F.A.Hayek, Free-Market Think Tanks, And Intellectual Entrepreneurs

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 16/3/17 en: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2017/03/16/f-a-hayek-free-market-think-tanks-and-intellectual-entrepreneurs/#5d916ae552dc


I still recall the first time I heard F.A. Hayek (1899-1992) deliver a major lecture: it was in 1981 at the main hall in the classic building of the old Argentine Stock Exchange. During his presentation, he defended unemployment insurance, especially for those in risky occupations. I was so “radical” at the time after having studied all the books of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek’s mentor and colleague. Hayek’s statement shocked me. I handed in a card with my question and to my surprise, the moderator read it out loud. I’d written, “Ludwig von Mises wrote that in a free and unhampered market occupations with higher risks for unemployment already get a premium in salary, wouldn’t that invalidate the reason you stated?” I was even more surprised when Hayek answered, “as usual, my master was right.” Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many important intellectuals. Intellectual humility is seldom one of their traits. Hayek was different. I decided to learn from his example and began focusing on reading every one of Hayek’s work available to me.

Back in 2014, I wrote about the many think tanks and educational organizations named after Ludwig von Mises. At the time, I listed 25 Mises Institutes around the world. Most of them are still active, though many rely on the talents of one leader and will need to plan transitions for when their founder is no longer present. To my knowledge, the last Mises Institute to pop up was Mises Cuba. Early in February, two of their members were detained and later sent to the Melena II jail, a maximum security prison for political dissidents.

F.A. Hayek overlooking the Pacific Ocean from a cliff during his visit to Lima, Peru, in 1979 invited by Hernando de Soto (Institute for Liberty and Democracy)

F.A. Hayek overlooking the Pacific Ocean from a cliff during his visit to Lima, Peru, in 1979 invited by Hernando de Soto (Institute for Liberty and Democracy)


F.A. Hayek is another economist of tremendous relevance in the world of think tanks. Although he never used the term, he was also an intellectual entrepreneur. He inspired others to work professionally to produce and disseminate policy solutions consistent with sound economics and the philosophy of freedom. In addition to his academic publications, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974, his other major claim to fame was the founding of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947.

Mises’s work inspired the creation of many groups that now carry his name. Hayek, on the other hand, inspired more programs, awards, and scholarships than think tanks. The Hayek Foundation in Slovakia, and the Hayek Institutes in Austria, Italy, and Romania are exceptions. There was also an ambitious effort to build and consolidate a Hayek Foundation in Argentina, but it was dependent on an endowment set up by an aging donor and the heirs changed their minds, so the think tank floundered.

The seeds for the F. A. Hayek Foundation were planted in 1991 but the foundation was formally launched in 1992, during the second year of Slovakia’s economic and political transformation. Jan Oravec, one of the founders and key leaders, explains that at the beginning of the transition from communism, the debate was, “the market versus the mixed economy and radical, fast versus the gradual approach.” The intellectual climate was “crucial in understanding why we opted for Hayek’s name.”

The founders of the think tank supported radical reforms towards the market economy. Oravec adds, “our opponents supported a naive concept of ‘cherry picking’ from both systems and implementing them cautiously and gradually. At that time, Hayek was, in our country, a symbol of pro-market thinking, someone who., better than any of us, formulated and explained the superiority of markets over central planning.” Cultural reasons also helped: “Hayek was of Austrian origin, with experience from our region, very close to us. In addition, he died in March 1992. That resonated much still in May, when we established The F. A. Hayek Foundation.” Oravec is now president of the Entrepreneurs’ Association of Slovakia, which is teaming up with the Hayek Foundation in the Athena project to help reform primary and secondary education. Friends of freedom wish them the same success as they had when helping pass a flat tax in Slovakia.

Hayek Institutes around the world:

There is no room to describe here all the programs of Hayek Institutes in detail. What follows is just a summary.

Well known in classical liberal circles, the Hayek Institute in Austria is behind the Free-Market Road Show, which brings speakers to numerous countries. One year before his death, Hayek recommended the founding the  institute which took place in 1993. The institute also gives a yearly Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award.   Its homonym in Romania, founded in 2011 in Iasi, has an active publication and translation agenda, not only of Hayek’s books but also works by Murray Rothbard, Carl Menger, and other Austrian or Austrian-inspired authors. Their annual meeting is usually in May, and they will be soon hosting the “Free-Market Road Show” with their Austrian peers.

Hayek inspired a businessman of his time, Antony Fisher, to become an intellectual entrepreneur. Fisher founded the Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK, what is now the Manhattan Institute in New York, and several others. Fisher loved the Austrian economics of Mises and Hayek, but for him, arguments should be about right or wrong, not about Mises vs. Hayek vs. Friedman. He did not like partisan disputes and was not involved in opening any Hayek or Mises Institutes.

The Manhattan Institute, which was founded by Antony Fisher in 1978, has a Hayek Book Prize that honors the publication that best reflects Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty. The Fraser Institute, where Fisher played an important role during its early years, has a program, Essential Hayek, which explains Hayek’s teachings to the educated layperson in simple terms and with short videos.

