Karl Popper on Hayek and the European Union

I think we should learn from our mistakes [the EU] and start again, very simply with sovereign democratic states bound by treaties of close cooperation and mutual assistance, and a programme for the defence of peace.

Attentive Cats will have noticed that there is a bonus link attached to Jeremy Sammut’s piece on populism. This is a long paper by my English colleague Rod Thomas. As an academic he found himself on the wrong side of elite opinion about the EU and the British exit and his attempt to publish the paper had a hostile reception so I put it on one of my sites to give it a public run in case no academic journal will take it. His paper in defence of Brexit draws extensively from the works of Popper, especially Popper’s arguments for classical liberalism against collectivism and other dangerous intellectual tendencies which we have inherited from Plato and Marx. I recommend the piece although I appreciate it is not the thing for all Cats.

Popper’s major works were all written long before the EU but Rod Thomas informs us that two years before he died Popper gave a tribute to mark the passing of his friend Hayek.

In it he offered these interesting remarks:

Hayek’s books about the legal framework are full of thoughts about the protection of legal institutions. His thoughts recall the problem situation and the atmosphere of the founders of the American constitution. I fear that few care nowadays for these problems…The neglect of Hayek’s ideas can be gauged by their lack of influence upon the plans for a United Europe, with an executive bureaucracy in Brussels, without a clear responsibility to any democratic control, and a parliament in Strasbourg without any competence to control the all-powerful bureaucracy. I think we should learn from our mistakes and start again, very simply with sovereign democratic states bound by treaties of close cooperation and mutual assistance, and a programme for the defence of peace.

It is clear that the architects of the current plans for Europe have not studied Hayek – not even the founding fathers of the American constitution. But I fear that their ideologies make it somewhat unlikely that they will turn to these vitally important sources. Our dreams, if any, should not be of a strong Europe, but of a peaceful and civilized Europe (Popper 2012 [2008], pp. 409-410).

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18 Responses to Karl Popper on Hayek and the European Union

  1. rickw

    I think we should learn from our mistakes [the EU] and start again, very simply with sovereign democratic states bound by treaties of close cooperation and mutual assistance, and a programme for the defence of peace.

    Why do democratic states need to be bound by treaties? Do good neighbours need treaties?

    WWI & WWII may not have been avoidable, but treaties on the whole would seemed to have guaranteed them, were used as tools of deception and in the most part weren’t worth the paper they were written on.

    The Eurocrats only real lesson is that their last grab for power was to brazen.

  2. OneWorldGovernment

    As far as I am personnely concerned the EU will burn and I will not give a continental.

    France and Germany can disappear up their own bum holes.

    They are and have been utterly contemptible.

    Belgium should be smacked into oblivian

  3. Razor

    Thaks Rafe
    Have been just reading about the real Lincoln. Interesting that the US constitution was intended to provide a union of states which retain a significant level of self management. The Eu appears to me to have aimed for zero of such. The US states have no geologic sea separation unlike Britain and the rest of europe = Brexit.

  4. Tintarella di Luna

    Thank you Rafe this is very interesting. It was the hubristic overreach of the European Union which became so obvious that is its undoing. It’s attempt to dissolve national borders and take control of democratic countries by the ruse of economic co-operation has seen for exactly what it is — an autocratic bureaucracy hell bent on totalitarian control. May it rot. Britain has dodged the bullet that Thatcher always warned of, may she rest in peace.

  5. Rafe

    Razor i think the US civil war was about states rights and economic rotectionisn in the north as much as slavery.
    All the major reforms since then have advanced statism and centralism.

  6. Empire GTHO Phase III

    Why do democratic states need to be bound by treaties? Do good neighbours need treaties?

    Security. The European experience of Napoleon informed the pacts. Good neighbours may suddenly become hostile neighbours as a result of regime change.

    The evidence is inconclusive, but there is an argument that the security pacts of 1914 were intentionally exploited to trigger mass conflict.

