Published Humanitas, Volume XXVII, Nos. 1 and 2, 2014
By any fair estimate, Friedrich Hayek was among the outstanding minds of the last century. He received a Nobel Prize in economics in 1974, and has been described as the most influential economist of the postwar era. As a scholar, Hayek had broad interests in the social sciences and made highly regarded contributions to the study of constitutional law and the origin of Western legal systems. He has been called a twentieth-century trailblazer because of his early warnings of the dangers of expanding the scope of government. Best known for his strong defense of a free market, the renaissance of liberal economics is often attributed to the impact of his writings. His ideas have been controversial, and his critics include many who dispute the basic assumptions of the Austrian School of economics, of which he is a leading representative.
Born in Austria near the beginning of the last century, Hayek in 1931 was granted a chair at the London School of Economics, where he remained for nineteen years. During the world depression of the 1930s, Hayek gained attention for his no-holds-barred criticism of the dominant economic thinker of the period, John Maynard Keynes, whose “general theory” supported a robust role for the state in a national economy. In the decades following World War II, the two men emerged as opposite poles of the liberal-conservative economic debate…
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