Hayek and Climate

Found, at last, the connection between Hayek and Climate! And from a most unlikely source, Climate Etc. Because it is at CE it is, of course, wrong. Even better, it is merely copied wrongness, from King Canute vs. the Climate Planners by “Jeffrey Tucker” (who?) at the Foundation for Economic Education, whoever they are (you might prefer the RationalWiki take).

Ignore the gumpf about Paris, wade through the irrelevance about Canute, and come to the interesting (to me; I’m not claiming to have carried you along) bit:

…the extraordinary speech F.A. Hayek gave when he received his Nobel Prize. He was speaking before scientists of the world… Rather than flattering the scientific establishment, particularly as it existed in economics, he went to the heart of what he considered the greatest intellectual danger that was arising at the time. He blew apart the planning mindset, the presumption that humankind can do anything if only the right people are given enough power and resources.

If the planning elite possessed omniscience of all facts, flawless understanding of cause and effect, perfect foresight to know all relevant changes that could affect the future, and the ability to control all variables, perhaps their pretensions would be justified.

But this is not the case. Hayek called the assumption the harshest possible word: “charlatanism.”

In the climate case, consider that we can’t know with certainty…

So, there’s lots wrong with this. Hayek doesn’t have a Nobel prize; he was awarded the 1974 Prize for Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel (jointly with Gunnar Myrdal); but to be fair it is commonplace to glide over the distinction, so almost-never-mind. The reason I say “almost” is because of the segue into before scientists of the world: this was the Economics prize, so wouldn’t have had the same audience as the Science ones (at least, so I’d guess; if anyone knows better, do let me know). What’s happening here is that “Jeffrey Tucker” is unsubtlely and dishonestly building a non-existence connection with Science in general and GW in particular.

That Hayek was opposed to central planning of the economy is just bog standard. It was part of what he got the prize for, so inevitably it was what he talked about. To go from there to suggest that he opposes all planning, which is what the article does, is ridiculous. The article itself is a foolish mish-mash of confusing different ideas; Hayek himself would have ripped it to shreds with precision; I’ll just content myself with insulting it1. But what of Hayek on planning? Hayek’s main emphasis is to oppose central planning, so it is easy to find lots of quotes with him saying Bad Things about planning. But what about the reverse? The Road to Serfdom (condensed version) section “The liberal way of planning” says

The dispute between the modern planners and the liberals is not on whether we ought to employ systematic thinking in planning our affairs. It is a dispute about what is the best way of so doing… It is important not to confuse opposition against [central] planning with a dogmatic laissez faire attitude. The liberal argument does not advocate leaving things just as they are… It emphasizes that in order to make competition work beneficially a carefully thought-out legal framework is required, and that neither the past nor the existing legal rules are free from grave defects… There are, too, certain fields where the system of competition is impracticable. For example, the harmful effects of deforestation or of the smoke of factories cannot be confined to the owner of the property in question…

And I’m sure I could find more. But whoever the FEE are, they aren’t honest.


1. It is drivel written by a twat. There: I’ve done my duty and can stop.

26 thoughts on “Hayek and Climate”

  1. I read that and recalled that large corporations are centrally planned, with multi-year plans and based on the idea that if you give the right people lots of money they will lead the company to glory.


  2. Well done that man.

    Isn’t FEE just another in the world-wide network of free-market think tanks (like Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK), who are totally not connected in any sense whatsoever, in spite of sharing the same free-market cant, abject Hayek worship, and various personnel?

    [They don’t worship Hayek, that was part of my point, since they misrepresent him so badly -W]


  3. guthrie writes:”….based on the idea that if you give the right people lots of money they will lead the company to glory”</i

    Can you spell G-O-O-G-L-E? 🙂

    The Great A.I.Awakening courtesy the NY Times.

    Re: Hayek. “If the planning elite possessed omniscience of all facts…”

    This is obviously wrong. They only need to know as much as those doing the planning otherwise. I.e., as quoted in the other thread, he believed that only locals (plant managers, shop foremen, etc) could know the intimate details of an operation that those in far off company or country HQs couldn’t possibly know.

    With the advent of big data and huge computerized operations, that’s no longer true. In fact, company HQs probably knows more about the local WalMart than anyone working in the physical store location. The same can be said in many industries. Hayek’s main objections have been made largely irrelevant by technology. And becoming more and more irrelevant each day.


