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The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,490 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Hayek gives the main arguments for the free-market case and presents his manifesto on the "errors of socialism." Hayek argues that socialism has, from its origins, been mistaken on factual, and even on logical, grounds and that its repeated failures in the many different practical applications of socialist ideas that this century has witnessed were the direct outcome of th ...more
Paperback, 194 pages
Published August 28th 1991 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1988)
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4.24  · 
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 ·  1,490 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hayek argues that the "moral" institutions of free market capitalism, such as private property and contract, represent the result of an evolutionary process between competing traditions. Humanity, through the conscious design of no one, gradually moved towards capitalism since it is best at providing materially for population growth and the strength and comfort of those following the tradition. The Western political tradition, therefore, represents the outcome of an invisible bottom-up process t ...more
Duncan Berry
This ranks highly as one of the most impactful and important books of my lifetime.

I read it at an opportune moment — less than two years after returning from an exchange scholarship behind the former Iron Curtain and about a year after the Fall of the Wall.

It explained so much of what I saw, as well as what I was encountering since my return, including the kind of conduct I was witnessing in, of all places, Ivy League faculty meetings. This "fatal conceit," the epistemological hubris that enab
Jun 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
My favorite part was the chapter on the loss of meaning in our language. He examines how different groups hijack terms and alter them to suit their own meaning. Particularly, he looks at the word 'society'. He shows how it was co-opted to mean 'government' by Marx for his purposes, then it became a word you could put in front of 120+ other words as an adjective to the point that we don't even know what the word means any more.

He talks about how order rises from chaos naturally through competitio
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and other books but hadn’t read The Fatal Conceit. I’ve heard good things from others, and the read certainly matched the hype. Sure, it’s a bit dense, as that’s how Hayek wrote, but there is much packed in this relatively short book.

There is an excellent overview of his defense of capitalism, which is based on spontaneous order, and offense against socialism. The key points about the failure of the knowledge problem and the calculus problem with socialism
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
[Second reading] My first review was effusive, to say the least. Still a fantastic book, but I'm not sure it warrants the adoration. I might have been so enthusiastic the first time around because this was my first encounter with a clear, concise explication of spontaneous order.


[First reading]
Fantastic. Clear, well-argued, and sound, Hayek not only manages to slam the last nail into the coffin of central-planning but also synthesizes all free market theory into one concise concep
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bria by: Michael Raimondi
I suppose one of the main reasons I like this book is because it supports one of my main theories about life: we evolved the capacity for self-awareness and abstract thought by accident of history, and there is therefore no reason to expect happiness, satisfaction, justice, or any other moral, emotional, or complex good to be achievable or maintainable in our lives, let alone in society as a whole. (Summarized as briefly as I could).
So one of Hayek's main contentions is that: achieving many thin
Adam Lund
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, politics
This one took a while. A short book, but dense with thoughts and insight supporting the case for free markets and pointing out the "errors of socialism". At a time when many young Americans increasingly identify with socialism, Hayek's "Fatal Conceit" is a valuable counter-argument in favor of evolved systems of cooperation and exchange known as the extended order. I was first exposed to Hayek's arguments in college, in summary form, and later in reading "The Road to Serfdom". The Fatal Conceit ...more
Sebastian Nickel
Oct 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
Is it proper to put books you've discarded when you were halfway through them on the "read" shelf?
I listened to (half of) this book on Audible and honestly found it increasingly hard to bear. It is a spectacle of rambliness.

I picked it up because I wanted to give Hayek a proper chance by reading an entire book by him. I agree with Hayek's main theses as I understand them, but had been puzzled for a while about why many people revere his work as much as they do. It seems difficult to find much of
Adrián Sánchez
Para ser el último libro de Hayek no está mal tomarlo como inicio y referencia a las críticas hacia el socialismo y mostrar las bondades del capitalismo, el cual lo ve como algo generado mediante el orden espontáneo y que de manera evolutiva se ha mantenido como el mejor mecanismo para el progreso de la sociedad, al contrario de otras ideologías de caracter racional y científico que entorpecen este mismo progreso, el libro me hizo comprender más la idea libertaria, a lo largo de este libro Hayek ...more
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Socialism fails because no one is smart enough to determine the wants, needs, and desires of society. Only the individual can determine those things for him or herself.
Joshua Nuckols
Apr 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, politics
I agree with his premise about man's Fatal Conceit in attempting to order an economy -- men are too sinful -- too stupid to do it successfully. Hayek has a Fatal Flaw -- his evolutionary materialism gives him no "rationally justifiable" basis for morality. All he has is tradition, and "traditional values."

