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Bob Chitester interviews Friedrich A. Hayek (Part II)


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What was Hayek the person and his thoughts on people? Dr. Hayek describes what motivates him in his work, and what influenced his attitude toward work and achievement. Relating to The Sensory Order, the purpose of instincts in contemporary society, and the corresponding downsides of them are discussed. The importance of translating obtuse theory into workable policy for the politicians, and corresponding to that the difficulities of communicating economic ideas to the general public, are related to Hayek’s work on behalf of Margaret Thatcher. The distinction between religion, which Hayek communicates his ignorance about, and that of the development and sustaining of moral structure in society is compared and contrasted. Finally, Dr. Hayek emphasizes the importance of honor and his hatred of intellectual dishonesty.


Interview with Friedrich A. Hayek by Bob Chitester (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

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CHITESTER: I can't resist talking some more about snuff.  You said you have this shop in London. 
HAYEK: Oh yes, it's a very special snuff.  It's a very old [shop], Fribourg and Treyer, which like an English shop, still uses the same label which they used in the eighteenth century.  And I've now discovered and tried his thirty-six different snuffs.  The one I decided was much the best has the beautiful name of Dr. James Robertson Justice's Mixture. 
CHITESTER: That sounds good. 
HAYEK: And it is very good. 
CHITESTER: Why do you use snuff? 
HAYEK: Well, I was stopped from smoking by the doctor some five years ago and was miserable for a long time.  I was a heavy pipe smoker.  Then by chance I found in my own drawer of my desk an old snuffbox which I had used years ago at the British Museum when I was working long hours in the museum.  And finally my neighbor [in the museum] just joked at how silly it was to go out every hour for a cigarette.  
[He said:] "No, I have snuff and that relieves me completely of the longing."  So I got snuff for the same purpose, which worked, but I didn't acquire the habit then.  I put it aside and later found it.  And as I was miserable not being allowed to smoke, I found that old snuffbox in my drawer and took some snuff and found the longing for a cigarette at once stopped.  So I started taking it up and I've become completely hooked.  It is as much a habit-forming thing, and you get all the nicotine you want; but the worst thing about smoking, of course, is the tar, which you don't get [with snuff].  So I get my pleasure without the real danger. 
CHITESTER: Do you have a collection of snuffboxes? 
HAYEK: A small collection, yes.  I'm beginning to--
CHITESTER: --to acquire.  Like wine, cheeses, and things like that. 
HAYEK: It's only something like two or three years that it has become really a habit. 
CHITESTER: How do you feel about the question of cigarette smoking.  You know in the United States there's a lot of pressure for people to quit. 
HAYEK: Well, it's probably sensible so long as they don't legislate about it.  I think there's even a case for preventing it in public places where it annoys other people, but even that doesn't require legislation.  I think restaurants would have their choice of customers.  
But I am convinced that cigarettes are harmful, although my own brother, the late anatomist, was the one who argued most convincingly that it was not cigarettes but the effusion of cars and so on which was the main cause of lung cancer.  But I'm afraid he died of heart disease, I think largely induced by smoking. 
CHITESTER: Well, one pays the piper at some point.  Do you ascribe to the theory-- Mark Twain said, well, he had to have a certain amount of moderately sinful behavior so he would have something to throw overboard as he got older and needed redemption.  He said he wouldn't give up smoking cigars because he felt he needed that at some point in the future so that he would have something to give up. 
HAYEK: Well, I don't intend to give this up. 
CHITESTER: You don't intend to give it up.  Very good.  There's an aspect of any individual who's involved in creative work that fascinates me.  And when I say creative work, I don't limit it to intellectual: [I include] people who work with their hands, even a farmer.  A farmer to me is involved in very creative work.  [What I notice] is that there is an excitement about what one does.  It's one of those intangibles.  It's like asking what is love or how do you describe the sense of love.  But I personally feel excited about being involved in things.  You must have had-- 
HAYEK: Yes, although I get more excited by exposition, oral exposition, than by quiet writing.  I can't eat after I've given a lecture.  Even my ordinary university lectures-- I used to, at Cambridge, lecture from twelve to one and had to postpone lunch to two.  I couldn't possibly eat after I came back from a lecture; just too much excited from giving a lecture.  In quiet work, of course, there is some excitement of a different sort.  Elation, but it's purely pleasant and doesn't have any lasting effect like the effort of explaining it to somebody else.  That is an excitement of a different nature, and lecturing, of course, is in general a very peculiar experience.  
