Russ Roberts on Hayek
By David Henderson
Russ Roberts has a nice op/ed on Hayek’s main ideas in today’s Wall Street Journal. He highlights four contributions of Hayek. I agree with all four, but he gave a poor example for one of them. The four are:
1. “He and fellow Austrian School economists such as Ludwig Von Mises argued that the economy is more complicated than the simple Keynesian story. Boosting aggregate demand by keeping school teachers employed will do little to help the construction workers and manufacturing workers who have borne the brunt of the current downturn.”
2. “Hayek highlighted the Fed’s role in the business cycle. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s artificially low rates of 2002-2004 played a crucial role in inflating the housing bubble and distorting other investment decisions. Current monetary policy postpones the adjustments needed to heal the housing market.”
This is the one with the poor example. As Jeff Hummel and I have shown elsewhere (here and here), Greenspan did not have a particularly loose monetary policy.
3. “Third, as Hayek contended in ‘The Road to Serfdom,’ political freedom and economic freedom are inextricably intertwined. In a centrally planned economy, the state inevitably infringes on what we do, what we enjoy, and where we live. When the state has the final say on the economy, the political opposition needs the permission of the state to act, speak and write. Economic control becomes political control.”
4. “The fourth timely idea of Hayek’s is that order can emerge not just from the top down but from the bottom up.”
Russ understates this. Hayek argued, in his article, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” that order can’t emerge from the top down.
BTW, see my review of The Road to Serfdom in Regulation, Spring 2009.