A three-part series exploring the life and ideas of Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek. [Dir: Suzanna Campbell-Jones/ 110 min/ Biography, Documentary-Educational/ Libertarian Heroes]
If you’re wondering who the heck is Hayek, this isn’t a bad place to start. This three-part documentary explains Hayek’s ideas, through narration and by example, with particular focus on Hayek’s appreciation for the dispersion of human knowledge, his understanding of the conflict between equality and liberty, and his observations on the relationship between liberty and the structure of government. First, in “Part I: Fighting the Planners,” we learn something of Hayek’s intellectual roots in the scholarly atmosphere of early twentieth century Vienna. It was there that he was introduced to classical liberalism by Ludwig von Mises, and through Mises that he first developed an appreciation for the subtle way in which the market creates order without central planning. That intellectual background made Hayek uniquely well suited to challenge the central planning mentality of the 1930s, to which he responded by writing his best-selling The Road to Serfdom. “Part II: Out of Tune” addresses Hayek’s criticisms of economic redistribution. In particular, Hayek though that redistribution would cause hard work to be underrewarded; that it would lead to ever more power in the hands of government; that the motivating concept behind redistribution, social justice, was meaningless; and that private charity is more efficient than public (forced) charity. Also in this segment, we learn about Hayek’s creation of the Mt.Pelerin Society, a small group of intellectuals who work together to promote classical liberal ideas, and about his creation of free-market think tanks that promote free-market policies in government. Finally, in “Part III: Winning Through,” we learn something of Hayek’s opinions on the importance of private property and “the rule of law.” Additionally, in this section the point is made that Hayek’s ideas are fundamentally anticonservative, inasmuch as he sees the natural social change that takes place when people are free and uncoerced as positive progress. With all this content, the documentary is certainly thorough. But somehow it isn’t all that persuasive. The impact is diminished partly by a sometimes weak link between visual examples and narrated ideas, and partly by less-than-clear organization. Nonetheless, this Atlas Foundation production provides a comprehensive exposition of Hayek’s life and work that will serve as a satisfactory introduction.
This article was reprinted from Jon Osborne's Miss Liberty's Guide to Film and Video: Movies for the Libertarian Millenium, available in the Advocates Liberty Store.