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Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, and the British Conservatives

  • Jeremy Shearmur (a1)

Over the years, Friedrich Hayek has received a generous response from some members of the British Conservative Party. One immediately thinks of endorsements of his work by Mrs. Thatcher in the 1970s and '80s.

Those with longer memories—and teeth—might also recall the controversy around Winston Churchill's first election broadcast in 1945, and the response to it by the Labour leader Clement Attlee, the following evening. Churchill spoke of the dangers of planning, and raised the idea that it would, in the end, require the powers of a Gestapo to put the ideal of a planned society into practice. Attlee criticized these ideas, and Hayek as the source of the theoretical conceptions behind them. This led to a fair bit of attention being paid to Hayek by the press, and to his being described as an economic adviser to Churchill. But Hayek himself has downplayed his direct contacts with Churchill (cf. Hayek 1994, pp. 106–107). Indeed, in Hayek on Hayek (Hayek 1994), Hayek indicates that he met Churchill only once. On that occasion he was struck by Churchill's being the worse for drink and then recovering, to Hayek's surprise, to make a first-rate speech.

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Durbin, E. (1945) Professor Hayek on Economic Planning and Political Liberty, Economic Journal, 55 (12), pp. 357–70.
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Roemer, John E. (1994) A Future for Socialism (London: Verso).
Shearmur, Jeremy (1996) Hayek and After (London: Routledge).
Wootton, Barbara (1945) Freedom Under Planning (London: Allen and Unwin).
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Journal of the History of Economic Thought
  • ISSN: 1053-8372
  • EISSN: 1469-9656
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-history-of-economic-thought
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