Quote of the Week


It is incredible given the current debates around Common Core how much has not changed since Hayek’s time of writing his seminal book, The Constitution of Liberty in the early 1960s. This is evident in his chapter covering the role of government in education and research when he writes,

Even if education were a science which provided us with the best methods of achieving certain goals, we could hardly wish the latest methods to be applied universally and to the complete exclusion of others – still less that the aims should be uniform. Very few of the problems of education, however, are scientific questions in the sense that they can be decided by any objective tests. They are mostly either outright questions of value, or at least the kind of questions concerning which the only ground for trusting the judgment of some people rather than others is that the former have shown more good sense in other respects. Indeed, the very possibility that, with a system of government education, all elementary education may come to be dominated by the theories of a particular group who genuinely believe that they have scientific answers to those problems should be sufficient to warn us of the risks involved in subjecting the whole educational system to a central direction.

Thus, one of Hayek’s main concerns with the a predominate role of government in education was centralized control over the methods of instruction and shutting down any diversity and innovation in teaching methods, even going so far as to indicate that at best such control could invariably lead to a stultifying “scientific” uniform approach to education, and at worst, would lead to a dictatorship of mind control, thus repressing freedom of the mind.  Hayek’s policy prescriptions in the face of such negative consequences, while recognizing the need to still educate one’s citizens and children, was that it is proper for government to mandate children’s education and to provide resources for the truly indigent, but otherwise allow parents and children to choose which manner of education was most suited to them, and conversely for their to be a proliferation of education options that provided a diversity of instructional methods.


How Automatable is Your Job? How Much Will the Minimum Wage Accelerate Automation?


Courtesy of the great blog Cafe Hayek , I came across this fascinating interactive graph built upon no doubt painstaking McKinsey analysis of the range of U.S. occupations and where they sit on axes of how automatable the occupations are and their average hourly wage range.

The common canard from left-leaning advocates for an increase in the minimum wage is that it will improve conditions more than it will harm them – an assumption that more people will benefit from improved wages than will be harmed by being laid off. This graph shows that there are millions of individuals that would be greatly at risk of being automated out of a job – if not now, than in the near future as incentives for innovation in automation would increase.

For advocates of the minimum wage being increased, keep in mind the unintended consequences of what you advocate for. Aside from the fact that one unintended consequence is that those that are most in need of a job are automated out of it, one of the less often talked about realities of a government forced wage floor is that even if it has relatively benign impacts on labor (which in fact it most surely will be more than harmless) is the reality that at best, market and political forces will fuel inflation such that equilibrium and the market clearing price is met once again. This is something that Hayek documents in his writings. Thus, even in its most harmless hypothesized state, a forced raising of the minimum wage is ineffective at best in the intermediate term. In the worst (and most likely) case, it is human labor crushing at the end of the skill scale where people are most in need of a job.

Quote of the Week

This begins my attempt to provide my quote of the week, hereafter published every Friday. This week, I present a quote from F.A. Hayek on his definition of liberty in his book, Constitution of Liberty.

Clearly, a slave will not become free if he obtains merely the right to vote, nor will any degree of “inner freedom” make him anything but a slave – however much idealist philosophers have tried to convince us to the contrary. Nor will any degree of luxury or comfort or any power that he may wield over other men or the resources of nature alter his dependence upon the arbitrary will of his master. But if he is subject to the same laws as all his fellow citizens, if he is immune from arbitrary confinement and free to choose his work, and if he is able to own and acquire property, no other men or group of men can coerce him to do their bidding.