The Hayek Twitter game

by on April 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm in Education, Uncategorized | Permalink

From Greg Ransom:

The game: Take a sentence or two on Hayek’s clause and qualification ridden Germanic prose, and turn it into a 144 character twitter feed.

Example. Here’s a brief passage from Hayek 1976 essay “Socialism and Science” posted a few days ago in the comments by Richard Ebeling:

“A society in which everyone is organized as a member of some group to force government to help him get what he wants is self-destructive. There is no way from preventing some from feeling that they have been treated unjustly — that feeling is bound to be wide spread in any social order — but arrangements which enable groups of disgruntled people to extort satisfaction of their claims — or in the recognition of an ‘entitlement’, to use the new-fangled phrase — make any society unmanageable.”

And here it is as a 144 character twitter feed:

When everyone is organized to force government to get them what they want, many will be left feeling that they have been treated unjustly.

Ho hum!  I would have done “Rent-seeking groups lead to perceptions of unfairness.”

1 Dave Smith April 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I wish someone would do this for all of Hayek’s works. I hate to admit it, becuase I’m sure it is just me, but Hayek’s writing is so bad I can hardly read it.

2 Jake April 2, 2011 at 12:43 am

Read some Jefferson instead, like this one:

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
– Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his friend George Logan, 1816

3 Wonks Anonymous April 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Rent-seeking is a non-intuitive technical term. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I’m with Ransom over Cowen.

4 Andrew April 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Once everything is up for grabs, people spend more time fighting over it than making new stuff.

5 Ken Rhodes April 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm

This I really like. It encompasses Hayek’s observation but goes far beyond his narrower focus. It should be required that politicians of both parties memorize it.

6 Paul April 2, 2011 at 3:19 am

Pitch perfect.

7 Bill April 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

“Mom! Johnny got more than me!!!”

8 Gabe April 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I am a land lord. I seek rents.

If I pay off a Senator to grease the legislation skids that is a bribe. If GE, Warren Buffett or JP Morgan does it it is rent seeking.

9 Right Wing-nut April 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Yikes! Those are horrible compressions! “that feeling is bound to be wide spread in any social order” qualifies what both draw as the main effect into an aside!

Proliferation of rent-seeking groups turns governance into intra-societal warfare.

10 b_a April 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm

asking for non-generalizable privileges from government is harmful to society, even if one perceives to deserve them.

11 Jameson April 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Totally agree with Right Wing-nut here, both with the assessment and the alternative.

12 dirk April 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm

You guys are nerds.

13 Ken Rhodes April 1, 2011 at 3:06 pm

…and this is a surprise???

14 dirk April 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I continue to be amazed.

15 Rob April 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Hmm … Rent seeking groups lead to unfairness.

16 dearieme April 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Rent-seeking groups lead WHOM to perceptions of unfairness?

Yer English ain’t grammatical, innit?

17 Me too April 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm


Government is unfair.

18 Me too April 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm



19 Greg Ransom April 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Tyler wins! But I think we were playing slightly different games — I was trying to retain as much of Hayek’s own language as possible. Perhaps a mistake!

It’s likely not an accident that Hayek’s most widely read publication was Max Eastman’s Reader’s Digest condensation of The Road to Serfdom:

20 dirk April 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm

OK, let me give this game a try:

Democracy just pisses people off.

21 spencer April 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm

In the history of the world has there ever been a government that did not leave large parts of the population feeling unjustly treated?

I would specifically include governments where most of the population was unorganized like feudalism or communism.

Is it possible to have a government where large segments of the population do not feel unjustly treated?

To most people this Hayek idea is just plain irrelevant.

Why not spend your time in a more productive pursuit like arguing over how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.

22 Yonatan April 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Why not make it into a Hayek Haiku game?

if any group can
influence legislation,
all are unhappy

23 Mike R April 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Perhaps I am mistaken, but this twitter message is not accurate:

When everyone is organized to force government to get them what they want, many will be left feeling that they have been treated unjustly.

The correct translation is:

When everyone is organized to force government to get them what they want, the society will be unmanageable.

24 Careless April 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Democracy is 2 wolves and a sheep and no one wants to be the sheep

25 Collin April 1, 2011 at 9:23 pm

As Mike R and Right Wing-nut point out, both of the compressions are incorrect. The original passage in no way suggests that perceptions of unfairness are a consequence of rent-seeking behavior, but rather that such perceptions always exist, but that when those who feel slighted have power over the government, society becomes unmanageable.