I will tell you a story, although it may lead off the point.  My second visit to the United States in 1945 was occasioned by the publication of The Road to Serfdom.  I was asked to come over to give five series of lectures at five universities.  
I imagined very sedate academic lectures, which I had written out very carefully, and I came--it was still war--in a slow convoy.  And while I was on the high seas, the condensation of The Road to Serfdom in the Reader's Digestappeared.  So when I arrived I was told the program was off; the University of Chicago Press had handed over the arrangements to the National Concerts and Artists Organization; and I was to go on  public-lecture tour around the country.  I said, "My God, I have never done this.  I can't possibly do it.  I have no experience in public speaking."  
[They said], "Oh, it can't be helped now."  "Well, when do we start?"  "You are late.  We've already arranged tomorrow, Sunday morning, a meeting at Town Hall in New York."  At first it didn't make any impression on me; I rather imagined a little group of old ladies like the Hokinson women in the New Yorker.  Only on the next morning, when I was picked up at my hotel and taken to a townhouse, I asked, "What sort of audience do you expect?"  They said, "The hall holds 3,000 but there's an overflow meeting."  Dear God, I hadn't an idea what I was going to say.  
"How have you announced it?"  "Oh, we have called it 'The Rule of Law in International Affairs.'"  My God, I had never thought about that problem in my life.  So I knew as I sat down on that platform, with all the unfamiliar paraphernalia--at that time it was still dictating machines--if I didn't get tremendously excited I would break down.  So the last thing that I remember is that I asked the chairman if three-quarters of an hour would be enough.  "Oh, no, it must be exactly an hour."  I got up with these words in my ear, without the slightest idea of what I was going to say.  But I began with a tone of profound conviction, not knowing how I would end the sentence, and it turned out that the American public is an exceedingly grateful and easy public.  
You can see from their faces whether they're interested or not.  I got through this hour swimmingly, without having any experience, and if I had been told about it before, I would have said, "I can't possibly do it."  I went through the United States for five weeks doing that stunt everyday, more or less, and I came back as what I thought was an experienced public lecturer, only to be bitterly disappointed when I went back to England.  
Soon after I came back I was asked to give a lecture to some public group at Manchester, and I tried to do my American stunt.  With the stolid north English citizens not moving a muscle in their faces, I very nearly broke down because I could not be guided by their expression.  It's the sort of lecturing you can do with the American audience but not the British audience.  It was a very instructive experience. 
CHITESTER: Yes.  I can understand.  I can understand it from the one side, having done public speaking to American audiences and knowing even there that there is clearly much more responsiveness than what I understand is true of European audiences.  But even there, there is a range, in that many times you have an audience that is very, very flat. 
HAYEK: Well, after all, you see, the New York audience apparently was a particularly favorable one, which helped me.  I didn't know in the end what I had said, but evidently it was a very successful lecture. 
CHITESTER: Well, I'm sure you've also had the experience of--there you were talking about feedback essentially--the feeling on the part of the audience that they like what you're saying, encouragement, the movement of heads.  Wouldn't you get that out of students also? 
HAYEK: No, one doesn't get it.  I think I ought to have added that what I did in America was a very corrupting experience.  You become an actor, and I didn't know I had it in me.  But given the opportunity to play with an audience, I began enjoying it. 
CHITESTER: It's very tempting, yes.  It becomes a show more than a communication; it's entertainment.  Coming back to the other question, why do you work? 
HAYEK: At this time, it's the only thing I enjoy.  I have lost all the other hobbies.  I haven't many.  It was essentially mountain climbing and skiing.  My heart will no longer play; so I had to give that up completely.  I did a certain amount of photography, which was the other hobby I had; but the professionals have become so much better than anyone can hope to be that I no longer really enjoy it.  I can't equal these people; so I've given that up, except when I travel I take snaps.  
So I no longer have any hobbies, and there's no difference between hobby and work, particularly since I am retired I no longer have any subject where I have to keep up.  That can be a chore, if you have to give the same lecture year after year and have to inform the students what has happened.  You have to read all sorts of stuff you don't care in the least about.  But now in my retired state the work is my pleasure. 
