A Comment on Hayek

Jennifer Schuessler has a fascinating essay on the forgotten history of Friedrich von Hayek’s American enthusiasts (“Hayek: The Back Story”) in the July 11 The New York Times Book Review.  She details a cartoon version of The Road To Serfdom based on a condensed version of the text published in a mass edition by Reader’s Digest. The cartoon version appeared first in Look magazine in 1945 and was subsequently distributed in pamphlet form by General Motors (you can view a scan of the pamphlet at the web site of the Ludwig von Mises Institute) . While the irony may be lost on Hayek’s contemporary acolytes, I can’t think of a more hilarious contradiction—in the dialectical sense—than for this document to be disseminated by GM, a perfect model of the tendency of the entire society of the U.S. to inexorably organize itself on the ground of authoritarian state-capitalism.

One of the most penetrating comments on Hayek I have come across appears in the footnotes to an essay by the philosophers Patrick Murray (author of Reflections on Commercial Life: an Anthology of Classic Texts from Plato to the Present) and Jeanne Schuler titled, “Karl Marx and the Critique of Bourgeois Philosophy.” This essay is included in Social Justice: Its Theory and Practice.

Here is the note:

F.A. Hayek contended that a market society was the only free society precisely because it imposed no compulsory collective goals on its members. Hayek was mistaken in this belief because the endless accumulation of capital is a compulsory collective goal imposed upon the participants in a market society.

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