Eamonn Butler, Friedrich Hayek: The ideas and influence
of the libertarian economist
Hampshire, Great Britain: Harriman House LTD, 2012.
vii + 151 pages. USD 23.99 (paper)
Published online: 29 March 2013
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
Eamonn Butler ably summarizes the entire corpus of Hayek’s thought in this brief and
accessible overview. This is quite a feat when one considers that Hayek’s professional
career spanned over seven decades, involving major contributions to economics,
psychology, philosophy, and politics, with collected works running to 19 volumes.
Butler introduces readers to the core themes and insights of Hayek’s thought in a
concise and readable fashion, avoiding both over-simplification and jargon. Butler’s
ease in conveying the depth and complexity of Hayek’s intellectual program to the
modern reader comes as no surprise when we look at Butler’s impressive pedigree.
Butler co-founded, and currently serves as director of the Adam Smith Institute,
which bills itself as the UK’s leading libertarian think tank. Butler can also boast the
vice presidency of the Mont Pelerin Society, the loose international confederation of
classical liberal scholars and intellectuals founded by Hayek himself in the dark days
of socialist and Keynesian ascendancy. A well-regarded commentator on British
economic policy, Butler has penned numerous works ranging from economic history
to modern policy analysis, as well as similar overviews of the works of Adam Smith,
Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman. With this experience as a public intellectual,
his extensive writings on major economists, and even a personal acquaintance with
Hayek himself through his Mont Pelerin membership, Butler is just the man for the job
of providing this much-needed handbook on Hayek.
The book is organized topically, rather than chronologically—fitting given
Hayek’s movement across disciplinary boundaries throughout his career. Butler leads
off with a brief biographical chapter covering some focal points in Hayek’s research
and publications. Butler then launches into the body of the book: Eight chapters, each
addressing a major facet of Hayek’s scholarship with particular emphasis on the
public policy implications.
In Chapter 2, “Understanding Society,” Butler introduces perhaps the most prevalent
theme in all of Hayek’s work, the concept of spontaneous order. Butler places Hayek
Rev Austrian Econ (2015) 28:115–118
T. Watts (*)
Department of Economics, Ball State University, 2000 W. University Ave, Muncie, IN 47306, USA