Wisdom from Hayek
On Saturday evening, a Liberty Fund colloquium on the Austrian and Chicago schools of thought ended. One of the pleasures I got from doing the readings was reading sections of Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. I had read it over 50 years ago from cover to cover but had read only sections of it since then. So it felt as if I were reading it for the first time.
Here are two of my favorite passages:
This denial of responsibility is, however, commonly due to a fear of responsibility, a fear that necessarily becomes also a fear of freedom. It is doubtless because the opportunity to build one’s own life also means an unceasing task, a discipline that man must impose upon himself if he is to achieve his aims, that many people are afraid of liberty. [p. 72]
I agree with this thought but my pleasure wasn’t from that. It was from seeing Hayek talking about people building their lives. I had posted on this term only a few months ago and had had no idea that Hayek had used it.
If we allow men freedom because we presume them to be reasonable beings, we must also make it worth their while to act as reasonable beings by letting them bear the consequences of their decisions. This does not mean that a man [DRH edit: “person”] will always be assumed to be the best judge of his interests; it means merely that we can never be sure who knows them better than he and that we wish to make full use of the capacities of all those who may have something to contribute to the common effort of making our environment serve human purposes. [bold added]
It’s the part that’s bold that I like so much. I’ve never been totally convinced that each person is the best judge of his or her own interests; it’s just that how would we know who would be a better judge?