Friedrich von Hayek’s ‘The Intellectuals and Socialism’ (1949) appears to be an important work, for perhaps almost all libertarian/free-market think tanks lead back to it. The spirit of the essay, which was written in response to the great flurry of postwar social planning, runs warm in Australia’s own Institute for Public Affairs (IPA): the defence of free-market ideas in principle rather than via pragmatics.
It is also insightful beyond its immediate (ideological) aims.
It covers the following:
- Intellectuals have more power than they are given credit
- For this greason socialism – or rather, the principles of planned economy – had become a dominant in public policy
- But why are intellectuals, above all the brightest ones, so attracted to socialism? Because socialism espouses a visionary utopian existence which inspires, whereas liberal thinkers tend to fixate on more mundane practicalities of the present
- In conclusion, liberalism needs its own inspiring visionary thinkers
What is an intellectual?
For Hayek the class of intellectuals is broad. These ‘professional secondhand dealers in ideas’ are the consumers, synthesisers, and above all disseminators of ideas and conceptual frameworks. It is a class composed of the literate and educated: teachers, academics, and journalists, but also scientists and doctors.