Essays

Friedrich Hayek and the Jews (Part 3 of 3)

Hayek late in his life

Non-Jewish Characteristics of Hayek’s Thought 

(Page numbers in parentheses refer to Stephen Kresge and Leif Wenar, eds., Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.)

by John I. Johnson

MEMBERS OF HUMAN GROUPS manifest phenotypic similarity in two broad ways: physically, in terms of their external resemblance to one another, and psychologically, in terms of mental character, general intelligence, behavior, shared values and aesthetics, proclivity for particular cultural forms and institutions, and so on. It is instructive to examine Hayek’s thought from the latter perspective.

One common example of the widespread awareness of psychological group differences is the prevalence of such characterizations by Europeans of other European groups. A specimen is Hayek’s depiction of Germans in The Road to Serfdom in 1944 (Hayek, then living in England, sympathized with the Allies):

Few people will deny that the Germans on the whole are industrious and disciplined, thorough and energetic to the degree of ruthlessness, conscientious and single-minded in any tasks they undertake, that they possess a strong sense of order, duty, and strict obedience to authority, and that they often show great readiness to make personal sacrifices and great courage in physical danger. Deficient they seem in most of those little yet so important qualities which facilitate the intercourse between men in a free society: kindliness and a sense of humour, personal modesty, and respect for the privacy and belief in the good intentions of one’s neighbour.

Note that Hayek — whether accurately or not — is delineating a group psychological phenotype. It seems undeniable that such racial and ethnic group psychological characteristics exist, despite the fact that they have never been systematically studied, defined, or analyzed. It is in this sense, in fact — far more than in the morphological one — that Jews stand out most distinctly as a group radically different from Whites and, for that matter, everyone else.

Further with respect to the Germans, Hayek described a 1918 retreat in which he and his fellow Austro-Hungarians (Hayek was a soldier during WWI) fell back in disorder before pursuing Italians. Mentioning that he was the telephone officer of his regiment, Hayek states that this “meant that I knew all the very few German-speaking men, who were the only reliable men in these conditions.” (46)

And in the autumn of his life he recounted “my most moving experience as a university lecturer” — in Cologne, Germany in 1946. “I didn’t have any idea the Germans knew anything about me at that time; and I gave a lecture to an audience so crowded that the students couldn’t get in, in an enormous lecture hall. And I discovered then that people were circulating hand-typed copies of The Road to Serfdom in German, although it hadn’t been published in Germany yet.” Darmstadt “was laid absolutely flat by the war; there didn’t seem to be a city left, just great piles of rubble. I climbed through the rubble into an underground big hole to speak.” (105-106)

Ironically, in England, where Hayek lived, the Jewish Left — which hated Hayek intensely and attacked him viciously — invariably referred to him publicly throughout the war and postwar years not as “F.A. Hayek” or “Friedrich Hayek” but as “Friedrich August von Hayek.” Hayek mentions this four times in the course of a page and a half, so on some level he was clearly aware of the racist intent. (106-107) The objective was to falsely link the anti-National Socialist Hayek’s “reactionary” anti-Communist, anti-Socialist, and classical liberal views with “Nazism” in the public mind. The Jews, who were Left-wing totalitarians (including Communists), could rely upon the atmosphere of anti-German hate created by the media to do the rest.

Ronald Hamowy, the Jewish libertarian who defended Hayek against the libel of “anti-Semitism,” as described in Part 1, indirectly alludes to Hayek’s non-Jewish gentility several times in a 2003 reminiscence. Hamowy describes Hayek as “a somewhat formal man,” “not an effusive person,” “self-possessed and unflappable,” “immensely erudite,” possessing knowledge “gained from books and articles in half a dozen languages.” He further states: “Hayek was given to a certain level of formality and this was reflected in his appearance. He was extremely distinguished-looking, with an air of courtly elegance about him that, at least in my case, discouraged close familiarity. Whenever we spoke I always called him Professor, even though the last time I saw him I was in my forties and we had known each other for over twenty years.”

All of this is the polar opposite of Jewish.

Mentally and morally, too, Hayek seems European. His thought processes are nuanced and analytical rather than abrupt and conclusory. An atmosphere of intellectual tolerance pervades his work, and his profound values and philosophical insights resonate on every page. His reverence for European intellectual attainments and culture is unmistakable.

The great Western social philosophers of centuries past, much like the recumbent Adam in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, await but the touch of Hayek’s finger before springing vibrantly to life, liberated (at least momentarily) from the languid proto-life of secondhand fame, infused anew with spirit, soul, relevance, and vigor. Hayek dazzlingly illuminates their heretofore clouded roles as joint participants in a grand endeavor, the oeuvre of each revealed as contributing to the seamless whole. In short, the entire corpus of Hayek’s work is positive and sustaining, not hostile, accusing, selfish, intolerant, hateful, and destructive.

In a semi-autobiographical essay, “Two Types of Mind,” written in the 1970s, Hayek stated that in his “private language” he viewed “the recognised standard type of scientists as the memory type. It is the kind of mind who can retain the particular things he has read or heard, often the particular words in which an idea has been expressed.” This type of mind is the “master of his subject.” Hayek, by contrast, was a “rather extreme instance of the more unconventional type,” the “puzzler,” whose “constant difficulties, which in rare instances may be rewarded by a new insight, are due to the fact that they cannot avail themselves of the established verbal formulae or arguments which lead others smoothly and quickly to the result. People whose minds work that way seem to rely in some measure on a process of wordless thought. To ‘see’ certain connections distinctly does not yet mean for them that they know how to describe them in words.” One of the major errors of socialism, according to Hayek, was that it was overly dependent on verbal knowledge.

In fact, it is in the realm of psychological phenotype that the ambivalence of Hayek’s philo-Semitism can be seen most clearly, much more so than in the instances of specific “wrongdoing” cited by Melvin Reder.

Here, for example, was Hayek’s instinctive reaction to Marxism and Freudianism when he was a young socialist in Vienna:

The two chief subjects of discussion among students of the [heavily Jewish] University of Vienna in the years immediately after the [First World] war were Marxism and psychoanalysis, as they were to become much later in the West. I made a conscientious effort to study both the doctrines but found them the more unsatisfactory the more I studied them. It seemed to me then and has so appeared ever since that their doctrines were thoroughly unscientific because they so defined their terms that their statements were necessarily true and unrefutable, and therefore said nothing about the world. (48-49)

Both Marx and Freud, of course, were Jews, and the movements they founded were also predominantly Jewish.

Both these groups had one very irritating attribute: They insisted that their theories were, in principle, irrefutable. I remember particularly one occasion when I suddenly began to see how ridiculous it all was when I was arguing with Freudians, and they explained, ‘Oh, well, this is due to the death instinct.’ ‘Oh, then this is due to the life instinct.’ Naturally, if you have these two alternatives available to explain something, there’s no way of checking whether the theory is true or not. (50-51)

Clearly Hayek rebelled (albeit apparently unwittingly) against the familiar Jewish assertion of infallibility, the “chosen by God”/”you shut up, I’ll talk” mentality that gave birth to the gulag, the ADL, the Wiesenthal Center, Mossad, Orwellian “hate speech” restrictions on non-Jewish thought, and all the rest.

Hayek also heaped scorn upon Jew Harold Laski, his totalitarian-Marxist colleague at the London School of Economics:

And [Gentile economic historian Richard] Tawney, who was of course all very Fabian, but a man you could talk with, not doctrinaire, very interesting man; personally I liked Tawney. Harold Laski was almost a joke, and I could never take Harold Laski, but at the time people took him seriously. (83)

The eminent Laski possessed a familiar Jewish trait: He “was a pathological liar.”

Harold Laski

Both Hayek and Laski were book collectors. Laski “would come one midday, enthusiastic; just been to Charing Cross Road, and in one of these boxes there were some beautiful French duodecimal volumes of the eighteenth century. He turned them over, all religious stuff. Suddenly found that the back of one was thicker than the other. So Laski asked him, ‘And how much is it?’ ‘Sixpence each.’ So he put down a shilling, took the two volumes, slit one open, and out fell four letters exchanged between Rousseau and Voltaire. They were never published. But that was typical of the man.” Interviewer: “He just made the story up?” “Completely.” (82)

“Sitting together after dinner listening to the news, Harold had just been to his home, Manchester, and had experienced the first bombing attack. On that occasion he’d been very shaken, because one bomb had fallen close to his hotel and badly shaken him. Three weeks later when I’d heard of this story again, it had his hotel being hit and him falling with his bed four floors into the cellar.” (82-83)

Had Hayek opened his mind to Holocaust revisionism, or willingly observed the institutionalized persecution of Holocaust revisionists, he would have recognized this particular psychological trait instantly. His instinctive negative reactions to Marxism, Freudianism, and Harold Laski were not random idiosyncrasies; he was objecting in a consistent way and on a visceral level to things that are characteristically Jewish.

Ludwig von Mises

Hayek was even critical of his Jewish mentor, Ludwig von Mises, in a fundamental way. Mises’s “masterly critique of socialism has not really been effective,” he said. “Mises’s postulate — if we are strictly rational and decide all the bases, we can see that socialism is wrong — is a mistake.” “The fundamental mistake of rationalism and socialism [is] that we have the intellectual power to arrange everything rationally.” “Mises never could free himself from that fundamental philosophy.”

Contrast Mises’s top-heavy logical-rationalism with Hayek’s Western-style traditionalist, empiricist orientation:

Capitalism presumes that apart from our rational insight we possess a traditional endowment of morals, which has been tested by evolution but not designed by our intelligence. We have never invented private property because we understood these consequences, nor have we ever invented the family. It so happens that these traditions, essentially a religious tradition, and I am as much an agnostic as Mises was, but I must admit that the two decisive traditions which make it possible for us to build up an order which extends our vision cannot be the result of our intellectual insight but must be the result of a moral tradition, which as I now put it is the result of group selection and not of individual selection, something we can ex post interpret. (72-73)

For a sympathetic, libertarian-oriented elaboration of the latter theme, see two essays by Todd Zywicki, “‘Was Hayek Right About Group Selection After All?’ Review Essay of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior by Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson,” Review of Austrian Economics 13: 81-95 (2000) and “Evolutionary Psychology and the Social Sciences,” Humane Studies Review, Vol. 13 (Fall 2000). (“Most classical liberals are somewhat skeptical about the value of studying evolutionary psychology. To some extent this skepticism resides in a misunderstanding of the import of evolutionary psychology, and in particular in the belief that evolutionary psychology believes in the perfect determinacy of human behavior. This latter belief makes evolutionary psychology anathema to those concerned about issues of free will and personal autonomy. This skepticism is unfounded.”)

For an opposite and highly critical view of Hayek’s approach to cultural evolution and spontaneous order, see Andrew Martin Paul Denis, Collective and Individual Rationality: Some Episodes in the History of Economic Thought (PhD Thesis in Economics, City University, London, 2001), Chapter 5, “Friedrich Hayek: A Panglossian evolutionary theorist”. In particular, scroll down to sections 5.4.4 “Group selection” and 5.4.5 “Have Sober and Wilson rescued group selection?” (“It is now necessary to turn to an important issue which has been raised in connection with the points made above, namely whether Sober and Wilson [1998] have rescued the notion of group selection deployed by Hayek. Clearly, if they have, then much of the argument of the present chapter collapses.”)

Hayek

The nature of Hayek’s thought strikes me, at least, as thoroughly European, both in terms of what (from the standpoint of group survival) was adaptive and maladaptive in it. His thought was adaptive in the way that it instinctively rejected alien concepts and ideas on a fundamental level, choosing instead to explore, extend, and elaborate the philosophical and cultural heritage of the West. On the other hand, it was characteristically maladaptive in its failure to apply to Jews the same ethical and moral standards it imposed upon Whites — or, conversely, in its refusal to cede to Europeans the essential ingroup recognition that it implicitly believed Jews and Jewry were entitled to.

Precisely why Jews and Jewry are invariably treated differently, and preferentially, is never explained by Hayek and others like him. Never explained because there is no justification for such a dual moral code that discriminates against one’s own group in favor of a self-conscious, strategizing, antagonistic alien group.

Hayek was not an anarcho-reductionist; he did not dispute the need for, or legitimacy of, social order (i.e., a social group). Insofar as Jews and Jewry were concerned, it was regarded (implicitly yet unmistakably) as inarguable that they were entitled to their own ethno-cultural group identity. Yet when it came to Whites, an asymmetric standard suddenly applied, and similar ingroup recognition was arbitrarily and capriciously denied. Enoch Powell was ejected from the Mont Pelerin Society; a cabal of ethnocentric Jews was not.

As long as the need for some sort of social order, or group, is conceded, it is difficult to see why an ethno-cultural basis is an inappropriate foundation for social organization — particularly if one opposes genocide (an anti-value inherent in the prevailing ideology, or cult, of racial nihilism) or finds the prospect of an all-embracing World State disconcerting. It is even harder to see why ethnocentrism is deemed unacceptable for one group only — Whites — but acceptable (indeed, commendable) for Jews and other non-Whites.

Finally, Hayek failed to see that the spontaneous social order he venerated so highly was the natural, unplanned creation of a particular people possessed of a unique set of heritable attributes, whose inmost nature it both reflected and suited, but was not applicable to all people, at all times, in all places. In particular, the spontaneous order of the West will vanish completely once it falls into the hands of aliens who did not — indeed, could not — create it, and who look upon its institutions, mores, values, and creators with hatred, contempt, and revulsion.

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