  4. We need a Cafe Press mug and T-shirt for that quote:

    ” in order to make competition work beneficially a carefully thought-out legal framework is required, and … neither the past nor the existing legal rules are free from grave defects… There are, too, certain fields where the system of competition is impracticable. For example, the harmful effects of deforestation or of the smoke of factories cannot be confined to the owner of the property in question…”


  5. Who says there’s no such thing as a free …. ebook?
    ‘Oogled this strig:
    “Jeffrey Tucker” (who?) at the Foundation for Economic Education

    Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

    You can download his books in epub format for free here (clickety link in original, ‘oogle it)


  6. Hayekianism as practiced by Thatcher, Reagan, the Kochtopus, Grover Norquist, and all bears very little resemblance to what Hayek himself had to say. I found this gem (no, I didn’t get one of his books, it’s on his (long) entry at Wikipedia):

    There is no reason why in a free society government should not assure to all, protection against severe deprivation in the form of an assured minimum income, or a floor below which nobody need descend. To enter into such an insurance against extreme misfortune may well be in the interest of all; or it may be felt to be a clear moral duty of all to assist, within the organised community, those who cannot help themselves. So long as such a uniform minimum income is provided outside the market to all those who, for any reason, are unable to earn in the market an adequate maintenance, this need not lead to a restriction of freedom, or conflict with the Rule of Law.

    Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong…. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make the provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.


    After reading the entire entry, I came away with the impression that he was a realist doing his best.


  7. > They don’t worship Hayek… since they misrepresent him so badly

    Those things ?almost always/usually/sometimes? go hand-in-hand. Adam Smith gets the same treatment.


  8. “1. It is drivel written by a twat. There: I’ve done my duty and can stop.”

    Par for the course at Climate Etc, it fits in with Dr Curry’s FUD agenda. I am impressed that Dr Curry is so anti-science, does she still have that Hurricane Forecasting (I think) business on the side? If so, I wonder what the oil rig owners think of her lack of confidence in science when they evaluate her forecasts?


  9. This Hayek Essay (which is on the FEE site) seems quite interesting. Haven’t read it all, but someone on Twitter highlighted this bit, which seems appropriate.

    Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it – or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs.

    Although, to be balanced, it’s not just conservatives who reject well-established new knowledge. What particularly struck me was his his recognition that science isn’t free from fads and fashion (which is probably broadly correct) but that you still need rational arguments for rejecting some new scientific understanding.

    [Bloody Hayek talking sense again. if only people would read him, rather than reading other people misrepresenting him 🙂 -W]


  10. > if only people would read him …..

    Well, I’ve heard speculation Christ wouldn’t sign up as a Christian nowadays.

    Nobody wants to be responsible for the consequences of their tactics, whether you call it collateral damage, externalized costs, or friendly fire casualties.


  11. @ Matt

    yes I always find it amusing how Adam Smith devotees are so quick to defend various get rich schemes/rent seeking over actual wealth creation

    you almost get the impression it is about (economic) power


  12. I’m gonna have to make myself a new bumpersticker with that Hayek quote. To go alongside this one:


    What, who doesn’t like Comic Sans?


  13. “Planning” means two things. It means “command economy and here is our ordering of the commands” or it can mean “planning.” I use the former directly when that’s what I mean to say. It doesn’t confuse.


  14. More pertinent to the (closed) thread on geoengineering liability:

    “… I was amazed and shocked to find so many engineers and physicists enamored of this idea, and ended up writing down 20 reasons why it might be a bad idea [Robock, 2008]. The hubris of some, who thought that this was just a mechanical or physical problem to solve, and the lack of awareness of the science of climate change and the natural chaotic variability of climate, was very scary. A number of those potential risks were already understood 10 years ago, and were discussed by Crutzen and in the accompanying essays, particularly by MacCracken …”


  15. Russell, with some trepidation I got hold of Blue Moon’s odd “cappuccino oatmeal stout” and can report it of exquisite quality, especially from, you know, Blue Moon. (the average shopper might feel similarly as not only is it delicious, it’s on sale!) The chocolate and coffee are not overdone, simply in service to the porter itself.


  16. The opposite of Hayek is Karl Polyani, Michael’s brother. There might be a recent biography.

    [Why would you want a biography? I’m not very interested in a Hayek biography. Wouldn’t you rather know what he thought? -W]


  17. I want a biography so as to establish the ideas in context.

    I didn’t state that I want only a biography. Nonetheless, that Hayek and Polyani were contemporaries, and both associated with Vienna, is of considerable interest.


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