Country Effort Organization Type
Austria Hayek Institut Hayek Institut Think Tank
Brasil Instituto Hayek Brasil Instituto Hayek Brasil Facebook Page
Canada Essential Hayek Fraser Institute Think Tank Program
Chile Cátedra Friedrich A. Hayek Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez Academic Program
Italy Fondazione Hayek Italia Fondazione Hayek Italia Think Tank
Romania Hayek Institute Institul Friedrich Hayek Romania Think Tank
Slovakia F.A. Hayek Foundation Nadácia F.A. Hayeka Think Tank
United Kingdom LSE Student Union Hayek Society London School of Economics Student outreach
United Kingdom Hayek Annual Memorial Lecture Institute of Economic Affairs Think Tank Program
USA Hayek Fund for Scholars Institute for Humane Studies Academic Program
USA Hayek Center Greg Ransom blog Personal blog
USA Hayek Lecture and Book Prize Manhattan Institute Think Tank Program
USA Hayek PPE Mercatus Academic Program
USA Collected Works of F.A. Hayek University of Chicago Publications
USA On Line Library of Liberty Liberty Fund Publications

During a visit to Lima, Peru, in 1979, Hayek encouraged Hernando de Soto to get in touch with Fisher. De Soto founded the Instituto Libertad y Democracia which changed development economics for good. Today, universities and university-based centers are also helping preserve and disseminate Hayek’s legacy. In Guatemala, the New Media center at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) is the host of an educational video in English and Spanish describing Hayek’s major contributions. The video, entitled “Hayek’s Freedom Philosopher,” has been used in many classes; before a change in the video platform, it had been viewed over 30K times. The media center also hosts an outstanding collection of Hayek interviews, most conducted by eminent figures such as the late Nobel Laureate James Buchanan as well as the late Robert Bork. In Chile, the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, where he was an Honorary Professor, recently created a Hayek Chair. Axel Kaiser, executive director of Fundación Progreso, and prolific author, is the director of the Cátedra Friedrich A. Hayek.

In the United States, two centers affiliated with George Mason University have their own programs named after Hayek: Mercatus and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS). The former has the “F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics” (which wins the award as the prize with the longest name), usually known as Hayek PPE. I asked Peter Boettke, current President of the Mont Pelerin Society and director of the program, about its goals. He said, “we have long described our research emphasis with the PPE label (philosophy, politics, and economics). Hayek’s work stood in this tradition, as can be seen in his books, studies in PPE, and then [his book] New Studies.  Since my student days, I found inspiration in these works, so I thought this was the way we should train young economic scholars to be able to contribute to scholarship along these lines. So the [Hayek’s name] was used to signal methodological and analytical commitments as well as social philosophical questions.”

IHS has a Hayek Fund, which provides small grants to help with conference fees and other career-related expenses for PhD students or junior faculty members who have previously participated in its programs. There are also material tributes to Hayek: two Hayek Auditoriums, one at the Cato Institute and one at UFM. Hayek also lent his name to and was part of several think tanks, usually with an academic focus, from the Walter Eucken Institute in Germany, to the honorary presidency of the Academic board of the Centro de Estudios Públicos in Chile.

Hayek taught at major universities in Chicago, Freiburg, and London. The University of Chicago, which owns many of Hayek’s copyrights, has a publishing project titled “The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek.” The current general editor is Bruce Caldwell, who has produced outstanding versions of Hayek’s books. The London School of Economics, where Hayek taught between 1931 and 1950, has a student group named after him. I could not find a single program named after Hayek at the University of Freiburg.

In 1981, F.A. Hayek visited Argentina for the release of a Spanish edition of his book "New Studies", here with the author Alejandro Chafuen, at ESEADE business school. Hayek was the president of ESEADE's academic council until his death in 1992.

Alejandro Chafuen

In 1981, F.A. Hayek visited Argentina for the release of a Spanish edition of his book «New Studies», here with the author Alejandro Chafuen, at ESEADE business school. Hayek was the president of ESEADE’s academic council until his death in 1992.

What might explain the difference in the diverse appeal of Hayek and Mises in having their names used as free-market think tank brands? Could it be the more open-ended conclusions and unanswered questions in Hayekian teachings compared with the apparent certainty of Misesian economics? Could it be that certainty has more appeal as a driving force for a think tank? Hayek seems much more moderate and cautious in reaching conclusions. He accepts the creation of a safety net, as long as some conditions are met, like open entry and no monopoly in the provision of the services. Hayek respects tradition and evolution. Mises also accepted transitory middle-of-the-road solutions, among others, retaliatory tariffs and gradual rather than radical liberalization (in his plan for Mexico). These were usually offered when he acted as a consultant more than a theoretician. Nevertheless, in his main treatise, Human Action, Mises defended military conscription, as at the time he was writing, Western civilization was being challenged by the National Socialist and Communist menace.

I regard Peter Boettke as the major driving force in Austrian economics today. At Grove City College, he studied under Hans Sennholz, a leading disciple of Von Mises, but Boettke is also very comfortable with Hayekian approaches to economics and the philosophy of freedom. I asked Boettke about the different inspiration that one gets from Mises and Hayek.

Boettke thinks that indirectly, Hayek inspired more think tanks that focus on policy work while those who like more ideological work tended to follow Mises. He writes, “I think Mises is a more galvanizing ideological figure, whereas Hayek inspires scholars and academics,” and adds “I think Mises can also inspire academics, witness [Israel] Kirzner but also all his students from Vienna including Hayek. But this requires more work. We don’t immediately see the Mises of Theory of Money and Credit, or Epistemological Problems, or even Socialism, Liberalism, Interventionism, Bureaucracy, and Omnipotent Government. We don’t read how he gave rise to Lionel Robbins, Fritz Machlup, Gottfried Haberler, or Oskar Morgenstern, but instead we read him as an icon who opposed any deviation from laissez-faire. So he becomes a galvanizing figure.» I concur with his views.

At the end, given Hayek’s role in inspiring Fisher, and the latter’s role in creating an organization that helps individuals start and manage institutes , one can conclude that both Mises and Hayek have been a great inspiration for think tanks and academic centers. The intellectual entrepreneurs who work for a free society have a rich intellectual fountain in F. A. Hayek.


Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

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