Friedrich August Hayek quotes


“Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom”

“If most people are not willing to see the difficulty, this is mainly because, consciously or unconsciously, they assume that it will be they who will settle these questions for the others, and because they are convinced of their own capacity to do this.”

“Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom”

“If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion”

“We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish”

“From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.”

“There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.”

“We must show that liberty is not merely one particular value but that it is the source and condition of most moral values. What a free society offers to the individual is much more than what he would be able to do if only he were free. We can therefore not fully appreciate the value of freedom until we know how a society of free men as a whole differs from one in which unfreedom prevails.”

“Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality – an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order”

The road to serfdom: text and documents
By Friedrich August Hayek, Bruce Caldwell

“The choice open to us is not between a system in which everybody will get what he deserves according to some absolute and universal standard of right, and one where the individual shares are determined partly by accident or good will or chance, but but between a system where it is the will of a few persons that decides who is to get what, and one where it depends at least partly on the ability and enterprise of the people concerned and partly on unforeseeable circumstances.”

“The more the state ‘plans’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

“There is, in a competitive society, nobody who can exercise even a fraction of the power which a socialist planning board would possess”

“Only where we ourselves are responsible for our own interests and are free to sacrifice them has our decision moral value. We are neither entitled to be unselfish at someone else’s expense nor is there any merit in being unselfish if we have no choice. The members of a society who in all respects are made to do the good thing have no title to praise.”

“Intellects whose desires have outstripped their understanding”

“We must face the fact that the preservation of individual freedom is incompatible with a full satisfaction of our views of distributive justice”

“It is rarely remembered now that socialism in its beginnings was frankly authoritarian. It began quite openly as a reaction against the liberalism of the French Revolution. The French writers who laid its foundation had no doubt that their ideas could be put into practice only by a strong dictatorial government. The first of modern planners, Saint-Simon, predicted that those who did not obey his proposed planning boards would be “treated as cattle.”

“Who can seriously doubt that the power which a millionaire, who may be my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest bureaucrat possesses who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends how I am allowed to live and work?”

“It is neither necessary nor desirable that national boundaries should mark sharp differences in standards of living, that membership of a national group should entitle to share in a cake altogether different from that in which members of other groups share.”

“To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”

Erik, my Facebook friend, comments:

First, as someone who has been reading Hayek off and on for decades and who has read — or at least read thru — all of his major works, I would suggested starting with his last work. Hayek wrote The Fatal Conceit when he was over 90 years old. Ordinarily, that would be a reason enough not to recommend a book. But, in the case of The Fatal Conceit, Hayek had been thinking about the issues discussed in the book all of his life and he had an unusual intellect, so he somehow-someway managed to write his most mature philosophical treatise at a time in life when most people are blowing bubbles in their jello.

Second, as I mentioned to William before, Hayek was not a conservative. Far from it. He advocated many radical reforms. However, he is read by almost all conservative intellectuals. In fact, the Wall Street Journal nominated Hayek to be Man of the Century in 2000. He’s more popular than Edmund Burke. If you want to understand conservatives, read Hayek”


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