CHITESTER: Do you think hobbies and work are the same? 
HAYEK: Unfortunately, not normally; but they can be.  That's the most fortunate state you can be in.  If you feel that what you enjoy most is also useful to the other people, this is an ideal position. 
CHITESTER: In terms of achievement, now, obviously you can look at hobbies and work as you've said: when others benefit from it, it becomes work.  I guess this is maybe one of the ways-- 
HAYEK: In my case there was one particular thing: you see, I write in a language which is not my native language.  So as an adult I went through the pleasure of learning to master a new language.  And while my spoken English is not faultless, I pride myself-- If I have time, I can write as good English as anyone.  And to learn this and to see myself even in middle age constantly make progress in learning what is an art was a very enjoyable experience. 
CHITESTER: Achievement again.  Is that a key? 
HAYEK: Yes, achievement.  Or, to some extent, something unforeseen arising out of your work.  [For example], the pleasure I can get out of what may be childish: a good formulation.  To give an illustration: the next article I'm going to write as soon as I'm rid of other things is going to be called "Mill's Muddle and the Muddle of the Middle."  I think that's a good title. 
CHITESTER: It's delightful.  And that's a source of enjoyment? 
HAYEK: Yes. 
CHITESTER: The reason I'm interested in this is that it seems to me that individuals, in coming at the questions of value, questions of society, the question of enjoyment has to be in there. 
HAYEK: Oh, yes. 
CHITESTER: And it seems it is so often corrupting.  Why is it corrupting? 
HAYEK: Because our instincts, which of course determine the enjoyment, are not fully adapted to our present civilization.  That's the point which I was touching on before.  Let me put it in a much more general way.  What has helped us to maintain civilization is no longer satisfied by aiming at maximum pleasure.  Our built-in instincts--that is, the pleasure which guides us--are the instincts which are conducive to the maintenance of the little roving band of thirty or fifty people.  
The ultimate aim of evolution is not pleasure, but pleasure is what tells us in a particular phase what we ought to do.  But that pleasure has been adapted to a quite different society than which we now live in.  So pleasure is no longer an adequate guide to doing what life in our present society wants.  That is the conflict between the discipline of rules and the innate pleasures, which recently has been occupying so much of my work. 
CHITESTER: That suggests that we're outgrowing the usefulness of our native instincts. 
HAYEK: Yes, yes.  And it does raise the question whether the too-rapid growth of civilization can be sustained--whether it will mean the revolt of our instincts against too much imposed restraints.  This may destroy civilization and may be very counterproductive.  But that man is capable of destroying the civilization which he has built up, by instincts and by rules which he feels to be restraints, is entirely a possibility. 
CHITESTER: Yes, that's a kind of a terrifying thing. 
HAYEK: Oh, yes. 
CHITESTER: It suggests that there's no way out. 
HAYEK: Well, there is no way out so long as-- It's not only instincts but there's a very strong intellectual movement which supports this release of instincts, and I think if we can refute this intellectual movement-- To put it in the most general form, I have to revert to [the idea that] two things happened in the last hundred years: on the one hand, an always steadily increasing part of the population did no longer learn in daily life the rules of the market on which our civilization is based.  Because they grew up in organizations rather than participating in the market, they no longer were taught these rules.  
At the same time, the intellectuals began to tell them these rules are nonsense anyhow; they are irrational.  Don't believe in that nonsense.  What was the combination of these two effects?  On the one hand, people no longer learned the old rules; on the other hand, this sort of Cartesian rationalism, which told them don't accept anything which you do not understand.  [These two effects] collaborated and this produced the present situation where there is already a lack of the supporting moral beliefs that are required to maintain our civilization.  
I have some--I must admit--slight hope that if we can refute the intellectual influence, people may again be prepared to recognize that the traditional rules, after all, had some value.  Whereas at present the official belief is, "Oh, it's merely cultural," which means really an absurdity.  That view comes from the intellectuals; it doesn't come from the other development. 
CHITESTER: And it comes also from some elements of the science community. 
HAYEK: Oh, yes. 
CHITESTER: The scientist-technologist point of view. 
HAYEK: Oh, very much so.  To the extent to which science is rationalistic in that specific sense of the Cartesian tradition, which again comes in the form of, "Don't believe in anything which you cannot prove.  And our ethics don't belong to the category of that which you can prove. 
