Some of my students at Rhodes have organized an economics club and enlisted me to lead them in a reading group, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation has been kind enough to provide books for the students. We’re reading F.A. Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order, which you can download here for $0. I will be blogging about our weekly discussions. We start next Thursday, and we are going to consider the following four questions in light of Chapter 1, “Individualism: True and False”:
1. What does Hayek mean by “individualism?”
2. What is the role of reason in understanding and designing social institutions?
3. What, according to Hayek, are the political principles or tenets of individualism?
4. How, according to Hayek, do the political principles or tenets of individualism follow from the individualist method in the social sciences? Or do they?
If you’re ever in Memphis on a Thursday at 4 and want to join us, please drop me a note. According to the old proverb, we learn a lot from our teachers, more from our colleagues, and most from our students. I find that to be true each and every semester, and I expect it to be especially true of the reading group.
Addendum, 4:32 PM: I should probably explain why I chose Individualism and Economic Order. I considered Man, Economy, and State and Human Action, but those are both absolutely gigantic books to ask students to read over 2/3 of a semester for no credit. In this interview, Peter Boettke said that in his estimation, Human Action and Individualism and Economic Order are “the two most important books in Austrian economics.” Each chapter in Individualism and Economic Order is self-contained–chapter IV is Hayek’s classic essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” which my Econ 100 and Econ 323 students will read this semester–and it provides the right combination of brevity and deep analytical punch that I was looking for in an experiment like this. And I say “experiment,” because I’m basically beta-testing an idea for a new course and new pedagogical approaches. The reading group will also contribute to an on-campus seminar sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies on “Capitalism and Its Discontents,” and it will also help me prep for [SPOILER ALERT] a Mises Academy class I’m going to teach in April on capitalism and socialism.
So please join us, if only virtually. As I’ve told students and as I wrote in my review of Pictures of the Socialistic Future, people should read The Road to Serfdom “as if their children’s lives depend on it.” I have the same conviction about a lot of other books. Individualism and Economic Order is one of them.