2013년 4월 4일 목요일

[발췌: John Cassidy's] Price Prophet (2000)

출처: John Cassidy, "The Price Prophet," The New Yorker, February 7, 2000


"If there are two things most people can agree on these days, they are that free-market capitalism is the only practical way to organize a modern society and that the key to economic growth is "knowledge." So prevalent are these beliefs that their origins are rarely examined, which is somewhat surprising, since both statements can be traced back, in large part, to one man, Friedrich August von Hayek, a reserved Austrian economist who died in 1992. In November of 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, Hayek was a frail but mentally alert ninety-year-old living in Freiburg im Breisgau, a picturesque town in the Black Forest. Hayek didn't issue any public statements, but he thoroughly enjoyed watching the television picture from Berlin, Prague, and Bucharest. "He would beam benignly, and the comment was 'I told you so,'" Hayek's son, Dr, Laurence Hayek, said to me recently from his home in Devon, England.

Hayek did indeed tell us so, and at a time when that message was deeply unfashionable. In 1937, in the wake of the Great Depression and with capitalism and democracy under siege from Communism and Fascism, he published an academic article entitled 'Economics and Knowledge," which pointed out that free markets were not just a political construct, as many critics claimed, but remained the best way of coordinating scattered information. Seven years later, when most of the world's major economies were under unprecedented central control, Hayek published "The Road to Serfdom," a damning indictment of socialism and state planning that once more, this time in plain English, laid out the fundamental advantage of the free market: by allowing millions of decision-makers to respond individually to freely determined prices, it allocates resources-labor, capital, and human ingenuity--in a manner that can't be mimicked by a central plan, however brilliant the central planner.

This argument is now widely accepted, but when "The Road to Serfdom" was published, Hayek later recalled, "it went so far as to completely discredit me professionally." Many of his colleagues interpreted the book as a dangerous and antediluvian attack on the welfare states that were being built in wartime Britain, where Hayek lived, and in other European countries. The reviews didn't get any better for a long time. During the nineteen-fifties and sixties, the Soviet economy appeared to be doing pretty well, and the social democracies of Western Europe, with their large and growing state sectors, prospered mightily. In 1967, Eric Hobsbawm, a Marxist historian, dismissed Hayek as a "prophet in the wilderness"; in the same year, Anthony Quinton, a British philosopher, dubbed him a "magnificent dinosaur."

If economic history had stopped when the Beatles split up, Hayek would have remained a museum piece favored mainly by right-wing cranks. Even when I began studying economics, at Oxford, during the early eighties, Hayek, with his seemingly outlandish proposals to emasculate the trade unions and privatize the money supply, was still considered well beyond the pale. True, he had received the Nobel Memorial Prize in 1974, but that was seen within the economics profession as a political sop, with Hayeke' name
added to balance that of his co-winner, Gunnar Myrdal, a left-wing Swedish economist. (Myrdal later said that he wouldn't have accepted the award if he had known he would have to share it with Hayek.) I made it all the way through undergraduate and graduate school without reading Hayek, and I wasn 't unusual. Even today, nearly eight years after Hayek's death, there is no scholarly biography available. (The closest thing is a commemorative album produced by John Raybould, a British Hayek enthusiast.) Most economics textbooks still don't mention him, and his intellectual legacy is often obscured, even by his admirers.

In a forthcoming essay in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, for example, Janos Kornai, the Hungarian economist who holds a chair at Harvard, reports that several decades of comparing capitalism and socialism have convinced him of two things: capitalism is a necessary condition for democracy; and technological development is faster under capitalism, because the system encourages innovation. Kornai mentions Hayek's work in passing, but he doesn't say that Hayek made precisely the same points more than fifty years ago, in "The Road to Serfdom," and amplified them in a series of books during the ensuing forty-five years. Hayek got some things wrong (he was tardy about acknowledging the need for government action to reduce unemployment during the thirties, for example) and neglected others (such as inequality and pollution); but on the biggest issue of all, the vitality of capitalism, he was vindicated to such an extent that it is
hardly an exaggeration to refer to the twentieth century as the Hayek century.

Heyek wasn't the most brilliant economist of his era (that was probably John von Neumann, the Hungarian mathematical genius who invented game theory), or the most eloquent (John Maynard Keynes, Hayek's sparring partner during the nineteen thirties, nabbed that title), but he was arguably the most durable. Like Popper, Schrodinger, and Wittgenstein (who was a distant cousin), Hayek was a product of fin-de-siecle Vienna. Critics can claim, with some justification, that his sunny view of capitalism reflected his initial vantage point above the clouds. He was born into an upper-class Austrian family, on May 8, 1899. His father was a medical doctor and a botanist. His mother's family were wealthy civil servants. Raised with two younger brothers, Hayek attended a local Gymnasium, where he was forced to repeat a grade. The teachers, he subsequently recalled, "were irritated by the combination of obvious abilities and laziness and lack of interest I showed." At eighteen, he became a cadet officer in a field artillery regiment on the Italian front. The Great War destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but when Hayek enrolled at the University of Vienna he was more concerned with the malaria that he had picked up in the Army. After considering psychology, he settled on law and economics, subjects that appeared to offer brighter career prospects. Many of Hayek's fellow-students would gather at the Kaffee Landmann to discuss Marxism and psychoanalysis, but Hayek found these fashionable disciplines 'more unsatisfactory the more I studied them."

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