“People are fully alive to the superstition in priests,” Lord Salisbury once remarked. “In time they will find out that professors may be just as bad.” Salisbury was a Conservative prime minister of Britain in the late nineteenth century, and his scepticism was to be sorely missed during the twentieth century, when religious superstition in the West gave way to the academic and political kind. And it is with a notable example of such folly that Alan Ebenstein introduces his new biography of F. A. Hayek, the economist and social philosopher who won the Nobel Prize in 1974.[1] The Soviet Union, wrote Paul Samuelson of Harvard, also a Nobel Prize winner, “is proof that contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.” “Proof” is not a word economists should use lightly, but the sentence still features in his...

 

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