To a Hayek fan on FB re: Social Justice

I direct you to this quote from the pro-Hayek Manhattan Institute: “There is a problem with this simple reading of Hayek, however, and it has much vexed Hayek scholars. For while claiming to reject social justice, Hayek often invokes a standard of social justice in arguing for his policies of limited government. Thus, Hayek says repeatedly that a society of free markets and limited government will be beneficial to all citizens, providing each his best chance of using his own information for his own purposes. On occasions where he fears that the market system may not have this hoped-for result, infamously, Hayek advocates governmental correctives: a guaranteed minimum income, public funding for schools, and an array of social services for needy families—all to be funded by increased taxation… But whatever we call it, it looks a lot like a concern for the pattern of material holdings across the whole society—a concern, that is, for social justice.” – John Tomasi
I have found that what Hayek actually says on the matter is far different from that which is said by those – like you – who would use his words as a justifier for this Libertarian agenda. The more I read of Hayek, especially, the more I realize that, like Reagan, he would loathe those who use his works as a tool. Indeed, in the two additional prefaces to The Road To Serfdom (the preface to the American edition, and the 20th anniversary edition), he decries this very fact, mentioning that he has had to give entire speeches clarifying that he didn’t say what his adherents have said he did. He reiterates AGAIN AND AGAIN that his work is a criticism of a very specific intellectual property – the idea of Central Planning, and by extension, Totalitarian Socialism, making a point to point out that it is that brand of Socialism that involves the State taking over the means of production (at the time, this was the idea that all of the industry that was under government control during the war would remain so, a VERY specific threat). He says in no uncertain terms that while he believes “milder forms of Socialism” would lead ideologically to increased government intervention, he does NOT lump those policies in with his more dire predictions.
Hayek came from a place of intellectual privilege and very specific circumstances, much like Ayn Rand. Ayn’s “Myth of Altruism” and Hayek’s “Myth of Social Justice” are very similar, intellectually, and both try to reconcile the ideas of Imperialism and colonization with capitalism, while removing the moral arguments of those oppressed by both military AND economic forces. Neither had any direct experience with the real life consequences of colonization, and neither address it except to speak in esoteric terms about “the morality of freedom”. It is a sign of how entrenched this colonial privilege is in this entire type of thinking, and it mirrors that it would be upheld by the American privileged class. Feeling entitled to uphold the mechanisms of that privilege – by decrying “Social Justice” – it is clear that what is at the core of this entire set of Neoliberal “values” is nothing more than a desire to maintain the Patriarchal and Imperial power structures of finance and militarism while limiting the voice of the people.
Hayek was genuinely concerned for the welfare of the citizenry, and felt (quite correctly) that Socialism denied a specific human right – the right to growth. In safety, there is a tendency to stifle innovation. Yet, with innovation, there is risk, which we can see quite clearly at this time. This is true not just of finance, but in all things. Hayek stated again and again that his arguments were against a specific form of government, not government itself. When Keynes read Road To Serfdom, he himself wrote that he agreed with “much, if not most, of it”. Their arguments over the years were about where that line should be drawn, not if there should be a line!
Like Reagan, it seems Hayek, Mises, Tocqueville, Friedman, etc have been held up as these Gods who would justify this Noble Libertariansim, yet the intractable and pernicious nature of this morally bankrupt idea of “making government so small you could drown it in a bathtub” is in COMPLETE DISAGREEMENT with what these men (a bunch of privileged, entitled, Patriarchal White Eurocentric intellectual elite males, btw) actually said, and acted upon. These misconceptions have been enslaved by not only Thatcherites and Reaganites, but by the proponents of Neoliberal Globalization, corporate Imperialists who depend of social, financial, and military inequality to make huge profits, needing some solace in moral theory to ignore the cost in human suffering their policies affect.
Without exploitation, there is no profit beyond the introduction of human capital to raw materials. To increase profits, justification of exploitation must be made. And so, here we are, with the twisting of moderate words of caution into rhetoric as strict as catechism, a veritable Corporate Inquisition, where we the consumer must “convert or die”.
There is no “vexing of Hayek scholars”. There is no “struggle to reconcile” anything. There are only frustrated Apologists, who hate that Hayek’s own words contradict what they want the dead puppet of his memory to say in defense of their own selfish and intellectually disingenuous desire to justify the coalescing of their own power and privilege. This is the same as people who tear the Bible to shreds looking for some phrase that justifies Gay bashing or Prosperity Gospel “Jesus wants you to be rich and mock poor people” horseshit while totally ignoring that whole “give up all your possessions and serve the poor and the sick” crap they hate so much. Hayek said what he meant: “In general, I think that government policies should tend towards more freedom rather than less. If government is going to intervene, it should do so cautiously, and with as little impact as possible, and make sure it’s results are effective in promoting the common good.” Not “GUBBMINT IS EVIL AND TAXES ARE THIEVERY AND ALSO FUCK POOR PEOPLE”.
In the end, Hayek makes VERY clear that he is a reasonable, compassionate man who can see a balanced viewpoint while decrying those who would propose intractable Neoliberalism as much as he decries Totalitarian Socialism. I’m glad people like you have challenged me to read Hayek, and Mises, and their modern supporters, because it makes it very clear to me how many of you are really just regurgitating what you WANT to have read from these people. not what their actual words are. The fact that your takeaway from Hayek is to reinforce your own sense of entitlement, and desire to reaffirm the sources of your privilege while denying the means of redress to the population at large shows that you have not actually read, nor understand Hayek.
Besides, Behavioral Economics and Game Theory are the new hotness. The Keynes/Hayek dichotomy is old and busted. Get with it, Grandpa.