Another problem is his insistence on society being governed by a "spontaneous order." This is ideologically different from Adam Smith's "invisible hand," which any Christian quickly recognizes
Letitia Todd Kim
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book deepened my understanding of why socialists believe what they do, and why socialism is premised on the titular “fatal conceit.” Hayek criticizes socialism not for its effects (a common practice these days), but for its premise: rational constructivism, or in other words, the idea that a perfect or near-perfect society can and should be designed using human reason.

Free market capitalism, Hayek notes, was not so designed. Rather, it evolved organically over millennia by natural selection
Jeff Stockett
Feb 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, economics
F.A. Hayek takes a logical approach to explaining why socialism (i.e. government control of markets) doesn't work. He explores the historical origins of markets as well as many of the economic theories of his contemporaries.

He gets into some fascinating subjects. A few that I thought were interesting were

- He explores how the theories of John Maynard Keynes are are amoral and how free markets are actually more moral than socialized markets

- He explores how religion has affected markets and the v
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is not light reading, but it gives an interesting argument to explain the current state of affairs in the world today and the problems associated with socialist thought. My complaint about Hayek is that he's excruciatingly exacting. He's the kind of person who picks a very particular word to have a very particular meaning and anything outside that meaning is totally foreign. This kind of mindset leads to some rough reading.
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The problem with the masses is that they don't read stuff like this, and even if they did chances are they'd still rather ignore than accept it.
Alison Zoccola
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I've been trying to read more authors whom I disagree with lately, and reading Hayek is part of that. I really appreciate that Hayek engages with socialism's problems, not on political and/or ideological terms, but addresses them directly. However, as someone with socialist (not communist-- pure communism is as harmful as pure capitalism) leanings, I don't think these problems are permanent and unsolvable. His assertion that the market is an entity beyond the control of any one person or group o ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
In The Fatal Conceit, Hayek does a great job laying out the reasons why a market economy is better—much better—than a centrally planned one. What I found most interesting was his analysis of why people rarely appreciate the modern economy, often seeking to uproot it in favour of inferior replacements.

He argues that the widespread disdain for capitalism (and craving for communism) comes from us trying to impose the rules of the "micro-cosmos" (family, friends, and tight-knit community) onto the
Lasse Birk Olesen
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"it is important to avoid, right from the start, a notion that stems from what I call the 'fatal conceit': the idea that the ability to acquire skills stems from reason. For it is the other way around: our reason is as much the result of an evolutionary selection process as is our morality. It stems however from a somewhat seperate development, so that one should never suppose that our reason is in the higher critical position and that only those moral rules are valid that reason endorses."

