F. A. Hayek: Economics, Political Economy, and Social Philosophy.

Author:Horwitz, Steven G.
 
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* F. A. Hayek: Economics, Political Economy, and Social Philosophy

By Peter J. Boettke

London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Pp. xxvii, 322. $120 hardback.

The market for books on Hayek has become increasingly crowded over the past decade or two, which makes it very hard for any particular new examination of his work to stand out. Peter Boettke's new book on Hayek in the Palgrave Macmillan series Great Thinkers in Economics manages to separate itself from the pack in a variety of ways. At one level, this should not surprise us as Boettke has spent his career engaged in scholarship on Hayek, Austrian economics, and liberalism. There are not too many other contemporary scholars more qualified to write the kind of comprehensive and forward-looking treatment of Hayek that characterizes this and the other books in this series. What Boettke manages to do in this volume is introduce Hayek to a scholarly audience and offer a systematic reinterpretation of his overarching project, and, in doing so, he makes a substantial contribution to both Hayek scholarship and the literature on liberalism. Although lay readers might gain much from engaging with this book, its real audience is other scholars, especially those who Boettke believes have misunderstood Hayek's project in ways that he is explicitly setting out to correct.

In fact, the book's first full chapter is devoted to "clarifying some misconceptions about Hayek." In keeping with the book's scholarly ambitions, Boettke quickly breezes by what he calls "ideological misconceptions" and heads straight for a list of ten "scientific misconceptions." Many of the items on that list are ones that read Hayek's contributions to economics as if they were part of the neoclassical mainstream rather than reflecting his distinct Austrian perspective. For example, as Boettke makes clear at numerous points throughout the book, Hayek did not think that actors are perfectly rational or that the price system is perfectly efficient. He was also not categorically opposed to government action, nor did he think the fact that something that is the product of a spontaneous ordering process automatically makes it good. The beliefs about rationality and efficiency are particularly important to Boettke's reinterpretation of Hayek's thought. Boettke also discusses several other scientific misconceptions about Hayek, one of which is that Hayek's views on the price system and monetary theory were static over his seven decades of scholarship. Despite the perception in many quarters that he was dogmatic about both his own scientific ideas and his policy conclusions, Boettke persuasively demonstrates that Hayek's views evolved as he encountered new arguments and new scientific results in economics and other disciplines. At the core of Boettke's treatment of these misconceptions is that Hayek was first and foremost a humble scholar in search of truth and not an ideologue using economics as dogma to support his supposed prior commitments...

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