chapter  4
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A renovated social fabric: Mill, Hayek, and the problem of institutional change?


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Introduction Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek have a markedly negative view of J. S. Mill. For Mises, Mill is “the great advocate of socialism” (Mises 1985 [1927]: 195): Mill supposedly making a greater contribution to the popularity of socialist ideas than all the “hate-inspired and frequently contradictory arguments of socialist agitators” (Mises 1981 [1922]: 155). For decades, Mill’s ideas supposedly provided “one of the main props of the socialist idea” (Mises 1981 [1922]: 154-5).1 Hayek’s assessment is similarly negative: Mill allegedly advocating a “rationalistic individualism” that ultimately tended toward full-blown “socialism or collectivism” (Hayek 1948: 4). Elsewhere, Hayek suggests that Mill’s ideas provide the “roots of the self-destructive character of a rationalist or constructivistic view of how civilization could be organized” (Hayek 1983: 93). All in all, Mises similarly considers Mill to have originated the supposedly:

thoughtless confounding of liberal and socialist ideas that led to the decline of English liberalism and to the undermining of the living standards of the English people . . . All the arguments that could be advanced in favor of socialism are elaborated by him with loving care. In comparison with Mill all other socialist writers – even Marx, Engels, and Lassalle – are scarcely of any importance.