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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful and at times brilliant defence of capitalism, 16 Jan 2003
By 
Mark (Fairfax, VA, United States) - See all my reviews
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The Constitution of Liberty can in many ways be regarded as Hayek's most important work. It centres around a highly nuanced defence of the free market based upon the concept of spontaneous order. But in articulating this defence Hayek skilfully interweaves philosophical and historical insights, at all times displaying tremendous erudition and learning.

The result is not a comprehensive treatise like von Mises's Human Action, or the Wealth of Nations. Hayek always regarded himself as an intellectual 'muddler' (albeit a brilliant one). And his work reflects this. I prefer him when he is focused upon a particular issue at hand, like in The Road to Serfdom, or in the essays that comprise Individualism and the Economic Order.

This is not to detract from the value of this work. Hayek's defence of negative verses freedom, his description of the rule of law, the chapter on Responsibility and Freedom, and the post-script 'Why I am not a Conservative,' deserve to be treasured. Hayek's intellectual integrity shines through here. He was never a polemist or an extremist, and this has compromised his stature amongst libertarians. But Hayek's particular position on any single issue should not be of concern here. A reiteration of classical liberalism will always be of value, but this work stands out for the subtlety of its insights, and the range and depth of its arguments. Hayek's ideas should be recognised as providing, along with those of Mises and Milton Friedman, the best twentieth century defence of a free and spontaneously ordered society; a defence which should be distinguished from the limited and compromised one provided by many neo-classical economists, by social democrats or conservatives, and the dogma provided by Aynn Rand and her disciples.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Program for Freedom and Prosperity, 6 May 2012
By 
D. W. MacKenzie (New London CT) - See all my reviews
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Hayek undertook a vitally important task when he set out to write the The Constitution of Liberty. He aimed at finding the proper limits between public and private life. How far should the authority of the state extend? What areas of life should be beyond the reach of the government? Hayek is stating his version of the general principles of classical liberalism, based on utilitarian ethics. Since his arguments are utilitarian, this book has economic overtones.

Hayek's purpose in restating the principles of liberal society is to defend these principles against the opposing intellectual movement of collectivism. Western Civilization succeeded largely because of its individualism. Collectivism is undermining the basis of modern civilization in the West. Individualism is important because we each lack the knowledge needed to rationally direct the affairs of others. Some people believe that they can plan out society because they are `experts' or because they are educated. Hayek saw that nobody can posses the knowledge needed to design a rational order for society. As Hayek put it, "it is largely because civilization enables us constantly to profit from knowledge which we individually do not posses that men can pursue their individual ends more successfully than they could alone".

In writing this book, Hayek shifted his attention away from full-blown socialism and towards the modern welfare state. Hayek seems to have felt that the case for socialism had been sufficiently weakened so as to allow him to critique welfare states. Hayek accepted some types of government intervention that libertarians typically oppose. Rather than opposing each program point by point, Hayek sought out some `lynchpin issues' that would limit state growth. Hayek argued strenuously against state control of the money supply, and suggested ways of limiting taxation. Hayek's libertarian critics typically cringe at some of his concessions, but we would all be in a much better position now if his constitution had been adopted.

The Constitution of Liberty is more than well reasoned, it is subtle and profound. This book reveals Hayek's deep understanding of economics, politics, and history. While I do not agree with everything in this book, it is a must read for any serious student of political economy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic treatise on liberty and limited government, 24 Nov 2010
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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Economist and political philosopher Friedrich A. Hayek wrote The Constitution of Liberty for publication in 1960, but his timeless insights still have currency. His reasoned advocacy of economic freedom and personal liberty applies to modern debates on controversial subjects ranging from price inflation and progressive taxation to public education. The book contrasts the benefits of limited government with the costs of central economic planning. Restricting government is more likely to produce the individual spontaneity and creativity that is vital to the advance of knowledge and civilization. Hayek demonstrates how liberty takes sustenance from the rule of law, the concept of due process and the constitutional form of government. He identifies serious but subtle threats to individual freedom. For example, he criticizes Social Security and progressive taxation as regrettable forms of income redistribution. getAbstract recommends this scholarly tome to readers seeking a detailed philosophical foundation for limited government and to anyone who wants to be familiar with the classic canon of modern economic thought.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I great place to start with Hayek, 7 Sep 2007
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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I've read Hayek's polemics against socialism like The Fatal Conceit and The Road to Serfdom and found them very disappointing, he is a great writer and I find his style and content in some ways similar to another english writer, the socialist, George Orwell but these books seemed very negative.

This book is divided into three sections and post script, the first The Value of Freedom outlines Hayek's views on liberty, reason, responsibility and progress and politics, the second section on Freedom and The Law outlines Hayek's views on the relationship between individual freedom and the state, the final section is on Freedom and The Welfare State and begins with an essay on the decline of socialism and the rise of the welfare state.

This book is a lot more complete and holistic, you get a much clearer idea of what Hayek's proposing aswell as opposing, even if you dont necessarily agree.

In reading it Hayek does appear to be a lot less dogmatic than many of his supporters or popularisers and he's a great writer besides, the very simple introduction which seeks to link Hayek with contemporary wars of religion with the islamic world and the rise of neo-conservatism in America is over shadowed by the main work (infact it reads a lot like Trotsky paying homage to Marx or any other political pundit who tries to bask in reflected glory).

I would seriously recommend the chapter on the decline of socialism and the rise of the welfare state to anyone but to socialists in particular.

This chapter accurately forecasts many of the developments within socialist or left parties, like the rise of new labour, the attempts to conjour a political third way, there's fair comment making the distinction between socialism and the welfare state that is seldom made by anyone left or right, apart from forgotten books from American socialists writting in the seventies.

Market libertarians have been among the few people to really grapple with the issues of appartniks and the unintended consequences of growth of state machinery.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Economics Classic, 4 Nov 2013
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I bought this book for my son who is studying A Level Economics. It is a bit of a classic reference book for this subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and thoughtful, 28 Mar 2013
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Hayek presents his arguments very thoroughly, but also demonstrates considerable insight into the issues covered. This book provides valuable background to the entire argument about liberty, the free market and capitalism.
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Constitution of Liberty
Constitution of Liberty by Hayek Friedrich (Hardcover - 1 Oct 1978)
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