F. A. Hayek

Hayek’s path to victory may not run through practical politics

F. A. Hayek

How do we inspire people to become passionate about liberty?

In his famous essay Intellectuals and Socialism, F.A. Hayek identified a serious problem with classical liberals. They were too practical. Their strategy was to try to work within the existing political order. They devised practical solutions which they hoped would be adopted by practical statesmen. They avoided broad speculations about a fundamentally different world. They were afraid to be marginalized, to be seen as too radical.

The socialists at the time had no such reservations. They were marginalized to begin with. They ran with it. Unlike the liberals, they painted a vision of a fundamentally transformed world. They sold a utopia. They acknowledged that they were in for a long fight, which might last many years, but one day, they insisted, their vision would become real. They were true believers.

At the time of Hayek’s essay, the socialists were winning. Their vision of a better world had captured the imagination of the intellectuals. These same intellectuals had transmitted the socialistic ideas to the broader public. Hayek lamented that the classical liberals had nothing comparable. He ends his essay:

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