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Alex Leijonhufvud interviews Friedrich A. Hayek (Part II)


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In this short interview, Dr. Hayek describes the evolution of his ideas, emphasizing the evolutionary basis of many of his writings. The roles of positivism in the development of philosophy, as well as his thoughts of psychology as discussed in The Sensory Order are explored. Transitioning into the role of knowledge in society, the abstract rules of society and complex systems as described in inter alia Law Legislation and Liberty are examined. Hayek describes the importance of a constitution and the denationalization of monetary policy. Finally, he describes the three sources of human values.


Interview with Friedrich A. Hayek by Axel Leijonhufvud (Part II)
Thanks to Pacific Academy Advanced Studies for permission to distribute this program.

Digitized by: New Media - UFM.
Digitization: Mario Estrada, Jorge Samayoa; content analysis: Alex Weller; content reviser: Daphne Ortiz; publication: Rebeca Zuñiga

Dock windowTranscript
Interviewer: Professor Hayek, I would like to go back over the area that you have now been discussing with Professor Bork and ask you a little but about how your ideas developed over time. Your ideas on complex systems that are not designed but evolve over time. Where are the sources in your earlier work, was The Sensory Order and the early work you did on psychology more important or would you stress more perhaps the work that you did in economics, socialist calculation and the complexity of economics?
Hayek : Well, its somehow all converged very curiously. What I did on socialism based on methodological problems. In fact, if you read what I say, what I wrote as the introductory concluding essay on the volume Collectivist Economic Planning, there are certain ends of my methodological things. Then, of course there was the series of studies on the history of ideas which were published as the Counterrevolution of Science. When I went into positivism, really starting out, perhaps I should say already at that time, the late 30s, I had formed the plan for a large work, which was to be called the Abuse and Decline of Reason, which was to be connected to my work on socialism.
 I had become aware of the influence of constructivist positivist ideas and that lead me to the plan the two volume work History of Ideas, showing how the Cartesian rationalism began to influence ideas on social problems. In fact, what I did then was to be followed by a chapter on Marx and Hegel which I could not bring myself to write because I dislike these peoples too much and the later developement in the 19th century dealing with the decline of reason, the effect of constructuvist society, on blocking the evolution of thought. 
Hayek: I had all this in mind when I wrote it up as a pamphlet to the Road to Serfdom, which was really an advanced sketch of what was to be a great thing.
But the psychological work also contributed where I faced another highly complex system, which was becoming more clear could never be explained in detail. In that case, it was an absolute obstacle because then then I believe, you can never classify something which is as complex as the classifying apparatus. See, I interprete the brain as a classifying apparatus, and the classifying machine must always be more complex than what it classifies. So, I came to the conclusion there are certain phenomena where we can only hope to explain the formation of a pattern or principal  without making specific predications of what we do under a particular circumstance 
Interviewer: Or the details and structure?
Hayek: So I learned in my psychological work a great deal which was useful in the methodology of the social sciences. So in the sense the original work was the role of expectations and anticipation which already led my attention to the role of knowledge and  information, why the socialists, the history of ideas and psychological work. 
I think by the time I published the Sensory Order and turned back to economics, the general equipment was already. I first decided to use it to write a restatement of classical liberal doctrine, which was almost immediately after the Sensory Order. I started working on the Constitution of Liberty, which is no more than an up to date statement of classical doctrine. Only when when I finished that, I became aware that the classical doctrine had left certain question unanswered. So I started on the new thing, which in a way is much more personal and I believe original because it tackles probems that had not been solved. 
Interviewer: What led up to Law Legislation and Liberty? So, in effect when you wrote the Constituion of Liberty, the insights that you had gained through writing the Sensory Order had come out of earlier economic work, which you later on felt did not permit in the Constitution of Liberty Sufficiently at that time. 
Hayek: And yes, Constitution of Liberty was not an original book. It is a restatement in my approach of classical liberal doctrine. But the central problems, which I only saw later, the definition of law, the exact relation between abstract rules and the formation of an order and finally the seeing of the defect of the present constitutional arrangements, all of this came only after I finished the Constitution of Liberty. So I say in the preface, if I had not used the term "The Constitution of Liberty for that, Ï would have preferred to the present book, which is much more aiming to construct a constitution of liberty.
