book: “Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason”


“The Austrian economist Friedrich A. Hayek came to the London School of Economics as a visiting professor in fall of 1931, and secured a permanent position as the Tooke Chair of Economic Science and Statistics the following year. From late 1933 onwards, he toiled fitfully over a big book on capital theory, an endeavour that was finally nearing completion in 1939. On August 27 of that year Hayek wrote a letter to Fritz Machlup, an old friend from university days.1 He told him about his plans for his next big research project, a wide-ranging historical investigation that would incorporate intellectual history, methodology, and an analysis of social problems, all aimed at shedding light on the consequences of socialism:

A series of case studies should come first, that would have as its starting point certain problems of methodology and especially the relationship between scientific method and social problems, leading to the fundamental scientific principles of economic policy and ultimately to the consequences of socialism. The series should form the basis of a systematic intellectual historical investigation of the fundamental principles of the social development of the last hundred years (from Saint-Simon to Hitler).

The date on the letter is significant. Four days earlier, the Molotov-Ribbentrop non- aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union had been signed. Five days later Hitler would invade Poland. On September 3, England and France would respond by declaring war on Germany. The Second World War had begun. ”

pdf: “Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason: Editor’s Introduction” by Bruce Caldwell, Feb. 2007 seminar paper.

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The basis of [the classic liberal] argument is that nobody can know who knows best and that the only way by which we can find out is through a social process in which everybody is allowed to try and see what he can do. — F. A. Hayek

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