’s own situation happens through participation in a common goal through organizational rules. Coordination for a common purpose can only be done where we know the contributions of individuals to a common goal, and this is only possible in a small society.

In KOSMOS, the purpose is absent, but by abstract rules it enables the coordination of millions of unknown individuals. In addition, as Pavlík points out elsewhere, the human mind is focused on abstraction and the observance of abstract rules, i.e. it is predisposed to overcome a TAXIS of a small society at some point in history and gradually open itself to a large or open society KOSMOS.

KOSMOS improves the chance of a any random person to achieve his personal purposes. NOMOS rules therefore say “how” to act, THESIS rules say “what” to do (act).

Ján Oravec appreciates Hayek’s evolutionary approach to the rules. In the long run, only those rules that are “darwinianly” adapted, will survive. He expressed the opinion that today in legislation we see almost exclusively THESIS, not at all NOMOS. He also expressed his will to change these ratios in favor of NOMOS.

Indeed, Hayek shared the concern that the legislative embodies would degenerate in this way, but I think that, except for society on the threshold of totalitarianism, Hayek would not have made such a judgement. While we are in a free society, we also have some NOMOS rules. Oravec here expresses frequent dilemma of Hayek readers – how to deal with his dichotomies.

Is it so that the spontaneous order is absolutely opposed to the state or an organization? Did they have spontaneous order in the West while we had a totalitarian organization in the East? In fact, the second of these questions is asked by Ján Oravec at another point in the interview. It is again a question on tension or contradiction in Hayek’s thinking.

Hayek was a thinker of the spontaneous order and, as Oravec with justification stated, if we let the society to a spontaneous development, it would converge to a free society. But – as he asks again – what is intervention and what is spontaneous development?

As we already know, Hayek also wrote a book about a country that had spontaneous order and developed further, then had some state intervention, and ended up in totalitarianism: The Road to Serfdom. So, when did Germany turn from spontaneous order to totalitarianism? I don’t think Hayek specifically specifies it anywhere.

The change was gradual – and was not just about the economy. It is a matter that we can often judge only as historians – retroactively.

For the key that will lead us further from the dilemma of planning vs. spontaneous order, I consider a definition of what, according to Hayek, is a spontaneous order, and a description of when society develops as a spontaneous order and when it only “rests under the weight of tyranny”. I used such a rhetorical element, but in fact, according to Hayek, any widespread society is to some extent spontaneous order.

Hayek’s definition of spontaneous order is explicitly derived from Adam Ferguson (in English), who said that humanity is encountering achievements, that are the result of human action, but not of human intent (in English).

When we open Ferguson’s book at that point – and in an effort to understand spontaneous orders, it is worth reading the whole book – we find Ferguson talking about political reform only for a relatively unfree episode of British history – under Oliver Cromwell.

According to Ferguson, the reform, which seems to be written for authoritarian purposes by a single person, does not actually plan future development. Every reform has its counter-reform. If we continue to read Ferguson, we will also respond to another dilemma of Ján Oravec: even totalitarian society can in some sense be regarded as a spontaneous order.

One Ferguson chapter is called “Development and Spontaneous Decline of Tyranny”. When Hayek began to talk about cultural evolution in the 1960s (in English), he also meant the evolutionary selection of mutated and non-viable totalitarian regimes that, rooted in society and standing on clay feet, they collapse under their own weight.

Václav Havel boldly and unwittingly called it in the Hayekian manner the process of entropy, implosion and the decline of the communist regime in the 1970s (the great Havel’s article was withdrawn from the Internet, so read at least what Šimečka writes about it in Slovak). It was here that Hayek saw the functioning of cultural evolution in practice.

Clearly, there was totalitarianism, many were in prison, political prisoners or professors were in uranium mines, the church was persecuted and we were imprisoned in this country with electric wires on the border, but even this would not prevent the process of cultural evolution from functioning.

In the latest book, Fatal Conceit – as I write in my dissertation, the book is problematic in many respects, but until you have a reliable version of it, it suffices to get an initial orientation, because it more or less expresses some of Hayek’s conclusions, which were supposed to be there – Hayek explicitly says in Eastern Europe, we see cultural evolution getting rid of and shaking off what is not adapted to it.

In contact with Solzhenitsyn and other dissidents in the 1980s, he saw that traditional religions were on the rise again despite oppression, and that “there is no Marxist in Moscow”, while in the West socialism was still so dear to intellectuals and economists that Samuelson had a positive assessment of the prospects of socialism in his world-famous textbook on economics still in 1989 (in English).

Socialism pretended to create new moral rules to put all proletarians in line and to create an alternative and potentially hegemonic foundation for future civilization. It had assumed that it would maintain the division of labor and an efficient economy, and even in the West the socialists had firmly anticipated “economic growth without any limits”.

Nothing like that has happened. Instead, the armed to the teeth Soviet empire fell into a house of cards. Cultural evolution continues, civilization has rid itself of one parasitic ideology (Pavol Minarik writes about it in the book Economics of Religion and Religion in Post-Communist Europe in Czech). Does it mean happy end, the end of history? From the point of view of the revolution, history never ends, as Hayek corrects those who connect him with Francis Fukuyama and reforms solely in the manner of the Washington Consensus.