CHITESTER: Don't you feel, though, that the average individual finds that to be difficult.  I, as a person, have a sense of joy, of excitement, and it is not based on a rational perception.  And I am fairly willing to accept it as such.  Isn't there a way we can somehow or other sublimate the changes in society.  As you've said, the native ability doesn't work anymore.  But yet there ought to be some way to relate those instincts to a changing society. 
HAYEK: I hope it can be done.  You see, these instincts, of course, are the source of most of our pleasure in the whole field of art.  There it's quite clear; but how you can evoke this same sort of feeling by what comes essentially to these rules of conduct which are required to maintain this civilized society, I don't know. 
CHITESTER: Those people who work for themselves, who are not guided by a master, must they not as a class have that as a motivation?  Doesn't that have to be an element? 
HAYEK: No doubt they have some such motivation, but that's not a thing you can create; perhaps it can spread by imitation, by example.  But I wouldn't know any way in which you can systematically teach it. 
CHITESTER: I would assume that statistically it can be shown that a lot of people who work for themselves don't do so for purely economic gain, because it can be shown that they could do better in a different situation. 
HAYEK: Surely, surely.  You know, I am in the habit of maintaining that so far as literary production is concerned, there's no justification for copyright because no great piece of writing has been done for money.  And I don't think our literature would be much poorer if it were not a way of making a living. 
CHITESTER: That's true.  I think many people are motivated to write for other than monetary reasons. 
HAYEK: Surely. 
CHITESTER: I think [Charles] Dickens was also, in certain circumstances, writing in exchange for dollars. 
HAYEK: Yes, I think he did have to write and perhaps in this case a compulsion was a good thing, but there are very few instances.  If you ask the question, which great works of literature would we not have if it hadn't been for the incentive of earning an income from it, the number is very small indeed. 
CHITESTER: Let's go back.  You said that today you work because you get enjoyment out of it.  If we go back fifty years in Hayek's existence, and if I were to take one thing away from you that would have changed your attitude toward what you were doing so that you no longer would have cared to proceed with it, what would that one thing be? 
HAYEK: Well, I suppose the one thing which might have changed my own development would have been if there didn't exist that esteem for intellectual work which in an academic environment-- You see, my determination to become a scholar was certainly affected by the unsatisfied ambition of my father to become a university professor.  It wasn't completely unsatisfied; he was by profession a doctor.  
He became a botanist, and his main interest became botany.  He became ultimately what's called an "extraordinary professor" at the university.  At the end of his life it was his only occupation, but through the greater part of my childhood, the hope for a professorship was the dominating feature.  Behind the scenes it wasn't much talked about, but I was very much aware that in my father the great ambition of his life, in that time unsatisfied, was to be a university professor.  So I grew up with the idea that there was nothing higher in life than becoming a university professor, without any clear conception of which subject I wanted to do.  
It just seemed to me that this was the worthwhile occupation for your life, and I went through a very long change of interests.  I grew up as a biologist in my background.  I think it was purely an accident that I didn't stick to it, as my father gave me too early--  I was not satisfied with the sort of taxonomic work in botany or zoology.  I was looking for something theoretical at a relatively early stage.  When I was thirteen or fourteen my father gave me a treatise on what is now called genetics--it was then called the theory of evolution--which was still a bit too difficult for me.  It was too early for me to follow a sustained theoretical argument.  I think if he had given me the book later, I would have stuck to biology.  
In fact, my interests started wandering from biology to general questions of evolution, like paleontology.  I got more and more interested in man rather than, in general, nature.  At one stage I even thought of becoming a psychiatrist.  And then there was the experience of the war.  I was in active service in World War I.  I fought for a year in Italy, and watching the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire turned my interest to politics and political problems.  So it was just as the war ended and I came back that I decided-- Well, I didn't even decide to do economics.  I was hesitating between economics and psychology.  
Although my study was confined to three years at veterans' privileges, and I did a first-class law degree, I divided my time essentially between economics and psychology.  And it was for essentially practical reasons that I decided on economics rather than psychology.  Psychology was very badly represented at the university.  There was no practical possibility of using it outside a university career at that time, while economics offered a prospect.  
Finally, I got definitely hooked by economics by becoming acquainted with a particular tradition through the textbook of Karl Menger, which was wholly satisfactory to me.  