26 Clinton April 2, 2011 at 4:31 am


Clause and qualification ridden prose may not make for the most enjoyable read, but lack of qualification often leads to ambiguity and subsequent misunderstandings.

27 bluto April 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm

When people see inequality, the response is to grant charity to the loser. But when everyone is given charity society becomes uncharitable.

28 Doug April 2, 2011 at 12:50 am

Life leads to perceptions of unfairness.

29 Scrutineer April 2, 2011 at 3:42 am

A society divided into competing rent-seeking groups is unmanageable because everyone will think they’re the victims of other rent-seekers.

30 Memnon April 2, 2011 at 5:51 am


31 Greg Ransom April 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm


32 William April 2, 2011 at 11:15 am

Ready? Here we go:
“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. -F. Bastiat”

33 Frank April 2, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Careful with the twittering, please: “The medium is the message”. To get some discipline into twitter, I challenge anyone to twitter the Hayek passage, any Hayek passage, in German.

34 tom April 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Like Mike R and others said above, “unmanageable” is the key. Also “self-destructive”. How did both Tyler and Greg Ransom miss the main point of the original sentence?

35 Greg Ransom April 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I accept your point .. but where is your twitter?

36 tom April 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm

We are doomed.

37 Greg Ransom April 3, 2011 at 2:16 am

That’s not a Twitter. That’s a gag line.

38 DFC April 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

The 1% richer is the group Hayek is talking about. Read the following link from Jose Stiglitz:

During the last 20 years, and much more deeply in the last 10 years, the US economy has changed from a manufacturing base to a service debt-based economy, and as BLS shows that the jobs with higher growth in the last 10 years are:

1) Home health aides = 461.000 new jobs (150% increase), mean wage = 22.000 $
2) Personal and home care aides = 376.000 new jobs (46% increase), mean wages= 20.000$
3) Registered nurses = 582.000 new jobs (22% increase), mean wages = 66.000 $
4) Customer service representatives = 400.000 new jobs (17% increase), mean wages = 32.000$
5) Combined food preparation and serving workers= 394.000 new jobs (15% increase), mean wages = 18.000$

In the same period 2000-2009 US has lost 5,5 millions manufacturing jobs with average wages twice the value of the low-income services jobs I have incuded before

The very successful partnership between the US 1% richer and the chinese polit-bureau has mobilised the “unemployment army” in this country as a way to recycle the earnings from the US middle class to the wealthy people in US through our reatil and chinese good production value added chain, that was the driven force to open access to China in the WTO, and the free trade in general

We will assist to a deflationary process where the wages will go down more and more at the same time the price of goods remains more or less at the same level, but the income of the richer will increase dramatically (see the figures of Picketty and Saez, now the 1% richer have the 40% of the wealth, as in 1927 before the New Deal)

All the welfare state will colapse because there is not enough wealth generation in developed countries to sustain it, because we need to forget the “money” itself (as concept), what really means in the long term as “wealth” is the capacity to make “things” = food, machines, cars, planes, PC’s, TV’s, etc…

Once the debt umbrella (that hide the real economy problem) has fall-down, there is not way-out if we continue supporting the free trade than only benefits the richer

39 Chip April 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

I showed both Tyler’s and Greg’s version to my wife, who is a poet, not an economist. She understood Greg’s, and had no idea what Tyler was talking about. Just sayin’.

40 weichi April 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm

“The price paid for social stability is the denial of the freedom to press claims of injustice.”

While I think that “unmanagable” and “self-destructve” go way too far, Hayek is of course correct that there is a fundamental tension between the ideals of liberty (social, personal, economic, etc) and stability (social, personal, ecomonic, etc).

41 Mike R April 4, 2011 at 3:24 am

Greg, I already gave you the twitter above: When everyone is organized to force government to get them what they want, the society will be unmanageable.

42 TB April 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

This thought came to mind out of this:
“The sum of all [government] carrots is a massive stick.”

Although, perhaps:
“Requests for unfair government largess are viral, fairness requests are not”
is closer to the original concept. A slightly different phrasing might emerge as:
“My thoughtful, balanced and reasonable request for assistance from the government to right a social wrong stands in complete contrast to your careless, unstable and rabid pleading to line your own pocket due to some insignificant grievance, even if I personally happen to gain money from it”

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