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“It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.”     Edmund Burke

June 14, 2010

Hayek Sales Skyrocket

by TomStrong

Today I got this message from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation:

I hope your summer is off to a great start! If, like me, you’re a fan of free-market economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, whose book The Road to Serfdom just hit #1 on Amazon, this has been an exciting week.

It’s true! The Cato Institute has been reporting skyrocketing sales over at their blog, providing an illuminating quote from Professor Bruce Caldwell of Duke University:

In the end, however, I think that the underlying reason for the sustained interest in Hayek’s book is that it taps into a profound dissatisfaction in the public mind with the machinations of its government. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over huge growth in the size of the federal government and in the size of the federal deficit, with little obvious effect on unemployment. Things seem out of control.

I am not a fan of him at all, but one key aspect to Hayek’s rise in sales is Fox News host Glenn Beck. Beck had an extensive discussion of the late economist’s work on his show last week. With an audience of millions, Beck probably played no small role in helping Hayek shoot up to #1 on Amazon.

All I can say is that I am glad to see such economic education occurring. John Stossell has been revisiting Milton Freidman as well. Given that, new times deserve new thinkers and new economic thought and debates would be especially prescient now. Where are the programs like Freidman’s excellent PBS program “Free to Choose?”

For further learning, I personally recommend Christopher Hitchens’ talk with Russ Roberts on George Orwell on the show EconTalk. Roberts and Hitchens parlay through the relevance of Hayek, and Hitchens’ assessment of Hayek’s economic analysis, which is brought up in regards to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech that got him canned by the British electorate in 1945, fits mine pretty well.


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4 Comments

  1. Speaking of “Free to Choose?” you can watch it online. What is really baffling is that Gov Arnold give a great intro. Unfortunately that Arnold sounds nothing like our Guvernator. See Volume 1 of the updated 1990 series at http://www.ideachannel.tv

    Comment by Norm — June 15, 2010 @ 3:01 am
  2. To be frank, Norm, ideological idealism can go pretty far in an educational context but throwing it to the wayside is a necessity when actually governing, especially when governing a state as chaotic, complex and diverse as California.

    Comment by Michael O. Powell — June 15, 2010 @ 11:48 am
  3. The problem is that the main thesis of The Road to Serfdom is wrong. Social democracy has not ever crept to totalitarianism. Sweden is still a free country with beautiful women, terrible food, and free and fair elections despite decades upon decades of social democracy.

    It’s good for more folks to become libertarians – this is most emphatically not an endorsement of social democracy – but we should repudiate TRTS as well-meaning but untrue.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — June 15, 2010 @ 8:09 pm
  4. Joshua, you’re partly right, but that’s because Sweden is a mixed economy and does have room for market incentives. Marx himself said that capitalism was critical before a socialist state.

    It’s all a balancing act. In Chile after Pinochet there were left-wing parties that maintained free trade while also running on a welfare state. Hayek’s thesis is that if you go too far with these measures, you can increase state power beyond where it should go.

    Think of Roosevelt in the US. From rationing to internment to 13 years in office, he used crisis to maintain a pretty healthy grip on power. Term limits implemented since have kept any president from getting that close to a dictatorship again, despite our having some pretty Machiavellian characters in there.

    Comment by Michael Powell — June 15, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

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