Hayek - Liberalism

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LiberalismF.A.HayekINTRODUCTION I.Thedifferentconceptsofliberalism The term is now used with a variety of meanings which have little in common beyond describinganopennesstonewideas,includingsomewhicharedirectlyopposedtothose which are originally designated by it during the nineteenth and the earlier parts of the twentiethcenturies.Whatwill alonebeconsideredhere isthatbroadstreamofpolitical idealswhichduringthatperiodunderthenameofliberalismoperatedasoneofthemost influential intellectual forcesguidingdevelopmentsinwesternand centralEurope.This movementderives,however, fromtwodistinctsources,andthetwotraditionstowhich they gave rise, though generally mixed to various degrees, coexisted only in an uneasy partnershipandmustbeclearlydistinguishedifthedevelopmentoftheliberalmovement istobeunderstood. Theonetradition,mucholderthanthename'liberalism',tracesbacktoclassicalantiquity andtookitsmodernformduringthelateseventeenthandtheeighteenthcenturiesasthe political doctrines of the English Whigs. It provided the model of political institutions whichmostoftheEuropeannineteenthcenturyliberalismfollowed.Itwastheindividual liberty which a 'government under the law' had secured tothe citizens of Great Britain which inspired the movement for liberty in the countries of the Continent in which absolutismhaddestroyedmostofthemedievallibertieswhichhadbeenlargelypreserved inBritain.Theseinstitutionswere,however,interpretedontheContinentinthelightofa philosophical tradition very different from the evolutionary conceptions predominant in [119] Britain, namely of it rationalist or constructivistic view which demanded a

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deliberatereconstructionofthewholeofsocietyinaccordancewithprinciplesofreason. ThisapproachderivedfromthenewrationalistphilosophydevelopedaboveallbyRen Descartes(butalsobyThomasHobbesinBritain)andgaineditsgreatestinfluenceinthe eighteenth century through the philosophers of the French Enlightenment. Voltaire and J.J. Rousseau were the two most influential figures of the intellectual movement that culminated intheFrenchRevolutionand fromwhichtheContinentalorconstructivistic type of liberalism derives. The coreof this movement, unlike the British tradition, was not so much a definite political doctrine as a general mental attitude, a demand for an emancipation from all prejudice and all beliefs which could not be rationally justified, andforanescapefromtheauthorityof'priestsandkings'.Itsbestexpressionisprobably B. de Spinoza's statement that 'he is a free man who lives according to the dictates of reasonalone'. These two strands of thought which provided the chief ingredients of what in the nineteenthcenturycametobecalledliberalismwereonafewessentialpostulates,such as freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press, in sufficient agreement to create a common opposition to conservative and authoritarian views and therefore to appear as partofacommonmovement.Mostofliberalism'sadherentswouldalsoprofessabelief in individual freedom of action and in some sort of equality of all men, but closer examination shows that this agreement was in part only verbal since the key terms 'freedom'and'equality'wereusedwithsomewhatdifferentmeanings.Whiletotheolder Britishtraditionthefreedomoftheindividualinthesenseofaprotectionbylawagainst allarbitrarycoercionwasthechiefvalue,intheContinentaltraditionthedemandforthe selfdeterminationofeachgroupconcerningitsformofgovernmentoccupiedthehighest place. This led to an early association and almost identification of the Continental movement with the movement for democracy, which is concerned with a different problemfromthatwhichwasthechiefconcernoftheliberaltraditionoftheBritishtype. Duringtheperiodoftheirformationtheseideas,whichinthenineteenthcenturycameto be known as liberalism, were not yet described by that name. The adjective 'liberal' graduallyassumeditspoliticalconnotationduringthelaterpartoftheeighteenthcentury when it wasused in suchoccasionalphrases as when AdamSmithwroteof'the liberal

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plan of equality, liberty, and justice'. As the [120] name of a political movement liberalismappears,however,onlyatthebeginningofthenextcentury,firstwhenin1812 itwasusedbytheSpanishpartyofLiberales,andalittlelaterwhenitwasadoptedasa party name in France. In Britain it came to be so used only after the Whigs and the Radicals joined in a single party which from the early 1840s came to be known as the LiberalParty.SincetheRadicalswereinspiredlargelybywhatwehavedescribedasthe Continentaltradition,eventheEnglishLiberalPartyatthetimeofitsgreatestinfluence wasbasedonafusionofthetwotraditionsmentioned. In view of these facts it would be misleading toclaim the term 'liberal' exclusively for either of the two distinct traditions. They have occasionally been referred to as the 'English', 'classical' or 'evolutionary', and as the 'Continental' or 'constructivistic' types respectively.Inthefollowinghistoricalsurveybothtypeswillbeconsidered,butasonly the first has developed a definite political doctrine, the later systematic exposition will havetoconcentrateonit. It should be mentioned here that the USA never developed a liberal movement comparable to that which affected most of Europe during the nineteenth century, competing in Europe with the younger movements of nationalism and socialism and reachingtheheightofitsinfluenceinthe1870sandthereafterslowlydecliningbutstill determiningtheclimateofpubliclifeuntil1914.Thereasonfortheabsenceofasimilar movement in the USA is mainly that the chief aspirations of European liberalism were largelyembodiedintheinstitutionsoftheUnitedStatessincetheirfoundation,andpartly thatthedevelopmentofpoliticalpartiestherewasunfavourabletothegrowthofparties basedonideologies.Indeed,whatinEuropeisorusedtobecalled'liberal'isintheUSA todaywithsomejustificationcalled'conservative'whileinrecenttimestheterm'liberal' hasbeenusedtheretodescribewhatinEuropewouldbecalledsocialism.ButofEurope itisequallytruethatnoneofthepoliticalpartieswhichusethedesignation'liberal'now adheretotheliberalprinciplesofthenineteenthcentury.

