The Hayek Twitter game

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.”


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.

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

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.

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

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.

Pitch perfect.

"Mom! Johnny got more than me!!!"

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.

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.

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

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

You guys are nerds.

...and this is a surprise???

I continue to be amazed.

Hmm ... Rent seeking groups lead to unfairness.

Rent-seeking groups lead WHOM to perceptions of unfairness?

Yer English ain't grammatical, innit?


Government is unfair.

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:

OK, let me give this game a try:

Democracy just pisses people off.

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.

Why not make it into a Hayek Haiku game?

if any group can
influence legislation,
all are unhappy

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.

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

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.


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

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

Life leads to perceptions of unfairness.

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

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

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.

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?

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

We are doomed.

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

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

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'.

"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).

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.

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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