Commentary, Economics

Living Keynes and reading Hayek

jacket imageBack in 1965, it was Milton Friedman’s phrase: “We are all Keynesians now.” He uttered it in the same spirit as Richard Nixon repeated it in 1971: Like it or not, we are in a time when economic and political circumstances dictate that the government take a larger role in trying to steer the economy. In the last half of 2008, the phrase regained currency while the economy hemorrhaged it.
We may collectively be living Keynes, but that doesn’t mean we individually believe it. On this blog, we have previously noted the continuing intellectual warfare between Keynes and Hayek. That war is nowhere near closure, thanks to a prominent Hayek cheerleader, Glenn Beck, who devoted a segment of last night’s show to talking about Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.
The manuscript that would become The Road to Serfdom came to the Press in 1943. It was evaluated by two University of Chicago academics to assess its scholarship and potential. Ironically, the economist supporting free-market capitalism, Frank Knight, concluded: “‘the book is an able piece of work, but limited in scope and somewhat one-sided in treatment. I doubt whether it would have a very wide market in this country, or would change the position of many readers.” Jacob Marschak, the socialist economist who read the manuscript, had a more positive reaction: “Hayek’s book may start in this country a more scholarly kind of debate.… It is written with the passion and the burning clarity of a great doctrinaire.… This book cannot be bypassed.”
The University of Chicago Press did not bypass the book and we are proud to have published many of Hayek’s works, with new critical editions in process. Sales of The Road to Serfdom increased dramatically in the fall of 2008 and have shown no signs of slowing down. With the book currently #1 on Amazon and flying out of bricks-and-mortar stores, this year is certain to be the best year for Serfdom sales since the book’s publication.
Let the debate continue.
Update: We have a press release, too.