McCloskey Watch

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Deirdre Nansen McCloskey reviews a new bio of Friedrich Hayek (link at right), and concludes Hayek Was a True Liberal. A small excerpt:

So Hayek and the Austrian School are liberal, in a modern world lurching between the fatal conceits of left and right. On the left nowadays Acemoglu and James Robinson, and more radically Thomas Piketty and Mariana Mazzucato, recommend a bigger and bigger state. They promise it will be a very nice one, you understand. On the right Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin recommend a bigger and bigger state. They make no such promises about niceness. They envision a state of the sort that Hayek opposed in Russia and then in the German lands, growing up with Viennese antisemitic politics and the street violence of Weimar Germany next door. We liberals stand apart from the usual spectrum, recommending as Hayek did a competent but small state, liberty with love.

The peculiarly American term for such a worldview is libertarianism. The usage delivers liberal over to the social democrats. Hayek and I disapprove. True liberalism adopts instead the strange and wonderful idea arising suddenly by happy accident in northwestern Europe during the 18th century that the ancient hierarchies of husband and master and king should not stand. Ordinary people were to be treated for the first time like adults. Such a liberalism could be called adultism.

All this ideological classification can get confusing, even frustrating. It doesn't matter if you're being pigeonholed, or you're self-pigeonoling; there's no USDA regulation for what goes on your philosophical ingredient list.

If I absolutely must label myself, I usually—sorry, Deirdre!—go with "libertarian". Because I want not to be misunderstood, as I would be if I said "liberal". If I'm allowed a few more words, I add "with significant conservative leanings."

Anyway: I'll probably take a pass on the book. 824 pages, and it only goes up to 1950! I think I'd prefer to reread The Constitution of Liberty.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 4:46 AM EST