So one of the annoying things about the Hayek revival we are having is that people are talking about his ideas, without actually reading his work, and thus are making him into a plaster saint, which means we have to put up with a whole boatload of screaming nonsense about what Hayek meant. Urk. So like Jesus, apparently, Hayek spoke in parables.
Hayek was a scholar, and he was a theorist, but he also valued empiricism. Here he is with James Buchanan being, simply, wrong.
Because of his training and his scholarly vocabulary, he’s not reflecting on what he is saying about political or social theory here. He argues that because people don’t know what social justice is, it’s a nothing concept incapable of being enacted and we should just get rid of it.
Well, that’s nonsense. Hayek’s own body of work is based on a straight up concept from political theory central to many theories of the just society: liberty. He might not be able to frame–or even recognize–his arguments as emanating from a position on justice. But it doesn’t make his work any less relevant to those who frame justice in terms of liberty, or him any less wrong in acting as though he’s stating a empirical reality about what “social justice means’ when, in fact, he himself has taken an explicit position on what justice is and how just societies treat individuals.
It’s also pretty clear that Buchanan and Hayek, brilliant though they are, have not read Rawls particularly effectively.