Blogs > Liberty and Power > Armey of Darkness

Feb 9, 2004 2:42 am

Armey of Darkness

[cross-posted on]

I just finished watching, on C-Span, an extremely frustrating Cato Institute panel on Hayek. The panelists were Hayek biographers Bruce Caldwell and Alan Ebenstein -- and, for no reason I could discern, Senator Dick Armey. Caldwell and Ebenstein could barely get a word in edgewise, as Armey monopolised the event, rambling on about faith and humility, and generally making liberty sound about as much fun as a hair shirt.

It was Hayek, Armey said, that had made possible Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and all the Republican"heroes of liberty" currently occupying Congress. (A rather harsh thing to say about Hayek, I thought.) When asked a question about the income tax, Armey opined that"even the most extreme libertarian" recognises the need for government and the income tax. (I recognised several anarchists in the room, no doubt grinding their teeth. And anyway, didn’t the United States do without an income tax for over a century?) Armey was asked to relate his response on the income tax to the legacy of Hayek, but failed to do so -- perhaps mercifully.

The effrontery of this self-satisfied politico calling himself a Hayekian was truly grating.

(Another moment of annoyance, albeit minor by comparison, came when an audience member asked whether there might be a tension between the Wittgensteinian and Misesian aspects of Hayek's thought. This was a question of some interest to me, since I'm just finishing a book manuscript on connections between Wittgenstein and Austrian economics. But Caldwell and Ebenstein both inexplicably interpreted the question as being about Wittgenstein’s influence on Hayek, even after the questioner explicitly clarified that he wasn’t asking about influence.)

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Robert L. Campbell - 2/9/2004

Any chance Cato won't invite Armey back?