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The Constitution of Liberty

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,724 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
From the $700 billion bailout of the banking industry to president Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package to the highly controversial passage of federal health-care reform, conservatives and concerned citizens alike have grown increasingly fearful of big government. Enter Nobel Prize–winning economist and political theorist F. A. Hayek, whose passionate warning again ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1960)
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Howard Olsen
Jul 24, 2009 Howard Olsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By Friedrich A. Hayek

This is Hayek's magnum opus, a long (but not too long) book that combines his previous studies in economics and political theory to explore the nature of freedom and liberty to answer the eternal question, "What system will deliver the most freedom to the most people?" If you are at all familiar with Hayek's thought, his answer shouldn't surprise you; he was a true believer in liberal democracy and free markets; a descendant simultaneously of John
Otto Lehto
Jun 24, 2012 Otto Lehto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hayek's book is one of the crowning achievements in the "socialism-capitalism" debate of the last 100 years.

It is a deserved classic of liberalism, an argument for a market-oriented society with all its faults.

It provides a classical liberal defence, mostly on utilitarian grounds, for a limited government under what he called "rule of law": the reign of non-arbitrary, non-coercive, abstract and general rules that apply to all citizens equally. The state, although minimal, should offer the maxim
Mar 02, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My reaction to this book is identical to that of most libertarian reviews of it. Methodologically, Hayek is very strong, but he wavers far too easily when it comes to applying his principles. A charitable interpretation is that, in outlining the interventionist measures he accepts as legitimate, he's describing what the government CAN do without screwing things up terribly, not what it SHOULD do. An uncharitable interpretation is that he was a moderate socialist in his early years (his own words ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hayek has gotten a lot of press, lately; some of it from corners of the media world that are quit a bit more, um, colorful than he would himself appreciate. Most of his renewed popularity surrounds his first major political tract, "The Road to Serfdom," written in 1943, which I read 8 or 9 years ago. While that was an important work, it suffered (I think) from somewhat leaden prose, and a more reactive view of developments in the world a that time, especially in Germany and Britain. I liked the ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Lou rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want a plutocracy instead of a democracy
Shelves: essay
I forced myself to read it and it was not a pleasant experience. First, it is boring. Unless you support exactly the same ideology than Hayek, you will very soon be aware that the author does not try to be funny or witty and that he has the same relation with his dogma than the Spanish Inquisition had with Catholicism.

Beyond that, a good example of the nonsense he defends is when he tries to justify inequality. He says for instance that the consumption of the rich is what drives innovation becau
Emily Ekins
Jan 06, 2008 Emily Ekins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone politically courageous
This is best non-fiction book I've read! Absolutely incredible. Hayek is difficult to read, but once you get into it, his language is beautiful and most direct.

He explains WHAT liberty is and shows that most people across history and nations actually have rejected true liberty. (duh) He explain WHAT liberty DOES. Thus he shows WHY we want liberty. So, if we know why we want liberty then we have a reason to stand up for it.

He explains the concept of spontaneous order. He also contrasts the two di
Justin Lonas
May 12, 2012 Justin Lonas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell and others whet my appetite for a more in-depth look at socio-economic studies, so I took a stab at Hayek’s magnum opus.

It’s a bit dense at times, but that’s more a reflection on the reader than the author. This is a tremendous repository of wisdom for citizens of any nation.

Hayek’s commentary on issues from unionism to taxation to social security to state coercion reads as though it was taken from present-day political discussions rather than a 5-decade-old treatise. This is a m
Jan 17, 2014 Zach rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can respect what Hayek was doing here and hence I gave it a few more stars than I would like and a few less than it probably deserves. Hayek wants to create a society that is free of coercion. This is an excellent idea and the logic is sound within its own bubble. However, he settles on a system that is built out of coercion: capitalism. Furthermore, he settles on a dichotomy of capitalism/free markets vs socialism/communism.

Regardless of your stance on the book, it is definitely a must read
Dec 10, 2016 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A phenomenal work, a must read for anyone with an interest in freedom and liberty. As with Hayek's other popular works, it is written to be accessible rather than technical. The first portion of the book is philosophical; though Hayek is remembered for his contributions to economics, his consideration of specifically economic questions and their interrelation with liberty doesn't come until toward the end.

