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Hayek and the E.U.

The international dimension of Friedrich Hayek's work is often overlooked, because he himself was divided about it even in The Road to Serfdom. He must have realized when writing during the Second World War that a major cause of that war was to be found in nationalistic competition. That led him in his last chapter to call for an international order to prevent the most catastrophic malfunctioning of a world based on nation-states, i.e., war. Unfortunately, Samuel Gregg in his review overlooks this part of Hayek's work, too ("Stimulating Debate," Winter 2018). In my book, I argued that the European Union we have today is as close as it gets to what Hayek asked for: a non-coercive integration of free people who willingly accept that they want to work together, with the institutions moderating between them. We see in the E.U. both Keynesian and Hayekian suggestions for improving the workings of the economy. Here is a reason for hope of gradual improvements in the way our economies, and with them our societies, are run--clearly not perfect, but the best we have for the moment.

Thomas Hoerber

Ecole Superieure des Sciences

Commerciales d'Angers

Angers, France

Samuel Gregg replies:

Friedrich Hayek certainly disapproved of nationalism. But for Hayek, evil ideologies and erroneous economic policies caused war, not nation-states per se. While interested in promoting peace between nations, Hayek-like Adam Smith--recognized that people find it hard to develop attachment to entities beyond the linguistic groups at the heart of most nation-states. We also know that, although Hayek was interested in promoting something like a European free trade federation, he was deeply skeptical of international organizations like the League of Nations and the United Nations, and positively detested the International Labor Organization. It is very safe to say that he would have regarded the present European Union as another example of many continental Europeans' penchant for top-down centralized bureaucratic solutions to problems.

By contrast, John Maynard Keynes's involvement in the creation of international economic organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group at Bretton Woods, as well as his skepticism about monetary orders like the pre-1914 gold standard, which relied upon nation-states voluntarily adhering to established rules, would likely have inclined him to support a supranational entity like the contemporary European Union.

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Author:Hoerber, Thomas
Publication:Claremont Review of Books
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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