Any thoughts about libertarianism?

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Mon Apr 29 09:23:32 MDT 1996

On Sun, 28 Apr 1996, Doug Henwood wrote:
> As I said in my original post, libertarianism is a many-splendored thing,
> which conceded diversity as I was about to generalize wildly. I was
> referring mainly to vulgar libertarianism of the sort one runs into on the
> net and in The American Spectator. You, Chris S., are of course many miles
> above that nonsense.
	Thanks Doug.

> One of the stranger intra-lib doctrinal disputes is the Hayek-von Mises
> split. I suppose if I devoted some serious time to figuring it out, I
> could, but maybe you could provide me with the Readers' Digest version.
	Well, this is a somewhat complex dispute, and of course, we
should take the disputation as something WITHIN obvious agreement on many
issues.  Some have observed that Hayek's introduction to Mises's
SOCIALISM was a bit like "dancing on Mises's grave" -- but really, when
all is said and done, the major dispute between Hayek and Mises is
methodological, though even here, there are some close parallels.  Mises
was a modern Austrian theorist who constructed his case for economic
science on the basis of a few simple "action axioms" -- the basis of
"praxeology."  Praxeology, as an "extreme apriorism," has been practiced
in various guises by a number of continental thinkers; even Oskar Lange
has made some observations in this area.  Fundamentally, Mises begins his
science of human action with the self-evidency that human beings act
purposefully.  On the basis of this axiom, he deduces many implications
which eventually spill over into a systemic grasp of the "catallaxy" --
or market order.  Hayek argued that Mises's approach was a kind of
supreme rationalism which he could not endorse.  Hayek was much more
evolutionist in his thrust, and perhaps closer to the hermeneuticians on
the continent.  But many Austrians have observed that Mises's development
includes a deep hermeneutic twist as well, so the formal distinctions
between Mises and Hayek are probably less radical than some might believe.
	Nevertheless, the differences between Mises and Hayek should not
obscure the fact that they were colleagues and two of the most prolific
writers in the modern libertarian tradition, making a substantive
epistemological case for markets, while challenging their socialist
adversaries on epistemic grounds with regard to the problems of central
	I will be devoting some space to the distinctions between Mises
and Hayek in my forthcoming book -- which won't be out for a while --
tentatively entitled TOTAL FREEDOM.
					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at

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