Was Hayek a closet Rawlsian?

There’s a disconnect between Friedrich Hayek’s principles and his practical policy positions, according to Canadian scholar Andrew Lister. In a working paper for the Centre for the Study of Social Justice at Oxford Lister argues that Hayek is a closet Rawlsian — an egalitarian liberal "who reaches inegalitarian conclusions only via equivocation and implausible empirical claims". So is there anything useful we can learn from Hayek’s work? Lister concludes:

One lesson Hayek has to teach us, perhaps, is that markets and private property rights are important not just because they are efficient at producing wealth, but because they involve people with very different values and purposes managing to cooperate in generally beneficial ways, despite their many disagreements about how society ought to allocate its resources. And they involve all of us exploring on a decentralized, trial-and-error basis the great many different ways there are of producing the things we want or might discover we want. The value in this process is not just in generating greater material wealth but in permitting and indeed encouraging attempts at different ways of living. Of course there is a lot of mindless consumerism and conformity in mass markets. But it would be a mistake to ignore the tremendous creativity and innovation that markets and private property permit. Experiments in living also require experiments in producing.

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4 Responses to Was Hayek a closet Rawlsian?

  1. paul walter says:

    Well, that’s ok. So its a fair thing in turn that folk who are subject to the government and businesses decisions holla loudly when they are disregarded- they don’t hear you unless you yell, these days and many oppose privatisation, the Afghan War, lack of action on environment and a raft of other irrationalities imposed on the world by those who apparently missed the point with Hayek’s purportedly small c conservatism based on a supposed intrinisic rationality, the individuated, unselflexive boss classes.
    Clearly market forces do NOT satify human need, but in an accidental way, and a rational society inputs from its members thru the objective distance of parliamentary deliberation and response to ensure some sort of use value is included in economics when human life and the base itself is at stake.

  2. observa says:

    “Clearly market forces do NOT satify human need”

    And only someone who has enjoyed the great benefits of market forces could likewise enjoy the sublime luxury of saying that.

  3. observa says:

    Meanwhile the eternal question- How do you make incomes more equal?, is answered categorically and empirically. Elect a Labor Govt and wait.

  4. Pingback: The road to serfdom by Hayek (Friedrich) - American Philosophers - Philosophy - Quotes

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