Peter Boettke is a prolific writer and a Professor of Economics and Philosophy at the George Mason University at Fairfax, Virginia. He was elected President of the Mont Pelerin Society for 2016-2018.
He has written a major work on the contribution of F A Hayek and these are the chapter abstracts.
Chapter 1. Friedrich Hayek’s ideas played a fundamental role in all major debates over economic policy-making throughout his lifetime and beyond. They were developed in a precise historical context and were the result of the intellectual influence of his teachers and colleagues. Unfortunately, they are surrounded by the following misconceptions: his economics was atomistic; he believed markets to be perfectly efficient and government plays no role in a market economy; and he thought any government intervention will lead to totalitarianism. Due to their importance, these ideas demand careful consideration to go beyond the misconceptions in order to engage them fully and employ them to make sense of Hayek’s ideas and how they apply to our world today.
A minor quibble on Chapter 7 “Hayek belongs to a long tradition of social scientists who saw themselves as contributing to the “invisible hand theorizing” of Adam Smith.” Years ago my late friend Roger Sandall made me read a (then) recent biography of Adam Smith. This may have referred to the hidden hand that Smith once or twice mentioned and it is surprising that the hand is so often regarded as the leitmotif of Smith’s thought because the overwhelming impression from this book was that Smith was relentlessly engaged in institutional analysis.
Apparently he envisaged a “Newtonian” synthesis in the human sciences in four volumes. He completed the first two on the moral system and the economy but he did not get past preliminary work on politics and the law. Ironically one of the things that diverted his time and energy from the great task was his diligent work on a committee concerned with tariffs. He directed that all those drafts and notes should be burned when he died.
Something like the Smithian synthesis might have emerged from the joint efforts of von Mises, Talcott Parsons and Karl Popper in the 1930s if they had pooled their resources instead of working in different directions. For example in 1944/45 Popper briefly signalled the need for social and institutional analysis to explain scientific and industrial progress but he didn’t follow up the insight (Sections 31 and 31 in The Poverty of Historicism).