Friday, March 6, 2009

"The Road to Serfdom" Re-Visited: A Commentary on the Need for Moral Clarity in Our Economic Times by Judy Joyce

When Robert Skidelsky was the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Lecturer in New York city back in 2006, his remarks were focused on comparisons between two economists, Nobel Prize Laureate, F.A. Hayek, and equally famed Cambridge don, John Maynard Keynes. In 2000, Time Magazine chose Keynes as one of the 20th Century’s most influential people along with the likes of Albert Einstein.

In that Time magazine pronouncement, the article about Keynes quoted former Clinton Secretary of Labor, Robert B. Reich, saying about Keynes that "His radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism" . This economic theory was not what Mr. Skidelsky's lecture had in mind when beginning his remarks about the seminal work by Hayek"The Road to Serfdom" (University of Chicago, 50th anniv. Edition, 1994).

In the Introduction to "Serfdom", Milton Friedman writes "his (Hayek's) book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense." The description of this Hayek work on states:

This classic by one of the 20th century's leading libertarian thinkers has established itself beside the works of Orwell and others as a timeless meditation on the relationship between human freedom and government authority. Hayek argues that empowering government with increasing economic control leads not to utopia but to horrors such those seen in Nazi Germany.

Lawrence Mone - President of the Manhattan Institute - when introducing Prof. Skildedelsky offers that:

In Hayek's hands, economics is not just a matter of dollars and cents. It is about how to structure society so that each individual can fulfill his own unique God-given potential. It’s about creating a just political order, a healthy culture, the rule of law, limited government. In short, it’s about human freedom. Hayek understood markets don’t act in a vacuum.
That market and morality are not just related but inseparable from each other. When one reads Hayek, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sense of moral clarity."
Skidelsky's lecture picks up on these themes citing the unique perspective that Hayek brings to all discussions of economics. It is time to re-visit and re-read "The Road to Serfdom" me thinks.

* Robert Skidelsky, is author of "John Maynard Keynes: 1883-1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman".

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