Hayek and Liberty
ABSTRACT: Hayek’s political theory is directed against coercion, which he defines as the intentional control of one person by another. The element of personal intention ensures a clear conceptual distinction between the freedom from coercioni.e., the “liberty”—that is exercised in the private sphere, and the freedom of choice and opportunity that may be severely constrained by the impersonal, unintentional operation of market forces. Hayek’s narrow definitions of coercion and liberty therefore suggest that he was more intent on defending the benefits conferred on us by market forces than on affirming any value intrinsic in freedom-a suggestion confirmed by his lack of interest in species of freedom, such as autonomy, that might conceivably be fostered by state coercion. Hayek’s consequentialist defense of liberty, however, was grounded in economic doctrines such as his own view that prices served a vital epistemic function. Given his strictures against the ignorance of modern electorates, Hayek was driven to propose extravagant limits on democracy and to embrace traditionalism; a different Hayekianism might limit inequalities of wealth and encourage the ability to learn from experimentation.