The new book on Hayek by Peter Boettke is a good read if you like that kind of thing. Gerard Henderson once reminded me that not everyone goes on holiday with a Hayek book and the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Methodology.
Peter Boettke has a mission to explore and explain the implications and applications of Hayekian critical rationalism, Austrian economics and classical liberalism, with special attention to the institutional and moral framework.
By any standard Friedrich A Hayek (1898-1992) is one of the major intellectual figures of modern times, certainly of the 20th century. He is also an icon of classical liberalism or an Old Whig as he suggested to define his position in ‘Why I am not a conservative’. A wag at the University of Sydney marked up the library copy with the annotation “You could have fooled me”, which drew the rejoinder, neatly written “how hard would that be?”
Hayek no stranger to Australia because he toured in 1976 and some of his talks indicated the way his thoughts were moving as he grappled with the challenge to resist the “abuse of reason” by the coercive utopians who have wrecked lives and ruined nations in pursuit of their dreams.
Boettke’s hope in this new book is to stimulate future scholars to apply Hayek’s ideas “to the contemporary intellectual debate in moral economy and social economy.” He asks the question
“Why did [the economists in the 1930s-1960s] overlook the institutional framework that the classical and neoclassical theorists had taken as given?”
The answer is in the question. Vital factors in political economy were overlooked because they could take for granted a robust moral framework that was preached in every pulpit in the western world.
Being taken for granted they were not properly explored and the implications of this neglect did not become apparent until the once-robust structure was being demolished by the new philosophy of science, the triumph of Keynes and mathematical economics a la Samuelson.
There is a parallel with health and wellbeing. With luck and a strong constitution you can get away with a lot of bad habits for a long time but there is likely to be a day of reckoning.
The bottom line of Boettke’s book is the need to vitalise a program of political economy that is sensitive to cultural factors and the moral framework of society along the lines charted by Deirdre McCloskey and the late Michael Novak. And of course Hayek. This work is under way at the IPA, Mannkal and the Centre for Independent Studies.