bs: Lies about Hayek – What Academics Do Best

This time it’s historian Matthew Dallek who is pulling made up history out of his hat and printing it up, in Politico.  Note that Hayek wrote his The Road to Serfdom for British publication and as a warning for the British people, and he never expected the book to be published in America.  It was a great surprise to Hayek when the book became a sensation in America.  The only brief mentions of Franklin Roosevelt in the book are positive references — including a quotation from Roosevelt presenting the case for saving classical liberalism by reforming it.  But here is Dallek’s bit of partisan disinformation:

The Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek published the landmark “The Road to Serfdom” (1944), in which he expressed his fear that federal expansion in FDR’s era had put America on a path toward planned economies and political enslavement.

Academics typically have no shame in publishing such falsehoods about Hayek — the peer reviewed journals are chock full of disinformation about Hayek.

We’ll see if Dallek is different from so many of his peers.  I’ve written him a note calling attention to this factual error.  We’ll see if Dallek posts a correction.  Now and again even historians like Dallek care more about presenting a truthful historical record than they do about their partisan agenda.  I’m curioius to see were Dallek shakes out on this one.


In the “Foreward” of the 1956 paperback edition Hayek writes the following:

“The book was written in England during the war years and was designed almost exclusively for English readers”.

This is exactly what Hayek tells us also in many different interviews.

There is almost no mention of the United States in the book.  Neither Franklin Roosevelt or the New Deal received any discussion.

Roosevelt is quoted a single time, as the opening title quotation for chapter one, titled “The Abandoned Road”.  The FDR quotation reads as follows:

“A program whose basic thesis is, not that the system of free enterprise for profit has failed in this generation, but that it has not yet been tried.”

Hayek was offering Roosevelt as a witness in support of his own project — the project of saving the market system through its reform.  In the late 1940s Hayek explicitly rejects “laissez faire”, advocates a re-thinking of the institutions of a free society, and embraces a reform agenda for classical liberalism.  Naively or not, while he lived in England in the 1930s and 1940s Hayek associated Roosevelt with this instinct, something Roosevelt advocated rhetorically, and in deed with such things as his financial and banking reforms.

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3 Responses to bs: Lies about Hayek – What Academics Do Best

  1. Wayne Lee says:

    Hi Professor Ransom, are there any papers by you others that blow up this kind of left nonsense on Hayek’s Serfdom book? Any suggestions you have for me to read would be most welcome.

  2. Zac says:

    So RTS is not about the USA?

    “But there can be little doubt that we are turning over control of our economic life to the state as they did in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and we must remember that the loss of our economic freedoms does entail an effective loss of political freedoms. F. A. Hayek ‘s The Road to Serfdom warned a free people how quickly they can lose their political freedom due to the pursuit even of well intentioned but poorly thought out ideas related to economic policy. Hayek’s warning was directed at the Western allies, namely the UK and US, and he used Germany and Russia as his examples.”

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