Hayek von Pinochet

It’s no secret that Friedrich von Hayek was a warm supporter of Augusto Pinochet’s bloody regime. As I wrote in The Nation a few years back:

Hayek admired Pinochet’s Chile so much that he decided to hold a meeting of his Mont Pelerin Society in Viña del Mar, the seaside resort where the coup against Allende was planned. In 1978 he wrote to the London Times that he had “not been able to find a single person even in much maligned Chile who did not agree that personal freedom was much greater under Pinochet than it had been under Allende.”

Greg Grandin, Naomi Klein, Brad DeLong, John Quiggin (twice), and Michael Lind also have written about the Hayek-Pinochet connection.

By contrast, Alan Ebenstein, Hayek’s biographer (sympathetic doesn’t quite capture the tone), does not mention the connection at all. Ebenstein does, however, quote Hayek making the rather astonishing claim in 1981 that there were not “any totalitarian governments in Latin America. The only one was Chile under Allende.”

I had thought there wasn’t much more to say about Hayek in Chile, but a new article in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology—”Preventing the ‘Abuses’ of Democracy: Hayek, the ‘Military Usurper’ and Transitional Dictatorship in Chile?” by Andrew Farrant, Edward McPhail, and Sebastian Berger—provides some fresh details.

Here is just a taste:

For instance, Hayek—writing to The Times in 1978 and explicitly invoking Pinochet by name—noted that under certain “historical circumstances,” an authoritarian government may prove especially conducive to the long-run preservation of liberty: There are “many instances of authoritarian governments under which personal liberty was safer than under many democracies.”

[Hayek] noted that if “Strauss (who I met during a reception in Chile briefly)” had been “attacked for his support for Chile he deserves to be congratulated for his courage.” [Franz Josef Strauss was a right-wing German politician, who had visited Chile in 1977 and met with Pinochet. His views were roundly repudiated by both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats in Germany. Hayek apparently wanted to help Strauss become chancellor of Germany.]

Though Hayek’s 1981 interviews with El Mercurio have attracted much attention, scholars have ignored El Mercurio’s coverage of Hayek’s initial visit to Chile in 1977. In particular, El Mercurio notes that Hayek—quoted as saying that Chile’s efforts to develop and reform its economy provided “an example at the global level” (1977: 27)—had met with Pinochet: “At the end of his visit . . . Hayek . . . was received by President Augusto Pinochet. He [Hayek] told reporters that he talked to Pinochet about the issue of limited democracy and representative government. . . . He said that in his writings he showed that unlimited democracy does not work because it creates forces that in the end destroy democracy. He said that the head of state listened carefully and that he had asked him to provide him with the documents he had written on this issue.”

According to Hayek, Pinochet had requested copies of Hayek’s writings (“documents”) explaining why unlimited democracy would inevitably lead to the destruction of democracy (1977). Consequently, Hayek asked Charlotte Cubitt (his secretary from February 1977 until his death in 1992) to send Pinochet a draft of Hayek’s ‘A Model Constitution’ (Cubitt 2006: 19). Importantly, Hayek’s chapter—‘A Model Constitution’ (1979b: 105–127)—provides a three-page discussion of the conditions under which the adoption of Emergency Powers (124–126) and the suspension of democracy are supposedly justified: The “basic principle of a free society . . . [“the coercive powers of government are restricted to the enforcement of universal rules of just conduct”] . . . may . . . have to be temporarily suspended when the  long-run preservation of that order [the free society] is itself threatened” (1979b: 124).

When Hayek visited Chile in 1981 he “took time off from his official commitments to walk around and see for himself whether people were cheerful and content. He told me that it was the sight of many sturdy and healthy children that had convinced him.”

As Hayek notes, “democracy needs ‘a good cleaning’ by strong governments.”

The Pinochet junta “enacted a new constitution in September 1980. . . . The constitution was not only named after Hayek’s book The Constitution of Liberty, but also incorporated significant elements of Hayek’s thinking.”

Farrant et al demonstrate that Hayek’s support of Pinochet was not contingent or begrudging—an alliance of convenience due to Pinochet’s embrace of free market economics—but was rather the product of two longstanding ideas and commitments.

First, a belief that welfare/socialist states of modern democracies have a tendency toward totalitarianism. This has been the subject of some debate over at Crooked Timber, but Farrant et al show just how consistently Hayek held this belief throughout his career: from The Road to Serfdom to volume 3 of Law, Legislation and Liberty, in which he describes his “growing apprehension about the direction in which the political order of what used to be regarded as the most advanced countries is tending” and his “growing conviction, for which the book gives the reasons, that this threatening development towards a totalitarian state is made inevitable by certain deeply entrenched defects of construction of the generally accepted type of ‘democratic’ government.” As Hayek put it in a 1981 interview with Renee Sallas of El Mercurio: “All movements in the direction of socialism, in the direction of centralized planning, involve the loss of personal freedom and end up ultimately in totalitarianism.”

In his defense of Pinochet (and elsewhere), Hayek invokes the oft-repeated distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian societies, and though Farrant et al don’t mention this, it struck me that this old saw—so beloved of figures like Jeanne Kirkpatrick—might have served as some of the glue holding together neoconservatives like Kirkpatrick and neoliberals like Hayek, especially in the 1970s.

