Born on May 8th, 1899 in Vienna, Friedrich August von Hayek was a scholar by nature and pedigree. His father and grandfathers either taught or studied the natural sciences and economics. When Hayek entered the University of Vienna, his intellectual appetites led him to pursue courses in philosophy, psychology, and economics. He was hired soon after by Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian economist.
It was through Mises that Hayek became professionally involved with economics, developing research on behalf of the Viennese government and New York University. Upon reading Mises’ Socialism, Hayek adopted classical liberalism, becoming a noted member of the Austrian school of economics.
As a powerful challenge to the developing establishment consensus on both sides of the Atlantic for a proactive role for the state, The Road to Serfdom established Hayek’s status as a strong voice of the libertarian right. Henry Hazlitt once remarked that “Hayek has written one of the most important books of our generation. It restates for our time the issue between liberty and authority with the power and rigor of reasoning that John Stuart Mill stated in his great essay, ‘On Liberty'” (82).
Fearing the growing enthusiasm for state intervention and planning in 1940s Britain and its similarities to the roots of Nazi tyranny, Hayek argued that it would be impossible for a planned economy to mimic the complexities of the free market (in which information is naturally widely dispersed) and that, in their attempt to gather the information and resources needed to establish an efficient market, planners would be pushed towards an ever-increasing accumulation of power. This accumulation of information and power would, Hayek argued, lead inexorably towards totalitarianism, leading the nation down a “road to serfdom.”
In the decades that followed Hayek played a key role in bringing reinvigorated free-market ideas back to the intellectual and political mainstream. While he was a prolific author, he was also known for his relationships with other prominent scholars and statesmen.
One significant ally was the philosopher Karl Popper. Both were born in Vienna and studied at the same university, though they came to know each other through their work at the London School of Economics. They shared views on many issues in politics and economics, with Hayek even reading Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies before its publication. In the inscribed first edition of The Road to Serfdom featured above, Hayek refers to Popper as his “fellow struggler for freedom.”
Hayek is also well known for his influence upon British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She once held up a copy of his Constitution of Liberty before a meeting of British Conservatives and said “This is what we believe.” So profound was her respect for Hayek’s work, despite their limited interaction, that she advised Queen Elizabeth II to award Hayek the Royal Companion of Honour. He was duly awarded in 1984 for his contributions to the field of economics and English public policy, which he later called “the happiest day of my life.”
In addition to the unique pieces featured above, our collection also includes first editions of Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, Thatcher’s memoirs, and Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies. View the complete collection of titles related to Hayek currently in our collection here as well as all titles in the subject of Economics.