The AHI is pleased to announce the receipt from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation of a grant for the establishment of two student educational groups devoted to the study of Friedrich Hayek.  The mission of the Koch Foundation  “is to advance social progress and well-being through the development, application, and dissemination of the Science of Liberty.”

The word “freedom,” as the AHI’s charter observes, “had no equivalent in the vocabularies of non-Western civilizations until imported from the West. . . . While the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange seems to have been inscribed in humanity’s genes, a full-blown capitalist system, one based on the private ownership of the non-personal means of production, originated in England.”  Yet at many  elite institutions of higher learning the undergraduate study of free-market economics and of Western culture generally has waned.

On June 9th Friedrich Hayek’s  Road to Serfdom reached #1 on Amazon’s list of  best sellers. Interest in Hayek has probably never higher, even as his contributions remain totally underappreciated within the disciplines of history and economics. With funding from the Koch Foundation, the AHI will establish during the 2010-2011 academic year two Hayek reading groups:  one formed from students at the University of Rochester and one formed from students who are AHI undergraduate fellows, from Hamilton College, Utica College, and other neighboring institutions. Each reading group will consist of between fifteen and twenty students. They would have a common set of core readings. During the course of the year, the groups will meet together at least twice for collaborative discussion centered on a featured speaker, an expert on Hayek. One of the joint gatherings will occur at the University of Rochester; one of the joint gatherings will occur at the Alexander Hamilton Institute. The collaborative sessions that feature guest lecturers on Hayek will be open to the public.

Each reading group will consist of fifteen to twenty students.  The Rochester group will be directed by Professor Michael Rizzo, an AHI Senior Fellow and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester.  The  AHI group will be directed by Professor James Bradfield, co-founder of the AHI and Elias W. Leavenworth Professor of Economics, at Hamilton College.

Each reading group will have a common core of readings:

1. The Road to Serfdom

2. The Constitution of Liberty

3. The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism

4.  “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (available on-line

The Hayek Society at the London School of Economics provides a list of other recommended readings, and Professors Rizzo and Bradfield will draw on those recommendations for additional readings.

Both Professors Bradfield and Rizzo envision the reading group as a site where Hayek’s major ideas are analyzed and then applied to contemporary issues of interest, including but not limited to, eminent domain and property rights, the current fiscal state of many governments, the extension of government activities into the economy, private money, technological change, innovation, social change, institutional progress, legal culture, and developmental economics.

Many of themes that Hayek emphasizes throughout his works are woefully mishandled or ignored even by economists. Hayek focuses on how order emerges without a conscious planner, on the role of “prices” in accumulating and disseminating dispersed, on decentralized knowledge (and the limits to planning in such an environment), and on the underlying incentive structures in institutions that do not fully respect or protect private property rights.

Students in the proposed reading groups will work on brief case studies in planning and development, which serve to highlight Hayek’s major insights in these areas in ways that are not commonly presented in the academic or popular literature.

In expressing his thanks to the Koch Foundation and his enthusiasm for the work ahead, Professor Rizzo commented: “Hayek defined the ‘curious task of economics’  as the  need  ‘to demonstrate to men how little it is they really know about what they imagine they can design’   Studying Hayek allows us to apply this idea more  broadly to all human behavior, not just that which falls within the traditional economic realm.”