About Solzhenitsyn – and through him, about the Eastern Europe after the fall of socialism – he predicted/said: “I don’t think he is happy in the West” (last 10 minutes of the interview in English). Are we happy in the West? This is a question about the reality of our moral beliefs and their degree of adaptation to this civilization.

I have not answered and have not commented on many of the statements of our esteemed speakers, but I believe the reader will be able to find them now. I just want to return to the question of Ján Oravec about whether they had spontaneous order or organization and its corresponding organizational rules (THESIS) in the West during the Cold War.

In the West, they were more morally and legally adapted to expanded order than we were, but it really was not ideal for them. Hayek warned them against degenerating democracy in the tyranny of the majority.

But searching for perfection in the human society is not what Hayek would recommend. I think Hayek’s prediction for the future is that we will always be balancing on the edge.

The atavistic desire for a small society that we normally ventilate in family and other small societies has the potential to undermine our civilization if it takes the form of amoral nepotism or slogans: “who does not steal is robbing his family”. Pavol Hardoš and Dalibor Roháč propose in their article (in English) on Hayek that by “innovation in ideas” it is possible to extend empathy from the family to increasingly widespread circles of fellow citizens of this extended order on which we are all dependent.

In the video, Ján Pavlík did not actually answer the question of how the rule of law relates to the protection of human rights, except for the mention of rationalist rights in the US Constitution. Hardoš and Roháč would say that the rule of law protects human rights. Many foreign authors think similarly (in English) whether we are able to suppress atavistic desires through “re-education” and to be more cooperative in the end and play cooperative games with increasingly foreign (or hostile) groups.

One of the things Hayek might argue is that these are ideals similar to the French Revolutionary Enlightenment, and he would rather be inclined to the Scottish evolutionary Enlightenment. The problem is that he won’t tell us anymore.

In the future – more than today – people will be able to imagine him as a liberal, as a conservative, or even as a socialist (or a combination of those). Today, the lefties also talks about evolution. If we are to honestly answer the question of where Hayek would stand in our political dilemmas, we must stop – it is difficult and actually impossible to say.

The question of how to do things in politics is a practical question, and they tend to be controversial, and today there is evidence that Hayek has sometimes had bizarre views on political issues (visits to Chile and the approval of the government of Pinochet). Someone says: Gotcha! Do as you wish…

But it would only prove that political disputes are so important to us that sometimes we forget the humanity of our political opponents. In the US, mutual respect for Republicans and Democrats is close to historic lows. Hayek should teach us that in the long run, politics is mostly petty. That is not to say that politics is not important.

Hayek wanted to be an ambassador or s central banker in his life (he actually worked for the government of Gibraltar for a while), but his life has directed him on a different path, he was a professor. What really matters in the long-term process of order formation in society are the processes of selection and adaptation and the associated consciousness of the human in us and in our opponents (Jonathan Haidt wrote The Righteous Mind).

It is also about preserving the tradition of science that studies these processes reaching beyond any of us. We need each other. Obviously, Hayek showed us better than anyone else how important civilization is to us. Without civilization, 99 % of humanity would not survive.

We have a chance with it. We live in a complicated and complex world that will never be perfect and never fulfil the utopian ideas of any of us. Even so, it may be a civilization, in which it is worth living and feeling happy.

Hayek would certainly understand our disagreements and he would have a strong opinion. Hayek was a liberal, considered civilization to be liberal in a sense, but he also respected tradition and contributed to it by the theory that liberal civilization depends on certain – though not all – traditions. He was a scientist, but he regarded religion as the guardian of tradition, although he himself was not a believer – see the relevant chapter in the book Fatal Conceit.

In the religion he appreciated the ability to remove not adapted beliefs, including quasi-religions, “political religions” of Nazism, fascism, or socialism. The term “political religions” was invented by Hayek’s friend from studies Eric Voegelin and later developed by Anthony James Gregor.

But he was bothered by religious intolerance, and he knew that even a religion could turn into a mutant that could prove anti-civilizing – as an example, he mentioned the socialist liberation theology in South American Catholic theology.

I don’t think Hayek contradicted these views. As I wrote a few times, a more thorough study in Hayek’s research showed that there were no contradictions. I think that in the future, the research about Hayek´s work will demonstrate how all the above-mentioned connections and apparent contradictions relate to each other.

Today it is fashionable to say that we live in a complex world. Because of the many interconnections (even between neurons – that was the topic of the book of the Sensory Order), no one can comprehend it completely.

Yet, despite all of this – and perhaps because of that – Hayek would like us to live in peace with all people, if possible, and to accept ourselves and the world as we are. Asked if he feels happy at the end of his life he answered: “It is my general view of life that we are playing a game of luck, and I have been lucky in this game.”

Are we happy in the West, in the west world? No? Let´s do something about it in order not to end sometimes in the future on a very unhappy place somewhere else than in the west world.

Continue exploring:

Hayek: Market Mechanism and Criticism of Socialism

Hayek in Context of Austrian School of Economics

Tomas Kristofory