As the silly season comes to an end and the party conferences approach, the coalition government will find it needs to go beyond its deficit-cutting rhetoric to flesh out a wider philosophical basis for its thinking.
So far the central idea has been David Cameron’s vision of a big society — but it has left most commentators bewildered, it being wholly unclear whether Cameron is merely applauding the efforts of the voluntary sector or if he really does have a firm view about how to recalibrate the relationship between the individual and the state. If it’s the latter, the prime minister should use some of his remaining paternity leave to read the works of Friedrich Hayek.
Although one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Hayek has never been a household name. Remarkably, for a man who was born at the tail end of the 19th century, won the Nobel prize for economics in 1974 and died nearly 20 years ago, that may be about to change. Thanks to an extensive feature on the wildly popular Glenn Beck television programme in America, Hayek’s masterpiece The Road to Serfdom zoomed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller charts in June.
This is unusual enough for a philosophical tract, but is astonishing for a book originally pub