The Fatal Conceit

  • by F. A. Hayek
  • Narrated by Everett Sherman
  • 7 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Hayek gives the main arguments for the free-market case and presents his manifesto on the "errors of socialism." Hayek argues that socialism has, from its origins, been mistaken on factual, and even on logical, grounds and that its repeated failures in the many different practical applications of socialist ideas that this century has witnessed were the direct outcome of these errors. He labels as the "fatal conceit" the idea that "man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes."

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Masterpiece critique of today's collectivism

What did you love best about The Fatal Conceit?

I have been reading for several years political philosophy books, searching an answer for myself as to what is wrong with our predominant model of western society. Even admitting my rightist sympathies, I must say that this book provides the most compelling case I have come across against today's collectivist society. Hayek shows that the call to a primitive-like civilization having as purpose the instant gratification of human instincts, as advocated also by Rousseau, would mean the destruction of our current civilization. Equally, Hayek points out that the socialist/collectivist view that the state can plan all economic activities of its subjects is flawed a priori, since there is no mind or group of minds that can manage the infinite number of economic interactions among those subjects. This is essentially, as I understand it the fundamental error of the socialists. I deliberately avoid the use of the term "society" since, as Hayek demonstrates, it is empty of substance, since the people do not behave like one body.Instead, Hayek proposes an evolutionist view of the organization of human affairs, where, instead of changing what is in place for the sake of change - socialists view a fight to change the existing order without analyzing the merits thereof - we should be mindful of the existing state of affairs, since this is the product of historical evolution, which selected the optimal solution after ages of trial and error. We should nevertheless seek to improve it by respecting the principles of private property.


What was one of the most memorable moments of The Fatal Conceit?

The question is wrongly put. However, apart from the fundamental message of the book, I should point out to a few chapters. First, the one on the instinct and reason, which shows that this is a false dilemma and that the civilization is result of the evolution of human efforts to master its instincts, through free cooperation.Second, the self-flattering view taken by intellectuals who promote socialism, because they believe they are intelligent enough to decide for the others, which turns them into socialists.Third, that which shows how growth in free market economy, or what he better describes as "extended order", intertwined with population growth. By contrast, today's continuous decline in population in the western world puts a serious question as to the appropriateness of today's economic structure and public policies, where the state is omnipresent.Fourth, the chapter of the historic role of religion is also extremely interesting. Hayek shows that the religion has been the facilitating mechanism through which the best practices selected by evolution have been transmitted throughout the ages. It is not coincidence that religious precepts, e.g. the ten commandments, serve an economic role as well as (my words) a regulatory role within the community. The question, he says, is not whether a divinity exists or not, that is for everyone to consider and he confesses that he personally would incline to answer "no". The most important question is the role that the religion serves in the fabric of our civilization and we should not lose sight of this fundamental role because of the existence question.


Which character – as performed by Everett Sherman – was your favorite?

The performance may seem a bit dry at first, but you will get used to it once absorbed by the book. Second (audio) reading was better.


If you could give The Fatal Conceit a new subtitle, what would it be?

The Bible of political education for perennial free world


Any additional comments?

I realize my comments cannot fully convey the profound insights of the book. If its fundamental ideas are understood and applied, we will live in a better world and will provide a better future for our children.Those who make the effort of reading it will find it enriching and ground breaking.

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- Marius Ghica

It's not all within the capacity of reason

If you could sum up The Fatal Conceit in three words, what would they be?

Reason isn't king


What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The idea that humans are so adaptable and ingenious that they have developed a way to organize themselves and cooperate to improve their condition that is beyond the bounds of reason alone. It is a subtle idea, that we can actually use our reason cooperatively, and not know how things come to be in an advanced order. For instance, listening to this audiobook on an iPhone. No one person has the knowledge to do this all by himself. It takes thousands of people co-operating in their little spheres of knowledge to make the whole.


Any additional comments?

I think this is the case against rationalism, meaning that our reason and rationality guide every single that we do. We can only know so much, and things like culture, tradition, morality, and unspoken rules of behavior for which we may not have the understanding of why they are there, are very important economizers that allow us to do greater and greater things within a complicated society. It makes the case that we have to make the most important decision in our lives as well, and it also makes the case that liberty is not the atomistic individualism and permissiveness of an extreme libertarian, but that which is based in property, and respect for property. Those were the 3 things that dominated the book, and were explained exceptionally well--the limits of rationalism, the case for culture, and liberty being based in property being very important.

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- Amazon Customer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-14-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios