Friedrich Hayek

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In February 1975 Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the British Conservative Party. The Institute of Economic Affairs arranged a meeting between Hayek and Thatcher in London soon after.[31] During Thatcher's only visit to the Conservative Research Department in the summer of 1975, a speaker had prepared a paper on why the "middle way" was the pragmatic path the Conservative Party should take, avoiding the extremes of left and right. Before he had finished, Thatcher "reached into her briefcase and took out a book. It was Friedrich von Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. Interrupting our pragmatist, she held the book up for all of us to see. 'This', she said sternly, 'is what we believe', and banged Hayek down on the table".[32]

In 1977 Hayek was critical of the Lib-Lab pact, in which the British Liberal Party agreed to keep the British Labour government in office. Writing to The Times, Hayek said: "May one who has devoted a large part of his life to the study of the history and the principles of liberalism point out that a party that keeps a socialist government in power has lost all title to the name "Liberal". Certainly no liberal can in future vote "Liberal"."[33] Hayek was criticised by Liberal politicians Lord Gladwyn and Andrew Phillips, who both claimed that the purpose of the pact was to discourage socialist legislation. Lord Gladwyn pointed out that the German Free Democrats were in coalition with the German Social Democrats.[34] Hayek was defended by Professor Antony Flew who stated that the German Social Democrats, unlike the British Labour Party, had since the late 1950s abandoned public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and had instead embraced the social market economy.[35] In 1978 Hayek came into conflict with the Liberal Party leader David Steel who claimed that liberty was only possible with "social justice and an equitable distribution of wealth and power, which in turn require a degree of active government intervention" and that the Conservative Party were more concerned with the connection between liberty and private enterprise than between liberty and democracy. Hayek claimed that a limited democracy might be better than other forms of limited government at protecting liberty but that an unlimited democracy was worse than other forms of unlimited government because "its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise". Hayek stated that if the Conservative leader had said "that free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box, she has merely uttered the truism that the first is indispensable for individual freedom while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot".[36]

Influence on central European politics

Ronald Reagan at his time listed Hayek as among the 2 or 3 people who most influenced his philosophy, and welcomed Hayek to the White House as a special guest.[37] In the 1970s and 1980s, the writings of Hayek were also a major influence on many of the leaders of the "velvet" revolution in Central Europe during the collapse of the old Soviet Empire. Here are some supporting examples:

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