Hayek Limited & Absolute Security

Briefly outline Hayek’s distinction between ‘limited’ and ‘absolute’ security. Discuss Hayek’s claim that the drive for ‘absolute’ security:

  will lead to “serious restrictions of the competitive sphere”
  poses the ‘gravest’ of threats to liberty and freedom

The analysis of Hayek’s text commences with uncovering the apparent motivations and

fears which led him to write the book in question, before moving to explore his specific

concerns with the march towards totalitarianism, culminating in his attempt to delineate

between so-called ‘limited’ and ‘absolute’ security. General conclusions will then be drawn.

Hayek postulates that Britain in 1944 (the original date his book appeared) bore an alarming

similarity to the Germany of World War I and immediately thereafter (Hayek, 2006 (1944) :

2-3; see also 187). Specifically, he observes an analogous determination by Britain to retain

centralising trends (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 42) that appeared during wartime and had earlier

arisen in Germany — and had allegedly ‘done much to produce the Nazi system’ (Hayek,

2006 (1944): 3).

Hayek insists that the rise of fascism and Nazism was a necessary outcome of earlier

socialist trends (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 6-9); the conflict between the ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ in

Germany is merely the struggle between rival German socialist factions — which is simply

‘several stages beyond’ that yet attained by British socialists (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 8-9). And,

precisely like socialism, fascism as a movement in Germany and Italy (and Bolshevik

Communism in Russia) arose ‘from the masses’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 9; see also 28). Thus,

Hayek asserts, Germany, Italy and Russia are not ‘different worlds, but … products of a

development of thought in which we have shared’ (Hayek, 2006 (1944): 11; see also Hayek,

2006 (1944): 42 & 171-85). In short, Hayek fears that Britain’s embrace of what he perceives

as wide-ranging...