Hayek and Fusionism
By Arnold Kling
The foundation of Hayek’s thought is an emphasis on the severe limitations on human knowledge, especially where human social institutions and other complex phenomena are concerned. For Hayek, even the knowledge we do have is dispersed and fragmented, directly available only to scattered individuals rather than to society at large, its governmental representatives, or would-be social-scientific experts; and much of it is embodied in practice, habit, and “know how” which it is impossible to convey in explicit propositional form. The economic implication of this is that central planning of the socialist kind is impossible, for no would-be planner could have the knowledge requisite to doing the job. Only prices generated in a capitalist economy can encapsulate the scattered and otherwise ungatherable information needed for rational economic activity, and individuals responding to price signals in the marketplace ensure the most efficient allocation of resources as is practically possible. But there are moral and social implications as well. For tradition, in Hayek’s view, plays a role similar to that of the price system, embodying the inchoate moral insights of millions of individuals scattered across countless generations, and sensitive to far more information than is available to any individual reformer or revolutionary. The radical moral innovator, who falsely assumes he can design from scratch new institutions superior to existing ones, suffers from a hubris analogous to that inherent in socialism.
Thus, Feser argues, Hayek is able to reconcile conservatism with libertarianism. Tyler Cowen is not so sure.