On Academic Tolerance of Hayekism

by Don Boudreaux on May 30, 2004

in Education

The Hoover Institution’s Arnold Beichman has a nice commentary in today’s Washington Times on Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (2004 being the 60th anniversary of its publication). I like Beichman’s use, in this essay, of the term “Hayekism.” He concludes by focusing on the unfortunate hold that collectivist doctrines still have on academicians.

It’s true that nothing thrills the typical intellectual more than the prospect of his pet abstract theory being imposed whiz-bang, full-bore by government planners upon a subject population. (Note: this typical intellectual typically does not think deeply enough to understand that whenever government planners force any scheme upon any group of people, no matter how well-intentioned and how divinely promising that scheme might be, standing behind the seemingly genial planners are armies, armed policemen, and jailors. Always.)

But I don’t believe that things are as bad today in the academy as someone in 1944 might have predicted they would be 60 years hence. True, there remains in the academy an absolutely large quantity of prejudice, pettiness, silliness, closed-mindedness, and utter stupidity. But on the whole, I believe that there’s a greater tolerance for market-oriented views than seemed likely when Hayek was in his prime. Perhaps much of this greater tolerance is due to Hayek’s own work.

Read the transcript of the radio interview that Hayek did in the U.S. in 1945 when he traveled here to promote the U.S. release of The Road to Serfdom. It’s in Hayek on Hayek. The rank disdain and scorn poured on Hayek by the interviewers (who were university professors) must be read to be believed. Throughout the interview, Hayek remained a gentleman, apparently never losing his cool. I can’t imagine such ignorant and rude treatment today. Perhaps I’m too much of a Polyanna on this score…. or maybe I’m spoiled by George Mason University.

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