The Philosophical Basis of the Free Society: Friedrich Hayek

A Course with Thomas Patrick Burke

Thursdays, April 30 to June 4, Six Sessions, 2009

Does the free society, of which we are rightly so proud, rest ultimately only on its utility, its practical usefulness and effectiveness in satisfying human needs, or is it based on deeper foundations in ethical values and in the nature of things? Friedrich Hayek, Nobel-Prize-winning economist and one of the most powerful and influential thinkers of the twentieth century, answered this question, in part, by developing the idea of “spontaneous order,” that when human beings are allowed to interact with one another freely and in the absence of coercion, the knowledge each one has of his own situation, which he alone and no one else possesses, produces a collective wisdom which no single individual and no government can ever hope to achieve.  Hayek is best known for his early, ground-breaking work, The Road to Serfdom, but the full development of his thought lies in his later works such as The Constitution of Liberty and especially the three-volume Law, Legislation and Liberty, which will be the main focus of this course.