Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is Hayek being misread?

Road to Serfdom was my introduction to Austrian Economics and Hayek. Since then I have been an ardent admirer of Hayek, both his style of writing and what he says. I do agree that he is not the most consistent author I have read, but I love reading Hayek and Mises. For my Constitutional class we are reading Buchanan now, and in his Reason of Rules with Brennan, he portrays Hayek in a way that bothers me (its just one sentence, but it still bothers me) Within the first 15 pages of the book, he says that Hayek and his followers have placed a lot of faith in the 'evolutionary' process and that there is no reason to believe that this would lead to an efficient outcome. It is true that Hayek places a lot of faith in the evolutionary system for rules; however, I am not sure that Hayek says this will be an efficient system. If I read Hayek correctly, my understanding is that he says such rules will be adopted that make it easier for individuals to engage in catallaxy. The evolutionary process is such that rules and traditions that are not functional will go out of use and only those that are resilient and apply to the requirements of the community will be followed. I have to emphasize here that my aim is not to make this sound like the argument of a legal positivist which is the exact opposite of Hayek's conception of rules. I am not sure Hayek talks about efficiency. Also when you talk in terms of evolution and spontaneous order, I am not sure we can even have a conception of efficiency. Evolution is the strive towards a better arrangement of events, right!! I do not know enough about the followers Buchanan and Brennan mention, but I am fairly confident that Hayek does not have notions of efficiency with the evolutionary process. Am I the one misreading Hayek?

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