Discussion, Construction and Evolution: Mill, Buchanan and Hayek on the Constitutional Order

22 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2006

See all articles by Sandra J. Peart

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies

David M. Levy

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice

Date Written: December 20, 2005

Abstract

There is little doubt that J. S. Mill was one of the greatest classical liberals of the nineteenth century. F. A. Hayek holds the same distinction for the twentieth century. It is, then, something of a puzzle that Hayek is so critical of Mill. In his conversation with James Buchanan, Hayek remarked that the "delusion" that democratic politics is sufficient to limit government authority began with the British utilitarians, including J. S. Mill. Mill's was a "false liberalism" that "always" tended towards "socialism or collectivism": "design theories necessarily lead to the conclusion that social processes can be made to serve human ends only if they are subjected to the control of individual human reason, and thus lead directly to socialism."

It is testimony to the power of Hayek's thought, and his command over the texts, that not only could he make a case, so implausible on its face, but his reading Mill out of the classical liberal tradition proved definitive in some circles. We should not forget that Hayek was also the editor of the celebrated "John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor: Their Correspondence and Subsequent Marriage."

This paper attempts to explain, first, the puzzle of why Hayek was so disenchanted with the economic liberalism of Mill. We link Hayek's criticism of Mill with Buchanan's criticism of Hayek, arguing that both disagreements turn on the role for discussion within the economic and political sphere. We identify the source of Buchanan's unhappiness with Hayek. Buchanan rightly supposed, we show, that Hayek's institutional Darwinism left little room for discussion within the liberal order. The question as Hayek posed it is whether there is role for discussion in "choice of law" the way there is role for discussion in the "choice of legislation." For Mill and Buchanan, the answer is yes; but for Hayek, the answer is no.

Keywords: J. S. Mill, F. A. Hayek, James Buchanan, discussion, construction, social evolution, Darwin, Adam Smith, law, legilstation, liberty

JEL Classification: B20, B31, K00, H00

Suggested Citation

Peart, Sandra J. and Levy, David M., Discussion, Construction and Evolution: Mill, Buchanan and Hayek on the Constitutional Order (December 20, 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=911272 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.911272

Sandra J. Peart (Contact Author)

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies ( email )

Jepson Hall
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

David M. Levy

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice ( email )

MSN 1d3 Carow Hall
4400 University
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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