I could step into an existing tradition, while my psychological ideas did not fit into any established tradition.  It would not have given me an easy access to an academic career.  So I became an economist, although the psychological ideas continued to occupy me.  In fact, they still helped me in the methodological approach to the social sciences.  I finally wrote out the ideas I had formed as a student thirty years later--or nearly thirty years later--in that book The Sensory Order.  And I still have a great interest in certain aspects of psychology, although not what is predominantly taught under that name, for which I have not the greatest respect. 
CHITESTER: What's your reaction at this point about having achieved what your father desired?  He desired to be a professor as an ultimate and as a measure of achievement.  Is there a secret wish somewhere in Professor Hayek that, knowing what you now know, you might have attempted to strive to achieve some other objective? 
HAYEK: I think my choice was right.  I'm satisfied with the choice.  There was a period when the possession of a professorship gratified me, and I think it's appropriate to my old age that I'm now relieved of any formal duties.  In fact, up to a point I still enjoy teaching.  I have a marvelous arrangement.  The German universities are in that respect ideal.  You are just relieved of duties, but you retain your rights.  So I can still teach, and I do it in the easy manner of joining in with one of my active colleagues who takes the responsibility and I sit in in the seminar, which is the absolutely ideal position at my age. 
CHITESTER: You're making a hobby out of your vocation in that sense. 
HAYEK: Yes. 
CHITESTER: That's interesting.  Is it important, in the sense of joy that one achieves, that there is external recognition of excellence? 
HAYEK: Yes, although I don't think I was ever guided in the choice of the subjects I worked on by the aim at recognition.  But when it comes it's very pleasant.  But I would not have very much regretted having spent my life on something which I still thought was important but had not found recognition.  I might have found it an inconvenience if it didn't bring an adequate income; but it would not have been a major grief to me if I was convinced something would ultimately be recognized as important, perhaps after my death.  In my lifetime I have found no little recognition.  In fact, recognition in that sense, except in a very narrow group of colleagues, is a new experience to me.  
There was one period of popularity after the publication of The Road to Serfdom, but so far as public recognition is concerned-- As we mentioned before, the period between '50 and '70 was a period when I--you could almost say--had become relatively unknown.  
I've always regretted a remark I made to my wife in 1950, which I think was true at that time but ceased soon to be true, that when [John Maynard] Keynes died I was probably the best-known economist.  At that time, as a result of the controversy between us, we were the two leading economists.  But when Keynes died he became a saint and I was forgotten.  It was a curious development.  Between '50 and '70, I was known to a few specialists but not by the public at large. 
CHITESTER: In periods of time like that, you need a guidepost against which to judge your achievements.  We all do this.  We have measuring tools. 
HAYEK: I was sufficiently settled.  By the age of fifty or the early fifties, one might say your habits, but certainly your immediate aims, are very much settled.  I never had any ambition for public activity.  
In fact, at a very early stage I came to the conclusion that for an economist it was not a good thing to be involved in government.  Long before I confirmed it in my own experience, I used to say that in the twenties England and Austria produced good economists because they were not involved in policy matters, and Germany and America produced bad economists because they were all tied up in politics.  
I have by my migrations avoided getting tied up in politics.  I left Austria almost immediately--it was by accident--after I had been called to sit on the first governmental committee; I left England after twenty years--it takes much longer there--just after the Colonial Office had begun to use me for public matters; 
I was never long enough in the United States to be used for public affairs; and of course in Germany, when I arrived I was an old man.  I think it was no longer a practical problem.  So I'm almost unique among economists of some reputation of practically never having been tied up in government work, and I think it has done me a lot of good.  Government work corrupts.  I have observed in some of my best friends, who as a result of the war got tied up in government work, and they've ever since been statesmen rather than scholars. 
CHITESTER: Isn't there a problem that you have to deal with in that regard?  I understand and am very sympathetic to that perspective.  How does one translate, then, from the theoretical to the practical and political?  Who is the intermediary?  Is there a class of individuals, then, that must lie between the intellectual and the politician?  How do you bridge the gap? 
HAYEK: The economists whom we train who do not become academics also do their job.  After all, we are training, unfortunately, far too many and certainly many more than ought to go into academic life.  And I don't mind even people of first-class quality going into politics.  All I'm saying is they no longer have the right approach to the purely abstract theoretical work.  They are beginning to think about what is politically possible, while I have made it a principle never to ask that question.  My aim is to make politically possible what in the present state of opinion is not politically possible. 
