Market Fetishism and the Attack on Social Reason

Market Fetishism and the Attack on Social Reason: A Comment on Hayek, Polanyi and Wainwright,” [PDF], Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, vol. 6, no. 4 (December 1995), pp. 101-107. DOI:10.1080/10455759509358654

In an age when the rationalist tradition of the Enlightenment is under attack, it is perhaps worth recalling that the arch-conservative economist, Friedrich Hayek, the leading intellectual figure of the free market right, made one of the sharpest attacks ever to be directed at the idea that reason can play a useful role in shaping human affairs. In The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, Hayek writes:

The basic point of my argument — that morals, including, especially, our institutions of property, freedom, and justice, are not a creation of man’s reason but a distinct second endowment conferred on him by cultural evolution — runs counter to the main intellectual outlook of the twentieth century. The influence of rationalism has indeed been so profound and pervasive that, in general, the more intelligent an educated person is, the more likely he or she now is not only to be a rationalist, but also to hold socialist views (regardless

of whether he or she is sufficiently doctrinal to attach to his or her views any label, including ‘socialist’). The higher we climb up the ladder of intelligence, the more we talk with intellectuals, the more likely we are to encounter socialist convictions. Rationalists tend to be intelligent and intellectual; and intelligent intellectuals tend to be socialists….One’s initial surprise at finding that intelligent people tend to be socialists diminishes when one realizes that, of course, intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence, and to suppose that we

must owe all the advantages and opportunities that our civilization offers to deliberate design rather than to following traditional rules, and likewise to suppose that we can, by exercising our reason, eliminate all remaining undesired features by still more intelligent reflection, and still more appropriate design and “rational coordination” of our undertakings. This leads one to be favorably disposed to the central economic planning and control that lie at the heart of socialism.

, ,

Comments are closed.