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The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek) Paperback – April 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek (Book 17)
  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226315398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226315393
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

While I do not agree with everything in this book, it is a must read for any serious student of political economy.
D. W. MacKenzie
Further, Hayek does not establish that liberty, as he understands it, is always the ultimate human good to which others must give place.
Robin Friedman
Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" is one of the most important books in social theory written in the twentieth century.
Hans G. Despain

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 92 people found the following review helpful By D. W. MacKenzie on March 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By David H. Eisenberg on 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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