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HISTORICAL 2.Theclassicalandmedievalroots The basic principles from which the Old Whigs fashioned their evolutionary liberalism havealongprehistory.Theeighteenthcentury [121] thinkerswhoformulatedthemwere indeedgreatly assisted by ideasdrawn fromclassical antiquityand by certain medieval traditionswhichinEnglandhadnotbeenextinguishedbyabsolutism. The first people who had clearly formulated the ideal of individual liberty were the ancientGreeksandparticularlytheAtheniansduringtheclassicalperiodofthefifthand fourthcenturiesBC.Thedenialbysomenineteenthcenturywritersthattheancientknew individuallibertyinthemodernsenseisclearlydisprovedbysuchepisodesaswhenthe Athenian general at the moment of supreme danger during the Sicilian expedition reminded the soldiers that they were fighting for a country which left them 'unfettered discretiontoliveastheypleased'.Theirconceptionoffreedomwasoffreedomunderthe law,orof astateofaffairs in which,asthepopularphraseran, lawwasking.Itfound expression,duringtheearlyclassicalperiods,intheidealofisonomiaorequalitybefore thelawwhich,withoutusingtheoldname,isstillclearlydescribedbyAristotle.Thislaw includedaprotectionoftheprivatedomainofthecitizenagainstthestatewhichwentso farthatevenunderthe'ThirtyTyrants'anAtheniancitizenwaswhollysafeifhestayedat home.Of Creteit isevenreported(byEphorus,quotedbyStrabo)that,because liberty wasregardedasthestate'shighestgood,theconstitutionsecured'propertyspecificallyto thosewhoacquire it,whereas inaconditionof slaveryeverything belongstotherulers andnottotheruled'.InAthensthepowersofthepopularassemblyofchangingthelaw were strictly limited, though we find already the first instances of such an assembly refusing to be restrained by established law from arbitrary action. These liberal ideals were further developed, particularly by the Stoic philosophers who extended them beyondthelimitsofthecitystatebytheirconceptionofalawofnaturewhichlimitedthe powersofallgovernment,andoftheequalityofallmenbeforethatlaw.

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These Greek ideals of liberty were transmitted to the modems chiefly through the writingsofRomanauthors.By farthe most importantofthem,andprobablythe single figurewhomorethananyotherinspiredtherevivalofthoseideasatthebeginningofthe modern era was Marcus Tullius Cicero. But at least the historian Titus Livius and the emperor Marcus Aurelius must be included among the sources on which the sixteenth and seventeenthcentury thinkers chiefly drew at the beginning of the modern development of [122] liberalism. Rome, in addition, gave at least. to the European continentahighlyindividualistprivatelaw,centringonavery strictconceptionofprivate property,alaw,moreover,withwhich,untilthecodificationunderJustinian,legislation hadverylittleinterferedandwhichwasinconsequenceregardedmoreasarestrictionon, ratherthanasanexerciseof,thepowersof government. Theearlymodernscoulddrawalsoonatraditionoflibertyunderthelawwhichhadbeen preserved through the Middle Ages and was extinguished on the Continent only at the beginningofthemodernerabytheriseofabsolutemonarchy.Asamodernhistorian(R. W.Southern)describesit,thehatredofthatwhichwasgoverned,notbyrule,butbywill, went very deep in the Middle Ages, and at no time was this hatred as powerful and practicalaforceasinthelatterhalfoftheperiod....Lawwasnottheenemyoffreedom: onthecontrary,theoutlineoflibertywastracedbythebewilderingvarietyoflawwhich was evolved during the period.... High and low alike sought liberty by insisting on enlargingthenumberofrulesunderwhichtheylived. This conception received a strong support from the belief in a law which existed apart from and above government, a conception which on the Continent was conceived as a lawofnaturebutinEnglandexistedastheCommonLawwhichwasnottheproductofa legislator but had emerged from a persistent search for impersonal justice. The formal elaborationoftheseideaswasontheContinentcarriedon