Second, a belief in the virtues of temporary dictatorships as a means of saving these totalitarian-bound democracies from themselves. In 1981, Hayek told Sallas:

[A]s long-term institutions, I am totally against dictatorships. But a dictatorship may be a necessary system for a transitional period. At times it is necessary for a country to have, for a time, some form or other of dictatorial power. As you will understand, it is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way. And it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism. Personally, I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking in liberalism. My personal impression. . . is that in Chile . . . we will witness a transition from a dictatorial government to a liberal government . . . during this transition it may be necessary to maintain certain dictatorial powers, not as something permanent, but as a temporary arrangement.

While critics have cited this quotation before, Farrant et al note that Hayek had been offering similar encomia to Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar as early as 1962.

Interestingly enough, Hayek had sent Salazar a copy of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty (1960) in 1962 and Hayek’s accompanying note to Salazar is particularly revealing: Hayek hopes that his book—this “preliminary sketch of new constitutional principles”—“may assist” Salazar “in his endeavour to design a constitution which is proof against the abuses of democracy.”

Unlike most defenses of temporary dictatorship, Hayek’s was not framed around a foreign threat to the security of the state or a domestic insurrection (though he does offer a brief discussion of “emergency powers” in such situations in Volume 3 of Law, Legislation and Liberty); his was explicitly designed to countermand the creeping tyranny of social democracy. If the visions of Gunnar Myrdal and John Kenneth Galbraith were realized, he wrote in Volume 3 of Law, Legislation, and Liberty, social democracy would produce “a wholly rigid economic structure which…only the force of some dictatorial power could break.” Dictatorship, as he put it in his El Mercurio interview, was “a means of establishing a stable democracy and liberty, clean of impurities.”

As Farrant et al note, Hayek’s faith in the stewardship of good dictators flies in the face of his own warnings against trusting in the good intentions of government bureaucrats—not to mention his admonitions against an earlier generation of liberals and leftists, who were prepared to accept the allegedly temporary dictatorship of the Bolsheviks as a way station to the future.

Indeed, Hayek (1948: 207) took H. D. Dickinson—one of his opponents in the interwar socialist calculation debate—to task for defending the supposedly naive idea of a ‘transitional’ socialist dictatorship. Dickinson—like Hayek tellingly invoking the example of Oliver Cromwell—had argued that “[d]uring the . . . transition from a capitalist to a socialist society . . . [economic and political] liberty may be abridged, just as during the early phases of the struggles which made possible . . . political liberty those very liberties were temporarily eclipsed . . . Cromwell and Robespierre ruled arbitrarily, yet the ultimate influence of their rule was to establish civil liberty…. [Although] Lenin and Stalin have shown scant respect for the preferences of the . . . consumer . . . if they shall have been the means of establishing a classless society, their ultimate influence will be for economic liberty. After a socialist order has been safely established, the raison d’être of restrictions on liberty will have ceased” (Dickinson 1939: 235–236). As Hayek tartly noted, any adoption of transitional socialist dictatorship would more likely culminate in a permanent regime akin to that of Hitler or Stalin than in the “beautiful and idyllic picture . . . of ‘libertarian socialism’” painted by Dickinson (Hayek 1948: 207). Much the same criticism, however, can be readily leveled against the best case (or implicitly maximax) assumptions underlying the giant leap of faith that is implicit in Hayek’s own defense of transitional dictatorship.

But, it seems to me, in the course of defending Pinochet and Salazar—and the whole idea of temporary dictatorship— Hayek was prepared to entertain an even deeper betrayal of his own stated beliefs. As he said to Sallas in 1981, when any “government is in a situation of rupture, and there are no recognized rules, rules have to be created.” That is what a dictator does: create the rules of social and political life. (Again, Hayek is not referring to a situation of civil war or anarchy; he’s talking about a social democracy in which the government pursues “the mirage of social justice” through administrative and increasingly discretionary means.)

Yet Hayek is famous—arguably most famous—for his notion that the rules of social order are neither known nor made; they are tacit and inherited. As he argued in Volume 1 of Law, Legislation and Liberty:

The first of these attributes which most rules of conduct originally possessed is that they are observed in action without being known to the acting person in articulated (‘verbalized’ or explicit) form. They will manifest themselves in a regularity of action which can be explicitly described, but this regularity of action is not the result of acting persons being capable of thus stating them. The second is that such rules come to be observed because in fact they give the group in which they are practised superior strength, and not because this effect is known to those who are guided by them. Although such rules come to be generally accepted because their observation produces certain consequences, they are not observed with the intention of producing those consequences—consequences which the acting person need not know.

Hayek was hardly the first conservative intellectual to write paeans to the slow accumulated wisdom of the ages by day, only to  praise Jacobin interventions of the right by night. Edmund Burke, I’ve argued, did much the same thing. Hayek even went so far as to defend his preferred brand of politics as a kind of dogmatic utopianism.

A successful defence of freedom must therefore be dogmatic and make no concessions to expediency.

Utopia, like ideology, is a bad word today…But an ideal picture of a society which may not be wholly achievable, or a guiding conception of the overall order to be aimed at, is nevertheless not only the indispensable precondition of any rational policy, but also the chief contribution that science can make to the solution of the problems of practical policy.

How one squares Hayek’s praise of dictatorship with his conception of a spontaneous order, I’m not yet sure. But with his vision of an unmoved mover knowingly and forcibly creating rules, by design, from a lawless firmament (not to mention his conception of democratic drift), Hayek puts himself within the orbit of Carl Schmitt, with whom he maintained a running dialogue, and who famously described the moment when a new order is brought into being—a new order of rules and routines—as a “an absolute decision created out of nothingness,” as the moment when “the power of real life breaks through the crust of a mechanism [the democratic state] that has become torpid by repetition.”

