What’s your favorite Hayek book?

Russ Roberts says his favorite is The Fatal Conceit.

Tom Peters is also a big fan of the book: “I am not one of those people who tends to read books multiple times. But [Hayek's] The Fatal Conceit I find I can read over. I’ve probably read it, literally cover to cover, word for word, a half dozen times. Every 18 months or so I go back and read it again just to make sure my religion has not slipped in any way, shape, or form.”

Glenn Reynolds, Stacy McCain and Dr. Helen Smith have been recommending Hayek’s The Mirage of Social Justice (Law, Legislation & Liberty, Vol. 2).   McCain calls the book, “One of the finest treatises Hayek ever wrote.”

Armen Alchian and Tyler Cowen list Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order as among the handful of books that most influenced them as economists.

The book which has done most to shape my own understanding of economics is Hayek’s The Pure Theory of Capital.  Economist and blogger Don Boudreaux lists Hayek’s Rules and Order (Law, Legislation & Liberty, Vol. 1) as the book which most influenced his thinking in political economy.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, rather famously, were influenced by Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and his The Constitution of Liberty.  In a well know incident, Thatcher, in a meeting of Conservatives, threw down Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty declared, “This is what we believe.”

The Road to Serfdom was also one of Milton Friedman’s favorite books, and the book has been a profound influence on thousands of influential people, from Winston Churchill and George Orwell to Eddie Lambert and Glenn Beck.

One of my favorite Hayek books is his little classic Collectivist Economic Planning, which had such influence on Walter Lippmann in the mid-1930s that it transformed the famous journalist from a socialist-leaning progressive to a pro-market neo-liberal.  Hayek’s essays from that collection are also contained in his Individualism and Economic Order.

The Hayek book which changed the course of 20th century economics — transforming the economics of John Hicks for example — is his Prices and Production, a book which forced English speaking economists to think of production and consumption as processes in time, helping to launch intertemporal equilibrium theory, modern growth theory, and macroeconomics with “micro” foundations.

Jonah Goldberg recommends The Essence of Hayek and The Fatal Conceit as “the only Hayek you’ll ever really need to read.”  I’m not sure if that is true, but the Chiaki Nishiyama edited “Essence of Hayek” collection really is hard to beat as an introduction to the broad scope of Hayek’s thinking.

What’s your favorite Hayek book?

11 comments to What’s your favorite Hayek book?

  • The Fatal Conceit.

    Also liked The Constitution of Liberty, The Road to Serfdom, and The Myth of Social Justice.

  • I go with “Individualism and Economic Order” since it contains “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” I think that’s Hayek’s most important essay, a major contributions to 20th Century economics, and completely altered how I thought about the subject.

  • Ian Lippert

    I think Fatal Conceit is probably his best book. The problem with a lot of Hayek’s work is that it is often a couple of phenomenal chapters surrounded by a lot of out of date material. Not that that’s really a fair criticism, but for the modern reader its hard to pick a single book that they would benefit from, from cover to cover.

    For example I just finished reading Road to Serfdom after having avoided for a long time due to the perception I had that it was a book addressing simply the take over of socialist countries by totalitarian elements. Something that may have been a threat in Hayek’s time but something that seems to have been avoided, even in our increasing socialistic countries. The first half of the book was amazing, classic Hayek, but it really started to lose relevancy in the second half and thus really drags for the modern reader.

    I find it surprising that you cite Pure Theory as a book that influenced you. I gave that one a try and had no idea what he was talking about. That book seems really important but impenetrable for the average reader. I would love it if someone did a study guide for it, maybe mises.org, or did a live blog of it, ie taking hayek seriously, but it would probably be a huge effort. (what ever happened to Tyler Cowens live blog of Keynes’ General Theory?)

  • [...] devotion to “spontaneous order” means that admission to our ranks is open to all, and Greg Ransom at the Hayek Center offers a list of recommended readings for would-be Hayekians:Glenn Reynolds, Stacy McCain and Dr. Helen Smith have been recommending Hayek’s The Mirage of [...]

  • Roger McKinney

    I really like “Pure Theory of Capital.” I read it twice and parts of it three times. It is a little dense. But my favorite is “Profits, Interest and Investment.” It’s a restatement of “Prices and Production” but much better written and organized. I think it is the most practical and usefull of his books.

  • Greg Ransom

    Ian, you are right about The Pure Theory of Capital. It’s for specialists only.

    The significance of the book comes in laying out the explanatory strategy of economics, the relation between tautological logical truths and the empirical casualmelements of economic explanation.

    It’s also the most significant work on capital theory ever written.

    A “study guide” version is an excellent idea. Larry White’s introduction of the Collected Works edition falls short in this regard.

  • Ian Lippert

    Ya I really want to go through it again once I have time, probably once I’m done my graduate program. I think the hardest part was all the 3d graphs. I tried to figure them out, but when its like 3 triangles intesecting in the 4 dimensions its pretty hard to wrap your head around.

  • Greg Ransom

    Yep, takes a bit of thinking.

    “when its like 3 triangles intesecting in the 4 dimensions its pretty hard to wrap your head around.”

  • It’s a real tossup between “Individualism and Economic Order” and “The Fatal Conceit,” though if you have to take into consideration scholarly use and initial influence, I would have to go with IEO.

  • Ralph Raico

    My favorite is The Counter-Revolution of Science.

  • Eric Auld

    Tie between Rules and Order and the Counter-Revolution of Science.

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