CHITESTER: A parallel I see to what you're saying is in the case of Dr. Milton Friedman, who spent a number of years of his work in the very theoretical [realm] without involvement in the political. 
HAYEK: I think he is rather an exception by not getting corrupted by it. 
CHITESTER: He has now become more involved because he has many specific suggestions for political solutions, which are--and he would clearly admit to this--compromises of his own theory. 
HAYEK: Well, personally I think he has invested so much in a particular scheme of monetary policy that he refuses to consider what I regard as the ultimate solution of the problem: the denationalization of money and the privatization [of it].  That is so much beyond the scope of his aims that he rejects it outright.  I think it is politically impractical anyhow.  I believe he even sees the theoretical attraction, but he doesn't think it's worth pursuing because it's not practical politics. 
CHITESTER: It's interesting that--and this is something I don't have a clear feel for but I have a sense of--the yeoman farmer as well as the theoretical intellectual, who both stay out of politics and do their own work, are much more closely aligned in that sense than is the intellectual who is working theoretically and the one who essentially sells himself to the political process. 
HAYEK: Well, of course, there is a limit.  You see, I'm very interested in politics; in fact, in a way I take part.  I now am very much engaged in strengthening Mrs. [Margaret] Thatcher's back in her fight against the unions.  But I would refuse to take any sort of political opinion or political responsibility.  I write articles; I've even achieved recently the dignity of an article on the lead page of the London Times on that particular subject. 
I'm represented in England as the inspirer of Mrs. Thatcher, whom I've only met twice in my life on social occasions.  I enjoy this, but on the principle that I will not ask, under any circumstances, what is politically possible now.  I concentrate on what I think is right and should be done if you can convince the public.  If you can't, well it's so much the worse, but that's not my affair. 
CHITESTER: It seems to me that there is another related problem that this suggests.  You work obviously within a scholarly framework.  The average person is not in a position to be able to deal with the subtleties of your efforts because they don't have the basic education that permits them to do that.  How does the translation between your work and thoughts and the need for the average person to have some sensitivity in regard to them occur? 
HAYEK: Well, I think under normal circumstances it ought not to be too difficult, because what I call the intellectuals, in the sense in which I defined it before--the secondhand dealers in ideas--have to play a very important role and are very effective.  But, of course, in my particular span of life I had the misfortune that the intellectuals were completely conquered by socialism.  So I had no intermediaries, or hardly any, because they were prejudiced against my ideas by a dominating philosophy.  
That made it increasingly my concern to persuade the intellectuals in the hopes that ultimately they could be converted and transmit my ideas to the public at large.  That I cannot reach the public I am fully aware.  I need these intermediaries, but their support has been denied to me for the greater part of my life.  I did not teach ideas which, like those of Keynes, had an immediate appeal and whose immediate relevance for practical problems could be easily recognized.  
How much I was worried about these problems long ago you will see when you look into an article I wrote, oh, fully twenty-five years ago called "The Intellectuals and Socialism."  This was actually published in the University of Chicago Law Review but is reprinted in my volume of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.  There I've tried to explain that the general rule of the intellectuals is the reason why the intellectuals of the last--of this century, I must say--since about the beginning of the century, were so attracted by the socialist philosophy that they really became the main spreaders of socialism.  
Socialism has never been an affair of the proletarians.  It has always been the affair of the intellectuals, who have provided the workers' parties with the philosophy.  And--I believe I've used this phrase already today--that's why I believe that if the politicians do not destroy the world in the next twenty years, there's good hope.  
Because among the young people there is a very definite reversion.  There is an openness, which is the most encouraging thing that I've seen in recent years, even in the countries where intellectually the situation seemed to me most hopeless, largely because it was completely dominated by the Cartesian rationalism.  In France there is now the same reversion which has been taking place in England and America and Germany for some years.  This was the first time even in France that a group of nouveaux économistes, who were opposing the  nouveaux philosophes, and who were thinking essentially along the same lines which I am thinking.  That was the most encouraging experience I've had in recent times. 
CHITESTER: Changing to a somewhat different approach, what kinds of people-- How would you describe an individual whom you have the greatest difficulty dealing with, in terms of personality or attitude? 