Update (July 11, 10 am)

Here’s a pdf of the piece by Farrant et al.


  1. Lord Keynes July 9, 2012 at 7:14 am | #

    This is an excellent, informative post.

    You might note how Hayek’s praise of certain dictators mirrors Ludwig von Mises’s praise of Mussolini’s fascism:

    “It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.”
    Mises, 1978 [1927]. Liberalism: A Socio-Economic Exposition (2nd edn; trans. R. Raico), Sheed Andrews and McMeel, Mission, Kansas. p. 51.

    Before 1934 Mises was even an economic adviser to the Austrian fascist Engelbert Dollfuss.

    I have written about this here:




  2. Magpie July 9, 2012 at 8:19 am | #


    You might be interested in seeing the photographs returned by this Google Images search:


    Pay particular attention to uniforms, salutes to Pinochet in his casket and things like that.

    Chile, during Pinochet’s government, was home to a number of Nazi war criminals. And they weren’t the kind of low-profile people.

    With variations, much the same can be said of many South American countries, particularly those under right-wing dictatorships during the 1960s-1980s.

    In the Chilean case, the Federal Republic of Germany in at least one opportunity requested the extradition of one such war criminal, just to be turned down by the Chilean government, with ample international coverage.

    Jewish Nazi-hunters, on the other hand, were arrested in Chile.

    In other words, all this must have been known to Hayek.

    Further, today there is a flourishing neo-Nazi movement in Chile, with definitely bizarre characteristics… (I’ll give you a clue: most of its members are not Caucasian, let alone of Germanic/Anglo appearance)

    If you are interested in this subject, you’ll find plenty of interesting things.

  3. Eli Rabett July 9, 2012 at 8:52 am | #

    Think Engelbert Dollfuss or Miklós Horthy for von Hayek’s models of enlightenment. Pinochet, Salazar and Franco fit easily into those molds.

  4. jonnybutter July 9, 2012 at 9:01 am | #

    Of course this stuff was known to Hayak and to Milton Freidman, and other ‘freedom fighters’ – Reagan, et. al. The implicit – and therefore not-well-argued – judgement was always that the repression is worth it and, supposedly, temporary – a ridiculous dodge, since everything on earth is temporary. It might be where Right libertarianism and the post USSR-Left (and civil libertarian Left) part ways. One more indication that it’s not for nothing that so many neo-conservatives either remind one of Leninists, or actually *were* Leninists. ‘Temporary dictatorship (not really of the proletariat)’…where have I heard that before?

  5. Arker July 9, 2012 at 10:09 am | #

    The implication that there is dissonance between Hayek’s higher principles and his ‘pragmatic’ approach to Pinochet isnt really one I am going to disagree with. I think every human being probably fails that one at one time or another.

    It’s interesting to see both in the OP and the comments a lot of passing comparisons with leftists who supported Stalin/Lenin and so forth. Not so much about leftists today supporting Obama’s police state (after opposing less extreme versions of the same policies under Bush.) But I dont think a proper comparison with either would make Hayek look bad in comparison with the average leftist.

    And no, I am not saying that excuses it. Just to get rid of your Che regalia before you try to pick out the splinter in Hayek’s eye.

    • JRW July 10, 2012 at 12:10 am | #

      Arker, can you be more specific about “leftists supporting Obama’s police state”? All the leftists I know and have read are mad as hell about Obama’s expansion of Bush’s illegal and immoral policies that are part of the “global war on terror” (although not by that name anymore). In fact, the only real critiques of this I have come across are from the left. So who are these leftist apologists for imperial brutality?

  6. Leif Christian July 9, 2012 at 10:42 am | #

    @Arker, “the splinter in Hayek’s eye” was his passionate enthusiasm for the system that ended democracy and aid to the poor with tens of thousands disappeared and tortured in ways that surpass the imagination of the most sadistic serial killers.

    Che, who I am neutral about, participated in the overthrow of a brutal dictator (Batista) after his experiences in Guatemala convinced him the US would not allow a peaceful, social democratic leader to stay in power in Latin America, and that those who successfully used such tactics would be massacred.

    He saw it in Guatemala and would have seen it in Chile also.

    That explains his executions of Batista sympathizers, which I disagree with. But you are ignorant or worse on matters of scale and causation in Latin American history.

    • Arker July 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm | #

      @Leif It was his ability to avoid cognitive dissonance by screening out uncomfortable facts, an ability you are demonstrating very well here. You are ‘neutral’ to one mass murderer, a person who admittedly, proudly even resorted to violence in pursuit of his political goals, because you happen agree with those goals. In order to do this while retaining your self-respect, you avoid, ignore, or discount all the inconvenient evidence that contradicts your idealised picture of him. You may admit he killed people, you might even admit the well documented fact that he executed over 500 helpless prisoners without trial at a single post, but somehow I am sure you have some sort of excuse for it.

      Just as Hayek managed to avoid, ignore, or discount all of the ample evidence that his beloved Pinochet was a mass murderer in his own right.

      • horatius July 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm | #

        So you are saying that Hayek approved of killing and torturing the right kind of people as opposed to Che who approved of killing the wrong kind of people, although there was never any evidence of Che or any of his cohorts ever torturing anyone.

