F.A. Hayek, R.I.P.

The death of one of the 20th century’s most influential free market thinkers, F.A. von Hayek, provides an interesting example of how the philosophical/ideological differences of newspapers will affect the coverage of major news events.

A day after his death, the March 25 Australian devoted no less than four major articles to Hayek and his significance. That same day, in the Age and the Financial Review, not one word was to be found of his death. (The Financial Review did give him a half page obituary the next day.)

Hayek died at his home in Freiburg, Germany on March 24, at the age of 92. He played a major role in the ideological and political upheavals which rocked the world during the last several years. In large measure he was responsible for the economic policies of Reagan and Thatcher, and he had an important impact on the economic and political reconstruction of Eastern Europe. In Australia the Liberal Party “dries” were greatly influenced by his ideas.

Born in Austria in 1899, he moved to England in the 1930s and taught at the London School of Economics. He later taught at the University of Chicago, making a big impact on Milton Friedman and others. His critiques of socialism, Keynesianism and central planning, and his defence of liberty, the market, and classical liberalism, are among the finest and most cogent ever written.

His most important book, The Road to Serfdom (1944) was a clarion call to reject collectivism in all its forms. Other major works include The Constitution of Liberty (1960) and the three-volume Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973-1979). He also wrote thirty other books and pamphlets, and some 140 articles.

In 1974 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics, and in 1984 he was made a Companion of Honour by Margaret Thatcher. In 1991 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George Bush.

Regardless of how one views the ideas of Hayek, all must agree that Hayek was one of this century’s most influential economists, social theorists and political philosophers.

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