Revaluing Hayek

There has been plenty of talk about how Hayek's predictions in Road to Serfdom have been falsified.  Nonetheless, recent events in Ireland and the EU raise the value of some other Hayek books:

1. Monetary Nationalism and International Stability (free at the link!).  This book isn't as clear as it might have been, and he is too skeptical about currency depreciation.  One point is that bad international currency arrangements can distort relative prices and also drive boom-bust cycles.  Partially globalized currency arrangements will prove counterproductive and possible unworkable.  While I am more sympathetic to "monetary nationalism" than is Hayek, this 1937 short book reveals him to be a thinker with concerns very much in synch with the world of 2010.  There is a reason for that, and it's not an entirely reassuring one.

2. Individualism and Economic OrderCounterrevolution of Science, and in particular Hayek's critique of rationalist constructivism, of which the EU and the euro are prime current examples.  If you wish to know why the euro is failing, or why not every Obama policy will work out, this is the #1 place to go.  The euro project was even driven by the French and resisted by the English, exactly as Hayek's approach would have predicted.

I still think that The Sensory Order is Hayek's most overrated book, though many call it his most underrated book, which in my view is where the overratedness comes from.  I know the recent talk about "neural nets" and the like and you can claim Hayek was a precursor of the idea of the mind as an organ of classification.  I simply think this is an empirical book more or less written in the 1920s about a field which has changed dramatically in the last ten to fifteen years, never mind in the last ninety years.  And for an empirical book…it's not even empirical!  A few weeks ago I asked Bruce Caldwell whether the book had a single true sentence…

Comments

what did bruce caldwell say?

where is Joseph Stiglitz?

The only interest whoever can have in falsifying one's claims is trying to convince lazy people not to read his books. Being badmouthed by mainstream economists is prolly the best publicity any author can have, as indicated by current books sales.

Paging Greg Ransom...

"...the reduction of consumer choice and government planning and regulations confined the options available to what the government imposed on the society as a whole."

Shit, I've said stuff a lot less self-evident than that. What's a guy got to do to be vilified around this place.

I think it was a rhetorical question...

Evolution of money. The numbers don't mean anything without property. Money & Time being a naturally evolved consequence of Human society as we found ourselves unbeknownst to us. Some of his writings being a modern compliment to John Locke's 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding' -- a wonderful parallel to contemplating outside of the box. Also his works are an expose on the psychology of force inherent in bureaucratic hierarchy. An oasis for those raised on, for example, psychology and Freud & Marx. And if you're reading Hayek to begin with, you're thinking things through structurally and through an evolutionary mindset. You're not confined to personalities within your own panorama of events.

Just a few things. More on request :)

I don't understand why TSO gets lukewarm to negative reactions from serious people who are otherwise keen on Hayek. TSO is the primary work in Hayek's theory of complexity and of interest if only for that. I think the really big deal with TSO is that it brings together C.P. Snow's "two cultures" of science and the humanities ("literary intellectuals"). His theory of mind has a mechanistic starting point of sorts, but ends in a principled defense of "verstehende psychology." That's quite a trick and a major intellectual achievement. I don't really understand why this point seems to escape attention. My take is forthcoming in JEBO: http://tinyurl.com/2ch9yga.

Heh. I am such an outrage. I just posted a defense of TSO @ ThinkMarkets. Comments welcome, as ever.

Tyler needs to explain to Joaquin Fuster and Gerald Edelman why they are all wrong about Hayek's _The Sensory Order_.

I'm guessing they'd laugh in his face at Tyler's effort.

“I must say that I have been deeply gratified by reading a book [Hayek's The Sensory Order] of which I had not been aware when I wrote my little essay on group selection theory . . I was deeply impressed . . I recommend this book to your attention [i.e. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences], as an exercise in profound thinking by a man who simply considers knowledge for its own sake. What impressed me most is his understanding that the key to the problem of perception is to comprehend the nature of classification. Taxonomists have struggled with this problem many times, but I think von Hayek considered this problem in a broader sense.” (Gerald Edelman, “Through a Computer Darkly: Group Selection and Higher Brain Function”, Bulletin — The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, Oct. 1982, p. 24)

You've got to be joking.

"I simply think [The Sensory Order] is an empirical book more or less written in the 1920s"

I openly question whether you've read the book.

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