  7. CK MacLeod July 9, 2012 at 11:46 am | #

    Not sure precisely who is being shoehorned into what, but the post’s closing comments on Schmitt are garbled and confused in regard to the distinction in his theoretical writings between the “exception” or “exceptional circumstance” and the decisive, sooner or later extra-legal action it ends up requiring from the state. This distinction is rather critical, and, as some of the comments above already indicate, this way of conceiving of the state in relation to positive law is in no way restricted to the political right – nor could it be.

    • Corey Robin July 9, 2012 at 11:59 am | #

      I’m not exactly sure what you think is being garbled here — which is not Schmitt talking about exceptions and exceptional circumstances so much as, in both statements I quote, his general philosophy of decisionism and dictatorship — or how it has much if any bearing on the post. I will say though that you’re missing the point of why I brought this Schmittian connection up. It wasn’t to say that there was anything peculiar about Hayek or the right more generally; it was — quite obviously — to say that it completely runs counter to what Hayek says about rules.

      • CK MacLeod July 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm | #

        The post seems to imply that Schmitt was identifying the “power of real life” with the dictator, and writing as an advocate of dictatorship on that basis, in some kind of fascist or crypto-fascist celebration of power for the sake of power. That such an attitude can be detected in Schmitt’s most important Weimar Era writings is a separate problem, not a central feature of his theoretical construct.

        The “decision out of nothingness,” as is clear in the linked text, derives from de Maistre, whose thought Schmitt was discussing in relation to simple decisionism. Schmitt’s treatment was more systematic, complex, and comprehensive. It’s not the decision, or the “decider,” but the exception that constitutes “the moment” when “the power of real life breaks through…” At that point, Schmitt observes, whatever sovereign power as may exist will be asserted. The classic moment from American political history is Lincoln suspending and violating the Constitution in order to preserve the constitutional order. In the language of the post, Lincoln was operating as a “temporary dictator.” In Schmitt’s language, he was operating under a “commissarial dictatorship” – a dictatorship established with the intention of returning to the suspended constitutional order rather than overthrowing it. Under either construction, “real life breaking through” wouldn’t be Lincoln – pursuing dictatorship as an end in itself – but rebels in Baltimore threatening Washington DC, with, in Lincoln’s view, the writ of habeas corpus in the way of neutralizing the vital threat, and invoking the time-honored rule: Necessity has no law. Sometimes, the sovereign power asserted under the claim of necessity or emergency falls into the hands of a Lincoln, who gets major monuments put up to him, or an FDR, who gets 4 terms, or an Obama, who is yet to be judged. Sometimes power falls to a Pinochet, sometimes to a Stalin or a Hitler, and sometimes no one seems able to grasp it, and things fall apart.

        If Hayek’s commitment to “the rules” couldn’t survive “real life,” that would tend to validate Schmitt’s theory, but mainly as an example of what it predicts.

  8. John July 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm | #

    I think Hayek, and a few other classical liberals before him, practically all Enlightenment philosopres for instance, was right, on this and Chile’s present stability, freedom and prosperity is a proof to that compared to other, for a long time corrupt and chaotic, regimes that exist in Latin America.

    I also don’t see any contradiction, as a theoretical matter, between Hayek’s idea that any society develops spontaneously certain general rules in order to grow and prosper and conduct civilised business and the idea that, when a popular ideology destroys the tacit and sponeous support for these sort of rules and destroys them, an enlightened authoritarianism might be the only chance to restore civil peace, freedom and prosperity. It’s a matter of circumstance and practical judgment. If there must be a dictatorship, you definitely want a dictator like Pinochet, Franco or Salazar, than a dictator like Castro, Stalin or Mao. Sounds awful, but looking back it’s true.

    The democratic fetishism and the idea that democracy, whatever that may mean (is communism democratic? communists, includin the Western Myrdal kind, think so, sure, but…so did the fascists, national-communists and many other people…), as I was saying, this idea that democracy pure and simple is always right is something uniquely American, and very recent I might add, but thanks to the accepted and revered half-myth of the 200 years old working Constitution and the North’s victory in the Civil War, the US never had to deal with extra-constitutional majorities and radical popular movement that challenged the regime, but other countries haven’t been that lucky during their history.

    • Nichole July 9, 2012 at 8:50 pm | #

      “If there must be a dictatorship, you definitely want a dictator like Pinochet, Franco, Salazar [Hitler, Mussolini, Dollfuss?] than a dictator like Castro, Stalin or Mao [Lenin, Kim, Ho?]. Sounds awful, but looking back it’s true.”

      As my Math teachers always demanded, please show your work. I cannot understand your reasoning or your logic except to note the rather breathtaking presumptions you appear to establish as the bases of your statements. B

      • Mike July 10, 2012 at 1:47 am | #

        You need simply look at the respective countries today. Because left wing dictatorships are necessarily maintained by more pervasive and intrusive systems, they are more enduring than their right wing counterparts.

      • nickik@gmx.ch July 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm | #

        “If there must be a dictatorship, you definitely want a dictator like Pinochet, Franco, Salazar [Hitler, Mussolini, Dollfuss?] than a dictator like Castro, Stalin or Mao [Lenin, Kim, Ho?]. Sounds awful, but looking back it’s true.”

        Hitlers policys in terms of economics where much much closer to socialists then to liberal capitalists. You have to put Hitler in the line with the others side

        Lenins regim was bad to, if you count all the people that have did because of his misguieded economic policys he would be right up there with the best of them. You could argue that he was well intentiond but that does not matter, many bad people have good intentions.

