Acton Institute Powerblog

6 Quotes: Friedrich Hayek on economics and freedom

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Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the death of the Austrian and British economist Friedrich Hayek. Throughout his life the Nobel-winning philosopher defended civil liberties and political freedom and warned against the Keynesian welfare state and of totalitarian socialism.

In honor of Hayek, here are six key quotes from his writings:

Friederich Hayek / Creative Commons

On Faith in Freedom: Freedom necessarily means that many things will be done which we do not like. Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad. (The Case for Freedom)

On Equality: From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time. The equality before the law which freedom requires leads to material inequality. (The Constitution of Liberty)

On Democracy: A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form 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. If Mrs. Thatcher 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. (Letter to The Times (July 11, 1978))

On Wealth and Power: [W]ho will deny that a world in which the wealthy are powerful is still a better world than one in which only the already powerful can acquire wealth? (The Road to Serfdom)

On Private Property: What our generation has forgotten is that the system of private property is the most important guarantee of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that nobody has complete power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. (The Road to Serfdom)

On Ignorance: All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. (The Constitution of Liberty)

The Road to Serfdom- The Definitive Edition

The Road to Serfdom- The Definitive Edition

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. 

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

Comments

  • Thanks for these! Hayek was a great one.

  • Nohm

    The equality quote is a gem. We all love Thomas Jefferson, but it’s obvious that his phrase “all men are created equal” has been twisted to mean “all men ARE equal,” and the effect of that on our laws and schools has been abominable.