Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Please Remember Victor Jara, In the Santiago Stadium

As the title suggests, history gives us plenty of stories of people, when put to the test, of being more heroic than anybody should be expected to be. But I am telling the story, I am sorry to say, of somebody willingly signing up to be a zero.

Apparently, in 1981, Hayek visited Chile. Given the context, I cannot read this interchange in an interview as an abstract discussion:
Lucia Santa-Cruz: "There is reference in your work to the apparent paradox of dictatorships that may be more liberal than a totalitarian democracy. But it is also true that dictatorships have other characteristics which contradict freedom, even if it is understood negatively as you do."

Hayek: "Evidently dictatorships pose grave dangers. But a dictatorship may limit itself (se puede autolimitar) and if self-limited it may be more liberal in its policies than a democratic assembly that knows of no limitations. I must admit that it is not very probable that this may happen, but even so, in a given moment, it may be the only hope. Not a sure hope because it may always depend on the good will of an individual and one can trust in very few individuals. But if it is the only opportunity in a given moment, it may be the best solution in spite of all. But only if the dictatorial government visibly leads to a limited democracy."
-- El Mercurio, (not my translation) Sunday, 19 April 1981
In the same interview, Hayek said:
Hayek: "Democracy has a task which I call 'hygienic', for it assures that political processes are conducted in a sanitary fashion. It is not an end in itself. It is a rule of procedure whose aim is to promote freedom. But in no way can it be seen in the same rank as freedom. Freedom requires democracy, but I would prefer temporarily to sacrifice, I repeat temporarily, democracy, before having to do without freedom, even if temporarily." -- ibid.
Furthermore, Hayek gave various presentations to various conferences. Apparently, in a chat with Jaime Guzman, Hayek said, "Pinochet is an honorable general."

5 comments:

Gabriel M. said...

Usually I would reply with a long list of heterodox and mainstream economists (some Nobel calibre) what supported everything from Maoism to Stalinism and so on, some even up to '89-'90. Usually. But today I'm too tired, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Hey Robert,

Hayek's _conflicted_ feelings about democracy go back much further, and are even more evident early in his career. Check out Perry Anderson's essay "The Instransigent Right", which I think was in the London Review of Books and is in his essay collection 'Spectrum'.

Mike Beggs

Robert Vienneau said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Mike. My favorite university library neither subscribes to the LRoB nor has that Anderson book, unfortunately.

Gabriel, "tu quoque" is a fallacy, and I consider your comment in the way of harassment.

Anonymous said...

Ah, of course, if a right-winger praises an evil dictatorship you do not question his commitment to liberty but, rather, point out that some left-wingers supported other dictatorships.

Well, I suppose that make Hayek's comments okay. But, then, "Austrian" economists always have been somewhat, well, less than consistent anti-fascists.

Thus we find von Mises, for example, arguing in the 1920s that it "cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilisation. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live eternally in history." [Liberalism, p. 51]

Obviously, he changed his tune somewhat when he was subjected by the Nazis to the kind of "best intentions" that he was happy to see inflicted on working class people. But, still, it makes you question the so-called "libertarian" right's commitment to liberty.

It seems that given a conflict between property and liberty, they will always side with property.

Iain
An Anarchist FAQ

Gabriel M. said...

I was in no way trying to contradict you re: what Hayek said or did. If anything my point is that heaven is a lonely place.

Hypocrisy seems to me more or less equally distributed along the political spectrum, when it comes to public figures. I suspect it's a prerequisite for being one.

That being said, you seem to imply that Hayek said what he said knowing what you know now, which is not the case.