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Since participating in a year-long seminar on the major works of Hayek I have decided to continue reading some of his less known works. I have been especially intrigued by the more personal of his writings, many of which can be found in the later years of his life. The following is from his speech/essay, Socialism and Science, which he delivered in Australia to the Economic Society in 1976 (two years after receiving his Nobel Prize).

I have to admit that, after vainly waiting for upwards of forty years to find a respectably intellectual defence against objections raised to socialist proposals, I am becoming a little impatient. Since I have always acknowledged that the socialist camp includes many people of good will, I have tried to deal with their doctrines gently. But the time is overdue to proclaim loudly that intellectually the foundations of socialism are as hollow as can be, and that opposition to socialism is based, not on different values or on prejudice, but on unrefuted logical argument.

This must be openly said, especially in view of the tactics so frequently employed by most advocates and defenders of socialism. Instead of reasoning logically to meet the substantial objections they have to answer, socialists impugn the motives and throw suspicion on the good faith of defenders of what they choose to call “capitalism“. Such crude efforts to turn discussion from whether a belief is true to why it is being held seems to me itself an outgrowth of the weakness of the intellectual position of the socialists. Quite generally, the socialist counter-critique seems often to be more concerned to discredit the author than to refute his arguments. At least the counter-critiques is to warn the young against taking the author or his book seriously. This technique indeed has been developed to a certain mastership.

What young man will bother with such a book as my Constitution of Liberty, which he is told by a “progressive” British political science don is one of those “dinosaurs that still occasionally stalk on the scene, apparently impervious to natural selection”? The principle seems generally: if you can’t refute the argument, defame the author. That the argument against them may be genuine, honest and perhaps true, these left-wing intellectuals do not seem prepared to consider even as a possibility, since it might mean that they themselves are entirely wrong.

Certainly, political differences are frequently based on differences of ultimate values, on which science has little or nothing to say. But the crucial differences which exist today at least between the socialist intellectuals, who, after all, invented socialism, and their opponents are not of this kind. They are intellectual differences which between people not irredeemably wed to a muddled dream can be sorted out and decided by logical reasoning. I have never belonged to any political party. Long ago I shocked many of my friends by explaining why 1 cannot be a conservative. Insight into the nature of the economic problems of society turned me into a radical anti-socialist, I can honestly say. Moreover, it convinced me that as an economist I can do more for my fellow-men by explaining the reasons for opposing socialism than in any other manner. Anti-socialism means here opposition to all direct government interference with the market, no matter in whose interest such interference may be exercised.

My only caution to those of you cheering is that such tactics are not unique to  the Progressives.

4 Responses to “Economics IS Anti-Socialism”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    On this topic …

    I’ve been thinking about this since high school. As a senior I took my first econ class then. It didn’t take me long to reach the conclusion that there are not conservative economics, leftist economics, Austrian economics, supply-side economics etc.

    There are only two kinds of economics: sound economics, and shoddy economics. Am I off on this?

    And it just so happens that I am also convinced that what we call Austrian economics is by and large, sound economics. 😉

  2. Speedmaster says:

    Next, I’d like to rant about the misnomer of those called “progressives.” I see nothing forward-looking about calling for rehashed bad policies tat have been proven bad over and over and over.

  3. Harry says:

    For our education and enjoyment, Wintercow posts to his blog, submerged in an Adirondack lake.

    Great point, Speedmaster. There is no conservative or liberal physics, or electrical engineering. OK, a conservative would put in a 15-amp fuse, a moderate would put in a 20-amp, and a liberal would put in a 30-amp, hoping that the conservative would change the fuse. The progressive would say, since Dewey (not Tom) that the next socialist program will solve fire problems, now that we have more powerful computers and our guy in the White House maneuvering the levers.

  4. Harry says:

    We call them Progressives to be charitable, since that is what they wish to be called. Calling them names, because they would regard it as a personal attack, would be unfair and fallacious.

    We can call them cowards, as Hayek explains.

    As Wintercow well knows, I have never committed the fallacy of ad hominem, or any other fallacy.

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