Sunday, May 13, 2012

 

Keynes on Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom"

In my opinion it [The Road to Serfdom] is a grand book. We all have the greatest reason to be grateful to you for saying so well what needs so much to be said. You will not expect me to accept quite all the economic dicta in it. But morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it; and not only in agreement with it, but in a deeply moved agreement. ... I should say that what we want is not no planning, or even less planning, indeed I should say we almost certainly want more. But the planning should take place in a community in which as many people as possible, both leaders and followers, wholly share your own moral position. ... Moderate planning will be safe enough if those carrying it out are rightly oriented in their own minds and hearts to the moral issue. This is in fact already true of some of them. But the curse is that there is also an important section who could be said to want planning not in order to enjoy its fruits, but because morally they hold ideas exactly the opposite of yours, and wish to serve not God but the devil. -Letter of John Maynard Keynes to Friedrich Hayek

Source: Nicholas Wapshott. Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics (New York: Norton & Co., 2011) p. 198.

I've posted this quote not as a blanket endorsement of Hayek's book but because I was surprised to read that Keynes actually had something good to say about it--shows you how little I know about Keynes, I suppose. I mainly agree with the Libertarian critique of the state. It's been a long time since I read The Road to Serfdom so I can't say if this is true of Hayek but what I generally find lacking in Libertarian rhetoric is an acknowledgement of and grappling with the real threat to liberty posed by private, as opposed to state, power. As if to confirm that it turns out that General Motors bankrolled the distribution of a cartoon version of the The Road to Serfdom, which was first published in Look in February 1945 (see video below).

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