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Book Review: Friedrich Hayek

Cover of  by Eamonn Butler

If Guy Fraser-Sampson?s talk has inspired you to find out more about the ideas of Friedrich Hayek, then Dr Eamonn Butler?s excellent primer on the Austrian economist?s works would not be a bad place to start.

Subtitled ?The ideas and influence of the libertarian economist?, this very readable summary of Hayek?s philos- ophy is not limited to his purely economic work. In fact, what this book shows is just how broad Hayek?s interests were. Although he won a Nobel Prize for his work in economics, only two out of the ten chapters are explicitly about the eco- nomic system (although it could be said that the final couple of chapters criticising socialism address broad economic issues). The rest cover ide- ological territory more often described as politics, philosophy and even psychology, which a young Hayek had considered as a career and which influenced many of his other theories.

Eamonn blends Hayek?s thoughts on all of these subjects together well, reminding us that economics cannot exist in a vacuum and relies on political structures and human psychology as much as, if not more than, pure mathematics.
The book covers all of this in a mere 146 pages, but goes into just enough detail to leave your curiosity feeling satisfied without becoming too bogged down in any particular topic (and there are plenty of refer- ences towards other works in case you wish to explore an idea further).

My only negative comment regards the way Eamonn discusses criticism of Hayek. Although the book attempts to identify the key arguments that followers of Hayek often face (both from the left and the right), it often skims over counter-arguments, dismissing the critics without really dealing with the issues brought up.

However, this doesn?t detract from the feeling, having finished the book, of being enlightened without being lectured. If only such easily digestible summaries were available for every important economist!

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