In 1944 George Orwell reviewed Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom for the Observer in the following terms:
Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can be somehow combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.
(Orwell 1968: 144)
Hayek’s last book, The Fatal Conceit, appeared as recently as 1988, and in it Hayek continued to pursue and elaborate upon the themes of his earlier work. In fact, Hayek’s central concerns and positions remained remarkably constant throughout his long and productive life. Similar arguments invite correspondingly similar criticisms, so it won’t come as too much of a surprise to find this reflected in the fact that the conclusion I shall draw here resembles Orwell’s. However, that conclusion will (I think) be less pessimistically over-stated and (if anything) yet more tentatively pragmatic. Unlike Orwell - and unlike Hayek - I can see no good reason for thinking that one thing must in due course lead to another, or that, for a great many things, those things won’t lead to something quite different. There is no secret formula, and in the real world there is - I am afraid - no substitute for the piecemeal application of clumsy human intelligence to the specific situation.
The right place to begin is with an outline of Hayek’s thesis and a summary of its considerable merits.