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The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

F. A. Hayek , Ronald Hamowy
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the $700 billion bailout of the banking industry to president Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package to the highly controversial passage of federal health-care reform, conservatives and concerned citizens alike have grown increasingly fearful of big government. Enter Nobel Prize–winning economist and political theorist F. A. Hayek, whose passionate warning against empowering states with greater economic control, The Road to Serfdom, became an overnight sensation last summer when it was endorsed by Glenn Beck. The book has since sold over 150,000 copies.

The latest entry in the University of Chicago Press’s series of newly edited editions of Hayek’s works, The Constitution of Liberty is, like Serfdom, just as relevant to our present moment. The book is considered Hayek’s classic statement on the ideals of freedom and liberty, ideals that he believes have guided—and must continue to guide—the growth of Western civilization. Here Hayek defends the principles of a free society, casting a skeptical eye on the growth of the welfare state and examining the challenges to freedom posed by an ever expanding government—as well as its corrosive effect on the creation, preservation, and utilization of knowledge. In opposition to those who call for the state to play a greater role in society, Hayek puts forward a nuanced argument for prudence. Guided by this quality, he elegantly demonstrates that a free market system in a democratic polity—under the rule of law and with strong constitutional protections of individual rights—represents the best chance for the continuing existence of liberty.


Striking a balance between skepticism and hope, Hayek’s profound insights are timelier and more welcome than ever before. This definitive edition of The Constitution of Liberty will give a new generation the opportunity to learn from his enduring wisdom.


Editorial Reviews


"In an age when many on the right are worried that the Obama administration's reform of health care is leading us toward socialism, Hayek's warnings from the mid-twentieth century about society's slide toward despotism, and his principled defense of a minimal state, have found strong political resonance. . . . The notes [to this edition] make clear the extraordinary breadth and depth of Hayek’s erudition and his ability to wander far beyond economics into history, philosophy, biology, and other fields."

(Francis Fukuyama New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

F. A. Hayek (1899–1992), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and cowinner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and a leading proponent of classical liberalism in the twentieth century. Ronald Hamowy is professor of history emeritus at the University of Alberta. He is the editor of The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, among other books.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1384 KB
  • Print Length: 688 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (June 15, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005G14LSU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,536 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defining Boundaries March 7, 2011
Hayek undertook a vitally important task when he set out to write the The Constitution of Liberty. He aimed at finding the proper limits between public and private life. How far should the authority of the state extend? What areas of life should be beyond the reach of the government? Hayek is stating his version of the general principles of classical liberalism, based on utilitarian ethics. Since his arguments are utilitarian, this book has economic overtones.

Hayek's purpose in restating the principles of liberal society is to defend these principles against the opposing intellectual movement of collectivism. Western Civilization succeeded largely because of its individualism. Collectivism is undermining the basis of modern civilization in the West. Individualism is important because we each lack the knowledge needed to rationally direct the affairs of others. Some people believe that they can plan out society because they are `experts' or because they are educated. Hayek saw that nobody can posses the knowledge needed to design a rational order for society. As Hayek put it, "it is largely because civilization enables us constantly to profit from knowledge which we individually do not posses that men can pursue their individual ends more successfully than they could alone".

