Friday, 30 September 2011

There's shrill; there's unhinged; and then there's The Nation's attack on Hayek

To say The Nation is over-egging the pudding would be an understatement. A more accurate metaphor would be that the Nation is serving up an omelette and calling it dessert. I am referring to this attack on the long-deceased Hayek and the still-alive and very much hated Charles Koch.

The story is as follows: in 1973 Koch invited Hayek to come to the US. Hayek, who was 73 years old and recently out of hospital after an operation, declined, as he was concerned about getting sick far from home, for one reason because of the potential cost. Koch, who was eager that Hayek should come, wrote back pointing out that, due to Hayek's time at the University of Chicago and the payments he had made into the system, he would be insured under Medicare. He even included a leaflet on this latter.

Now, retire to a safe distance, wait thirty years, and prepare to start shrieking 'hypocrits!' at the top of your lungs until you collapse and vomit - at least if you write for The Nation.
"The documents offer a rare glimpse into how these two major free-market apostles privately felt about government assistance programs—revealing a shocking degree of cynicism and an unimaginable betrayal of the ideas they sold to the American public and the rest of the world."
Err, have I missed something? I better go back ... sick old man, concerned about travelling to a foreign country and the cost of health insurance, informed that he is actually covered due to payments he made while working in that country ... still not seeing anything shocking.

Obviously The Nation hate the Koch brothers. That's their prerogative, but they don't seem to have any clear idea of what Hayek stood for. He certainly wasn't a market anarchist, and within libertarian circles there are many who think he was far too compromising towards the state.

Personally I lean heavily towards Mises and Rothbard, rather than Hayek, but he's still one of our guys, and, as the Arabs say "my brother and me against my cousin; my cousin and me against the world", so The Nation can go fuck themselves with their strawman character assassination.

However libertarian anyone is, we still have to live in a world dominated by state power. Whatever our views on taxation, we know that, if we don't pay, we will face the state's enforcers. Given that we are mandated to contribute to a system of social security, it is not an act of hypocrisy to avail ourselves of that system, however better we think things would be if not run by the state.

Hat tip: Economic Policy Journal


Mr Ecks said...

Was Koch a poor man in 1973?. He was rich then so why was the cheap bastard on about Medicare at all?. Medicare offers a fairly poor quality service (by US standards). If Koch was inviting Hayek over then Koch should have stood behind any expenses not talked about Hayak having some Medicare because of his having worked in the US.

Trooper Thompson said...

I don't know the details. It's quite possible that Hayek was a proud man and wouldn't have wanted that. It is also possible that, at the time, Hayek didn't want to go abroad as he was not long out of hospital, and that he raised the issue of medical insurance as an excuse.

In any case, there is a difference between Koch being a cheap bastard and what The Nation is saying, that Koch and Hayek are the epitome of evil.

I am no fan of the Kochs. As a quick perusal of my site will indicate, I align myself with the Mises people. If you know anything of the history of the libertarian movement in the US, you will know that the Kochs hate the Mises Institute and revile the memory of Mises and Rothbard. My position here is defending Hayek from an unwarranted, and somewhat hysterical attack on his integrity, including a misrepresentation of his views.