on August 27, 2001
Hayek was arguably the major intellectual force of the 20th century. This is a great way to get into his writing. Hayek was in the tradition of von Mises, Menger and Cannan - a scholar of immense proportions - prodigious in his mastery of knowledge but quite unassuming about his ultimate knowledge. This is focussed on a particular set of issues. Its points are well stated - i.e. THE fundamental error of socialism is that any person or group of persons can understand the complexities of human interaction and thereby control it. Once conquered you might like to move on to either the Constitution of Liberty or one of his other great works. Hayek is also accessible on many places in the web. His speech to the London Economic Club and one on the Uses of Knowledge in Society are excellent.
on May 29, 2001
The Fatal Conceit is not, as it masquerades to be, a book about government, but rather a book about the human mind. It pleads with the reader to understand that there are structures more complex than the human mind, of which the human mind is a less complex sub-structure, and which more-complex super-structure may therefore be impossible for the less-complex sub-structure to understand or even witness. Structures which are products of the human mind are, of course, less complex than the minds that created them, and therefore are far less complex still, than the wonderful super-structures composed of many human minds interacting unconsciously. Hayek simply implores those of you who can't see the garden for the flowers to at least try to avoid stepping all over it -- even though your mind is incapable of appreciating its beauty, and you are doomed to write bitter, scathing reviews, proving for the rest of us how you will continue to miss the point completely. The best thing you unbelievers can do to appreciate Hayek is go read "Horton Hears A Who" by Dr. Seuss, and understand that for 50 years, Hayek was Horton.
on October 28, 1999
This book is phenomenal, and is as relevant now as it ever was. This is for the benefit of my friend artoa at IBM, who would like to see my multilingual talent:
Hayek è, senza un dubbio, il filosofo politico principale del ventesimo secolo. Questo volume notevole sostiene che il socialism è essentialy difettoso; cioè il socialism è inerentemente erroneo nei relativi presupposti e perfino per i motivi logici. L' incubo sovietico da parte, che ha guastato intellettuali occidentali gradisce dire non è "socialism allineare," Hayek sostiene che tutto il socialism è difettoso, poichè non può compire che cosa il mercato presentato spontaneoulsy può fare. Ciò è, soprattutto, distribuisce le informazioni in modo che la somma delle informazioni di ogni individuo lontano eccedi quella affatto dell' individuo. Di conseguenza, la gente può competere, pacificamente ed il commercio con altri quale possano vedere o persino non conoscere mai esiste (mercato stupefacente!). Inoltre, il mercato permette che gli individui perseguano che cosa desiderano, che cosa tutto lo statist progettare le dirige fare e così che rispetta la libertà individuale. Hayek "non odia" il socialism, ma sostiene che è un tentativo arrogante ed overzealous ratirationally di riorganizzare la società, indipendentemente dalle tradizioni e dalle istituzioni. Quindi, Hayek è altamente critico di quelli che non hanno perizia nell' economia (per esempio, Einstein, Monod) ma tuttavia vuole il socialism a causa delle relativi spiegazioni e programmi razionali e animistic.
on June 28, 1999
F.A. Hayek is, without a doubt, the leading political philosopher of the twentieth century. This remarkable volume argues that socialism is essentialy flawed; that is, socialism is inherently mistaken in its assumptions and even on logical grounds. The Soviet nightmare aside, which spoiled Western intellectuals like to say isn't "true socialism," Hayek argues that all socialism is flawed, as it cannot accomplish what the spontaneoulsy arisen market can do. This is, primarily, distribute information so that the sum of every individual's information far exceeds that of any individual. As a result, people are able to compete, peacefully, and trade with others whom they may never see or even know exist (the amazing market! See Leonard Read's essay, "I, Pencil."). Moreover, the market allows individuals to pursue what they want, not what any scheming statist directs them to do, and thus respects individual freedom. Hayek doesn't "hate" socialism, but he does argue that it is an arrogant and overzealous attempt to rationally reorganize society, irrespective of traditions and institutions. Thus, Hayek is highly critical of those that have no expertise in economics (e.g., Einstein, Monod) but nevertheless desire socialism because of its rational, animistic explanations and programs.
