Friedrich August von HayekFriedrich August von Hayek, (1899-1992), Nobel Laureate of Economic Sciences 1974

Friedrich August von Hayek Quote

“Even more significant of the inherent weakness of the collectivist theories is the extraordinary paradox that from the assertion that society is in some sense more than merely the aggregate of all individuals their adherents regularly pass by a sort of intellectual somersault to the thesis that in order that the coherence of this larger entity be safeguarded it must be subjected to conscious control, that is, to the control of what in the last resort must be an individual mind. It thus comes about that in practice it is regularly the theoretical collectivist who extols individual reason and demands that all forces of society be made subject to the direction of a single mastermind, while it is the individualist who recognizes the limitations of the powers of individual reason and consequently advocates freedom as a means for the fullest development of the powers of the interindividual process.”

Friedrich August von HayekFriedrich August von Hayek
~ Friedrich August von Hayek

Ratings and Comments

Felipe, São Paulo
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Felipe, São Paulo Simon, North Saanich, BC, Canada 7/16/19

You didn't understood it and still rated it badly?

KS., Somewhere,Usa.

A little wordy but this statement conjures up images of "the" New World Order and one individuals perception of it's formation/function.A 31 yo. quote but as contemporary as yesterday.

Roy Shoults, Sr, Manchester, NH

To paraphase - Collectivist theories are inherently weak, especially the assertion that a society is greater than the individuals in it. Therefore, these theories assert that the society must be safeguarded, which then requires control, which ultimately results in the controlling mind of one individual. The "extraordinary paradox" is that while this collectivist theory initially "extols individual reason," it progresses to the subjugation of all individuals within its power to "a single mastermind." The true individualist, who understands the limitations of any individual reason, and therefore, any one individual, relies, instead, on the interplay of reason among all individuals.

James, Carbondale, IL

Whew! That went right over my head!

Felipe, São Paulo
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Felipe, São Paulo James, Carbondale, IL 7/16/19

And that's reason to downvote it?

E Archer, NYC

Yes, this is a mouthful, but clearly explained if one takes the time to read it. Long story short, if the individual cannot be trusted to govern himself, who can be trusted to govern him? No one but the individual him/herself.

Bill, Sarasota

Wordy and intellectual, but brilliant! I always love a good paradox...

Robert, Sarasota

Excellent, but I think we are all missing the point; quite simply, collectively you have power and individually you don't. Individuals only have power if they realize their collective individuality... that's another paradox for you Bill

Felipe, São Paulo
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Felipe, São Paulo Robert, Sarasota 7/16/19

No. If there's a power that you only have through a collective, then what you're calling "power" is actually just brute force hidden (sometimes) by bureaucracy (or the threat of force).
If a individual have no power to live his life in the way he wants in a certain society, then its because others are already imposing themselves over him, by use of force, coercion, or threat.

Joe, Rochester, MI

Typical liberal response! If you don't understand a quote, don't strain your brain thinking ... give it no stars.

David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood

Fredrich's statement oversimplifies the significance of so-called socialist ideas/intentions and overmagnifies the significance of their opposing ideas. The best of socialism did not originate with socialists, and the best of democratic systems is that they oppose the pseudosocialist dictatorships (or they used to, anyway). Voluntary collectivism is as acceptable (to me) as voluntary individualistic socio-political/economic systems. Compelling a person to live a given lifestyle (outside of certain considerations for safety and hygiene) is THE crime. If you believe that in the USA we are not in danger of being compelled to accept "socialism," you should see the textbooks being given to schoolchildren today: Vamos a Cuba, which means to indoctrinate primary school students into thinking that everything in Cuba is just fine and dandy, and Cuban Kids, which is for the slightly older ones, with the same agenda, adding anti-American thinking/lies. Some are so paranoid about the pseudosocialists that they miss the gangrene crawling up their own legs.

Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

Flawed premise for such a sweeping edict. We have to keep in mind that the 137 words following "collectivist theories" still refer to collectivist theories e.g., theories of 'Communism'.
Roy Shoults paraphrased the quote with excellent fidelity. The problem with the premise of the quote is the assertion embodied by the phrase "... which ultimately results in the controlling mind of one individual.", ("a single mastermind.").

"their adherents regularly pass by a sort of intellectual somersault to the thesis that in order that the coherence of this larger entity be safeguarded it must be subjected to conscious control, that is, to the control of what in the last resort must be an individual mind."
That premise/assertion (single mastermind/individual mind) is debatable though it's often been the case when collectivist theories were implemented as a form of government.

Mikko Ellilä, Helsinki, Finland

An excellent quote. Those who don't understand Hayek's point should keep in mind that his mother tongue was German, and this makes his sentences way more complicated than what native speakers of English are used to. Try reading the text aloud to make it easier to understand. People who are fluent in German will probably find Hayek's text very easy to read and not complicated at all. Some of the commentators here have clearly misunderstood what he actually said. For example Roy Shoults is not on the right track when he says: "The "extraordinary paradox" is that while this collectivist theory initially "extols individual reason," it progresses to the subjugation of all individuals" This is not the paradox that Hayek is talking about. Hayek meant that collectivist theory "extols individual reason" because a collectivist believes in the ability of an individual mind to control an entire society. The paradox is that while a collectivist thinks that society is more than the sum of its parts -- i.e. more than the sum of the individuals who comprise the society -- the collectivist believes at the same time that it is possible for one individual to control the entire society. The rest of what Roy Shoults said is right on target.

james wilson, las vegas

Collectivist theory contains the extraordinary paradox of exclaiming that society is capable of being more than the sum of its parts, while expecting obedience rather than contirbution from those parts. The theoretical collectivist respects his own part only, and reason is what he identifies as others ability to agree with him. The individualist realizes human reason cannot predict or deliberaltely shape his future. That is accomlished instead only within the constant process of discovering where he is wrong, multiplied by millions, extracted and only then exacted by society as their experience.

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GG    8/5/09
Mike, Norwalk

A very accurate observation ! On certain occasions, 2 people working together can accomplish more than 3 people working alone (having absolutely nothing to do with individual right) It is the collectivist mentality to tie individual right to the accomplishment of the herd and then control it. Collectivist control of the united effort and individual inalienable rights has historically been proven disastrous (over, and over, and over, and over again).

jim k, Austin, Tx

It refers to that top down planning by socialists. A good example was the "5 year plans" of the Polit Bureau in the Soviet Union which starved millions of their people. This never worked so about every other year they would have a new 5 year plan which would also never work.

Ronw13, Oregon

It only takes one dog to control a herd, and yes sometimes one person can do the work of three, which speaks loudly for the industrious individual over the herd mentality. 


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