HAYEK: May I give a personal example? 
CHITESTER: Please do. 
HAYEK: I don't think there could ever be any communication between Mr. [John Kenneth] Galbraith and myself.  I don't know why, but it's a way of thinking which I think is wholly irresponsible and which he thinks is the supreme height of intellectual effort.  I think it's extremely shallow.  I go so far as that when in this recent plan, which had to be postponed, of challenging an opposite group of socialist intellectuals, he was one of three whom I would exclude.  I won't use the exact phrase, which would be libelous and which I don't want to be recorded, but he and two others I on principle excuse because they think in a way with which I could not communicate. 
CHITESTER: Can you give us a better sense of what the characteristics of this are? 
HAYEK: I don't want to be offensive, but it's a certain attribute which is common to journalists of judging opinions by their likely appeal to the public. 
CHITESTER: In other words, you in this instance, would feel that Galbraith is more of a journalistic type. 
HAYEK: Oh, yes, very much so. 
CHITESTER: Do you find journalism generally to be superficial? 
HAYEK: It's always dangerous to generalize because there are some exceedingly good men among them to whom it does not apply.  But in terms of numbers, yes. 
CHITESTER: And the basic corrupting element is, as you said, the desire to appeal, to try to second-guess what's going to be accepted or not. 
HAYEK: And it's a necessity to pretend to be competent on every subject, some of which they really do not understand.  They are under that necessity, I regret; I'm sorry for them.  But to pretend to understand all the things you write about, and habitually to write about things you do not understand, is a very corrupting thing. 
CHITESTER: You cover a broad range of interests in intellectual areas.  What are some that you are totally incompetent in?  Or let me put it another way.  Let me make it more specific, because that's too general.  What area do you receive questions about on a most frequent basis that you feel is categorically beyond your professional area of competence? 
HAYEK: Well, apart from certain parts of the arts, where my interests are very limited, religion.  I just lack the ear for it.  Quite frankly, at a very early stage when I tried [to get] people to explain to me what they meant by the word "God," and nobody could, I lost access to the whole field.  I still don't know what people mean by God.  I am in a curious conflict because I have very strong positive feelings on the need of an "un-understood" moral tradition, but all the factual assertions of religion, which are crude because they all believe in ghosts of some kind, have become completely unintelligible to me.  I can never sympathize with it, still less explain it. 
CHITESTER: That's fascinating because one of the things that has occurred to me--it's an irritant, a frustration--because of my own personal desires to communicate certain precepts, is that the sense that motivates the "religious" person is something that is very powerful.  In a way, if one could find a way to use that motivation as a basis of support and understanding for, say, the precepts of a liberal free society, it could be extremely effective. 
HAYEK: In spite of these strong views I have, I've never publicly argued against religion because I agree that probably most people need it.  It's probably the only way in which certain things, certain traditions, can be maintained which are essential.  But I won't claim any particular deep insight into this.  
You see, I was brought up essentially in an irreligious family.  My grandfather was a zoologist in the Darwinian tradition.  My father and my maternal grandfather had no religious beliefs.  In fact, when I was a boy of I suppose eight or nine, I was presented with a children's Bible, and when I got too fascinated by it, it somehow disappeared.  So I have had little religious background, although I might add to it that having grown up in a Roman Catholic family, I have never formally left the creed.  In theory I am a Roman Catholic.  When I fill out the form I say "Roman Catholic," merely because this is the tradition in which I have grown up.  I don't believe a word of it. 
CHITESTER: That's interesting.  Do you get questions about religion?  I would assume a lot of people confuse your interest in a moral structure with religion. 
HAYEK: Very rarely.  It so happens that an Indian girl, who is trying to write a biography of myself, finally and very hesitantly came up with the question which was put to Faust: "How do you hold it with religion?"  But that was rather an exceptional occasion.  Generally people do not ask.  I suppose you understand I practically never talk about it.  I hate offending people on things which are very dear to them and which doesn't do any harm. 
CHITESTER: Doesn't your thinking in terms of a moral structure--the concept of just conduct--at least get at some very fundamental part of religious precepts? 
