The timeless insights economist and political philosopher Friedrich A. Hayek wrote in 1960 still have currency. His reasoned advocacy of economic freedom and personal liberty applies to many modern debates. Hayek contrasts limited government's benefits with the costs of central economic planning. He shows how liberty takes sustenance from law, due process and constitutional government, and notes serious but subtle threats to individual freedom. Scholars turn to Hayek – and his work among the classics of modern economic thought – for a detailed philosophical foundation for limited government.
Individual Initiative and the Accidents of Progress
Citizens are most productive when government is limited, because reduced state interference minimizes public intrusion into private lives. A “liberal” form of government is narrow in scope; it liberates people by giving them the ability to make many of the major decisions that shape their lives. Liberal government is structured to allow each individual an “assured private sphere” that is free of public control, encouraging everyone to pursue his or her most valuable contributions to society without any coercion by the state.
Recognition of property ownership rights was the initial step in delineating the private spheres of individuals. Such private circumstances beyond direct government control can encompass the ownership of real property, as well as such nonmaterial assets as contractual rights. Socialist forms of government deter individual enterprise in order to attain centrally planned economic goals. But the fruits of socialism have proved elusive; knowledge advances by accident, not by central planning.
Human progress would be unimpressive without all the unforeseen discoveries, errors and adjustments ...
Friedrich A. Hayek, an Austrian-born economist and political philosopher, advocated market-based capitalism and limited government. He was co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974 and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.