The work is well-known for positing the rule of law as the chief principle to ensure a mod
Jan 09, 2015 Juan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este es uno de los libros más duros que he leído en mi vida, incluso más que alguno que me ha producido escalofríos o hecho cerrar sus tapas durante un rato. En mi empeño por intentar entender las diferentes corrientes sociopolíticas y económicas que nos han traído hasta donde estamos, creo que esta obra es de las que más profundamente pueden haberme afectado en la defensa de mis ideas que, al contrario de las de Margaret Thatcher, no son estas. Es precisamente por esto que lo considero un libro ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Jonas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Prior to reading The Constitution of Liberty I was familiar with its postscript essay, "Why I Am Not a Conservative", in which Hayek defines conservatism both on its own terms and in contradistinction to Hayek's own classical liberal position---for which he prefers the term Old Whig(gism).

During the reading of The Constitution of Liberty, it became clear to me why Hayek saw a need for such an essay: interspersed with convential liberal views (I use "liberal" in the same sense as Hayek, viz., the
Jun 07, 2013 Markus rated it really liked it
In "The Consitution of Liberty" F. A. Hayek steps outside of his field economic sciences and tries to delineate a complete picture of his "libertarian" (or as he calls it "old Whiggism") ideas. Those ideas stretch over the whole bundle of social sciences: economy, law, politics, sociology, philosophy, ethics, and many more. He therby gives a 20th century framework of libertarian philosophy in the vein of his 19th colleges for whom he has great respect.

The book itself is divided into three parts:

Inutile che parliamo noi, facciamo come Ricossa e lasciamo la parola a Hayek.

Il valore della libertà individuale poggia soprattutto sul riconoscimento dell’inevitabile ignoranza di tutti noi nei confronti di un gran numero dei fattori da cui dipende la realizzazione dei nostri scopi e della nostra sicurezza. Se esistessero uomini onniscienti, se potessimo sapere non solo tutto quanto tocca la soddisfazione dei nostri desideri di adesso, ma pure i bisogni e le aspirazioni future, resterebbe poco
Beth Haynes
Jun 30, 2010 Beth Haynes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I responded to a number of quotes on my blog for which I will provide teh links at the end of this review.

This was not an easy read--but I am glad I tackled it. i have a new appreciation for Hayek, and for his significant limitations as a defender of liberty. Hayek gets into trouble (IMO) by defining liberty as a state of minimum coercion. [A far better definition would be a state free from the initiation of force.:] Because he does not adequately distinguish between aggressive force and defensi
Giovani Facchini
Sep 19, 2016 Giovani Facchini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My rating for this book is 3.5.

It is the first book I read focusing on constitutionalism, rule of the law and how freedom and a free society are covered by those concepts, so I am not an expert in the subject. I think Hayek did a great job in defining the terms and concepts (like coercion, freedom, rule of law) he was going to use before starting to comparing them and adding meaning to the arguments.

I must say that I agree with most of those terms, concepts and the connections he made with them.
Nolan Gray
Apr 16, 2015 Nolan Gray rated it it was amazing
An under-appreciated classic of political theory. F.A. Hayek's epistemological argument for liberty, set out in the first half of section one, is a novel argument with wide-ranging implications. Through this section and section two one picks up on the level of conversation Hayek must have been having around this time with Karl Popper; among other articles and books, Popper sets out a critique of historicism, collectivism, and central planning generally in "The Open Society & It's Enemies," r ...more
Aaron Crofut
I read the first two sections and skimmed through the third. Hayek was not a particularly gifted writer and I'm rather disappointed with this work. He occasionally hits one some very important points (namely, the difference between a classical liberal and democratic society, the importance of the rule of law, the possible appropriateness of government providing "common goods", etc.). However, on other issues, there is an amazing lack of clarity. His insistence on the legitimacy of providing "soc ...more
Jan 02, 2015 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot even claim to be a real student of political economics, but I want to understand the opposing positions so loudly shouted about today. I started with a Video "course", "The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas" from The Great Courses, which gave me a basic understanding and guidance as to the recognized figures to read up on.
My first effort was the "Constitution of Liberty" by the Nobel Prize winning Friedrich Hayek, a vehement liberal (read libertarian in today's vocabulary)
Jan 19, 2014 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great arguments, great ideas. Even if you don't agree with Hayek, you should be intimately familiar with his arguments. Must read for anyone with political interests.

The challenge with Hayek is that he elevates the principles of the rule of law to a meta-legal principle, a principle that arose from human action but not of human design, a tradition that embodies the wisdom of generations, knowledge that no one person could attain in a single lifetime. As such, he asserts that we should acknowledg
May 12, 2010 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the Magnus Opus of Friedrich Hayek. Hayek is the John Locke of the 20th century. Must read!

