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Friday, February 18, 2005 - 5:59amSanction this postReply
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"It is tempting to ask, before moving further: in that case, why does Hayek bother making any sort of case at all?"

 

Hayek was originally an advocate of socialism  studying economics in Vienna. However, his economic ideas were radically changed by reading Ludwig von Mises’ book, Socialism.

 

So, I see his prime motivation as being anti-socialist, rather than pro-capitalist. He didn’t see capitalism as being morally superior to socialism, just giving better economic and political outcomes.

 

I have read his book, the Road to Serfdom, and he was arguing from a practical point of view. Therefore, he did make a powerful case against the evils of socialism and central planning in the same vein as von Mises had done -  but he didn't manage to independently come up with a moral defence of capitalism.

 

It would be interesting to read the FR overview of his works, but unfortunately issue #28 is not in the archive.










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Post 1

Friday, February 18, 2005 - 8:22amSanction this postReply
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BTW, just as an aside:  There has been a lot of discussion over the years about the authenticity of Hayek's last book, The Fatal Conceit.  Ironically, in Liberty magazine, another article with the same title as Lindsay's ("The Fatal Deceit") has just been published, this one by Alan Ebenstein.  Ebenstein brings together all the thinking on this, and makes a persuasive case that the book was so heavily edited that it may not even be fully Hayek's written work in the strict sense, even if the ideas remain "Hayekian." 

Here's the link to Ebenstein's article:

http://libertyunbound.com/archive/2005_03/ebenstein-deceit.html




Post 2

Friday, February 18, 2005 - 2:58pmSanction this postReply
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"In holding this view [Hayek] is simply a child of his times, a footnote to Immanuel Kant, the father of our times, who taught us, with far more sophistication than David Hume or Plato, that we can't know anything."

Linz,

This is bullshit and you should know better. Since you appointed me the “guy who keeps us on our toes” let me retort. Kant did not teach us that “we can’t know anything.” As evidence I offer the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason. There he bemoans the fact that metaphysics has not yet entered “the secure path of a science.” He then gives us three examples of such sciences. First he tells us that Logic has been following “that secure path from the earliest times” and has not had to make any significant improvements since Aristotle. [Yes he mentions Aristotle by name.] Second he cites mathematics which has been following the secure path of a science since the earliest times due to “that admirable people, the Greeks.”
Finally he cites physics, which since the time of Bacon and Galileo [remember the line about Galileo rolling his balls down an incline plane (ouch)] (Bxii) has entered the secure path of a science.
So there it is. Knowledge all over the place. So what should I do since Linz appointed me as the “guy to keep us on our toes?” I can do no better that quote David Niven from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, to wit: I shall continue to yell “tripe” whenever tripe is served.

Fred




Post 3

Friday, February 18, 2005 - 4:28pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks Linz for your fine piece on Hayek!!!!

It makes a great complement to my recent essay.

If  you post Larry Sechrest's article we will be on the way to having a book!!!!

Cheers!!!!

Ed




Post 4

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 1:11amSanction this postReply
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Fred: You would say that, wouldn't you?! In spite of your revisionism, I am still of the view that your proto-Objectivist hero taught that we can't know anything about the "real" reality.

Diabolical: You really are an EFT. If you believe Hayek didn't mean it, didn't write it, or was senile, effing say so. If you think he meant it, state your opinion of it. I take your attempt to excuse him indicates that you know it's indefensible.

Linz




Post 5

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 4:40amSanction this postReply
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I'll take some time off from adding the finishing touches to SOLO Youth, to congratulate Linz on this article.

Last year for my final Politics essay my assignment was to criticise Hayek. From my first readings I was having some serious trouble, since I agreed with nearly everything Hayek said! And looking up some libertarian reviews of Hayek didn't help - they were all strongly in favour of Hayek's ideas. Then I found articles by Lindsay and Tibor Machan, and was inspired to write a strong Objectivist critique of Hayek's inconsistent and subjective liberalism. I received an A and confused the hell out of my tutor, who had just marked a series of socialist attacks on Hayek. So I have two SOLOists to thank for helping me overcome writer's block and succeed in Pols 112!

Anyway - this is an excellent piece which concisely exposes the flaws in Hayekian ideas. Thanks, Linz.



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Post 6

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 7:14amSanction this postReply
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Linz writes:

Diabolical: You really are an EFT. If you believe Hayek didn't mean it, didn't write it, or was senile, effing say so. If you think he meant it, state your opinion of it. I take your attempt to excuse him indicates that you know it's indefensible.




