Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hayek and Bastiat in New York City, Hypersensitivity in Auburn

The New York Times has a great piece describing the connection of the Tea Party to thinkers like Hayek, Bastiat, and Skousen. The coverage is descriptive for the most part. They make three value judgements as I read it - they say that repealing the 17th amendment is "out there" (which I think is a fair enough description), they say that being worried about beggars and vagabonds voting is "out dated' (which I think is an admirable effort at understatement on the part of the Times), and they say that Hayek and Bastiat provide intellectual ballast to the Tea Party movement (which is a compliment). All in all a very good read.

Jeff Tucker, at the Mises Institute, doesn't think so. Some how he thought this was a hit piece on the part of the Times. I can't conceive of how he twisted that in his head. Some people are hell-bent on conflict and argument, and in this case at least Tucker seems to be one of them. It's a good article, Jeff. Chill out.

One of the most interesting passages in the article is this one:

"Justin Amash, the 30-year-old Republican state legislator running for the House seat once held by Gerald Ford in Michigan, frequently posts links to essays by Hayek and Bastiat on his Facebook page, his chief vehicle for communicating with voters. “There is no single economist or philosopher I admire more than F. A. Hayek,” he wrote in May. “I have his portrait on the wall of my legislative office and the Justin Amash for Congress office.”"

I find it interesting how everyone talks like politicians are enthralled to Keynes or how Keynes offers an economics that is inherently political. Based on Justin Amash's testimony alone I'd be willing to guess that there are more portraits of Hayek up in the halls of Congress than there are of Keynes.

UPDATE: Steve Horwitz blogs on the article as well. He's much more sensible than Jeff Tucker, pointing out how absurd it is to call Hayek "obscure" or "dormant" (I think those terms are probably still fair for Bastiat, although that's changing very quickly). I still think he's a little too sensitive about the treatment. All in all I thought this was a positive piece doing away with the assumption that there is no intellectual grounding for the Tea Party. I have no idea why Jeff Tucker and even Steve are reading such sarcasm into it. Steve is also concerned that Austrian economics gets tied up with religion and other Tea Party "crackpottery". You know what? Oh well. They co-exist quite comfortable in the Tea Party so I'm not sure how else you could report it. When they did an article on Peter Boettke in the Wall Street Journal a while back they didn't mention that stuff. You know why? Because they don't coexist for Boettke or GMU. Who is ever happy with how their views are presented in a short New York Times article? Brevity always prevents a perfect rendition. I haven't once read a completely faithful account of Keynesianism in the New York Times. Even Krugman's op-eds dumb it down - you've gotta go to Krugman's blog for any reasonable rendition. That's the cost of presenting nuanced ideas in a short newspaper article. You live with it. At the end of the day, are people more or less educated about Hayek and Bastiat and more or less informed about the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement? On both counts, the answer is "more", not "less". I think this is a good thing.


  1. Hmmmm, fortuitous timing... A similar - though different - news article from the other side of the Atlantic: Edmund Burke: How did a long-dead Irishman become the hottest thinker of 2010?

    Though primarily about Burke -- he of "good-men-must-stand together-otherwise-they-shall-fall-one-by-one fame"* -- Hayek gets more than a passing reference. Old F.A. just can't seem to stay out of the news recently!

    'Not long after Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party, some impish moderate piped up during a policy meeting to urge caution. "Before he had finished speaking..." John Ranelagh wrote in Thatcher's People, "the new Party Leader reached into her briefcase and took out a book. It was Friedrich von Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. Interrupting, she held the book up for all of us to see. 'This,' she said sternly, 'is what we believe,' and banged Hayek down on the table."


    'By the time of his death in 1797, Burke felt dissatisfied with the outcome of his struggles [to bring about emancipation from oppression] in each of these cases; but as time has passed, the rhetorical flourish and illuminating metaphors of his writing have endured. Above all, those that hail from his Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790, and fitter to be David Cameron and Nick Clegg's version of that table-thumping Hayek text than any other. But whereas Hayek's was a seminal manual of capitalist agitprop, Burke's work is imbued with an air of solemn foreboding. It is a (long) cautionary note, not a programme for government.'

    * Burke did not say "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", but his actual quote was close enough.

  2. Getting rid of the 17th Amendment is not "out there" any more than getting rid of another amendment loved by "reformers" and "progressives" - the 18th Amendment.

    Ultimately what bothers liberals/progressives about the Tea Partiers is the competition.

  3. It was my sense that the article intended to be sarcastic veiled criticism. It also failed.
    How can I vote for Amash ?

  4. What am I missing dhlii? I mean - maybe it's sarcastic veiled criticism, but I don't see any reason for concluding that except for a paranoia about the intentions of the New York Times. There's nothing in the article itself to indicate that - all I read is "most of our readers might not be familiar with these authors but the Tea Party reads them a lot".

    Where is the sarcasm?

    My experience is that a lot of libertarians and especially a lot of Austrians have something of a victim/martyr complex. They really think everyone is out to get them. I bet the author of this piece is pretty liberal. I bet the author doesn't understand the motivations of a libertarian as well as she could. I don't think it's hit piece - I think it's a genuine show of interest in what motivates the Tea Party.

  5. And ultimately I have yet to see any evidence otherwise. Just insinuation.

  6. Great article on this here:

    Suffice it to say, there was no hypersensitivity in Auburn.


All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.