Hayek in Asia, 2005

1On September 30, 2005, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), sponsored the historic roundtable dubbed as “The Constitution of Liberty in Asia,” in Phuket, Thailand. A day before the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference, 20 free market leaders and individuals from Asia discussed half of Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty.

I say “historic” because, of the many local and international conferences that I had attended, the Phuket roundtable has deepened my perspective and understanding of liberty and the rule of law.

Weeks before going to Phuket, participants had to read selected chapters running to about half of the book. The first time I read the book — which is heavy on legal and political philosophy — my mind had great difficulty comprehending Hayek’s words and ideas. My academic and professional work revolved around economic research and theory, plus current political analysis. Reading political philosophy was something I did in the early 1980s when still an undergraduate student at the University of the Philippines.

Hayek’s most popular book, The Road to Serfdom, was easier to understand, as it is mainly a critique of socialism and a discussion of some global political realities before and during World War II. The Constitution of Liberty is different, being heavy on philosophy. I remember reading the first two chapters of the book at least three times, so I could understand what Hayek was saying.

Atlas vice president and professor Leonard Liggio, a scholar on classical liberal philosophy, facilitated the Phuket discussion. Then Atlas vice president for institute relations, Jo Kwong pulled strings and funding from FNF to gather us that day, while her deputy back then, Colleen Dyble, provided the technical and administrative support. Below was our group picture, with Liggio standing at the left most behind me.

2

The event happened 10 years ago, and I am still thankful to Atlas and FNF for introducing to me — not to mention forcing me to read — that wonderful book by Hayek. Some of my co-participants included the “Hayek of China” (Liu Junning) or “Hayek of Korea” (Chung-ho Kim).

Lots of Hayek molecules have since infested our blood and mind back then. A great thinker, Hayek’s ideas have permeated the minds of many people who value the ideals of individual freedom and rule of law. Among his words that I particularly liked are as follows:

“Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. People who are afraid of responsibility are afraid of freedom itself.”

More about Friedrich A. von Hayek (1899 -1992)

An Austrian lawyer, philosopher and economist, Hayek published at least 40 books and 300 scholarly essays and articles. Below is a summary of his more important works as introduced by Prof.  Kurt R. Leube of Hoover Institution, Stanford University (USA), in his article, “Friedrich von Hayek: A Short Appreciation 20 Years after his Death.”

Hayek worked under Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), both of whom founded the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, which soon gained a reputation under Hayek’s, and later Oskar Morgenstern’s, leadership.

Hayek’s significant works are as follows:

Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle (1929), his first book, set a standard in modern business cycle theory.

The Pure Theory of Capital (1942) delves on technical economics.

The Road to Serfdom (1944), which was translated to at least 20 languages, is his work on the insoluble economic and moral problems of socialism, the terror of fascism, and the outbreak of World War II.

The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945).

Individualism and Economic Order (1948) contains his three famous essays, which shattered the foundations of socialism.

The Counter-Revolution of Science (1952, 1989), containing his essays “Counter-Revolution of Science” (1941) and “Scientism and the Study of Society” (1942/43), refuted popular superstition that the methodology of the natural sciences can be used to explain social phenomena and human action.

The Sensory Order (1952) details his preliminary thoughts on, and discourse in theoretical psychology.

The Constitution of Liberty (1960) develops his idea of “spontaneous order,” and lays down the ethical, legal and economic principles of freedom and free markets.

Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967), dedicated to philosopher friend Sir Karl R. Popper (1902-1994), contains classics such as “The Results of Human Action but not of Human Design,” and “The Intellectuals and Socialism.”

Freiburger Studien (1969) is a collection of important German essays, including his seminal “Competition as a Discovery Procedure” and “Kinds of Order in Society.”

Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Volume 1 (1973) is where Hayek argued that a spontaneous social order and an organization are quite distinct and that their distinctiveness closely related to the two different kinds of rules that prevail in them.

The Pretense of Knowledge (1974) is his lecture for the Nobel Prize in Economics, which he shared with Gunnar Myrdal, the intellectual force behind the Swedish welfare state.

In Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Volume 2 (1976), Hayek discusses misleading yet politically popular terms such as “social justice.”

Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Volume 3 (1977), which he finished at Freiburg, refines his critique of democracy and develops the principles of a political order for free people.

Denationalization of Money (1977) argues that inflation can be avoided if the monopolistic power of issuing money is taken away from government and/or state authorities, and private industry be given the task to promote competition in currencies.

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