Linz, all I did was raise the issue that Ebenstein raises:  The evidence is persuasive (but the jury is still out) that Hayek may not have written quite a bit of The Fatal Conceit. I have no way of knowing how much or how little he authored without seeing the actual evidence.  And that is pretty much what Ebenstein calls for:  A new scholarly edition of The Fatal Conceit, which would publish Hayek's book as he intended it, and separate out any material that may have been authored by his editor W.W. Bartley or his editor's assistant, my old colleague, Jeffrey Freidman (who edits Critical Review).  So how can I possibly give you a definitive answer without actually seeing evidence?

What I did suggest in my post on this thread, however, was that even if it is proven that this was not "Hayek's written work in the strict sense" (that is, that Hayek didn't write all of it), clearly "the ideas remain 'Hayekian.'"  (Though it's quite a separate issue just how "consistent" the editors' material is with Hayek's own work:  I still think it's broadly Hayekian, but I'm sure that there would---and should---be a debate over the authenticity of the editors' applications of Hayek's views.)

So where is this an attempt to excuse Hayek?

My own books take Hayek to task on a number of very serious issues, including his view of ethics.  But where you and I differ on Hayek is where you and I differ on most things:  I approach Hayek with a scalpel, separating out that which I find indefensible, but still preserving that which I think valuable.  You use a sledgehammer.  (Well, you're not consistent in this:  Because clearly you do use a scalpel with regard to those views of Rand's that you find indefensible.  The key difference, however, is that you accept the essentials of Rand's philosophy---an acceptance I share with you.)

I submit, however, that we should thank our lucky stars that people like Hayek were around to advance, for example, the Austrian theory of the business cycle, which has provided us with a strong dose of intellectual ammunition in the battle against statism.  His insights into the relationships of politics and culture are extremely important; his insights into the "tacit" dimensions of knowledge (so crucial to the debate over socialist economic calculation) and unintended consequences are indispensable.  But still, like  you, I'd "junk" quite a bit of his work.

But, as I suggest above, I'd approach Ayn Rand and every other thinker the same way.  What was the purpose of writing Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation, if not to separate the wheat from the chaff concerning Rand's views of homosexuality and its place in the wider framework of Objectivism?  I have been a consistent advocate of "hijacking" the insights of others, and integrating those insights into something different, as you know.  I'm not an advocate of "changing" the nature of philosophies or philosophers.   I believe in recognizing every thinker for what he or she is, and taking that which is valuable from each.  "God said:  Take what you want and pay for it," is the old Spanish proverb the Objectivists were fond of quoting.  And that's exactly what I do.  I take what I want from various approaches, and I pay for it:  By taking full responsibility for my own integrations, and refusing to lay that responsibility at the feet of the thinkers from whom I've taken and learned. 

As I said in that first "Hijacking" article with regard to Objectivism and the issue of Rand's attitude toward "homosexuality" (which I junked, and which some people still maintain is fully a part of "Objectivism"):

I’m adhering to the old Spanish proverb that says: "Take what you want, and pay for it." I’m taking what I want from Rand’s legacy, and paying for it—by assuming responsibility for my own interpretations and applications. Call me a Randian or a post-Randian or a neo-Objectivist or an advocate of Objectivism 2.0, or even the founder of Sciabarra-ism. But don’t call me an Objectivist. I agree with Rand’s core principles. But I have never argued that my own innovations (on subjects like dialectics or homosexuality) are part of "Objectivism" as Rand ... defines it. Yes, I do believe that my own viewpoint is fully consistent with Objectivism. And on the subject of dialectics, for example, I’ve even argued that Rand herself was a dialectician as I’ve defined it. But I would never argue that Rand embraced "dialectics" as such, explicitly and by that name. Ultimately, I believe that I’m carrying on Rand’s legacy in many substantive ways and the burden is on me to prove it.

What I’ve stated here is fairly straightforward and self-evident, for this is all in the nature of intellectual development. An innovator puts forth a doctrine. Over time, that doctrine is adapted, interpreted, and applied to various issues and experiences of which the innovator never could have dreamed. Some of the approaches will resonate with us; others won’t.




And this is precisely what I've done with Hayek, Mises, and Rothbard as well.

Yours,
EFT

(Edited by sciabarra on 2/19, 7:54am)




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Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 7:51amSanction this postReply
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Chris says: But where you and I differ on Hayek is where you and I differ on most things:  I approach Hayek with a scalpel, separating out that which I find indefensible, but still preserving that which I think valuable. 

Chris,

 

At what point would you say that the ideas of an author, thinker, politician ... ect ... reaches the point where whatever specifics of their thinking are rational or defensible, the totality of their thought is so thoroughly corrupt or evil, that they are no longer worthy of any 'precise surgery'?

 

This is not to say we should simply dismiss all their ideas (of a Marx, Popper, or Kant for example), but it is to say that that there is a point where dwelling on the specifics can become a form of equivocation on the persons influence as a whole. In that sense one may end up being a revisionist by default.

