26th April 2017
Continuing my critique of Hayek’s advice and how it has ruined India.
Thatcher once wrote that “the most powerful critique of socialist planning and the socialist state which I read at this time [the late 1940s], and to which I have returned so often since [is] F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.” [Source]
Thatcher also apparently met Hayek. Hayek chiefly advised the government through his letters but also privately met Thatcher at times:
Letters to The Times played a large part in his modus operandi, partly through frustrated affection for the paper in the age of print union hegemony – his letters of complaint to the subscription department are heartrending – but also because he sought to influence debate as a private citizen, modestly writing from home, rather than as a supposed economic adviser with privileged knowledge whose words would be taken as evidence of Conservative intentions. Such circumspection and good manners only increased the high regard in which he was held by MT, who quickly and comfortably fell into the habit of meeting him one-to-one, trusting to his discretion. [Source]
Which is all good.
But the KEY points is that Thatcher obviously rejected any implication from Hayek (that a lot of useless Indian liberals make) that the real work lies in writing books (or running think tanks). She clearly did not read only Hayek, and was a person with a deep personality and character of her own. She was into politics from the age of 25 and never looked back. Never once did she think that writing books and setting up think tanks had anything to do with advancing liberty.
Hayek, to me, is merely one of HUNDREDS of thinkers who have influenced me. None of the decisions I make with my life are attributable to any single thinker, and the ideas I have formed are essentially mine. My comprehensive rejection of any suggestion that one must influence “intellectuals” is based on observing the history of the world from times immemorial.
In all cases, it was not books but ideas that took the world forward. And ideas such as the idea of liberty are ancient ideas, definitely not the copyright of any single writer. Some people (like Locke and Macaulay) had the gift of both writing and taking the idea forward. Others merely wrote about it. But the world was actually changed ONLY by those who took the idea directly into the arena of politics.
Best is to be a Locke and Macaulay (i.e. both write and act). Second best is to act. Third best (better than doing nothing) is to write or set up a think tank.
The results of think tanks are pathetic beyond belief. After more than 20 years of running Liberty Institute and nearly 20 years of running CCS, these people have not yet generated one student leader in Delhi who will fight for liberty, leave alone a national leader.
Remember, the idea of liberty is not hard to understand. What is hard is to implement it. And that’s why I condemn the few liberal of India who are twiddling their thumbs when India is burning.
Hayek’s Indian followers want to be the Krishna that advised Arjuna. Not good enough.