de Long is Too Kind to von Hayek

Robert Waldmann

DeLong criticizes the introduction to the second edition of “The Road to Serfdom”

On Hayek you prove that Hayek claimed that the UK was on the road to serfdom, you don’t prove that he claimed that it had gone beyond the point of no return on that road, that a U-turn before arrival at Serfdom was impossible.

Odd. Hayek definitely did claim exactly that. He was a serious thinker and felt obliged to derive a testable prediction from his hypothesis. He noted (in the original main body of the book) that he had arrived at such a prediction in conversations with friends. He did not say that Karl Popper was one of those friends but that is my (untestable) hypothesis.

So he made a prediction specifically about when the progress towards serfdom was irreversible, no turning around before gettting there. He say that point of no return was the impossition of restrictions on the expatriation of wealth. His hypothesis stands or falls on the validity of the prediction that no country can impose such controls and then turn back before reaching full serfdom.

The Atlee government imposed such controls. Actually when I moved to Italy, Italy had such controls. Either the Thatcher governments were, in Hayek’s view, an irrelevant bump in the road to serfdom, or his clearly stated prediction was refuted by the data.

I didn’t notice Hayek saying that Thatcher made no difference and that England was still as irreversibly doomed to serfdom as it was in 1946. I repeat, he was a serious thinker so, when he presented a hypothesis, he made a firm prediction. To be clearer, he was a serious thinker, in 1945, so he made a firm prediction in 1945.

Then he decided that his ideology was more precious to him than his intellectual integrity and neglected to confront his clear prediction with the facts or admit that he was wrong in 1945