        I dont know enought about the other people you have mentiond to make a informed disition.

  9. jonnybutterj July 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm | #

    It’s interesting to see both in the OP and the comments a lot of passing comparisons with leftists who supported Stalin/Lenin and so forth. Not so much about leftists today supporting Obama’s police state (after opposing less extreme versions of the same policies under Bush.)

    You’re just here on the wrong day.

    Funny that so many people on the right not only don’t seem to understand their own heritage that well, but also think a liberal or Democrat is a ‘leftist’! I can’t think of a single leftist who actively supports Obama and certainly not his extra-constitutional civil liberties violations, Arker. In fact, there is a whole internet tradition called ‘Obamamny’ (do your own search), which is the name given to leftists’ contention that there is no difference between Obama and Romney (or Bush).

    The far Right is institutionalized (via the GOP). Not so the Left – much less the far Left.

  10. Douglas Storm July 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm | #

    I’m often “lost” in the historical considerations. What are we talking about when talking about Hayek? Are you suggesting, implying, saying outright, that the US operates under this particular position currently? It certainly makes sense to from what you have written to assume that is the case, but if so, let’s start being explicit. I think time is short to implicate the present by the denigration of the past–Does X equal X and if so, what does it mean? Are we about to experience life under Pinochet in the US because our government has all along been applying Hayek’s principles?

  11. John Emerson July 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm | #

    Everyone should read “The Road From Mont Pelerin” (ed. Mirowski). This book describes an organized, explicitly political, multidisciplinary movement working through the universities. The coming to eminence of Chicago School economics was one of their triuymphs.

    What distinguished neoliberalism from classical liberalism,per Mirowski, was that neoliberals believe that a strong (authoritarian) state is sometimes required in order to defend liberal principles — economic liberalism without political liberalism.

    This was actually a common conviction in the 1950s and afterward. American foreign policy was organized around enforcing liberalism on the world. Since 1945 or so the dominant political tendencies everywhere have been been anti-popular.

  12. Major July 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm | #

    Lord Keynes:

    You might note how Hayek’s praise of certain dictators mirrors Ludwig von Mises’s praise of Mussolini’s fascism

    Mises didn’t “praise Mussolini”, but FDR sure did:


    FDR referred to Mussolini as “that admirable Italian gentleman”, who was “a sound and useful leader”, and then modeled his New Deal after Mussolini’s fascism.

    Remember, in the early 1930s, fascism was not yet viewed as evil by the majority of people, as it was after Hitler’s fascism put the word in the record books forever as (rightfully) pejorative. Many American Keynesians also looked favorably upon fascism at that time.

    The quote that Lord Keynes cited:

    “It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.”

    Was preceded by this very important passage:

    “Now it cannot be denied that the only way one can offer effective resistance to violent assaults is by violence. Against the weapons of the Bolsheviks, weapons must be used in reprisal, and it would be a mistake to display weakness before murderers. No liberal has ever called this into question. What distinguishes liberal from Fascist political tactics is not a difference of opinion in regard to the necessity of using armed force to resist armed attackers, but a difference in the fundamental estimation of the role of violence in a struggle for power.”

    Mises did not advocate for fascism. He said Austrian fascism operated as a historical makeshift protection against communist invaders. Well, OK, it is possible for a fascist to save the lives of those who are under attack. Is that a praise of fascist ideology per se? Or is it a recognition that violence can only be stopped by violence?

    Mises’ favorable statements concerning Austrian fascism was in response to his home country of Austria being under threat of communist invasion, and Austria becoming temporarily militaristic as a result. He was just honest enough to say fascism saved Austria from invasion.

    It is no more a “praise” of fascist ideology than stating a murderer acted as a temporary makeshift solution who stopped, in some way, the genocide of an entire city. One can rightfully say “thanks to this murderer, our city has survived”, but then putting the mother of all caveats and qualifications next to this and making sure your readers are not under any mistaken impression that you advocate for murder.

    Mises was a man of ideas. He was vehemently against the idea of fascism. But when invading armies are “knocking” at your door, I don’t think it would signal some secret hidden “affinity” you have for murder if you said thanks to the local murderers in stopping the invaders, I am alive.


    Lord Keynes is only trying to insinuate some sort of intellectual connection between Austrian economics and fascism, because he can’t engage or refute the ideas directly. He’s trying everything but the kitchen sink, all to no avail.

    • Magpie July 10, 2012 at 4:19 am | #

      Dictating his views to Rudolf Hess, while serving time in Landsberg Prison, this is what the future Fuehrer said about the correct use of political violence:

      “Only in the struggle between two philosophies can the weapon of brutal force, persistently and ruthlessly applied, lead to a decision for the side it supports.
      “This remained the reason for the failure of the struggle against Marxism”. (Mein Kampf, The Use of Naked Force. p. 172).

      Hitler was determined not to repeat that mistake, which he attributed to the Imperial German government.

      It’s interesting that Hitler’s views on this subject, while expressed in a much briefer and less intellectually refined language, coincide with those of Mises, quoted by yourself.

      But there is, of course, a big difference: the Nazis equated Bolshevism with Jewry. From the booklet “Grosse antibolschewistische Austellung (1937)” (Great anti-Bolshevist Exhibition), prefaced by Josef Goebbels: “Bolshevism and Jewry are two words for the same thing. Just as the Jews are the string-pullers of Bolshevist uprisings, the leaders of Bolshevist criminality, so, too, are they the inventors of Marxism and Bolshevism”.

