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2.35 Friedrich August von Hayek
The fundamental idea of Hayek (Vienna, Austria 1899 – Freiburg, Germany 1992) has been that no theory can ever fully take into account all the factors that determine the evolution of a society, since these factors are too numerous and can be considered only from many points of view, impossible to include in a single theory; furthermore, he considers, optimistically, that in most cases the spontaneous development of a society, the result of the innumerable and never masterable forces that act in it, has produced evolutionary results undoubtedly better than those that the human mind would ever have been able to design.
From here it follows that any theoretical system, which wants to predict the progress of a society, is nothing but a falsehood, aimed at exercising a dominion over that society; such was, for example, Marxism, because it claimed to have understood the course of the world from an economic point of view, while in fact it then turned into a dictatorship. So Hayek also criticizes “constructivism”, that is, the conviction that man has determined, with his projects, a certain type of society and therefore, as he has determined it, is also authorized to alter it and bend it to his purposes; but since, according to Hayek, it is not true that man creates a society, but rather they are an infinity of factors that escape his control and his awareness, then man cannot even consider himself authorized to design changes according to his beliefs; this does not mean that according to Hayek, man must just stand by and watch: he can intervene, but always bearing in mind that the real actors of change are factors that are outside his comprehension; man must therefore intervene with the intention of favoring an environment that allows the action of the many mechanisms that act by themselves and not with the idea of planning everything and mastering the world as much as possible.
A practical criterion to keep in mind, based on what has been said, is that the excessive centralization of a government is deadly, due to the fact that it is impossible for those who govern to know the different points of view present in its territory and therefore, if it will tend to centralize, it will only impose its particular point of view which, for having inevitably neglected the other points of view, cannot but prove oppressive and destructive. Instead, freedom is based on the recognition of one’s own ignorance, as each of us sees only what we can see from his point of view. This admission must lead to the search for the collaboration of all. Those who govern must not be able to issue any law they please, with the excuse of representing the majority, but, on the contrary, must be restrained, limited by other laws created specifically to limit their legislative possibilities: in fact the majority is only a part of the society and even if a government enjoyed the full support of the nation, in itself it would still constitute a limited point of view and therefore to be restrained in its claims. Therefore, a law will be good when it is generic, it will not represent a program that invades the free initiative of people, it will not serve a particular interest, it will have as its purpose not itself, but the freest expression of the forces present in the country.
From an economic point of view, Hayek is therefore favorable to the mechanisms of competition, since they realize the interaction of different points of view present in a given society. The State must not be able to have excessive control over the economy of a country, because this would limit the free possibility of action coming from the various factors present in that society. Private property is an indispensable tool for the existence of this freedom of action of the pluralities that are present in a State.
According to Hayek, a concept to be radically criticized is that of “social justice”; no one has ever been able to give a clear definition of it, not automatically conditioned by a particularistic point of view; and in fact, in the name of “social justice”, nothing has been done other than defending private interests, satisfying the requests of those who managed to make themselves heard or to influence more, financing projects and activities based on arbitrary choices made by who was in power, with the excuse of equitably distributing economic goods. The unions were born, in theory, to defend the interests of the workers, but, in reality, they had as their goal, since their birth, the defense of the particular interests of the group of people they represented.
In summary, Hayek admits that the State is in charge of help tasks and actions that are impossible to delegate to the private, but the basic criterion must be that the State must be continuously braked and not exalted as a central body that goes to solve problems anywhere they arise; it is wrong to want a strong state: in the first place must be free, private and collaborative initiative. For this reason, Hayek wrote in 1979, “giving the government the monopoly of television broadcasting, as happens in some countries, is one of the most dangerous political decisions in recent years”; moreover “the thesis that the government must finance at least the compulsory education does not imply that this must be managed by the government and even less that the government should have the monopoly”. He also negatively considers the monetary and postal monopoly: “the exclusive right to coin money and to ensure the postal service were not established to better serve the public, but only to increase the powers of the government”.