 

George (Doubting Thomas)

 

PS: Bidinotto's blog is better than yours. : )


(Edited by George W. Cordero on 2/19, 7:58am)




Post 8

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 7:55amSanction this postReply
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(THREAD HIJACKING ALERT!!! THREAD HIJACKING ALERT!!!)

PS: Bidinotto's blog is better than yours. : )


I am forced to agree. Just take a look.

(HIJACKING OVER. YOU CAN GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS NOW. MOVE ALONG, FOLKS...NOTHING MORE TO SEE HERE...)




Post 9

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 8:02amSanction this postReply
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Robert,

LOL!

Linz,

What do you think about an article titled, "Of Scalpels and Sledgehammers" - should I give it a whirl?

George





Post 10

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 8:38amSanction this postReply
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I believe Hayek was opposed to "reason" in the form of rationalizations, in the service of ideology, either socialist or conservative, when used to impose force on society to achieve some idealistic end. He believed that peaceful sub cultures of various types should be allowed to exist, and evolve, and force had no place in society to interfere with the evolution of culture. He had no problem with religion as sub cultures as long as they were peaceful. This is a political philosophy which I applaud. It is in no way in opposition to what I perceive as objectivist political philosophy but is in opposition to what I think some "objectivists'" would support, for instance, not allowing religious persons to teach their children religion. In this regard Hayek is superior to the viewpoint of some people on this website.

Hayek was not a conservative, in fact in his chapter "Why I am not a conservative" in "The Constitution of Liberty" he states his belief that conservatives lack principles, and like socialists, are willing to impose force on society to achieve their "moral" ends.

I worked with a Mr. Gabor Fencsik,from Hungary, a software engineering manager, some years ago. I happened to mention Hayek in the lunchroom one time, Gabor replied "Hayek is a god in eastern Europe". Evidently, those who have lived in the hell of soviet collectivism hold Hayek in high regard.

I applaud Chris Sciabarra for his open minded views. Keep the good, discard the rest.

By the way, I have read only, "The road to serfdom", "The Constitution of Liberty", and "Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics". I have not read "The Fatal Conceit".



Post 11

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 9:42amSanction this postReply
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Chris,

Let me be absolutely clear, so as neither you nor others misunderstand my point. I am not saying that one should self-censor themselves from reading, quoting, or writing about any subject, from any source. What I am saying is that there is a point in the ideas of person where they may be so fundamentally corrupt or evil, that whatever peripherally correct point they may make - they are the poorest possible representatives of that point; and a strong focus on that point, using them as a 'good' souce, can work to obscure their otherwise fundamentally corrupt ideas. In other words, I do not intend to write a book on the ill effects of smoking, and include 15 quotes from Adolf Hitler to support my position.

By the way, I have only the most cursory knowledge of Hayek and his economic theories. So he *may be* a perfectly reasonable candidate for 'scalpel' treatment. My comment was to ascertain from Chris, at what point would he put away the 'scalpel', and use a 'sledgehammer' on his patient.

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 2/19, 9:50am)




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Post 12

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 10:16amSanction this postReply
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George asks:


At what point would you say that the ideas of an author, thinker, politician ... ect ... reaches the point where whatever specifics of their thinking are rational or defensible, the totality of their thought is so thoroughly corrupt or evil, that they are no longer worthy of any 'precise surgery'?

This is not to say we should simply dismiss all their ideas (of a Marx, Popper, or Kant for example), but it is to say that that there is a point where dwelling on the specifics can become a form of equivocation on the persons influence as a whole. In that sense one may end up being a revisionist by default.


Well, "Doubting Thomas," I don't think there is ever a point at which it is not productive to critically engage with serious thinkers (which begs the question:  who is and who is not a serious thinker?).  But just because I critically engage with everything I read doesn't mean that I agree with every person I've read---quite the contrary.  But it still requires that I actually read, grapple with, and get "inside" the work at hand if I want to understand it, draw from it, or otherwise reject it---or aspects of it.

Even Rand, who was known to carry around a sledgehammer or two, found value in the Bible, and in Nietzsche, and in a single statement of Reinhold Niehbur; even Rand learned from her Russian teachers---despite rejecting the essence of their substantive ideologies.

I, myself, have profited from a reading of Marx and Hegel, and I'd say that I have drawn extensively from some of their specifically dialectical insights---even if I reject 90% of their respective substantive ideologies.  (Alas, the things that I find most valuable in their work are the things that they take from Aristotle; so don't go believing everything you hear about Chris Sciabarra being a "Hegelian" or a "Marxist." :) )

What it comes down to is this:  There is indeed a point at which "dwelling on the specifics can become a form of equivocation on the person's influence as a whole."  That's why we do need to separate essential from nonessential aspects.  But it's also why we need to pay attention to different levels of generality.  That's why I can celebrate essential aspects of Hayek's work in political economy, for example, without necessarily being a "Hayekian" in any broader philosophical sense.  How else to perform this operation without a scalpel?

