F.A. Hayek

Liberty Quotation: Hayek on Liberty and Technological Progress

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95d39/huch/1889/09“In much of the current discussion on the effects of technological progress this progress is presented to us as if it were something outside us which could compel us to use the new knowledge in a particular way.  While it is true, of course, that inventions have given us tremendous power, it is absurd to suggest that we must use this power to destroy our most precious inheritance:  liberty.  It does mean, however, that if we want to preserve it, we must guard it more jealously  than ever and that we must be prepared to make sacrifices for it.”

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom [1945]

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Hayek on Planning and the Single-Minded Idealist

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95d39/huch/1889/09“In our predilections and interests we are all in some measure specialists.  And we all think that our personal order of values is not merely personal but that in a free discussion among rational people we would convince the others that ours is the right one.  The lover of the countryside who wants above all that its traditional appearance should be preserved and that the blots already made by industry on its fair face should be removed, no less than the health enthusiast who wants all the picturesque but unsanitary old cottages cleared away, or the motorist who wishes the country cut up by big motor roads, the efficiency fanatic who desires the maximum of specialization and mechanization no less than the idealist who for the development of personality wants to preserve as many independent craftsmen as possible, all know that their aim can be fully achieved only by planning—and they all want planning for that reason.  But, of course, the adoption of the social  planning for which they clamor can only bring out the concealed conflict between their aims.

“The movement for planning owes its present strength largely to the fact that, while planning is in the main still an ambition, it unites almost all the single-minded idealists, all the men and women who have devoted their lives to a single task.  The hopes they place in planning, however, are the result not of a comprehensive view of society but rather of a very limited view and often the result of a great exaggeration of the importance of the ends they place foremost.  This is not to underrate the great pragmatic value of this type of men in a free society like ours, which makes them the subject of just admiration.  But it would make the very men who are most anxious to plan society the most dangerous if they were allowed to do so—and the most intolerant of the planning of others.  From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.”

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom [1944]

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Hayek on Individualism and the Limits of Imagination

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95d39/huch/1889/09“[I]t is impossible for any man to survey more than a limited field, to be aware of the urgency of more than a limited number of needs.  Whether his interests center round his own physical needs, or whether he takes a warm interest in the welfare of every human being he knows, the ends about which he can be concerned will always be only an infinitesimal fraction of the needs of all men.

“This is the fundamental fact on which the whole philosophy of individualism is based.  It does not assume, as is often asserted, that man is egoistic or selfish or ought to be.  It merely starts from the indisputable fact that the limits of our powers of imagination make it impossible to include in our scale of values more than a sector of the needs of the whole society, and that, since, strictly speaking, scales of value can exist only in individual minds, nothing but partial scales of values exist—scales which are inevitably different and often inconsistent with each other.  From this the individualist concludes that individuals should be allowed, within defined limits, to follow their own values and preferences rather than somebody else’s; that within these spheres the individual’s system of ends should be supreme and not subject to dictation by others.  It is this recognition of the individual as the ultimate judge of his ends, the belief that as far as possible his own views ought to govern his actions, that forms the essence of the individualist position.”

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom [1944]

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: F.A. Hayek on the Illusion of the Specialist

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95d39/huch/1889/09“The illusion of the specialist that in a planned society he would secure more attention to the objectives for which he cares most is a more general phenomenon than the term “specialist” at first suggests.  In our predilections and interests we are all in some measure specialists. And we all think that our personal order of values is not merely personal but that in a free discussion among rational people we would convince the others that ours is the right one.  The lover of the countryside who wants above all that its traditional appearance should be preserved and that the blots already made by industry on its fair face should be removed, no less than the health enthusiast who wants all the picturesque but unsanitary old cottages cleared away, or the motorist who wishes the country cut up by big motor roads, the efficiency fanatic who desires the maximum of specialization and mechanization no less than the idealist who for the development of personality wants to preserve as many independent craftsmen as possible, all know that their aim can be fully achieved only by planning—and they all want planning for that reason.  But, of course, the adoption of the social planning for which they clamor can only bring out the concealed conflict between their aims.

“The movement for planning owes its present strength largely to the fact that, while planning is in the main still an ambition, it unites almost all the single-minded idealists, all the men and women who have devoted their lives to a single task.  The hopes they place in planning, however, are the result not of a comprehensive view of society but rather of a very limited view and often the result of a great exaggeration of the importance of the ends they place foremost.  This is not to underrate the great pragmatic value of this type of men in a free society like ours, which makes them the subject of just admiration.  But it would make the very men who are most anxious to plan society the most dangerous if they were allowed to do so—and the most intolerant of the planning of others.  From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.”

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom [1944]

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Hayek on Freedom as the Foundation of All Morality

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95d39/huch/1889/09“What our generation is in danger of forgetting is not only that morals are of necessity a phenomenon of individual conduct but also that they can exist only in the sphere in which the individual is free to decide for himself and is called upon voluntarily to sacrifice personal advantages to the observance of a moral rule.  Outside the sphere of individual responsibility there is neither goodness nor badness, neither opportunity for moral merit  nor the chance of proving one’s conviction by sacrificing one’s desires to what one thinks right.  Only where we ourselves are responsible for our own interests and are free to sacrifice them has our decision moral value.  We are neither entitled to be unselfish at someone else’s expense nor is there any merit in being unselfish if we have no choice.”

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom [1944]