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Mar 12, 2004 3:10 am


Wonderful Hayek Quote



My March 2004 *Freeman* arrived today (and thanks to new FEE president Richard Ebeling for getting back the original name), complete with a short tribute to Leonard Read that Hayek wrote in 1968. The piece is called "The Defense of Our Civilization Against Intellectual Error." I am going to quote at length from the last two paragraphs because it is a call for civility and the assumption of good faith in political argument that is often absent these days.
It seems to me that the worst mistake a fighter for our ideals can make is to ascribe to our opponents dishonest or immoral aims. I know it is sometimes difficult not to be irritated into a feeling that most of them are irresponsible demagogues who ought to know better. But though many of the followers of what we regard as the wrong prophets are either just plain silly, or merely mischievous troublemakers, we ought to realize that their conceptions derive from serious thinkers whose ultimate ideals are not so very different from own and with whom we differ not so much on ultimate values, but on the effective means of achieving them.

I am indeed profoundly convinced that there is much less difference between us and our opponents on the ultimate values to be achieved than is commonly believed, and that the differences between us are chiefly intellectual differences. We at least believe we have attained an understanding of the forces which have shaped civilization which our opponents lack. Yet if we have not yet convinced them, the reason must be that our arguments are not yet quite good enough, that we have not yet made explicit some of the foundations on which our conclusions rest. Our chief task therefore must be still to improve the argument on which our case for a free society rests.

Amen, brother Hayek, amen.

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