Thus, the virtue of having a scalpel is not just to "keep the good, discard the rest"---as Mike Erickson puts it... though I do think that is a pretty good way of capturing what I like to do intellectually.  The virtue of using a scalpel is that it does help us to sort through essential issues on those different levels of generality (because what is "essential" on one level may not be "essential" on another level:  context determines essence). 

All of this said, I should emphasize:  Sometimes there is no good to be kept even after having used the scalpel.  (This is funny... because I was in the process of making the following Hitler point when George's newest post popped up:)  I have "critically engaged" Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and Mao tse-Tung's On Contradiction, and have not emerged praising the "insights" of either writer.  But through it all, I would hope that we can keep a sense of proportion; Hayek may have been wrong about a lot of things.  But I would certainly not classify him with Hitler and Mao.  For even if I were to accept Rand's view of his essential philosophical points as "poison," I have learned to appreciate what Hayek offers in terms of intellectual "antidote" to the poisons propagated by socialists on the level of political economy and social theory.

George continues:  "PS: Bidinotto's blog is better than yours. : ) "

To which Bidinotto replies:  "I am forced to agree."

Well, Bidinotto, you may draw from Yoda (as have I), but I don't see any cute doggie pictures on your site.  :)

In any event, take Cordero's praise with a grain of salt.  He's a waffler.  Last week,  he was putting my blog ahead of yours.  Next week, it might be Mike's Blog.  You never can tell with him.  :)




Post 13

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 10:46amSanction this postReply
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Chris Matthew Hegel says: ... so don't go believing everything you hear about Chris Sciabarra being a "Hegelian"...

I promise, I won't.

Sincerely, Doubting Thomas

PS: I just looked over 'Mike's Blog' - it is indeed better than *both* yours and Roberts!




Post 14

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 12:53pmSanction this postReply
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Linz,

Your reply isn't even a clever equivocation. You simply changed your original statement. I was responding to your claim that Kant taught that "we can't know anything." (Is that a sledgehammer?) You did not say that Kant said we can't know anything about real reality. Maybe you just like being a moving target. Well, you can run but you can't hide from the Kantinator.

Fred



Post 15

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 3:32pmSanction this postReply
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Lindsay said to Chris:

You really are an EFT
What the hell is an EFT?

MH




Post 16

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 5:00pmSanction this postReply
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In a moment of great insight, Diabolical said:

"In any event, take Cordero's praise with a grain of salt.  He's a waffler.  Last week,  he was putting my blog ahead of yours.  Next week, it might be Mike's Blog.  You never can tell with him.  :)"

That's for sure!!

Fred—in my book, "knowledge about real reality" & "knowledge" are one & the same. It's your pin-up boy who made a distinction between the two.

As for "scalpel vs sledgehammer"—that's a total mischaracterisation. As Phil Howison makes very clear above, you won't get the real skinny on Hayek from the usual suspects, Diabolical included, because they skirt round his downside, which is huge. There's no scalpel being wielded here; rather, a protective shield has been erected by folk who should know better. If telling it like it is is brandishing a sledgehammer, than I'm all in favour of the sledgehammer, but I believe that the raising of a scalpel-sledgehammer distinction is a ruse to deflect attention from the reality here, a reality that vey few commentators have been willing to face up to. I should point out that Rand's description of Hayek as a totally poisonous, vicious bastard, was actually in response to The Road to Serfdom, one of Hayek's more benign works (reviewed quite favourably by me in TFR 5). Lord knows what Rand would have said about the dreadful Fatal Conceit.

Linz










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Post 17

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 8:14pmSanction this postReply
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Should we tell Matthew what EFT means, Linz?  :)

BTW, point well taken on Rand and The Road to Serfdom, and she would have had a stroke if she'd read The Fatal Conceit.  But I wonder if Rand herself thought it counterproductive to launch into any sustained critique or even a single bad public word against Hayek during her lifetime.  For example, Rand came down hard on Mises in her marginalia too, and even allowed Nathaniel Branden to take issue (in a sentence or two) with Mises's praxeology in a review of Human Action.  But she still recognized Mises's great gifts and praised him publicly every chance she had.

By contrast, she said absolutely nothing about Hayek in any of her nonfiction books published in her lifetime.  Except for her Letters and Marginalia, there is not a single published reference to Hayek in any of her writings.

In any event, I assure you that I share many of your views on Hayek, and criticize him very strongly in several sections of Marx, Hayek, and Utopia.

But I wouldn't be an EFT if I weren't a dissenter.  :)

I'll leave it to you to blow the lid off this affectionate acronym. 




Post 18

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 8:29pmSanction this postReply
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Maybe we should let folk try to guess. :-)



Post 19

Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 8:51pmSanction this postReply
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Egregiously Foreboding Tyrant?



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