Mauro Kleber
Temos que considerar que Hayek faleceu em 1992 aos 93 anos e portanto não assistiu ao que aconteceu na crise de 2008 e nem pode avaliar o o impacto da internet na velocidade de oscilação do mercado e da possibilidade da manipulação do mercado financeiro e de commodities pelos especuladores. A sua análise das vantagens do neoliberalismo são portanto datadas e não se aplicam mais com a mesma simplicidade e pureza. Outro equívoco, se assim posso chama-lo é o que cometem os liberais e os economistas ...more
Willy Robert
O livro é muito bom, é algo para se ler mais de uma vez e assim, realmente absorver o conteúdo. O que achei, num certo sentido, desconfortável é o fato do autor sempre basear seus argumentos na teoria Darwiniana. Mesmo assim, o livro é bom no que se propõe. A linha do raciocínio de Hayek é que o homem, intrinsecamente, é um ser dado a competição e evolução, e isso, faz com que a sociedade avance, evolua e contribua para a sobrevivência de todos. O autor também destrói os argumentos da teoria Mal ...more
Noah Milstein
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent overall though I have some quibbling disagreements about the analysis of morality, which, though I do think there may be an innate and essential relationship to evolved abstract rules, it seems to me there must also be a necessary relationship to the well being or suffering of conscious creatures. Similarly I have some quibbles with the analysis on group selection and cultural evolution which at the time of writing seems to be wanting an injection of the 'meme' intuition pump to refram ...more
Mary Sasala
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a beast of a book. Don't let the 140 pages fool you, this book took me a long time to plough through. Hayek is no idiot. His arguments are just very, very deep. He takes apart the arguments for socialism from about every angle. Would I recommend this for anyone interest in politics, history or philosophy, Yes! But be ready for tough read.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
I liked this book more than I thought I would. It focuses too much on what Jordan Peterson calls the equality of outcome not the equality of opportunity. Interesting link with evolution and economics, that was cool. Also personal property being such a right in modern day society shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Jackson Cyril
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
A work of some intellectual merit. I (not surprisingly) disagree with both Hayek's premises--he is fond of elevating his dogmatic assertions to the height of mathematical axioms, and his conclusions, but unlike his other works, there is less dogma here and a greater willingness to engage in debate with the reader.
Márcio Karsten
Uma obra que aponta o porquê de o socialismo não ter prosperado com uma linguagem acessível (mas não fácil) e utilizando autores clássicos para embasar suas argumentações.

Um discurso de peso, que refuta - sem contestações possíveis - os mimimis da esquerda.
Ryu Tofts
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hayek’s errors of socialism

Hayek masterfully describes his thesis and presents the extended order to his readers. I highly recommend to all interested readers and especially highly rational persons.
César Serradas
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hayek faz uma crítica antropológica ao socialismo e suas bases. É um excelente escape às considerações económicas comuns e aborda a natureza humana. O livro é pequeno mas tem enorme bagagem bibliográfica e é de leitura pesada. Para leitores avançados nos temas abordados.

Taylor Barkley
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brief, yet wide in scope. Civilization keeps billions alive via the decentralized, unknowable market order. Any attempt to centralize decision making in place of markets is thus a fatal conceit meaning people today and those yet to be born will die.
John Bolles
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political-theory
Refutes the concepts of socialism using evolution and tradition. Very interesting.
Rogier Potter van loon
Interesting, but difficult to get through, and a bit too anti-socialist for my liking.
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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
“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine the can design.” 66 likes
“Morals, including especially, our institutions of property, freedom and justice, are not a creation of man’s reason but a distinct second endowment conferred on him by cultural evolution - runs counter to the main intellectual outlook of the twentieth century. The influence of rationalism has indeed been so profound and pervasive that, in general, the more intelligent an educated person is, the more likely he or she now is not only to be a rationalist, but also to hold socialist views (regardless of whether he or she is sufficiently doctrinal to attach to his or her views any label, including ‘socialist’). The higher we climb up the ladder of intelligence, the more we talk with intellectuals, the more likely we are to encounter socialist convictions. Rationalists tend to be intelligent and intellectual; and intelligent intellectuals tend to be socialist.
One’s initial surprise at finding that intelligent people tend to be socialist diminishes when one realises that, of course, intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence, and to suppose that we must owe all the advantages and opportunities that our civilisation offers to deliberate design rather than to following traditional rules, and likewise to suppose that we can, by exercising our reason, eliminate any remaining undesired features by still more intelligence reflection, and still more appropriate design and ’rational coordination’ of our undertakings. This leads one to be favorably disposed to the central economic planning and control that lie at the heart of socialism… And since they have been taught that constructivism and scientism are what science and the use of reason are all about, they find it hard to believe that there can exist any useful knowledge that did not originate in deliberate experimentation, or to accept the validity of any tradition apart from their own tradition of reason. Thus [they say]: ‘Tradition is almost by definition reprehensible, something to be mocked and deplored’.”
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