We never said he was an angel…
Anyone out there still remember The Nation?
Let me remind you- the little publication on thin paper put out by Alger Hiss fans, apologists for the Vietcong, and McGovern groupies.
Well they think they are on to a winner this time. Instead of telling us how their views about economics can explain why it is that the terrible regimes cooked up the nightmarish imagination of the left failed in exactly the way predicted by the much derided liberal right- they have launched a crusade against Friedrich Hayek for hypocrisy.
One of the indefatigable researchers for The Nation been rootling around in the Hayek archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and has discovered that Hayek was prepared to use both Medicaid and the American Social Security! And worse he was put up to this terrible hypocrisy by Charles Kock the libertarian philanthropist who has supported many a free market causes including The Institute of Humane Studies and The Cato Institute.
Well imagine the to do. The article concerned rambles on, and with each succeeding sentence showing a greater lack of restraint, understanding, proportion and judgement. The culmination is particularly absurd. The episode- we are informed- proves that the right believes that “every man for himself, selfishness is a virtue”- the reference being- of course to Ayn Rand’s book of that title.
Well, whatever Hayek may have done in a moment of weakness, I’ll bet my last cent that Rand paid for her own medical care. In my view Rand’s thought is largely nonsense, but she really did put her money where her mouth was.
Two other thoughts arise- the left had better be careful when it starts attacking the right for hypocrisy. As J.H. Newman put in the course of the Hampden affair- two can play at that game. I am a tolerant enough fellow, but I find that for one I am remarkably reluctant to hear sermons on the evils of hypocrisy and inconsistency preached by those who campaign against the death penalty and yet who at the same applauded Bill (old morality) Clinton when he vetoed legislation to ban partial birth abortions.
But there is a deeper point here. Yes it is true that in this instance Hayek- and those, like Koch, who advised him- made a mistake. I regret this, in the same way I regretted to learn that C.S. Lewis may- perhaps- have slept with his wife before they were married. But what do these lapses prove?
They prove that human beings are indeed fallible, and that even the wisest and most virtuous of us make mistakes. And this of course was at the heart of the case that Hayek made for economic freedom. Individuals whether they style themselves economic planners or not are prone to error. And this is why they should be trusted so little as possible with political power- and the retirement funds of others. Only angels are infallible- and all we ever said was that Hayek was (broadly) right about economics. But we never said that he was an angel.