Hi fellow SWEAPP (Students Who Enjoy Austrian Political Philosophy) scholars.
As we're just starting this work, and my education in this area is more lacking than I'd like, a lot of what I have to say is limited to first impressions, and hopes for the rest of the work.
Forgive me if I start by recapping the intro and chapter 1:
My understanding of the introduction, is that Hayek believes the beliefs of the West are poorly defined, that the West is unsure of itself, and that this work will try to be general (and not referring to specific nations) while clarifying a number of vague things like "liberty."
Unfortunately, his initial statement that old truths be restated in modern terms to be most effective holds true, as he makes too many allusions to "others" and the Not-West that I'm left a bit confused at times. If he'd have just said communism when he meant it, people like myself who weren't alive until decades after this work was first published might understand it a bit better.
For the first chapter, Hayek discusses the four different kinds of liberty or freedom: Individual, Political (which in the form of democracy has been the West's most firmly held belief in the last few decades), Inner (e.g. free from judgment affecting addictions), and the kind that Hayek hates to call liberty: power, or the ability to affect an end that one wants.
Alright, now that's over with, there's a few things I want to know a little bit more about at this point:
1. What's coercion and what's not?
I feel freedom and especially coercion are kind of poorly defined at this point. Hayek says freedom is solely in relation to other men, but does that include an environment created by other men? A environment of penalties and fees with regards to a basic service such as cellular or land-line phone could easily be described as coercion, as could a larger system of chronic debt or disincentives to capital acquisition that encourage chronic poverty. Yet I get the sense that we're only going to discuss direct "do it or I physically restrain you" coercion with malovent and equally direct intent, even though Hayek specifically mentions environment creation as counting, too.
Say I need Internet to continue to perform my job both as a student and as an IT worker, as well as do things like post in this blog. Then I need to pay GCI (a local monopoly for broadband Internet) a certain amount to do so, and their monopoly status lets them charge an exorbitant rate. I'm still free in the sense that the rock-climber who has the choice between falling and a grueling climb is free, except my situation is an environment entirely engineered by man. Yes, I'm likening my need/want of the Internet to the need/want to die (hey, I chose fast Internet over running water, after all). Or, ff your boss threatened to fire you unless you worked you worked overtime, would that not be coercion? You may object that I placed myself in this situation by choice, but then that objection applies to just about real-life situation I can imagine; if you drive, you expect a possibility of getting pulled over, or if you don't move into International Waters, you expect to pay taxes and be part of civil (as in political) society.
Is taking away wealth taking away liberty? I've certainly gotten that impression from a number of self-professed Austrians who seem to care more about their control over their wealth (specifically protection of it from government) than social issues like gay rights, or more political liberty issues like immigration and citizenship.
For that matter, how is property itself not a restraint? In my econ 101 class, I learned how property is not a relationship between a person and a thing, but a relationship between two or more people (with regards to a thing). E.g. government or other people tell you that you can't do something with regards to an item, such as whether it's eat bread that's not "yours" or a small portion of wages that is "the government's"
2. A constitution solely about liberty? Or Who cares about liberty?
At this point, I hope Hayek isn't going to propose maximizing just the one variable, individual liberty, in creation of a constitution.
The only reason that liberty and freedom from coercion are important is because they protect and promote outcomes on higher indifference curves, right? I may be naive, but right now the only thing people seem to actually care about is the ability to affect ends that they want, right? I'll be watching to see if a different definition of moral "rightness" comes up.
Alright, that's all I have time for, see you folks Thursday.