This article first appeared in First Things, August-September 2000.
In 1978, Friedrich Hayek proposed a great debate. He was by then almost eighty years old, but the passion with which he sought to defend the market order against what he saw as the heresy of collectivism was undiminished. So, as if hoping to settle the issue once and for all, he suggested nothing less than an international disputation that would discuss the question, “Was socialism a mistake?” The event did not take place, but Hayek nonetheless produced a large manuscript setting out his beliefs, which was published in an abridged form as The Fatal Conceit. What interests me in particular about the book is its last chapter, “Religion and the Guardians of Tradition.” What led Hayek, who had devoted a lifetime to the study of economics and politics, to seal this work with a reflection on religion and tradition?
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