A personal note to reviewer from Modena, Italy: please learn proper English grammar and spelling for the purpose of reviewing. I don't imagine that you have anything to say of consequence, but you should at least phrase your gibberish properly. Perhaps this is what I should expect from an Italian who gets his daily bread from a patriarchical communist state.
on January 9, 1997
This soberly written book by a Nobel Laureate economist is a summary of the author's thoughts on socialism, knowledge in society, and the evolution of society and what he calls the "extended order" (roughly the interconnected system of transactions that make up the economy). The main argument about cultural evolution is more tantalizingly interesting than conclusively thought out, but anybody interested in history, sociology, economics, politics or even evolution and ethnic differences in modern societies should find fascinating ideas here. My personal opinion is that the work can be fruitfully coupled with several of Thomas Sowell's books, but I'm sure other people will have other perspectives on the work just as interesting.
As for economics, the book works out the calculation argument against socialism, an economic argument that to people who have read austrian economics is perhaps the most impressive and thorough argument against communism or socialism ever articulated. If one supports socialist ideals, which Hayek, the author, did in his youth, one should really take this argument into serious consideration. It claims, a claim central to the evolutionary thesis, that socialism as such is simply a misguided attempt to correct a misunderstood system (the market economy) that solves problems (allocation of goods, coordination of economic activites etc.) unsolvable by any other means. Stimulating, original and well written, the book is strongly recommended.
I really enjoyed The Road To Serfdom, and therefore decided to read The Fatal Conceit. It is hard to find the words to describe how incredibly deep and insightful, Hayek goes into explaining the economic process. It seems almost every page contained enough information, to expand into an entire book.
Hayek literally included Stone Age and medieval social traditions, to help explain modern economics. He feels social customs, laws, morals, and free market economics, have naturally evolved, and therefore produced our modern society. These complex systems can not be fully understood by modern thinkers. They are too vast and complicated, to be managed by central planners. Yet this is where the problems start. Intellectuals decide they are smarter then an entire economic system, and make changes to procedures. The results are very harmful.
This book was absolutely amazing! Enough said.
on March 3, 1999
This seminal book was the book that put more teeth to the theories he put forth in Serfdom. The basics are now standard thought, of course, and this magnum opus by the primary progeniitor of capitalist theory has to be taken seriously by all, even those who disagree.
The other negative comments have been unfair. While there is substantial room to disagree with Hayek, the range of his assault on socialism and his substantially correct assessments cannot be undermined. As the century closes, Hayeks more specific criticisms gain more prescience as time goes on.
Read this book. It is the basis for an understanding of the problems inherent in socialism and the command economy.
on May 20, 2000
It is truly amazing, the breadth of this man's scholarship. The view he espouses of humanity is indeed profound, that, human societies are of human action, not of human design. To accept the magnitude of such a view and comprehend its sweep is truly challenging. His critique of collectivism, socialism (as a collective / centralised setup) is one of the best I have read. A must read for all those who wish to expand their understanding of human societies.
on October 14, 2002
Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992) was one of the twentieth century's seminal thinkers. He was an economist in the Austrian tradition and studied under Ludwig von Mises. (Although he is often grouped with von Mises, he was not the consistent libertarian that von Mises was.) THE FATAL CONCEIT was Hayek's final work, and was put together from a manuscript by the late W. W. Bartley, III (who is named as "editor" of the work.) This book is timely in that it was written at the tail end of the communist age and provided Hayek with an opportunity to reflect on the failure the socialist revolution.
As Hayek shows, the central problem with socialism is that it based on the false idea of "constructive rationalism," the belief that man can order society based purely on reason (and therefore planning). However, social progress is based in large part on tradition, or -- as Hayek describes it -- "between instinct and reason." This progress is inherently evolutionary and proceeds by slow steps. As such it integrates all the knowledge that is dispersed in society.
The theory presented in this book is a mix of liberalism and conservatism. In many ways it is the application of evolutionary theory to social though. As he daringly says: "morals, including, especially, our institutions of property, freedom and justice, are not a creation of man's reason but a distinct endowment conferred upon him by cultural evolution." This certainly won't endear him to either religious thinkers or Randian libertarians.
Hayek proceeds to discuss the benefits of private property, free enterprise and trade from this evolutionary perspective and shows socialized planning is inevitable destructive of social progress.
Hayek provides an excellent refutation of the central errors of socialism. The reader might want to compare his approach with that of von Mises in THE ANTI-CAPITALISTIC MENTALITY and PLANNED CHAOS, which covers similar territory from a somewhat different approach.
on July 7, 2014
Written late in his like, Hayek's brilliance, wisdom and insights shine through! If only more citizens would take the time to read and understand the ideas of this great man, our modern democracy would be greatly enriched.