Liberty Matters

Albert Jay Nock and the Spencer-Hayek Connection


Let me add a mite to the nice point that Spencer was of enormous influence in the free-market period of American thought before the ascent of the Mont Pelerin Society.  Sandra Peart and I have been spending time looking into the publications associated with Merwin K. Hart in part to understand his influence on the American economics education in the early Keynesian era and in part to understand the status quo from which we might evaluate the impact of the scholars associated with the Mont Pelerin Society.[154]  The review of The Road to Serfdom by Albert J. Nock in the Hart-linked Economic Council Review of Books opens with a link to Spencer:
Out of the books now accumulated on my desk there are four which I especially wish my readers would go through carefully, word by word. The first of these is Mr. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The title is reminiscent of Herbert Spencer’s essay on The Coming Slavery, published in 1884 and indeed Mr. Hayek’s work is essentially little more than an ex post facto pointing-up of Spencer’s treatise. Any one who forty-odd years ago had set his mind at work on Spencer’s reasoning could see the impending fate of Western society as clear as daylight. I can vouch for this, for I was one who did it, and not by any means the only one; and now Mr. Hayek comes along to show how far we have got on our way to the goal of our destiny, and to show how and why we have got there. Spencer showed where the road we were on would take us and must take us; Mr. Hayek shows that it has taken us (that is, Western society as a whole) exactly there.[155]
[154.] David Levy and Sandra Peart, “Soviet Growth and American Textbooks: An Endogenous Past,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 78 (2011): 110-25; David Levy, Sandra J. Peart and Margaret Albert, “Economic Liberals as Quasi-Public Intellectuals: The Democratic Dimension.” Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology 30 (2012): 1-116.
[155.] Albert J. Nock, Review of F. A. Hayek. Road to Serfdom. Economic Council Review of Books II (October 1944), [1-2]. Peart and I discuss the larger context in “F. A. Hayek and the ‘Individualists’” in Hayek and the Modern Economy, ed. Sandra Peart and David Levy (New York Palgrave, 2013).