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Hayek and Humboldt on Freedom and the Role of the State

  • Birsen FilipEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Archival Insights into the Evolution of Economics book series (AIEE)

Abstract

Although Hayek did not explicitly cite or source Wilhelm von Humboldt’s (1792) The Limits of State Action as one of his intellectual sources, comparing their work and publications uncovers striking similarities between their ideas and arguments on a number of subjects: especially the concept of freedom, the spontaneous forces of society, the importance of diversity, progress within society, the role of the state, the role of the legal framework, and the limited nature of human knowledge. Hayek’s political philosophy also excluded a number of factors that Humboldt regarded as crucial for the achievement of freedom, including the notion that human nature possesses multiple aspects and the necessity of establishing harmonious relationships within the community. Additionally, Hayek never mentioned anything pertaining to the achievement of the highest self-development or the development of individuality, which are vital components of Humboldt’s idea of freedom. Hayek may not have properly cited Humboldt’s views for purely strategic reasons—Humboldt was a nineteenth century German liberal whose work was in conflict with the views of Hayek’s financial supporters.

Keywords

Humboldt Individuality Economic forces of society Freedom Role of the state 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OttawaOttawaCanada

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