What’s YOUR favorite Hayek quote?

I’ve added a new “Hayek quote” feature over in the right hand column —->

I’m guessing I’ve missed a few.  What are your favorite Hayek quotes?

I’ll take a few weeks hiatus blogging, and let’s see what I missed.  Comments are open.

This post will stay on top.

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12 Responses to What’s YOUR favorite Hayek quote?

  1. W.M. says:

    One of my personal favorites (for its humor and pithiness, not so much its economic wisdom):

    “[Keynes was] a man with a great many ideas who knew very little economics.”
    – Friedrich Hayek, 1978

  2. Greg Ransom says:

    I need to add some Hayek on Keynes quotes. Pith isn’t always Hayek’s strong suit.

    Thanks for the heads up, W.M.

  3. saifedean says:

    Some of my favorites:

    “We must not forget that … monetary policy all over the world has followed the advice of the stabilizers. It is high time that their influence, which has already done harm enough, should be overthrown.”

    From Monetary Nationalism and International Stability:

    “…the fundamental dilemma of all central banking policy has hardly even been really faced: the only effective means by which a central bank can control an expansion of the generally used media of circulation is by making it clear in advance that it will not provide the cash (in the narrower sense) which will be required in consequences of such expansion, but at the same time it is recognised as the paramount duty of a central bank to provide that cash once the expansion of bank deposits has actually occurred and the public begins to demand that they should be converted into notes or gold.”

    From Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle:

    “…the primary cause of cyclical fluctuations must be sought in changes in the volume of money… which, by their occurrence, always bring about a falsification of the pricing process, and thus a misdirection of production … the ‘elasticity’ of the volume of money at the disposal of the economic system… forms the ‘necessary and sufficient’ condition for the emergence of the Trade Cycle.”

    From The Fatal Conceit:

    “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”

    From Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics:

    “More particularly, what we regard as the field of physics may well be the totality of phenomena where the number of significantly connected variables of different kinds is sufficiently small to enable us to study them as if they formed a closed system for which we can observe and control all the determining factors; and we may have been led to treat certain phenomena as lying outside physics precisely because this is not the case. If this were true it would certainly be paradoxical to try to force methods made possible by these special conditions on disciplines regarded as distinct because in their field these conditions do not prevail.”

    From Intellectuals and Socialism:

    “For over a hundred years we have been exhorted to embrace socialism because it would give us more goods. Since it has so lamentably failed to achieve this where it has been tried, we are now urged to adopt it because more goods after all are not important. The aim is still progressively to increase the share of the resources whose use is determined by political authority and the coercion of any dissenting minority.”

  4. Eric Auld says:

    “Although the use of abstraction extends the scope of phenomena we can master intellectually, it does so by limiting the degree to which we can foresee the effects of our actions, and therefore also by limiting to certain general features the degree to which we can shape the world to our liking. Liberalism for this reason restricts deliberate control of the overall order of society to the enforcement of such general rules as are necessary for the formation of a spontaneous order, the details of which we cannot foresee.”

    Rules and Order p. 32

  5. Eric Auld says:

    Greg, since there’s no contact information for you on the website, I’ll say this here. I love the site. These quotes you’ve posted from Hayek are great. It really warms my heart to see people caring about Hayek. Is the community of people who think he is the greatest as small as the viewership of this site might suggest? I know he is cited all the time for various economic ideas, but I really wonder if his insight into rationality is appreciated.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Eric Auld says:

    One comment: The quote “Man is as much a rule-following animal as a purpose-seeking one” is not Hayek; in is R.S. Peters, from his book The Concept of Motivation.

  7. Luis Da Silva says:

    From ” The Constitution of Liberty”:

    “All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually used in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference beween the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant.”

    “It is because freedom means the renunciation of direct control of individual efforts that a free society can make use of so much more knowledge than the mind of the wisest ruler could comprehend”

    As a native Venezuelan, current events in my country of birth constantly remind me of the following quotes from ” The Road to Serfdom”:

    “When democracy becomes dominated by a collectivist creed, democracy will inevitably destroy itself”

    “If the ” community” or the state are prior to the individual, if they have ends of their own independent of and superior to those of the individuals, only those individuals who work for the same ends can be regarded as members of the community. It is a necessary consequence of this view that a person is respected only as a member of the group, that is, only if and in so far as he works for the recognized common ends, and that he derives his whole dignity only from this membership and not merely from being a man”

  8. Greg Ransom says:

    Great quotes, saifedean. Eric, thanks for the kind words. You can contact me by emailing to the “Taking Hayek Seriously” email address in the right hand column.

  9. Greg Ransom says:

    Eric, the words are Hayek’s, the idea is from Peters. See page 11 of L, L & L.

    The influence of Wittgenstein on Hayek via Peters is under appreciated.

  10. Eric Auld says:

    “How many of the devices adopted in ordinary life [to compete] would still be open to a seller in a market in which so-called “perfect competition” prevails? I believe that the answer is exactly none.”

    From “The Meaning of Competition

  11. Bogdan says:

    “I strongly feel that the chief task of the economic theorist or political philosopher should be to operate on public opinion to make politically possible what today may be politically impossible.”
    – A Note to the Second Edition of “Denationalisation of Money”

  12. Greg Ransom says:

    Bogdan, I like that one also. It’s a nice twist on Kissinger’s oft repeated line about politics being the art of the possible.

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