Friday , August 17 2018
Home / Coordination Problem / From Hayek to Lavoie and the Quest for a Political Philosophy for the Market Process

From Hayek to Lavoie and the Quest for a Political Philosophy for the Market Process

Summary:
In the Hayek archives at Stanford sits a letter from Don Lavoie addressed to Hayek that thanks him for awarding Don the "Hayek Prize" for his devastating critique of socialism.  Don, in his office, back at GMU had a copy displayed of the original letter from Hayek.  This was during the mid-1980s, communism had not yet collapsed, but it was teetering, and reform movements were underway in Poland and Hungary, and of course, the Soviet Union itself was about to embark on both perestroika (economic restructuring) and glasnost (public frankness). Democratic theory, as well as economic systems analysis, was being discussed not just in an abstract philosophical sense, but in a very real concrete historical and practical sense.  This happened to coincide as well with a general upheaval in

Topics:
Peter Boettke considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Mark Thornton writes How US Sugar Subsidies Bring a Red Tide of Algae to Florida’s Shores

Jesus Huerta de Soto writes The Problem with Historical Illustrations of Free-Banking Systems

David Stockman writes The Drunken Sailors Of Wall Street Stagger On

Tom Woods writes Ep. 1219 Jeff Deist on Social Media De-Platforming and the Truth about P.C.

In the Hayek archives at Stanford sits a letter from Don Lavoie addressed to Hayek that thanks him for awarding Don the "Hayek Prize" for his devastating critique of socialism.  Don, in his office, back at GMU had a copy displayed of the original letter from Hayek.  This was during the mid-1980s, communism had not yet collapsed, but it was teetering, and reform movements were underway in Poland and Hungary, and of course, the Soviet Union itself was about to embark on both perestroika (economic restructuring) and glasnost (public frankness).

Democratic theory, as well as economic systems analysis, was being discussed not just in an abstract philosophical sense, but in a very real concrete historical and practical sense.  This happened to coincide as well with a general upheaval in the philosophical underpinnings and self-understanding of the social sciences -- positive/normative; fact/value; objective/relative; etc.

When Hayek begins his trilogy, Law, Legislation and Liberty he presents the project as follows -- we must recognize that the noble and inspiring project of the US founding father's and the constitutional project had failed.  The factions that were to be checked, had in fact, over the course of history -- and especially during times of war and crisis -- had become unchecked.  The viability of a democratic order that balanced individual autonomy, economic prosperity and peaceful social cooperation was threatened, and instead we were experiencing the economic malaise of stagflation, and the political legitimation crisis of the Vietnam War followed by Watergate.  The political order of the founding father's had given way to a political order dominated by factions, and the tug and pull of political football in a modern mercantilist rent-seeking society.

Put this way, the project for the classical liberal is to rethink and regain the project that the founding father's lost.  But isn't there something fundamentally wrong with conceiving of the project in that manner?

Don Lavoie thought so, and he explains why in his wonderful essay "A Political Philosophy for the Market Process."  As he states early in that essay, "Classical liberalism needs to have its own philosophical justification which can leave room for true democracy without turning into a tyranny over minorities."  As he says this philosophical project requires a critique of metaphysics and a healthy embrace of pragmatism, yet also a thorough critique of narrow expediency, and a healthy insistence on universal principles of just conduct.  It requires a reformulation of the traditional versions of liberalism, and a forging of a new more radical vision of true liberalism. As such, Lavoie argues for a version of what he calls "communicative liberalism" and our task is to articulate the project of communicative liberalism as an "as-yet unachieved future possibility, rather than a reality that the founding fathers had already achieved but have now lost."  And he add, the benefit of this will be that "if the fact that communicative liberalism is an unachieved ideal is kept clear, we are more likely to realize just how much more work needs to be done to develop this philosophical position."

Rather than reclaiming, Lavoie's vision of a true radical liberalism is a quest of creation, and invitation to inquiry into the nature of a free society of free and responsible individuals, who treat one another as equals and accord human dignity to all, and strive to find that set of institutions that exhibit neither discrimination nor dominion.  This is how to go back to his original point, we will find a true democracy, a workable democracy, that will not collapse into the tyranny of minorities.

Don Lavoie died at a tragically young age, arguable right before he would have been able to fully articulate this project. We have fragments of his writings to build from.  But as we do that building we should remember that we are moving from Hayek to Lavoie and then beyond, into an "as-yet unachieved future" and that should excite the minds of the best and the brightest among you. Who knows, maybe you can win a "Hayek Prize" as well.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *