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Recap: The Pete Rouse reader; assessing Rahm Emanuel; and the problem of successful policies that prove to be political losers.


1) How the recession affected the rich and the poor, in one graph.

2) The man who crashed the stock market.

3) V.S. Naipul comes to dinner.

4) I continue to be puzzled by the popularity of Hayek's extremely wrong book, 'The Road to Serfdom.'

Recipe of the day: Toasted Parmesan rinds.

By Ezra Klein  | October 1, 2010; 6:35 PM ET
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Is the piece linked above supposed to be some sort of comprehensive refutation of Hayek's Road to Serfdom? If so, it is a miserable failure in that regard.

Posted by: Bob65 | October 1, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

You've doubtlessly never read TRtoS or any other Hayek.

Which would account for your puzzle,emt and ignorant take on Hayek's book.

Whichmis par for the course among lefty "intellectuals".

Posted by: gregransom | October 2, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm so sick of the Hayek haters with no competence or knowledge behind their patently ignorant bashing of the man and hsi work.

These are pathetic and brain dead partisan hatchet jobs, which are a disgrace to the very notion of intelligent and honest conversation.

Posted by: gregransom | October 2, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

You, a recent high school graduate, find nobel laureate Hayek to be completely wrong? The epigraph at the beginning of Road to Serfdom is from Hume. It goes: seldom is liberty lost quickly or all at once. There certainly are many many attempts from this administration to curtail liberty. And a lot of talk, especially in connection with healthcare "reform" reminiscent of some of the lamentable social experiments of the 20th century. Ezekiel Emanuel's quantification of the value of a person's life, a system he calls "complete lives" that ranks lives more worth living , and less worth living (therefore not necessarily deserving of medical resources) would not have been acceptable, even thinkable, as a guide for government policy ten years ago, even five years ago. These things happen gradually. And always in the name of the good of the people.

Posted by: truck1 | October 2, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Many Republicans are just plain crazy.

Here's an example: I was talking to a lady yesterday I never met before. She decided to bring up politics. She said her church had prophecized during the 2008 election that if Obama was elected that some very dark things would happen to the USA. After the election she was then flabbergasted that everyone seemed happy about Obama's election and that the USA was not immediately smitten by God.

Until she brought all this up, she seemed very normal. Based on comments from many GOP officials I've heard over the years, I believe many of the GOP officials (including people like Beck, Palin and O'Donnell, et al) are just like this lady.

The problem is we have a Democracy and there are more lunatics in this country than anyone else though they are smart enough to understand how Democracies work.

Posted by: Lomillialor | October 3, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse


That's the same logic that Marxists use. It's been many, many decades - though their intellectual contributions were obviously influential, neither Hayek nor Marx's tangible predictions are going to prove correct. It's over. Go read Atlas Shrugged or something.

Not to mention Hayek's arguments are more nuanced than the GlennBeckians give him credit for.

And finally, I'd like to point out the irony of criticizing Klein for punching above his intellectual weight, then attempting to criticize Dr. Emmanuel's healthcare systems work.

Posted by: CarlosXL | October 3, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Incorrect use of the word "irony." Perhaps you mean gall? I am not criticizing Dr. Emanuel's healthcare "system" on the grounds of its efficiency or workability, on grounds of its correctness, which is how Klein criticizes Hayek. I don't have the expertise to say whether Ezekiel Emanuel's system "works". I am denouncing it as an immoral enterprise. I am saying that the ranking of lives according to their value to the state should not be part of an American healthcare regime. I'm not addressing his calculations or reasoning, as Klein is Hayek's.

Posted by: truck1 | October 4, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse


Let's do a little compare and contrast here.

You point to Crooked Timbers critique of The Road To Serfdom. His critique is essentially the decades long rehashed arguments of the left, "But Hayek was wrong about the 1944 British Socialists". I'll even concede the point that Hayek's later defenses of his arguments in TRTS were reinterpretations of his original meaning. Libertarian economist Gordon Tullock has made the same criticism and it is basically valid.

Crooked and Ezra and other progressives refuse to acknowledge the profoundly devastating arguments in TRTS against centrally planned economies as well as its critique of intellectuals who conflated fascism with capitalism. He correctly argued that collectivism requires a sacrifice of liberty. His other works on the coordination problems of socialism resulting from the absence of price signaling and on political economy tend to also be conveniently ignored by progressives such as Ezra and CT.

So in summary, as a work of prophecy, TRTS failed. As an economic critique of collectivism, it was, and remains one of the most important books of the 20th century.

In contrast, you recently linked to an essay that deconstructed the works of another economist that made extensive predictions about the future. His predictions were also wrong. In fact, catastrophically wrong. His predictions, co-opted by zealots, ultimately led to the murder of 100,000,000 citizens by state governments in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Vietnam. I refer, Of course, to the essay on Marx by Brad Delong. Delong's essay is excellent.

Marx’s theories and predictions required wholesale acceptance of the labor theory of value, a concept that is now widely discredited by all mainstream economists and even most socialist economists.

Ezra, it’s extremely telling that you would choose to point, on the one hand, to a ham-handed critique of TRTS because Hayek proved to be a poor prophet and, yet, point to a fairly objective critique of Marx who also proved to be a poor prophet to vastly more devastating effect.


Posted by: FatTriplet3 | October 4, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Talk to Obama:

Ask your average economist what Friedrich Hayek’s central claims in economics are — the claims that made Hayek the most controversial economist in the world over the last 100 years — and the likely answer will be: 1) Hayek claimed that the market is the best mechanism ever invented for efficiently allocating resources to maximize production; and 2) that there is a connection between the freedom of the marketplace and freedom more generally. The first of these in the economics literature is often called “The Hayek Hypothesis”. The second claim is sometimes referred to as “The Hayek-Friedman Hypothesis”.

These have been massively controversial and contested claims. But the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, is a believer in both, as Obama confessed to New York Times reporter David Leonhardt on Aug. 20, 2008: “The market is the best mechanism ever invented for efficiently allocating resources to maximize production. And I also think that there is a connection between the freedom of the marketplace and freedom more generally.”

How did Obama come by his understanding and belief in the Hayek Hypothesis and the Hayek-Friedman Hypothesis? Well, no doubt in part because Obama was reading Hayek and Friedman in the 1980s. Indeed, one of Obama’s closest intellectual associates is Hayek quoting U. of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, now a member of the Obama administration. And another is Obama’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, who explains his understanding of economics this way: “What’s the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today? What I tried to leave my students with is the view that the invisible hand is more powerful than the [un]hidden hand. Things will happen in well-organized efforts without direction, controls, plans. That’s the consensus among economists. That’s the Hayek legacy”.

No matter what you might think about the unfolding of contemporary political events, the world isn’t what is was in the 1930s and 1940s when the “Hayek Hypothesis” and the “Hayek-Friedman Hypothesis” stood as a shocking challenge to mainstream “progressive” thinking. As historian Alan Brinkley points out, the intellectual environment shifted decisively soon after the publication of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, even if it took decades for for “mainstream” economists — such as Paul Samuelson — to finally “get it”, and although it must be admitted that a few — such as Robert Heilbroner — never quite did. We are no longer living in the 1930s. And we shouldn’t pretend that we are.

And finally, it should be noted that the great intellectual “hero” of the 1930s — John Maynard Keynes — didn’t believe in either the Hayek Hypothesis or the Hayek-Friedman Hypothesis, as Roger Garrison and Ralph Raico explain. So for all the talk of “going back to Keynes” the talk in its most important sense is mere fantasy — we can’t go back again because it is impossible for us once

Posted by: gregransom | October 4, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

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