Sunday, January 30, 2011

Freedom and Liberty: Hayek week 1

Hayek makes some very good points in the Introduction of the Constitution of Liberty, some of my personal favorites are:

"Though the sentiments which are expressed in such terms as the 'dignity of man' and the the 'beauty of liberty' are noble and praiseworthy, they have no place in an attempt at rational persuasion" (6)
"The meaning of some of the indispensable words has become so vague that it is essential that we should at the outset agree on the sense in which we shall use them. The words 'freedom and 'liberty' have been the worst sufferers. They have been abused and their meaning distorted until it could be said that 'the word liberty means nothing until it is given specific content, and with a little massage it will take any content you like.' " (7)

This book was originally published in 1960, so television was around but nothing like today, but I find it interesting that in 1960 before we got hit by the cable news networks Hayek makes these points about 1.) how appealing to a persons emotion has no place in rational arguments and 2.) words like freedom and liberty have been used so much and in so many different contexts that they have lost their meaning, or even value some might say.
Today it seems like politicians and others (but the main guilty party is most definitely politicians) mindlessly throw out words like freedom and liberty to appeal to peoples emotions, and because these are the kind of words that have been "massaged" into meaning whatever the author wants them to mean, they become more effective tools in winning audience members. This has a short term and long term effect.

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