Hayek, Economics, and the Epistemology of Politics: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Hayek, Economics, and the Epistemology of Politics

1st Edition

By Scott Scheall


232 pages

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Hardback: 9781138289956
pub: 2020-02-26
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F. A. Hayek and the Epistemology of Politics is an exploration of an important problem that has largely been ignored: the problem of policymaker ignorance, and the limits of political epistemology. Scott Scheall explores Hayek’s attitude to the philosophy of science and political philosophy, arguing that Hayek defended a philosophy of science that implied certain potential dangers of politicized science, and that his political philosophy established the potential dangers of misapplying scientific methods and results to matters of public policy. The book offers an explanation for why policymaking often fails and why constituents, whatever their political affiliations, are so often disappointed with political leaders.

In this primarily philosophical examination of his work, Hayek’s ideas are not merely discussed, analysed, and contextualized, but extended; the book both draws and defends previously unrecognized implications from the Hayekian canon. The book also explores the historical context within which these ideas flourished.

The book will be of interest to scholars and researchers of the works of F.A. Hayek, policymakers, and to those of all political, philosophical, and social-scientific persuasions.

Table of Contents


About the Author




Part One

The Problem of Policymaker Ignorance

Chapter One

Policymaker Ignorance: The First Problem of Politics and Political Inquiry

Some Terminological Clarifications

The Logically Ancillary Nature of the Problem of Policymaker Incentives

The Logical Priority of the Epistemic

More about Epistemic Burdens

The Introspective Argument for the Logical Priority of the Epistemic

The Argument for the Logical Priority of the Epistemic from Ought Implies Can and Similar Principles

The Problematic Nature of Political Decision-Making in Light of the Priority of the Epistemic

Policymaker Ignorance and Constituent Disappointment

A Taxonomy of Ignorant Policymakers

Reflection and Foreshadow

Chapter Two

Beyond the Socialist Oasis: Hayek’s Extensions of Mises’ Calculation Argument

The Insurmountable Epistemic Burden of the Administrator of a Pure and Isolated Socialist Oasis

Hayek’s Epistemology – A First Pass

Explanation, Prediction, and Control of Complex Phenomena

The Epistemic Burdens of Socialist Administrators in Other Contexts

The "Mathematical Solution": Not a Solution

Abrogating Economic Freedom to Facilitate Solution of the Calculation Problem

The Epistemic Burdens of the Central Planner under Market Socialism

The Epistemic Burden of Achieving Consensus concerning a Central Plan

The Epistemic Burdens of Countercyclical Economic Policymaking and Keynesian Demand Management

The Role of Ignorance in Hayek’s Early Theory of Industrial Fluctuations

Hayek’s Epistemic Theory of Industrial Fluctuations

The Generality of the Reasoning Underlying the Austrians’ Political-Epistemological Approach

Reflection and Foreshadow

Chapter Three

Liberalism and the Problem of Policymaker Ignorance

The Epistemic Burdens of Realizing an Effective Liberal Order: The Problem of the Epistemic Requirements of Liberal Transitions

The Artificiality of the Assumption of the Committed Liberalizer

Hayek’s Failure to See the Problem of the Epistemic Requirements of Liberal Transitions

Political Epistemology > "Epistemic Institutionalism"

Robust Political Economy: Not a Solution

The Epistemic Burden of Policymaking within Liberal Environments

The Epistemic Burden of Policy Inaction

Reflection and Foreshadow

Part Two

Hayekian Political Epistemology

Chapter Four

The Epistemological Aspects of Hayekian Political Epistemology

Hayek versus Mises on Matters Epistemological, Part One

Hayek as Theoretical Psychologist and Epistemological Naturalist

Some Historical Background

Hayek’s Conception of Knowledge

Epistemological Normativism vs. Epistemological Naturalism

Association as the Principle that Explains the Complex Phenomena of Mental Life

Hayekian A Priori Knowledge: Pre-Sensory Linkages

Hayek versus Mises on Matters Epistemological, Part Two

Hayek’s Radical Empiricism

Epistemic Justification and Hayek’s Non-Standard Conception of Knowledge

Subjective Data and Objective Data

Hayekian Political Epistemology

Reflection and Foreshadow

Chapter Five

Political Order and Disorder as Epistemic Phenomena

Knowledge, Planning, Social Order, and Epistemic Mechanisms

Further Epistemic Requirements of Social Order

How Prices Tell You "What to Do"

How Reputation Signals Tell Scientists (and Others) "What to Do"

Political Order and Disorder

Reflection and Foreshadow

Chapter Six

Hayekian Political Epistemology as a Science of the Limits of Deliberate Political Action

Hayek versus Keynes Yet Again

A General Schema for Empirical Political Epistemology

The Hayek-Keynes Debate through the Lens of Political Epistemology

A Constitutional Approach to the Problem of Policymaker Ignorance

How Hayek Should Have Responded to Keynes’ Challenge

Functional Omniscience and Omnipotence


Reflection and Foreshadow

What the Argument Is and What the Argument Is Not



About the Author

Scott Scheall is Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Social Science in Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, as well as Project Director for the History of Economic Thought in Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. He has published extensively on topics related to the history and philosophy of the Austrian School of economics. Scott is co-host of Smith and Marx Walk into a Bar: A History of Economics Podcast.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Economics

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / General
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / Theory