      Therein lied the dilemma for Mises. He could endorse the first part of the Nazi views on Marxism; he could not endorse the second.

      But he was lucky. While German Nazism was pan-Germanic, Austrian Fascism was not: it was strictly nationalistic, like the real thing: Italian Fascism. And Austrian Fascism was supported by Italian Fascism.

      For all the praise lavished to Mussolini and the Black Shirts in the Exhibition booklet, the initial relationship between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy was troublesome, because of the question of South Tirol (Suedtirol or Alto Adige, their name in German and Italian).

      Being inhabited by a German speaking majority, but annexed to Italy in 1919 after the dismemberment of the Hapsburg empire, South Tirol was and still is a rich province. And it was then (and remains to this day) separatist from Italy.

      What’s more, Nazi Germany’s official position was that foreign lands inhabited by ethnic Germans should be part of the German Reich.

      I can’ say with certainty what mental processes took place in Mises’ mind. But an educated and perspicacious man like him surely understood this, even if his admirers ignore the facts. That was the way around his dilemma and it explains his collaboration with Dollfuss and his conditional praise to Mussolini.

      At the other hand, German industrialists and financiers were free from Mises’ dilemma: the first part of Nazi policy towards “Bolshevism” was highly desirable; the second part perhaps was distasteful to some, but overall, a price worth to pay.

      And they decided to pay the price.

  13. Orthodox July 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm | #

    Hayek was right. That’s the bigger problem!

    • horatius July 11, 2012 at 11:17 pm | #


  14. Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 6:20 pm | #

    As an Egyptian (classical) liberal, I prefer the dictatorship of the Military Regime than the democracy of the Islamists, if the former can maintain more civil and economic freedoms. I see a similarity between the populist majoritarian version of democracy that is currently overwhelming Egypt (not restricted to Islamist-leaning citizens, by the way, but also includes so called “liberals” and leftists) and the majoritarian trend now in the USA under Barack Obama. All forget the absolute necessity of separation of powers, limiting the powers of government branches (for the sake of “more room for our ‘beloved leaders’, Obama in US and Morsi in Egypt, to achieve broader ‘progress'”), and less social (by the American and Egyptian conservatives) and economic (by American and Egyptian leftists) constraints.

    Notice that I did not say I like Military Junta rule. I only said that I prefer it over majoritarian rule, especially if that junta is willing to give room for economic and civil liberties for the individual. And, no, this is in noway a justification for military trials of private citizens nor of oppression. But we do live in a real world and in real worlds you sometimes have to choose between difficult alternatives.

    Yes, I prefer enlightened authoritarianism over populist majoritarian totalitarianism. There I said it!

    These were the options in Chile as they are the options in Egypt right now. What would you choose, Corey?

    In an ideal world, I, like Hayek, will reject both.

    And as a side, it is amazing that of all the works, speeches, and actions of F. A. Hayek, you take such a small part of his life and make it seem that this is what the entire body of his work was about. I do not know if it is dishonesty or ignorance, no disrespect intended. I hop it is the latter. But either way, I am not ready to assign a judgement on what is in your heart and mind as many seem to do onto others whose sole “crime” is that they choose to see the world with its options as it is in order to attempt to reform it. There are cases where it is easier to reform a military junta than it is to reform a sweeping majoritarian democracy in which the individual means nothing.

    Thank you.

    • jonnybutter July 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm | #

      Yes, I prefer enlightened authoritarianism over populist majoritarian totalitarianism. There I said it!

      These were the options in Chile as they are the options in Egypt right now. What would you choose, Corey?

      That Allende’s government was a ‘majoritarian totalitarianism’ is a huge value judgement on your part. How do we know that your judgement is inerrant? How do YOU know it is? And I think the comparison between the situation in Egypt now and Allende then is arbitrary. Since I don’t know a lot about Egypt, I will not comment, except to say that repression, unless it is, well, total, usually fuels the kind of populism you don’t like.

      • Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm | #

        My judgement, like yours, could very well be wrong.

  15. John Emerson July 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm | #

    And as a side, it is amazing that of all the works, speeches, and actions of F. A. Hayek, you take such a small part of his life and make it seem that this is what the entire body of his work was about.

    Silliest argument ever. If you fuck one pig, you’re a pigfucker forever. It’s not a matter of bulk. Hayek was a political ideologue, whether or not he wrote much about it, and it’s not hard to figure him out.

    Back to Mirowski: one bit of inside baseball in Mirowski: apparently there was rivalry between Friedman and Hayek, which is why Hayek ended up at the Committee For Social Thought instead of the Econ Dept. They disagreed about a lot.

    • Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm | #

      Have you ever been a citizen of a country like Chile, Peru or Egypt? The dangers of majoritarian non-liberal (in classical sense) democracies are very real to people like Mises, Hayek, and myself. It is often a matter of life and death. But the death of people like myself are often explained away and justified under the guise of democracy. Trust me, in that kind of situation, what I wrote is neither an “argument” nor is it “silly”, unless a human life is considered both an “argument” and a “silly” thing.

      Only when you have to face that kind of reality would you understand the position that Hayek is taking. And you can’t understand Hayek’s position if you don’t understand it in the broader context of his works and ideas.

      Explaining why no democracy survives without liberalism, he wrote “it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism”. Induce is the democracy Allende’s Chile faced, and now Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt is facing. Only in that context can you understand that position that Hayek took in that, and only that, situation.

