Friedrich the Great


Former Reason Editor-in-Chief and author of The Substance of Style Virginia Postrel has a wonderful piece on F.A. Hayek's deep legacy in the Ideas section of yesterday's Boston Globe (self-promotion alert: I'm quoted toward the bottom of the piece).

From the opening of the piece:

Economist Milton Friedman calls him "the most important social thinker of the 20th century." Hayek's most significant contribution, he explains, "was to make clear how our present complex social structure is not the result of the intended actions of individuals but of the unintended consequences of individual interactions over a long period of time, the product of social evolution, not of deliberate planning."

Indeed, Hayek is increasingly recognized as one of the 20th century's most profound and important theorists, one whose work included political theory, philosophy of science, even cognitive psychology. Citing the "proof of time," Encyclopedia Britannica recently commissioned Caldwell to replace its formulaic 250-word Hayek profile with a nuanced discussion more than 10 times as long. Harvard has added him to the syllabus of Social Studies 10, its rigorous introductory social theory course.

Hayek is fairly well known in Britain, where he spent much of his life, because of his influence on MargaretThatcher. In the United States, however, well-educated, intellectually curious people who nod at mentions of Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, or Michel Foucault have barely heard of him.

Whole thing here.