Monday, October 28, 2013

From Coolidge to Hayek

Frank Pasquale

I enjoyed the quote from Coolidge posted by Gerard, and I thought this summary of Hayek's views (from Corey Robin) might also get at the heart of ideological differences over, say, progressive taxation, minimum and maximum wages, and other distributive issues:
Often, says Hayek, it is only the very rich who can afford new products or tastes. . . . The most important contribution of great wealth, however, is that it frees its possessor from the pursuit of money so that he can pursue nonmaterial goals. Liberated from the workplace and the rat race, the “idle rich”—a phrase Hayek seeks to reclaim as a positive good—can devote themselves to patronizing the arts, subsidizing worthy causes like abolition or penal reform, founding new philanthropies and cultural institutions.
Those born to wealth are especially important: not only are they the beneficiaries of the higher culture and nobler values that have been transmitted across the generations—Hayek insists that we will get a better elite if we allow parents to pass their fortunes on to their children; requiring a ruling class to start fresh with every generation is a recipe for stagnation, for having to reinvent the wheel—but they are immune to the petty lure of money. . . .
The men of capital, in other words, are best understood not as economic magnates but as cultural legislators: “However important the independent owner of property may be for the economic order of a free society, his importance is perhaps even greater in the fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs.”
The paramount importance of such a class is also apparent in Burke's thought.

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