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Friedrich August von Hayek

(1899—1992) economist and political philosopher

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Austrian-born British economist whose free-market theories influenced a political generation and earned him a share in the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974.

Friedrich Hayek, a product of the anti-Marxist Austrian School of liberal economics, became a civil servant before being appointed director of the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (1926). He then taught successively at the universities of Vienna (1929–31), London (1931–50), Chicago (1950–62), and Freiburg (1962–70), becoming a naturalized British subject in 1938. He specialized in the history of economic thought, the broad pattern of his work evolving from a preoccupation with monetary theory to a much more philosophical concern with the role of government in society. Hayek brought an historical perspective to the analysis of economic growth, summarizing his arguments against governmental interference in his widely influential book The Road to Serfdom (1944). His view was that economic freedom is inseparable from personal freedom and that state intervention, no matter how well intentioned, inevitably leads to the eventual destruction of both economic and personal freedom. The only legitimate functions of government were, therefore, ‘to provide a framework for the market and to provide services that the market cannot provide’.

By the time Hayek had developed his views in The Fatal Conceit: the Errors of Socialism (1988), his doctrines were providing the ideological justification for abandoning neo-Keynesian orthodoxies in favour of the hands-off policies known as ‘Thatcherism’ and ‘Reaganomics’. Ironically, Hayek shared his Nobel Prize with the Swedish welfare economist Gunnar Myrdal, whose views were almost directly the opposite of his.

Subjects: Social sciences

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