    There are pros and cons with treaties.

  7. ned

    Anti-Federalist vs. Federalist. In U.S. history, anti-federalists were those who opposed the development of a strong federal government and the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, preferring instead for power to remain in the hands of state and local governments.

    “This being the beginning of American freedom, it is very clear the ending will be slavery, for it cannot be denied that this constitution is, in its first principles, highly and dangerously oligarchical; and it is every where agreed, that a government administered by a few, is, of all governments, the worst.” —Leonidas (pseudonym) in Anti-Federalist Paper No. 48

    Although the arguments of the Anti-Federalists against the new Constitution were numerous and varied, there is one thing that underlies them all: The danger to liberty from a strong central government.

    The new constitution instead of being the panacea or cure of every grievance so delusively represented by its advocates will be found upon examination like Pandora’s box, replete with every evil.

    The new constitution vests Congress with such unlimited powers as ought never to be entrusted to any men or body of men.

    Upon an attentive examination you can pronounce it nothing less, than a government which in a few years, will degenerate to a compleat Aristocracy, armed with powers unnecessary in any case to bestow, and which in its vortex swallows up every other Government upon the Continent. In short, my fellow-citizens, it can be said to be nothing less than a hasty stride to Universal Empire in this Western World, flattering, very flattering to young ambitious minds, but fatal to the liberties of the people.

    Here is a revolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is as radical, if in this transition, our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the States be relinquished: And cannot we plainly see, that this is actually the case?

    The Anti-federalists were right. We don’t need to return to the government of the Framers of the Constitution, we need to return to the government that the Framers destroyed. And furthermore, Constitution or no Constitution: The centralization of power is always a great evil.

    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2007/03/laurence-m-vance/the-anti-federalists-were-right/

  8. Rafe Champion

    Rod Thomas has sent another piece on the populism debate and the treason of the intellectuals.

    In a now largely forgotten book published in 1982, Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914, the American historian Roland Stromberg detailed how European intellectuals, almost to a man, welcomed the outbreak of the First World War. Things did not improve in the following decades, when scores of Europe’s thinkers fell under the spell of one extreme ideology or the other.

    Is it different this time? Intellectuals across the continent seem almost unanimous in their defence of European liberalism which is threatened — as they see it — by Brexit and populism. Support for Leave in British universities ranged from the non-existent to the minuscule; and hardly a day goes by without some prominent intellectual warning of a return to the politics of the 1930s, to which the Saturday Guardian recently devoted a special supplement. Are Europe’s intellectuals on the right side of history at last?

  9. .

    The Anti-federalists were right. We don’t need to return to the government of the Framers of the Constitution, we need to return to the government that the Framers destroyed. And furthermore, Constitution or no Constitution: The centralization of power is always a great evil.

    Well said.

    Arguably, our Federation could have simply had a rotating Presidency rotating through each Premier’s office, looking after defence and external affairs, all other interstate matters could have been negotiated by inter-state treaty.

    Canberra nor a Federal government should not have really existed.

    I say this with hindsight, but we’d be better off shutting up shop and starting over.

  10. John Carpenter

    ” Razor i think the US civil war was about states rights and economic rotectionisn in the north as much as slavery.”

    I don’t think so Rafe.The aggressive attempts by the southern states to extend slavery into the Missouri and Kansas territories was the last straw for Lincoln.Hitherto he had begrudgingly accepted slavery in the south under the assumption that it would eventually die out.Upon his election as President, South Carolina seceded amongst a general panic of a slave uprising.The civil war was only about slavery and the literal enforcement of the Declaration of Independence by legitimate federal authority.”All men are created equal” and 600,000 people died testing this proposition.

  11. egg_

    The US states have no geologic sea separation unlike Britain and the rest of europe = Brexit

    The Brits following the US lead in seceding from the Brussels Eurocratic Autocracy?

  12. Bruce of Newcastle

    Some nice Popper, although he’s not credited.

