Bernard Harcourt on Ryan and Hayek

How Paul Ryan enslaves Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom
Bernard Harcourt
The Guardian
September 12, 2012

Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.

Surprisingly, those are the words of Friedrich Hayek, straight out of The Road to Serfdom. And I'm not pulling them out of context: Hayek firmly believed that the government should organize comprehensive systems of social insurance, including health care; should protect citizens against poverty and should ensure, for everyone, "the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all".

With vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan claiming that his ideas are inspired by Hayek and even handing out copies of The Road to Serfdom "to bring new staffers up to speed" – following the earlier highjacking of Hayek by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh – it's time for some intellectual honesty.

Others have usefully begun to discuss the tension between Paul Ryan's politics and Hayek's thought, as well as the internal tensions between Hayek and Ryan's other guru, Ayn Rand. But here, for a moment, let's go back to the primary text, open our University of Chicago Press definitive edition of The Road to Serfdom and honestly read it in relation to the American healthcare debate.