Essential Hayek: Who is F.A. Hayek?

This is part of a Fraser Institute project to present the ideas of F.A. Hayek. In this video, we provide an overview of Hayek’s life, his accomplishments, and the events that influenced his thinking. Presented by Donald J. Boudreaux. Source: The Fraser Institute YouTube channel.


Welcome to Essential Hayek. I am Don Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University, Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute, and blogger at Cafe Hayek. This video is part of the Fraser Institute's initiative to present the key ideas of F.A. Hayek in an easily accessible format.

In this video we provide an overview of Hayek's life, his accomplishments, and the events that influenced his thinking.

Friedrich A. Hayek was born in Vienna on May 8th, 1899. As a young man he served in the Austrian army during World War One. Hayek soon found himself assigned to the Italian front, where his experience in combat had a profound and decisive influence on his life. Following the war, Hayek returned to Vienna and completed doctoral degrees in both law in political science. Working as a young economist an Austrian the late 1920s, Hayek was taken under the wing of noted economist Ludwig von Mises and began his work researching business cycles. Business cycles, or what were then called Trade cycles, are known today as booms and recessions. In 1931, Hayek moved to England, and joined the faculty at the London School of Economics, where his research into booms in recessions led to his growing fame, especially against the backdrop of the Great Depression of the 1930s. During this time, Hayek crossed paths with his greatest intellectual rival, John Maynard Keynes, who promoted the idea that government could actively and successfully manage the economy. Hayek argued in contrast, that an economy is too complicated and the information needed to make decisions too decentralized for a centrally planned economy to be efficient or effective.

Eventually, most economists and policymakers embraced Keynes' view of the world and the role of government, which came to dominate economic thinking for the next forty years. Hayek was largely relegated to the sidelines. But Hayek's time in the shadows was brief. In 1944, he published the classic volume 'The Road to Serfdom' which became a bestseller. In 1950, Hayek moved to the University of Chicago where he published his second major work, 'The Constitution of Liberty'. Subsequent years would see the publication have two more big think books: the three-volume 'Law Legislation at Liberty' and in 1988, 'The Fatal Conceit'.

In 1974, Hayek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, finally earning the professional acclaim that he had lost with his refusal to jump onto the Keynesian bandwagon. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union provided further indication for Hayek's notion that central planning by government simply does not indeed cannot work.

Readers interested in exploring Hayek's theories in greater depth are encouraged to read his works directly. I recommend starting with the Road to Serfdom. An economics students might wish to start with Hayek's influential 1945 essay 'The Use of Knowledge in Society'.

To learn more and to download 'Essential Hayek' for free, visit



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