Briefly outline Hayek’s distinction between ‘limited’ and ‘absolute’ security. Discuss Hayek’s claim that the drive for ‘absolute’ security:
will lead to “serious restrictions of the competitive sphere”
poses the ‘gravest’ of threats to liberty and freedom
The analysis of Hayek’s text commences with uncovering the apparent motivations and
fears which led him to write the book in question, before moving to explore his specific
concerns with the march towards totalitarianism, culminating in his attempt to delineate
between so-called ‘limited’ and ‘absolute’ security. General conclusions will then be drawn.
Hayek postulates that Britain in 1944 (the original ...view middle of the document...
In short, Hayek fears that Britain’s embrace of what he perceives
as wide-ranging socialistic measures would drag Britain towards totalitarian economic and
Hayek discerns socialism’s aim as the ‘abolition of private enterprise, of private ownership
of the means of production, and the construction of a system of “planned economy” in which
individual capitalists are ‘replaced by a central planning body’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 33-34).
In his view, socialism entails the ‘regimentation of economic life’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 35),
since collectivists seek ‘central direction of all economic activity according to a single plan.
By so doing, socialists lay down how the resources of society should be “consciously
directed” to serve particular ends in a definite way’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 36). In reality, he
suggests, the abolition of competition in Britain would result initially in the retention of
planning by ‘the independent monopolies of the separate industries’, thus placing ‘the
consumer at the mercy of the joint monopolist action of capitalists and workers in the best
organised industries’. This tendency was already apparent in Britain, Hayek claims, and it
was leading to ‘the control of the monopolies by the state’, which would ‘become
progressively more complete and more detailed’, in the name of efficiency (Hayek, 2006
Denying the supposed ‘inevitability’ of centralised planning of economies in the modern
world (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 45-58), Hayek remains adamant that personal independence is
unlikely among people unable to ‘make their way by their own effort’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944) :
123). Worse, he points to the ‘danger to liberty’ when collectivist notions are allowed to
dominate a society pursuing vague ideals of ‘security’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 123).
The pinnacle of Hayek’s apprehensions is what he believes to be the socialists’ appetite for
so-called ‘absolute’ security. Hayek distinguishes firmly between ‘absolute’ security and
‘limited’ security. According to him, central planners pursue so-called ‘absolute’ security, at
the expense of ordinary citizens’ ability to individually plan their own lives. The ‘limited’
security Hayek advocates entails safety from extreme physical hardship or neediness, and
includes ‘the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all’ — including for individuals
suffering great distress, or who are victim of unemployment waves. ‘Absolute’ security, on
the other hand, entails the supposed security of a minimum income that ‘a person is thought
to deserve’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 124).
Hayek adamantly opposes ‘absolute’ security, contending that it cannot be realised by
everyone in a free society. He argues that it ‘can be provided only for some and only by
controlling or abolishing the market’ since it runs contrary to the principle that remuneration
in each case...