Streetwise Professor

May 8, 2012

The Hayek Quote Contest

Filed under: Economics,Politics — The Professor @ 11:58 am

In “honor” of Karl Marx’s birthday, the Christian Science Monitor ran a feature of “10 Great Marx Quotes.”  Google has made this an Editor’s Pick.  Ugh. (H/t R-again!)

Today is the birthday of a truly great scholar and far better human being than Karl Marx-Frederich Hayek .  The CSM should be running a feature  of Great Hayek Quotes.* Google Editors should be making it one of their featured choices.

But here on earth, we know that’s not happening.  So I’d like the SWP community to do the job for them.  I encourage comments including great Hayek quotes.  The more the better-we can beat 10, easy.

I’ll start it out:

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality – an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order

Jump in, folks!

PS. Coordination Problem often names a Hayek offering as its Quote of the Day.

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  1. ‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded. Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality – an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order.

    Comment by La Russophobe — May 8, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  2. “the Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess… This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence. But the influence of the economist that mainly matters is an influence over laymen: politicians, journalists, civil servants and the public generally.”

    Comment by CHB — May 8, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  3. There could be hundreds. Here are ten:

    “…the case for individual freedom rests largely on the recognition of the inevitable and universal ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievements of our ends and welfare depend.”

    “Many of the greatest things man has achieved are not the result of consciously directed thought, and still less the product of a deliberately coordinated effort of many individuals, but of a process in which the individual plays a part which he can never fully understand.”

    “The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.”

    “Human reason can neither predict nor deliberately shape its own future. Its advances consist in finding out where it has been wrong.”

    “The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate “given” resources — if “given” is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these “data.” It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.”

    “To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”

    “We must show that liberty is not merely one particular value but that it is the source and condition of most moral values. What a free society offers to the individual is much more than what he would be able to do if only he were free. We can therefore not fully appreciate the value of freedom until we know how a society of free men as a whole differs from one in which unfreedom prevails.”

    “A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.”

    “It is indeed probable that more harm and misery have been caused by men determined to use coercion to stamp out a moral evil than by men intent on doing evil.”

    “To undertake the direction of the economic life of people with widely divergent ideals and values is to assume responsibilities which commit one to the use of force; it is to assume a position where the best intentions cannot prevent one from being forced to act in a way which to some of those affected must appear highly immoral. This is true even if we assume the dominant power to be as idealistic and unselfish as we can possibly conceive. But how small is the likelihood that it will be unselfish, and how great are the temptations!”

    Comment by Robert Kamphuis — May 8, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

  4. Thanks, Robert. Boy. A blast from the past. Funny meeting you here. Good to hear from you. Hope all’s well.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 8, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

  5. “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they can design.”

    Comment by Ed Ryan — May 8, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

  6. It is high time we took our ignorance more seriously.

    Comment by noir — May 8, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

  7. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

    OK, so it wasn’t Hayek, but it was close.

    Comment by Green as Grass — May 9, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  8. @Green. Nietzsche. Hayek. Whatever. Both Germanic types, eh?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 9, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

  9. Watch it with the Nietzsche – we are getting close to neo epicurianism!

    Comment by sotos — May 9, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

  10. These days, whenever I hear the words “Europe” and “economics” in the same sentence, I find myself thinking of that line about abysses (“When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back into you”) and having to remind myself which Friedrich said it.

    Hayek would have thought of it in the end if Nietzsche hadn’t got there first.

    Comment by Green as Grass — May 10, 2012 @ 4:30 am

  11. I opened my copy of “The Road to Serfdom” at random, and came across this:

    “Democratic government has worked successfully where, and so long as, the functions of government were, by a widely accepted creed, restricted to fields where agreement among a majority could be achieved by free discussion; and it is the great merit of the liberal creed that it reduced the range of subjects on which agreement was necessary to one on which it was likely to exist in a society of free men.” (1944 ed., p. 69)

    Comment by markets.aurelius — May 10, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

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