Friday, 22 July 2016

Did Hayek cause a rift between Ayn Rand and Mises?

Ayn Rand; Ludwig von Mises
The interviews about Ayn Rand in 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand by Scott McConnell are useful for drawing an impression of how she was in real life.

One thing that comes to light from a few of these interviews is that Ayn Rand never compromised on basic principles. She consistently and logically lived by her philosophy.

Friedrich Hayek was an important economist (a Nobel Prize winner)—most people believe that he was a defender of liberty. But Ayn Rand had strong disagreements with Hayek; she regarded him as a statist. According to Harry Binswanger, Rand has recommended the works of Ludwig von Mises, but never of Hayek.

In 100 Voices there are three interviews that throw some light on:

1. Ayn Rand’s rejection of Hayek’s ideas
2. How Rand viewed Mises
3. The impact that Rand had on the Austrian school

Interview with Richard Cornuelle
Richard Cornuelle is described in 100 Voices as a writer who was acquainted with Rand during the early 1950s. In response to a question from Scott McConnell, Cornuelle says:

I was home in California and she called me one day, which was the last contact I had with her. She said that she’d been at a party at Hazlitt’s with Mises and “We had the following argument.” It was an argument about the draft. She was opposed to it and it didn't surprise me in the least that Mises disagreed.

According to Richard the draft had something to do with Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Rand thought that Hayek was a statist because he was making too many compromises on issues related to state authority, social security and few other things. She did not regard him as a defender of liberty. But Mises was in favor of overlooking the errors in Hayek’s economic theory.

Richard claims in the interview that “the dispute probably led to a freeze between Ayn and Mises.”

Friedrich Hayek
Apparently in the phone conversation Ayn Rand asked Cornuelle to make a choice between her and Mises. Here’s how Richard remembers the conversation:

I was in the Mises seminar at that time and she said, in effect, “Here’s his position and here’s my position. Whose side you are on? You have to choose. You have to make a decision.” I said, “Well, I’d rather duck.” She said, “You can’t,” and that was it. I never spoke to her again after that.

Interview with Sylvester Petro
Sylvester Petro is described as a writer and a law professor specializing in trade unions. He attended meetings in Rand’s apartment during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his interview to Scott McConnell, Petro says that Von Mises had “a tremendous influence on Ayn Rand.”

He claims in the interview that Ayn Rand told him that  “I don’t agree with him [von Mises] epistemologically but as far as my economics and political economy are concerned, Ludwig von Mises is the most important thing that’s ever happened to me.

Interview with Scott Stanley
Scott Stanley was the former managing editor of the conservative magazine Insight (published by the Washington Times). He knew Rand in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his interview, he describes the great influence that Ayn Rand had on Austrian School:

I’m sure that, without her advocacy and influence, the free-market economics of Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School would never have gone beyond that small coterie of lower-case libertarians associated in the 1950s with the National Association of Manufacturers and the Freeman. What she did was to lead free-market economics out of the stuffy business community and put it into a community of artists and philosophers and intellectuals. And that was vital. They attracted to it a dimension of youthful support, which was vital as well, making it possible to raise up heroes of creativity among the business leaders who followed the age of mechanics to create electronics and high tech.