Hayek’s Conception of Freedom: A Critique

Hamowy, Ronald. “Hayek's Conception of Freedom: A Critique.” New Individualist Review 1, no. 1 (April 1961): 28–31.


F. A. HAYEK, in his latest book, The Constitution of Liberty (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1960), attempts a thorough exposition of the theoretical and historical foundations of individual liberty. His main thesis is that freedom may be defined as the absence of coercion: it thus becomes clear that, in order fully to comprehend what he feels to be the basis of personal freedom in society, we must turn to his definition of coercion.

Professor Hayek states: “Coercion occurs when one man’s actions are made to serve another man’s will, not for his own but for the other’s purpose.” (p. 133.) But he goes on to make explicit that such coercion can occur only when the possibility of alternate actions is open to the coerced. “Coercion implies . . . that I still choose but that my mind is made someone else’s tool, because the alternatives before me have been so manipulated that the conduct that the coercer wants me to choose becomes for me the least painful one.”

Online Library of Liberty