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2 Responses to To a Hayek fan on FB re: Social Justice

  1. Peter says:

    I think all social justice can be placed on a continuum because there are many versions of the definition which in the end is sorted out (pegged along the continuum) by the amount of bureaucracy required to ensure the “fair sharing” of the booty/reward/money, i.e., the “stuff” to which the “justice” refers. Surely it would be unjust to subject intelligence of hard work to “fair sharing” but it is exactly these that make up the disparities which social justice putatively is supposed to rectify. Can a bureaucracy tell one man to be less “smart?” Or another man that he should not work as hard?

  2. teebalicious says:

    That “hard work” paradigm is a complete fallacy, ignoring the numerous kyriarchal entitlements and advantages inherent in our system that contribute to the inequality rampant in our society in the first place. It presupposes that success = effort, as if somehow the White guy who was born with access to good education, nutrition, family support, and social connections, who got a recommendation to a good firm after his legacy stint at Yale has worked “harder” than the Black woman who grew up in a poor neighborhood with a poorly funded school, with very different social pressures who can’t find a job for more than minimum wage.

    Opponents of Social Justice are trying to accomplish socially what NeoLiberalism does economically: codify class power, and solidify class privilege and advantage. By reframing the issue as one of “individual effort” while ignoring the unearned advantages of class, the assumptions that ground this argument take on the pithy strains of class martyrdom.

    Historically, working towards social justice, and dismantling of class power and unearned advantage through equally funding education and legislatively restructuring the playing field yeilds not only positive social effects, but increased economic success as well, even for those so loathe to give up their class advantage. That’s the irony of it. If you look at the economic data, more egalitarian societies and economies do far better – including at the top – than those with larger inequality gaps.

    I would certainly agree that there is a healthy equilibrium, and there is also too much of a good thing. Like Hayek, I am critical of the extreme on the other side. Compressing the economy to guarantee that all ships rise with every tide is also counterproductive, and contrary to freedom in it’s own way. But establishing a baseline that IS rooted in a meritocracy, and not unearned privilege and advantage, where any American who works 40 hours a week can achieve the American Dream, making THAT the basis of our essential social contract is both a practical and a moral goal we should strive towards.

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