In writing this book, Hayek shifted his attention away from full-blown socialism and towards the modern welfare state. Hayek seems to have felt that the case for socialism had been sufficiently weakened so as to allow him to critique welfare states. Hayek accepted some types of government intervention that libertarians typically oppose. Rather than opposing each program point by point, Hayek sought out some `lynchpin issues' that would limit state growth.
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109 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exposition of a Theory of Liberty January 6, 2003
Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" is a comprehensive work of political philosophy. It sets forth, defends, and applies an important view of the nature of human liberty, government, and economics that is worth considering, at the least, and that has much to commend it. The book is carefully written and argued with extensive and substantive footnotes and with an "analytical table of contents" that is useful in following the details of the argument. The book is highly erudite. It is also passionately argued. Hayek believed he had an important message to convey.
Hayek's states his theory in part I of this book, titled "The Value of Freedom". He seeks to explore the nature of the ideal of freedom (liberty) and to explain why this ideal is valuable and worth pursuing. He finds the nature of freedom in the absence of coercion on a person by another person or group. He argues that in giving the broadest scope of action to each individual, society will benefit in ways that cannot be forseen in advance or planned and each person will be allowed to develop his or her capacities. Hayek summarizes his views near the end of his book (p. 394):
" [T]he ultimate aim of freedom is the enlargement of those capacities in which man surpasses his ancestors and to which each generation must endeavor to add its share -- its share in the growth of knowledge and the gradual advance of moral and aesthetic beliefs, where no superior must be allowed to enforce one set of views of what is right or good and where only further experience can decide what should prevail."
The book focuses on issues of economic freedom and on the value of the competitive market. Hayek has been influenced by writers such as David Hume, Edmund Burke, and John Stuart Mill in "On Liberty.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable achievement. January 16, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read The Road to Serfdom ("TRTS") a number of times, I started reading Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty ("TCOL") in a library. Finally, less than a year ago, I bought my own copy and started reading it more thoroughly, taking laborious notes. It is a remarkable achievement of a great scholar of liberty who would probably anger most conservatives and liberals, if they read him and if he did not persuade them. This is not light reading. If you want easier, then read TRTS instead - at least start with it - because the purpose of TCOL is to explain the philosophy and need for liberty in exacting detail. If TRTS is a drawing of a house, then TCOL is the blueprint. Even taking notes on it is challenging because you feel there is almost nothing you can leave out. Every paragraph has a purpose and every sentence within each paragraph too. I found it Spinozan in its approach. The footnotes in TCOL, filled with quotes from Hume and Burke and many others, takes up a lot of the page, often most of it, and you could probably take up your whole life reading the famous and obscure authors he quotes too. But, do not skip them.

Although TCOL was published in 1960 (containing his wonderful essay at the end - Why I am not a Conservative), it is timeless in its reach. Not only does it help you understand the need for liberty, but you see its relevance today in almost every political argument we now have - and have ever had.

I recommend another book for libertarians or those interested in it which I think goes well with TCOL. Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies shows how philosophers like Plato and Hegel gave sustenance to totalitarians and explains how trying to support an open society with historical (a broadly used term) authority is ultimately unworkable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberty-not for the lazy
I haven't finished the book yet, but am about 3/4 of the way through. Every paragraph makes me stop and think. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Moriarty
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, great condition
This was a required book for a graduate school class. It turned out to be interesting and informative. The book itself arrived in pristine condition.
Published 2 months ago by Emilaya
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
It is as dry as you would expect but it is still relevant in today's world.
Published 3 months ago by Scott S
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Interesting, informative, but a dry read.
Published 3 months ago by Ralph S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by JTobin
5.0 out of 5 stars The best explanation and defense of the importance of Liberty and ...
The best explanation and defense of the importance of Liberty and the ongoing destruction of what our founding fathers bequeathed to us. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Martin L. Kanter
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it
Profound must-read by master economist.

'This is what we believe'. Margaret Thatcher
Published 4 months ago by The Dude
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
in great condition
Published 5 months ago by Amanda Gillespie
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings the light, not just a bunch of heat. Beacon of intelligence,...
"it is largely because civilization enables us constantly to profit from knowledge which we individually do not possess and because each individual's use of his particular... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Francophile
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Liberty Explained:
Excellent book. Cleared up many questions I had about the political parties, the conservatives, the socialists of all types (national socialists, social democrats, "communists,... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Joe M.
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More About the Author

Friedrich August Hayek (1899-1992), recipient of the Medal of Freedom in 1991 and co-winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and the principal proponent of libertarianism in the twentieth century. He taught at the University of London, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg. His influence on the economic policies in capitalist countries has been profound, especially during the Reagan administration in the U.S. and the Thatcher government in the U.K.

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