Angus Burgin: As Republicans Hail Hayek, Their Plans Advance Friedmantags: Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Bloomberg News, Angus Burgin
Angus Burgin is an assistant professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression.” The opinions expressed are his own.
Friedrich Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom” has served as a beacon for American conservatives since its publication in 1944. Today’s Republicans often cite the book in their fight to limit federal power and regulation. Hayek’s views, however, were more complicated than they often assume.
As a shy and scholarly scion of an aristocratic Austrian family, Hayek hadn’t expected to find much of an audience for his wartime tract on political economy. He was shocked when opponents of the New Deal propelled it up the U.S. best-seller lists shortly after its release, and would have been equally astonished at its rise up the Amazon.com sales rankings following an endorsement from the former Fox News host Glenn Beck in 2010.
As he undertook an American lecture tour in 1944, Hayek expressed frustration that many of his most ardent acolytes seemed not to have read the book. Although “The Road to Serfdom” expressed deep anxieties about central planning, it was also explicit about the positive role that government could play. “Probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause,” Hayek wrote, as a “wooden insistence” on “laissez-faire.”...
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