Front Page Titles (by Subject) Freedom and Knowledge - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Freedom and Knowledge - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
Freedom and Knowledge
“F.A. Hayek: Freedom for Progress.” In Contemporary Political Philosophers, eds. Anthony de Crespigny and Kenneth Monogue. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1975, pp. 49–66.
Hayek's classical liberalism defends individual freedom in an ambiguous fashion. His liberalism does stipulate that no one should be coerced by the arbitrary will of another, and does restrict to a minimum the coercive powers of government. But it appears that Hayek does not assert individual freedom as an intrinsic good in itself which is founded in natural rights. For Hayek, individual freedom seems good primarily for utilitarian reasons as a means to assure the social good of attaining material and cultural progress.
Hayek's liberalism is based on the discovery that the enforcement of certain universal rules and the protection of the private sphere of individuals results in a spontaneous order of human activity. This “invisible hand” generated order, (the impersonal mechanism that integrates the incomplete, dispersed knowledge of individuals), is far more complex and uses more knowledge and skills from individuals than any centrally directed order. The irremediable ignorance (or limited knowledge of any individuals), cannot contain and direct all the knowledge and resultant activity that a spontaneous order (catalaxy) accomplishes by dovetailing scattered plans into a finely meshed whole. The economic coordination of the market place and linguistic evolution are two examples of the free and spontaneous orders so generated. Such spontaneous order is open-ended, since we disagree about general ends, needs, and merits. Hayek also rejects a political philosophy based on some particular understanding of man, since human nature itself is indefinite or open-ended.
Hayek finds liberty or freedom necessary because of each individual's limited knowledge. Freedom is beneficial because it allows the pooled knowledge of unfettered individuals to promote the social betterment through material and cultural progress. The important aspect of progress for Hayek is the acquisition and use of new knowledge. Individual freedom gains value primarily from its contribution to the cumulative growth of knowledge (“If there were omniscient men...there would be little case for liberty.”). Hayek believes we should value freedom not so much from the standpoint of the individual as from that of society. People are important as potential contributors to social progress rather than as individuals with natural human rights.
It is crucially important, then, to examine Hayek's view of the “rule of law” in its implications to individual freedom and rights. Rejecting legal positivism and mere legality. Hayek's “rule of law” is a metalegal notion. It seeks to define what “true” law ought to be by devising universal rules that foster a progressive, spontaneous order. True laws, for Hayek, must be general, certain, and equal. They must refer to conduct rather than ends. They serve as the rules of the game to enable a system of free individuals to work effectively. Thus freedom under the law, so defined, is intended to prevent any individual from being subject to another man's will.
Hayek may be criticized for the inadequacy of his “rule of law” to protect individual liberty (certain laws arrived at by majorities may be oppressive to individuals). Hayek is somewhat vague on the limits of majority decisions in lawmaking. He needs to clarify what role discretionary power might play in his impersonal, general, and universal abstract enforcement of laws.