Books for the News, Economics

Fear the Boom and Bust

The economist and philosopher F. A. Hayek, best known for his staunch defense of free-market capitalism, may have passed away nearly two decades ago, but he’s recently been resurrected in a viral video in which he rap-debates John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of government invention in the economy. The disagreements between the two great thinkers have been memorialized before, as in our volume Contra Keynes and Cambridge: Essays, Correspondence, but perhaps never so cleverly. (Just try getting the hooky chorus of “We’ve been going back and forth for a century, [Keynes] I want to steer markets, [Hayek] I want them set free” out of your head.) But the economics-lesson-cloaked-as-catchy-rap-ditty is only the latest in a long tradition of popularizing Hayek’s (often unpopular) theories.
Bruce Caldwell, editor of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, notes in his introduction to The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents—The Definitive Edition that Hayek was concerned about the book’s popularity and worried about misinterpretation. Indeed, many people were introduced to the book not through the primary object but through Reader’s Digest‘s 20-page condensed version, which appeared in the April 1945 issue of the magazine, or the cartoon treatment that had been published in the February 1945 issue of Look magazine. (To read more about the publication history of Hayek’s seminal work—and one of Chicago’s perennial bestsellers—check out the full excerpt.)
So how would F. A. Hayek respond to his rhyming doppelganger? The world will never know (though he might be heartened to hear the creators of the video conceived it in order to give Hayek’s theories the attention they deserve in a media moment dominated by Keynes). But if the hip-hop has you curious about Hayek’s larger project, you’ve come to the right place: the University of Chicago Press is home to his massive oeuvre, with new works continuously being translated and edited.
However, if you are just wondering what two rapping economists look like, check out the video below.