Hayek and Economic Policy (The Austrian Road to the Third Way)

Enrico Colombatto Università di Torino and ICER

Abstract: By examining Hayek’s approach to economic policy, this paper tries to show that his understanding of a free-market society was ambiguous, if not contradictory. Hayek was indeed following the Austrian tradition by rejecting technocratic views of policymaking. Nevertheless, he advocated a constitutional approach ultimately based on the rule of law created behind a veil of ignorance. Regulation and a fairly extensive welfare state are not ruled out either, and are subject to evaluation through a mix of rule of law (what that means), public opinion, common sense.

After close inspection of the Road to Serfdom, the Constitution of Liberty, Law, Legislation and Liberty this contribution concludes that not only does Hayek fail to provide clear answers to the fundamental questions of economic policy. He also advocates a Third Way characterised by enlightened social engineering. In particular, the state has the duty to provide a suitable framework for the individual to develop his action, and to meet those social needs that the market fails to satisfy.