Monday, May 09, 2011

Friedrich Hayek: 19th-Century-Born Video Star of the 21st Century

Sunday's New York Times featured a book review by Francis Fukuyama of a new edition of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty, originally published in 1960 by the University of Chicago Press (the same publisher of the new edition, which is edited by historian Ronald Hamowy).

As Fukuyama notes in his first paragraph, Hayek -- who was born in 1899 and who died two decades ago -- is enjoying something of a renaissance of interest:

The publication of the definitive edition of Friedrich A. Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty” coincides with the unexpected best-seller status of his earlier book “The Road to Serfdom” as a result of its promotion by the conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck. In an age when many on the right are worried that the Obama administration’s reform of health care is leading us toward socialism, Hayek’s warnings from the mid-20th century about society’s slide toward despotism, and his principled defense of a minimal state, have found strong political resonance.
That Glenn Beck is a fan of Friedrich Hayek should not be held against Hayek, because the Austrian-born Nobel laureate -- who also wrote about politics, society, philosophy, and culture -- is admired by far more intellectually solid individuals, not just Lonesome Rhodes types but also university teachers, think-tank scholars, journalists, business executives, and rap-music video producers.

Rap-music video producers?

Indeed, a surprising YouTube hit of recent months has been "'Fear the Boom and Bust' a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem," produced by George Mason University economist Russell Roberts and video artist John Papola. Since its Internet debut in January 2010, "Fear the Boom and Bust" has racked up 2,212,104 hits (and counting), leading to a sequel that was released on April 27, "Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two," which has had 589,253 views in less than two weeks.

That's a lot of fans for two economists who ended up in the long run just as Keynes predicted they would.  Still, their ideas are still alive.

Here are the two videos.  You can judge their intellectual (and entertainment) quality for yourself.

"Fear the Boom and Bust":

"Round Two":
For those interested in diving deeper into the continuing controversy among public intellectuals about Hayek, his ideas, and his legacy, take a look at the Mercatus Center's Peter Boettke's brief response at Coordination Problem to Fukuyama (who has his own new book on store shelves now, part one of The Origins of Political Order).  I'm sure it is just the start of a stimulating conversation.

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