Cambridge Talk on Hayek

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Tonight I will talk briefly about the Keynes-Hayek relationship, then will focus on some of Hayek’s insights that may be of relevance today.

In the process I hope to clear up some misconceptions about Hayek, who is a frequent subject of caricature by friend and foe alike.

Keynes and Hayek are typically portrayed as intellectual rivals, and the differences between them juxtaposed in rather simplistic terms. Now though there are certainly elements of truth in such broad-brushed accounts, the actual history of their relationship is much more complicated and nuanced, and as an historian I am obliged to add, much more interesting.

The first surprise about the relationship is that when Hayek was a college student in Vienna after World War I Keynes was one of his heroes. This was because of Keynes’ fiery condemnation of the “Carthaginian” terms of the Versailles Treaty in his Economic Consequences of the Peace; his phrase “the murder of Vienna” would have had a special resonance for Hayek during the long, cold and hungry winters that followed the war.

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