Jeffery Tucker describes the difficult process of untangling the copyrighted and public domain works of Friedrich Hayek recently undertaken by the Mises Institute, and he goes on to explains how a deal struck between the U. of Chicago Press & Liberty Fund has suddenly unlocked all sorts of rare Hayek gems for a broader popular audience:
.. among the tethered texts, there was the additional problem that the publisher of his collected works – the University of Chicago Press – pumped out its edition in very expensive hardbacks that were designed to sell to tax-funded libraries making purchases on an inelastic demand curve. This is not exactly a great plan for getting the word out!
Well, in time, the Liberty Fund managed to strike a deal with Chicago. Liberty Fund has been putting out uniform editions of the collected works of Hayek in a form that is actually affordable by you and me [in the $8 – $14 range]. This means an opening up of Hayek – not a complete opening but very good steps in this direction. (They are not yet online, and thus available to students, scholars, and libertarians the whole world over.)
The latest book in this series is The Trend of Economic Thinking. Of all the volumes in the collected works, this one contains material that is most rare, essays that have been published for the first time, translated for the first time, or appeared in places that were so obscure that it would have taken years of dedicated searching to snag a copy.
Here we find a Hayek that will completely dazzle you – an old world intellectual of high principle, broad reading, and rock-solid scholarly discipline. He writes essays on giants like Bastiat, Hume, Smith, Cantillon, Mandeville, and Thornton, among many others.
One essay at the beginning of the book intrigues me very much. It is a lecture that he gave students in Britain in 1944. They were studying economics. He effectively preached a sermon to them. He urged them not to look for success in their careers but rather to look at the task of an economist as a vocation. He warned that progress in economics is not like progress in the natural sciences. In the hard sciences, progress in praxis follows progress in research. In economics, however, truth is trampled by political trends, and has been for centuries.
He especially warned against seeking popularity, since that nearly always means seeking favor with political establishments – which, he says, necessarily compromises science. He is not urging that political establishments be more favorable to economics. In fact, he says that would be even worse. Economics is and must remain a monastic-style vocation in which research and advocacy be completely separated from the vicissitudes of public opinion. An economist who seeks popularity is dooming himself as an intellectual with integrity.