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Hayek Limited & Absolute Security Essay

1508 words - 7 pages

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

political forms.

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

(1944): 42).

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...

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