      • jonnybutter July 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm | #

        The dangers of majoritarian non-liberal (in classical sense) democracies are very real to people like Mises, Hayek, and myself. It is often a matter of life and death. But the death of people like myself are often explained away and justified under the guise of democracy.

        The deaths of a much larger group, i.e. people not like yourself, are regularly explained away too (in fact, this is by FAR the more common situation), and justified in the very terms you are using. Why is your life worth more than the lives of 10 or 100 others? Because you are you?

      • Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm | #

        Correction: “That is” note “induce”.

    • Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm | #

      If someone puts a gun to your head and demands that you fuck the pig, are you a pigfucker forever? When one is given choice between enlightened authoritarianism and totalitarian democracy, you essentially have a gun pointed at your head. That, sir, doesn’t make you a pigfucker. Not then and not forever.

      • JohnB4362 July 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm | #

        I’ve done quite a bit of historial reading, and I’m hard put to discover an example of any nation/state that practiced ‘totalitarian democracy,’
        an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one. Whether Pinochet or Mao, Franco or Stalin, boot-on-your-neck authoritarianism (political or economic) with military force to back it up is the same substance, different flavor. In order to have democracy, the people have to be asked what they want, which didn’t happen under any of these regimes.

      • John Emerson July 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm | #

        Hayek was not a Chilean and there was no gun to Hayek’s head. He had to go out of his way to support Pinochet, though I imagine he got paid for it too.

        Your position depends on the worst possible Allende regime. We don’t know what he would have done.

  16. Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm | #


    “The deaths of a much larger group, i.e. people not like yourself, are regularly explained away too (in fact, this is by FAR the more common situation), and justified in the very terms you are using. Why is your life worth more than the lives of 10 or 100 others? Because you are you?”

    Aha! We are getting somewhere! The answer to your question is an emphatic “no my life is not worth more than the life of any body else, not 10 not 100 and not 1.” In an outright majoritarian (I.e., non-constitutional non-liberal) democracy, one (like yourself) makes such valuations on human life. In that kind of situation you are facing the moral slippery slope that Hayek spoke so much about. Hayek, like myself, advocate the concept of all human life is equally precious and more often than not majoritarian democracy has to make such judgement calls. Under some enlightenment authoritarianism, such judgement calls don’t arise. Hayek may have been wrong about Pinochet’s form of authoritarianism, but what he is right about is that sometimes enlightenment authoritarianism could be better than some democracies (especially the ones that come with a populist smile).

    • jonnybutter July 9, 2012 at 10:42 pm | #

      I’m sorry, but I don’t think we are getting anywhere. Throughout these two discussions we are being exhorted to admit that democratic regimes can limit freedom. I see neither why that is controversial, nor why it justifies Pinochet, or Videla, or the Shah.

      • Islam Hussein July 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm | #

        Democratic regimes limit freedoms unless they are constitutional liberal democracies (I am using all three words in technical sense.) thank you.

      • Eli Rabett July 10, 2012 at 11:02 am | #

        Democratic regime limit freedom because so called libertarians demand the right to behave like three year olds.

  17. Magpie July 10, 2012 at 12:05 am | #


    On re-reading this article, I was struck by Hayek’s belief that these “benign”, “laissez-faire” dictatorships would be temporary.

    The first thing is that, in reality, it’s hard to say they were laissez-faire: by most accounts, Pinochet wasn’t a particularly bright individual, and only turned to his Chicago Boys after plunging Chile into misery.

    So, what made Hayek believe these “benevolent dictatorships” would be temporary and how did he define “temporary”?

    Because his definition had to be, by necessity, quite “elastic”: Antonio Salazar’s rule lasted for nearly 40 years! After his death, he was succeeded by Marcelo Caetano of his intimate circle. Only the so-called Carnation Revolution made sure no younger aspirant to the “throne” succeeded the old “king”.

    But what strikes me the most is that the whole thing sounds quite a lot like theses by some Hispano American authors, about the alleged need their countries had of a Caesar-like leader.

    One that comes to mind is one Laureano Vallenilla Lanz. In his work, published around 1910, the thesis was rebranded El Gendarme Necesario (The Necessary Policeman), which is descriptive enough.

    Did Hayek ever acknowledge any intellectual influence?

  18. Bill July 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm | #

    Some more observations from Alain de Benoist on Hayek that I think are applicable here:

    “Here democracy is defined in a purely legal and formal manner. Furthermore, Hayek openly claims that his liberalism is only conditionally compatible with democracy. More precisely, he adheres to constitutionalism and to the theory of a representative and limited government. But he has no theory of the state. He knows only “government,” which he defines as the “administrator of common resources,” i. e., a purely utilitarian device. He adds that democracy is only acceptable as a method of government which does not question any liberal principles. In fact, Hayek’s postulate ends up denying democracy understood as a regime with a substantial content (an identity between the ruler and the ruled) and resting on popular sovereignty. Like the market, democracy (or what remains of it) becomes a matter of impersonal rules and of formal procedures without any content.[25] Hayek vigorously criticizes majority rule, which he sees as an arbitrary principle opposed to individual freedom. According to Nemo, majority rule is valuable as a “method of decision, but not as a source of authority to determine the very content of the decision.”[26] From this follows the rejection of the notion of people as a political category, the denial of the idea of national sovereignty (“there is no will of the social body that can be sovereign”) and the refusal of all forms of direct democracy.[27]