From Amazon:
"One of the great political works of our time, . . . the twentieth-century successor to John Stuart Mill's essay, 'On Liberty.'"—Henry Hazlitt, Newsweek

"A reflective, often biting, commentary on the nature of our society and its dominant thought by one who is passionately opposed to the coercion of human beings by the arbitrary will of others, who puts liberty above welfare and is
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quote:

"The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better."

-F. A. Hayek, the Constitution of Liberty

"It has been well said that, while we used to suffer from social evils, we now suffer from the remedies for them. The difference is that, while in former times the so
Sep 28, 2013 Jayesh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there is one book that has the potential to completely change your views on such words which are so overused to have lost their meaning as liberty, equality, democracy, rule of law then this is it. I had to show a bit of patience and had to read several sentences twice for me to understand the complete significance of what was being said, but all the perseverance was worth it. In today's world where governments are encroaching more an more on individual freedom this is a book to educate us th ...more
Feb 21, 2009 Bernie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Friedrich Hayek has written a great book here in defense of liberty.... and how it can be enhanced or hampered by systems of economics and politics. The writing is a bit dense and elongated for my tastes however. I found it hard to pull up sesinct quotes, and also to pull out meaning within his sentence structure. Probably I am just not the brightest bulb in the pack. Nonetheless, I stuck with it and finished it. I find other economics writings such as Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell to be eas ...more
Hmm this is a tough one. Although the first part on social evolution is pretty good and reminds me a little bit of Herbert Spencer and the second part is also pretty good legal philosophy. It's the third part which just destroys the book. He thinks he is a defender of liberty but the third part is just semi-socialist. That was really really disappointing. I will give it 3 stars. But the first and second part deserve 4 stars.
May 09, 2011 Jared rated it really liked it
The first part is terrific and mostly explains the important principles of freedom.

The second part has some great insights but can be very dry.

In the third part he has some good points but some terrible ideas. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was actually proposing his ideas or just giving a bad example of something that would have a lot of negative drawbacks. Many times it just seemed to be the latter, but not all the time.
Jan 03, 2017 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poli-sci
Hayek may be best know as an economist and the author of The Road to Serfdom, but this is actually his best work. It is a massive and difficult but very rewarding exposition of constitutional theory and the best single work on American constitutionalism since The Federalist. The current edition is an improvement over previous ones in that it features footnotes rather than endnotes. Much of the discussion occurs in the footnotes and it keeps you from having to flip back and forth.
Jan 16, 2011 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
having been forced to school by state bureaucrats, simply to continue working for a living, this book was highly satisfying to me. no, i don't recall most of the work, though i do know that it has to do with liberty and as i recall, hayek defines liberty several ways.

i no longer have my copy, alas. should see if it is available for the kindle, priceless, i'd get one and forget one the karaoke machine tells you. or me. or both.

Jun 06, 2012 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are a few complaints I have about this work, but overall it is a worthwhile read. Hayek makes some errors in his analysis, particularly in his emphasis on progress as the apparently most important goal of political philosophy. He also concedes too much, in my opinion, on the need for the welfare state. Yet, he lays out some good analysis on the need for freedom and the dangers of arbitrary and powerful government that many would do well to remember.
Matthew Summers
Jan 24, 2013 Matthew Summers rated it really liked it
I'm in the bad habit of reading Hayek with Rothbard in mind and only seeing the success of Rothbard's arguments in the shortcomings of Hayek's.

Hayek offers an excellent account of the libertarian project, but read Rothbard for the real deal. The only reason I gave this four stars is because I gave Rothbard five, and this is simply not as good, although still great on its own merits.
Bill V
Jan 19, 2016 Bill V rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I am not a fan of philosophical books, especially when it comes to politics, I really enjoyed this book. I was surprised by his ending section on conservatism. I was surprised given that Hayek spends the vast part of the book analyzing and critiquing political and social policies that would in the United States be seen as left of center.
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Friedrich August von Hayek CH was an Austrian and British economist and philosopher known for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought. He is considered by some to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century. Hayek's account of how changing prices communicate signals which enable indivi ...more
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“From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time” 101 likes
“It is because every individual knows little and, in particular, because we rarely know which of us knows best best that we trust the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.” 33 likes
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