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The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek) Paperback – October 4, 1991
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The Fatal Conceit's title captures the essence of the socialist/progressive/liberal impulse, born of a feeling of moral and intellectual superiority, to bring order to the free market, and in so ordering, destroy the very thing (capitalism), that allows modern civilization. Hayek writes of socialism in the introduction entitled "Was Socialism a Mistake?":
"...The dispute between the market order and socialism is no less than a matter of survival. To follow socialist morality would destroy much of present humankind and impoverish much of the rest.
"All of this raises an important point about which I wish to be explicit from the outset. Although I attack the presumption of reason on the part of socialists, my argument is in no way directed against reason properly used. By `reason properly used' I mean reason that recognizes its own limitations and, itself taught by reason, faces the implications of the astonishing fact, revealed by economics and biology, that order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive..."
What a simple observation of the truth, "...order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive..." Capitalism, spontaneously generated through centuries of human interaction, has proven the best way to conduct the economics of mankind.Read more ›
As Hayek shows, the central problem with socialism is that it based on the false idea of "constructive rationalism," the belief that man can order society based purely on reason (and therefore planning). However, social progress is based in large part on tradition, or -- as Hayek describes it -- "between instinct and reason." This progress is inherently evolutionary and proceeds by slow steps. As such it integrates all the knowledge that is dispersed in society.
The theory presented in this book is a mix of liberalism and conservatism. In many ways it is the application of evolutionary theory to social though. As he daringly says: "morals, including, especially, our institutions of property, freedom and justice, are not a creation of man's reason but a distinct endowment conferred upon him by cultural evolution." This certainly won't endear him to either religious thinkers or Randian libertarians.
Hayek proceeds to discuss the benefits of private property, free enterprise and trade from this evolutionary perspective and shows socialized planning is inevitable destructive of social progress.
Hayek provides an excellent refutation of the central errors of socialism. The reader might want to compare his approach with that of von Mises in THE ANTI-CAPITALISTIC MENTALITY and PLANNED CHAOS, which covers similar territory from a somewhat different approach.
The term 'socialism' as used in political discourse generally begs definition, and is used carelessly rather than precisely by both sides of the debate. Consider, for instance the conflation of the manifestly wildly disparate New Deal and Soviet Communism. Those supporting the New Deal, which preserved democracy and capitalism during economic catastrophe with government intervention, too often had a wistful, credulous view of the Soviet Union. The right extended a realistic view of Soviet tyranny to define even the mildly US left as not merely mistaken, but advocates of tyranny and treason. Hayek is more precise. He views socialism as any government interference in the free market, and argues that, at whatever level it is conducted and imposed, the results are for the worse. He states that the plight of those in need, while acknowledging its reality, is poorly, if at all, mitigated by dirigiste government action, if not worsened and perpetuated. His arguments are logical, historically informed and presented in clear prose that's a delight to read.
My differences with him begin with his acceptance of the necessity of government protection of private property and of citizens against violence. I'd argue that unregulated capitalism, much as unrestricted government, can result in appropriation of property by the strong at the expense of the weak, and that there are many forms of violence, many of which are characteristic of unrestricted business activity.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the finest explanations as to why socialism and central planning are doomed to failure.Published 5 days ago by yosway
Hayak presents reasoned arguments outlining the faults and fallacies that prove fatal to all the collectivist, socialist attempts at central planning and egalitarian economiesPublished 22 days ago by Koparcener
It's on my stack of read-these-next books, right next to The Road to Serfdom. Timing is excellent -- looks like America is filling with citizens who are "drinking the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by P. D. Barnum
Something that should be read by many. The logic and consistency is refreshing even to this day. It is more relevant than ever and I tell as many people as I can to read Hayek's... Read morePublished 2 months ago by J. Drews
A brilliant read, by a demigod of economics, specifically detailing why Socialism (yes, even Democratic Socialism) is a terrible, repulsive idea.Published 3 months ago by Chris Marshall
Fast ship this order. This book is about excellence kapitalism to inferiority socialism
This book is hard to read, but there is some extremely rewarding stuff in there. Hey, it's Russ Roberts' favorite Hayek book.Published 6 months ago by PiggityPaul