    Paradoxically, this “unpolitical” ideal brings Hayek’s ideas close to Marxist “constructivism,” which criticizes Hegel on the basis of Smith by proclaiming the self-sufficiency of civil society. In the classless society, the withering away of the state ultimately leads to the obsolescence of politics. Marx, who never entirely breaks with a certain individualism, does not consider man as a social being except to the extent that he participates in the construction of society. “Within the Marxist framework,” writes Bertrand Nezeys, “socialism must represent the triumph of an individualist society or simply of individualism –private society representing only an alienated form of it.”[28] Rosanvallon, who has no problem seeing Marx as “the direct heir of Adam Smith,” remarks that “anti-capitalism has become synonymous with anti-liberalism, so that socialism has no other real objective than to fulfill the program of the liberal utopia.” Furthermore, “utopian socialism rejects capitalism entirely, but remains blind to the profound meaning of the economic ideology within which it functions. Similarly, liberalism denounces collectivism, but does not see it other than as a radical despotism; it does not analyze it in relation to individualism, in so far as it also conveys the illusion of a depolitized society within which democracy reduces to consensus.”[29] It remains to be seen how this ideal is not fundamentally totalitarian, at least if one admits, with Hannah Arendt, that totalitarianism is the desire to dissolve politics more that the desire to extend it everywhere.

    Hayek’s critique thus boils down to an incapacitating system, destined to comfort the worst conservatism. To claim that the market is neither fair nor unfair is tantamount to claiming that its effects should not be judged, that it is the new divinity — the new God in front of which one must bow. Then one must no longer look for values to realize in society, but simply recognize the existing value system which allows one to be a member. One must mind ones’s own business without ever calling into question the social order or worrying about the course of history, which can unfold best only without human interference. This is the kind of individual “autonomy” Hayek allows. The individual is emancipated from political power exercised in the name of the social totality only to end up unable to undertake any projects with his peers. Hayek puts it quite forcefully: “Man is not the master of his destiny and never will be.” Man can do what he wants, but he will not know how to want what he does. The object of a society which only functions well on its own is thus defined in terms of powerlessness and submission. According to Hayek, freedom can only be exercised within the context of that which denies it. Thus it is not an exaggeration to say that man is thereby deprived of his humanity because, if there is a fundamental characteristic which distinguishes human beings from animals, it is the ability to conceive and realize collective projects. By depriving humanity of this ability, by turning market monotheism into the new “empire of necessity,” Hayek surreptitiously regresses to the “pre-tribal” stage of pure animality.[33]”

  19. Nikola Balaš July 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm | #

    Nice reading, thanks for this enlightening piece. I would like to delve into Hayek’s writings soon so I find this helpful. Especially pointing out those inconsistencies seems to me helpful as it is interesting to read philosophers and other thinkers through paradoxes in their own writings.

  20. brandonchristensen July 14, 2012 at 1:11 am | #

    Wait, why are Leftists throwing around the “their-intellectuals-cozy-up-to-dictatorships” slur?

    I wonder if there were any Leftists who were close to Stalin, Lenin, Nkrumah, Mao, Pol Pot, Nyerere, Castro, Khrushchev, Peron, and Mussolini? This is easily over 20 million dead people just in one small group of Leftist dictators.

    I already know what you are going say:

    “Oh no no! These guys were not true Leftists! They sold out just after coming to power! Circumstances and Right-wing insurgencies funded by the United States forced them to do the things they did!”

    Were there any Leftist intellectuals associated with any of these murderous dictators? Any at all? Do Leftists really want to play this childish game? God forbid that somebody who makes a living reading and writing actually do a little of the former before he does the latter…

    • agnosticnixie December 4, 2012 at 11:34 am | #

      >Pol Pot

      Was deposed by the communist Vietnamese government and supported by the CIA.

      > Peron

      Broadly decried as a fascist

      > Mussolini

      Praised by Churchill and conservatives and capitalists all over the world. The left was never close to Mussolini, in fact his first action was to ban left wing parties. He also fought on the side of Franco in Spain, a war during which the capitalist states not only stood by idly, but America labeled republican veterans as “premature antifascists”. Your grasp of history is tenuous at best.

    • agnosticnixie December 4, 2012 at 11:40 am | #

      Your link has no semblance with any sort of reality. You want fascism explained? I recommend not a blog post, but reading the actual specialists, authors like Paxton. Or maybe I should quote Mussolini himself on socialism.

      it’s amusing, however, to see how the right has tried to pin Mussolini on us, yet has never actually done so with Vargas, Franco, Salazar, or Pinochet. I guess because their corpses aren’t cold enough yet.

  21. TDB December 2, 2012 at 1:59 am | #

    An article so short on links or footnotes makes it far too easy for a sympathizer of Hayek to ignore. Okay, it’s a blog post, but really.

  22. Iakovos Alhadeff February 25, 2014 at 8:39 am | #
  23. BrianO March 13, 2014 at 7:58 am | #

    While Prof. Robin has correctly skewered Hayek’s hypocrisy, those ideas seem to be well within the mainstream of 21st century libertarian ideology. A South African Friedmanite economist named Sinclair Davidson (currently an economics professor at a university in Melbourne, Australia) wrote an article for Australia’s public broadcaster stating that the State had only three responsibilities: border security, policing and the prison system. It soon dawned on me that this State BY DEFINITION would be a Police State in its purest form. This explains (to me at least) why at the drop of a hat so many self-described libertarians morph into mouth-foaming reactionaries with seemingly little provocation–the “freedom lovers” are actually the freedom haters.

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