Universidad Francisco Marroquin recently made available both the video and transcripts of a series of interviews with F.A. Hayek from the mid-1970's. Not only do they furnish an in depth look into the ideas of one of the past century's most influential thinkers, and pair him with some of the other great economists of the past half-century, they do so with a level of style that only the 1970's could provide.
Can you dig it?
Aid Watch readers might find this part* worth listening to. Hayek lambasts the "intellectuals" for their susceptibility to fads. By "intellectuals" he does not mean primarily academics, but rather "secondhand dealers in ideas" who specialize in conveying ideas to the general public: reporters, teachers, writers, artists, etc. Even though the ideas they propagate are frequently more trendy than well-founded, Hayek claims they end up serving as the public rationale for potentially grave policy decisions, such as interference in the internal governance of other nations.
And in this case, the example Hayek uses as a trendy idea has stuck around, especially in the development and aid world. Is Hayek ahead of the curve or behind the times in his prognosis?
*Those unable to view the video can read the transcript under the fold.
You see, my problem with all this is the whole role of what I commonly call the intellectuals, which I have long ago defined as the secondhand dealers in ideas. For some reason or other, they are probably more subject to waves of fashion in ideas and more influential in the United States than they are elsewhere. Certain main concerns can spread here with an incredible speed. Take the conception of human rights. I'm not sure whether it's an invention of the present administration or whether it's of an older date, but I suppose if you told an eighteen year old that human rights is a new discovery he wouldn't believe it. He would have thought the United States for 200 years has been committed to human rights, which of course would be absurd.
The United States discovered human rights two years ago or five years ago. Suddenly it's the main object and leads to a degree of interference with the policy of other countries which, even if I sympathized with the general aim, I don't think it's in the least justified. People in South Africa have to deal with their own problems, and the idea that you can use external pressure to change people, who after all have built up a civilization of a kind, seems to me morally a very doubtful belief. But it's a dominating belief in the United States now.