Interviewer: Let  me ask you another question. A historian of ideas that went through your work in the succession that it was published would see first the work the on economics, business cycles, and malfunction of that complex order, then the work on socialist calculation, then the theory of complex systems, then the sensory order. But I think that you told me once the Sensory Order was the first scientific work you had ever done began much earlier.
Hayek: Certainly I did it in 1920,  but nothing like what the ultimate book was. The basic idea that you can account for the differences in sensory qualities essentially by difference, on the one hand, is a classification process of nervous perceptions, while on the other hand, as determined by the effects it leads to, I determined in 1918, but on the methodological side, or 1920, I had no idea that it was only perhaps I would even say, my experience gained in economics, applying to my original problem, which made me see the methodological problem of complex phenomena. 
Interviewer: The published sequence of your ideas is also the evolved sequence of your ideas, or the Sensory Order, the basic ideas there, really stimulated your earlier work in economics... 
Hayek: I doubt it.
Interviewer: Well then, from the theory of complex systems and the Constitution of Liberty, how do we go from there to your later work on the philosophy of law? Can you tell me how it lead on to your present positions that are now in Law, Legislation and Liberty? You said before that the Constitution [of Liberty] left you unsatified.
Hayek: Yes, I don't know how gradually I became aware that I hadn't the rememdy against the tendencies of this idea of division of reintroducing the old idea of the seperation of powers, on the highest level was a later conception. Simliarly, this detailed study on the concept of law, of which led me to legal philosophy, which is much more than I had done in the Constituion of Liberty, was merely an awakened interest, which led me on to to read and acquire much wider knowledge of the historical background. But the thing that occures to me, in a sense it all goes back to economics. Because I am in the habit of saying that I made two inventions which distinguish from discoveries.
Hayek: The one is a new type of constitution and the other is a new monetary scheme. Because I have come to the conclusion that it is not suffient to deprive government of other arbitrary powers, but you can never vote to preserve a free economic order unless we take from government the monopoly issuing of money. So, this forces me to now to rethink a good deal of monetary theory. At the moment, trying to get back to... Well, I probably never told you this, the first book which i started and  never really wrote,
 I had proposed as a doctoral thesis at New York University in 1923, which was to have in the title, at least, the question: is the stabilization of the value of money comptatible with its functions? These were my first problems which I original worked on and came full circle.
Interviewer: But a few years back, you would not have anticipated ever coming back to monetary theory?
Hayek: It was really that I became aware that there is no chance of effective limiting of government regulations over the economy except by depriving from the inside; that you can in the present political order, it is impossible for the government to conduct essential monetary policy.
Interviewer: Would you agree to the charactericzation of your later work, that it differs from the Constitution of Liberty for example, in the great emphasis you put on culturally evolved systems, culturally evolved roots, the distinction between the constructed rules, or imposed rules, and spontaneously evolved rules.  
Hayek: Well, as you know, it became fullly cultured only after I completed this book and put it in the postscript, because that was what I suddenly saw, but you are quite right. It is permeated by gradual becoming aware of the politics of this aspect
Interviewer: You are referring to the Hobhouse lectures on the three sources of human values?
Hayek: Which will go in as an epilogue into volume three of Law Legislation and Liberty
Interviewer: Could you briefly characterize the three sources?
Hayek: Well, I think that I say in the opening passages, that some rather crude formulation of the social biologists, one of whom insisted there are only two sources of values: innate values and the consturcted ones. This proved the complete neglect of the great central strain of cultural evolution. Only when I became aware that people were completely capable of neglecting it, I began to think systematically about cultural evolution. Of course, I had plenty of material on the topic. But to put it in this systematic form was caused by this the curious statement by a social biologist which completely neglected the existence of this evolution
Dock windowTable of Contents
Convergence of law, psychology and economics
Classifying complex systems
Timeline of writings
On the Constitution of Liberty
The Sensory Order
Hayek's two inventions
Sources of human Values
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