HAYEK: Yes, I think it goes to the question which people try to answer by religion: that there are in the surrounding world a great many orderly phenomena which we cannot understand and which we have to accept.  In a way, I've recently discovered that the polytheistic religions of Buddhism appeal rather more to me than the monotheistic religions of the West.  If they confine themselves, as some Buddhists do, to a profound respect for the existence of other orderly structures in the world, which they admit they cannot fully understand and interpret, I think it's an admirable attitude.  
And so far as I do feel hostile to religion, it's against monotheistic religions, because they are so frightfully intolerant.  All monotheistic religions are intolerant and try to enforce their particular creed.  I've just been looking a little into the Japanese position, where you don't even have to belong to one religion.  Almost every Japanese is Shintoist in one respect and Buddhist in the other, and this is recognized as reconcilable.  Every Japanese is born, married, and buried as a Shintoist, but all his beliefs are Buddhist.  I think that's an admirable state of affairs. 
CHITESTER: And it's one of those activities, which we discussed earlier, where it is not a calamitous thing--one's personal decisions don't affect substantially the society around.  Going back to the question I asked you about people you dislike or can't deal with, can you make any additional comments in that regard, in terms of the characteristics of people that trouble you? 
HAYEK: Dishonesty is a thing I intensely dislike.  If I advise speaking about honesty, I think honesty is really the best expression of what I call the morals of a civilized society.  Primitive man lacks a conception of honesty; even medieval man would put honor higher than honesty, and honor and honesty have turned out to be very different conceptions.  
I became very much aware of the contrast and quite deliberately began to be interested in the subject.  [For example,] the different moral outlook of an officer and a broker in the stock exchange.  In my traditional environment the officer was regarded as a better kind of person.  
I have come to the conviction that the broker at a stock exchange is a much more honest person than an average officer.  In fact, the officer--and I knew them in the Austro-Hungarian army--making debts which he could not pay was not a shameful thing to do.  It did not conflict with his honor, but of course it was dishonest.  I sometimes like to shock people by saying that probably the most honest group of men are the members of the stock exchange.  They keep all their promises. 
CHITESTER: Yes they do.  In that sense, one could say that the bookie on the streets of Manhattan--
HAYEK: I suppose so, but I have no experience with them. 
CHITESTER: I don't either, but I understand that at least within the enforcement potential that exists there, a bookie always pays his bets and can be totally trusted. 
HAYEK: That's completely comparable to the stock exchange people. 
CHITESTER: Honor, you're suggesting, then, involves precepts that are not susceptible to statistical analysis.  Honor is a more-- 
HAYEK: The robber baron was a very honored and honorable person, but he was certainly not an honest person in the ordinary sense.  The whole traditional concept of aristocracy, of which I have a certain conception-- I have moved, to some extent, in aristocratic circles, and I like their style of life.  But I know that in the strict commercial sense, they are not necessarily honest.  They, like the officers, will make debts they know they cannot pay. 
CHITESTER: How about intellectual dishonesty? 
HAYEK: Well, of course, that's the thing I particularly dislike, but it's not so easy to draw the line.  Strictly speaking, of course, every moral prejudice which enters into your intellectual argument is a dishonesty.  But none of us can wholly avoid it.  Where to draw the line, where you blame a person for letting nonintellectual arguments enter into his intellectual conclusions, is a very difficult thing to decide.  One has to pardon a great deal in this field to the human and unavoidable. 
CHITESTER: It's very difficult also because the individual-- 
HAYEK: To come back to the journalists, in their environment, under the conditions in which they work, they probably can't be blamed for what they do, and still more so for the politicians.  It's one of my present arguments that we have created institutions in which the politicians are forced to be partial, to be corrupt in the strict sense, which means their business is to satisfy particular interests to stay in power.  It's impossible in that situation to be strictly honest, but it's not their fault.  It's the fault of the institutions which we have created. 
Dock windowTable of contents
Cigarette smoking
Creative work
Speaking tour in the United States
American audience
Why do you work?
Why is enjoyment corrupting?
Civilization versus instincts
Instincts in a changing society
Writing for a non-monetary gain
Early influences in Hayek's attitude
Regrets in Hayek's profession
External recognition of excellence
Guides for achievement
Bridge between the intellectual and the politician
Milton Friedman
Intellectuals in the political process
Presenting theory to the general public
John Kenneth Galbraith
Superficial nature of journalism
Religion in a free society
Moral structure and religion
Hayek's dislike of dishonesty
Honor and intellectual dishonesty
Final credits
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