    J Scott Armstrong on Breitbart News Daily: ‘No One Asks’ Researchers To Follow Scientific Method

    Earlier in the week, we covered a study from Wharton School professor J. Scott Armstrong and Dr. Kesten Green which claims that only a fraction of 1 percent of the papers published in scientific journals follow the scientific method. Professor Armstrong appeared on Breitbart News Daily today to discuss his research with editor-in-chief Alex Marlow.

    “The problem in journals, with government research, and with universities is that nobody asks them to follow [it]. I’ve been publishing for 55 years and can’t ever recall anyone saying ‘you should follow the scientific method.’”

    Armstrong, along with Dr Kesten Green developed a checklist of eight criteria to assess whether a paper or a study follows the scientific method. According to the checklist, scientific studies must (1) test multiple reasonable hypotheses, (2) provide useful findings, (3) fully disclose methods, data, and other relevant information, (4) conduct a comprehensive review of prior knowledge, (5) use valid and comparable data, (6) use valid and simple methods, (7) provide any experimental evidence, (8) reach conclusions consistent with the evidence.

    Good stuff, especially the 8 checkpoints.

  13. egg_

    Armstrong, along with Dr Kesten Green developed a checklist of eight criteria to assess whether a paper or a study follows the scientific method.

    Hopefully, same can be used to address climate ‘modelling’.

  14. .

    (6) use valid and simple methods

    NO. You use the most appropriate method.

    Ignorance of time series methods lets warmies get away with nonsense.

  15. Rafe Champion

    Following up Bruce on the problem with scientific papers, some decades ago Popper encouraged one of his champions to have a go at the standard format for most scientific papers which mostly present some new data without spelling out the competing theories and the problem-situation that makes the work relevant, hopefully by supporting or challenging one or more of the contenders. Sir Peter Medawar wrote a paper called Is the Scientific Paper a Fraud and suggested how they could be done better.

    http://www.weizmann.ac.il/mcb/UriAlon/sites/mcb.UriAlon/files/uploads/medawar.pdf

    The conclusion.

    The scientific paper is a fraud in the sense that it does give a totally misleading narrative of the processes of thought that go into the making of scientific discoveries. The inductive format of the scientific paper should be discarded. The discussion which in the traditional scientific paper goes last should surely come at the beginning. The scientific facts and scientific acts should follow the discussion, and scientists should not be ashamed to admit, as many of them apparently are ashamed to admit, that hypotheses appear in their minds along uncharted by-ways of thought; that they are imaginative and inspirational in character; that they are indeed adventures of the mind. —P. B. MEDAWAR

    Two Australian sheilas have done a nice paper revisiting Medawar with some examples notably the double helix work by Watson and Crick.

  16. Rafe Champion

    In case you missed this at the end of Medawar’s paper, from his book Advice to A Young Scientist.

    I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of the
    conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not. The
    importance of the strength of our conviction is only to provide a proportionately strong
    incentive to find out if the hypothesis will stand up to critical evaluation.

  17. Bad Samaritan

    Time for Wolfi…once again…..”Wolfgang Ernst Pauli (25 April 1900 – 15 December 1958) was an Austrian-born Swiss and American theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. In 1945, after having been nominated by Albert Einstein,[5] Pauli received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his “decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or Pauli principle”…….

    “Regarding physics, Pauli was famously a perfectionist. This extended not just to his own work, but also to the work of his colleagues. As a result, he became known in the physics community as the “conscience of physics,” the critic to whom his colleagues were accountable. He could be scathing in his dismissal of any theory he found lacking, often labelling it ganz falsch, utterly wrong…….However, this was not his most severe criticism, which he reserved for theories or theses so unclearly presented as to be untestable or unevaluatable and, thus, not properly belonging within the realm of science, even though posing as such. They were worse than wrong because they could not be proven wrong. Famously, he once said of such an unclear paper: It is not even wrong!”[2]
    And that is all there is to it.

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