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Earlene Craver interviews Friedrich A. Hayek


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The influences on Dr. Hayek are numerous and varied. In this video, Dr. Hayek talks with Dr. Earlene Craver about his childhood and adolescence, including his interest in genetics and biology. He talks about the influences that his father, and others in his social circle had on his intellectual interests. He discusses his experiences at the London School of Economics, providing anecdotes on some of his colleagues, as well as the difficulties of academia. Also, he describes his early days in the United States. Finally, his views on religion and positivism are explained.


Interview with Friedrich A. Hayek by Earlene Craver
Thanks to Pacific Academy Advanced Studies for permission to distribute this program.

Digitized by: New Media - UFM.
Digitization: Mario Estrada, Jorge Samayoa; content analysis: Alex Weller; content reviser: Daphne Ortiz; publication: Rebeca Zuñiga

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CRAVER: Professor Hayek, when you returned to Vienna after the war in 1918, what sorts of opportunities were there for a young man of talent, or a young man who thought he had talent? 
HAYEK: Well, immediately it was absolutely uncertain, you know.  The world changed--the great collapse of the old Austrian Empire.  I hadn't any idea [what to do]; so for the time being I just went on with what I had decided upon in the year-- Well, it was almost two years I spent in the army making plans for the future, but even these were upset.  
It's a very complicated story.  I had decided to enter the diplomatic academy, but for a very peculiar reason.  We all felt the war would go on indefinitely, and I wanted to get out of the army, but I didn't want to be a coward.  So I decided, in the end, to volunteer for the air force in order to prove that I wasn't a coward.  But it gave me the opportunity to study for what I expected to be the entrance examination for the diplomatic academy, and if I had lived through six months as an air fighter, I thought I would be entitled to clear out.  Now, all that collapsed because of the end of the war.  
In fact, I got as far as having my orders to join the flying school, which I never did in  the end.  And of course Hungary collapsed, the diplomatic academy disappeared, and the motivation, which had been really to get honorably out of the fighting, lapsed.  
But I had more or less planned, in this connection, to combine law and economics as part of my career.  I imagined it would be a diplomatic career, really.  So I came to the university with only a clear idea of what my career would be.  My interests, even from the beginning, were-- My reading was largely philosophical--well, not philosophical; it was method of science.  You see, I had shifted from the wholly biological approach to the social field, in the vital sense, and I was searching for the scientific character of the approach to the social sciences.  
And I think my career, my development, during those three years exactly at the university was in no way governed by thoughts about my future career, except, of course, that tradition in our family made us feel that a university professor was the sum of achievement, it was the sum of maximum you could hope for, but even that wasn't very likely.  It reminds me that my closest friend predicted that I would end as a senior official in one of the ministries.  
CRAVER: It's sometimes hard for Americans-- Maybe after 1974 it's not so hard for an American student with a doctorate to realize how difficult it can be to get a university post.  But still, it's hard for us to realize how hard it was.  I think it would be helpful if you could tell us exactly, if you had hopes of an academic career, how likely it was to realize it. 
HAYEK: Yes, but it would never have been an academic career from the beginning in the then Austrian conditions, unless you were in one of the experimental fields where you could get a paid assistantship.  Until you got a professorship you could not live on the income from an academic career, you see.  The aim would be to get what I best describe as a license to lecture as a so-called  Privatdozent.  This allowed one to lecture but practically earn no money.  When I finally achieved it, what I got from student fees just served to pay my taxi, which I had to take once a week from my office to give a lecture at the university.  That's all I got from the university.  
So outside the exact sciences there was, in a sense, no academic career but to find an occupation outside which enabled you to devote enough time to your work.  
And, in fact, the whole crowd of my friends in the social sciences, law and so on, were all people who were earning their incomes elsewhere and aiming at a Privatdozent position.  Then even for years you would continue, at the same time, to have a bread-earning occupation and on the side do academic work.  That was particularly marked in Vienna because, as we talked about yesterday, you had this large intellectual Jewish community, most of whom could not really hope to get a university post.  So in this circle in which I lived, my closest friends were either practicing lawyers-- 
The philosopher and mathematician was the director of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in Vienna; another one, a sociologist, was the secretary of one of the banking associations; one or two were actually in some low civil service positions.  
But among my friends, I don't think a single one, up to their middle thirties or later thirties, could live on this income from an academic position.  Even if you acquired the lectures, it didn't mean you could live on that.  You lived on something, some other income, which may have been completely unconnected with academic activities.  So even if you ultimately aimed at a professorship, your immediate concern was to find something else which you could combine with academic activities.  
And, what I finally got was by pure accident, I think.  I did not expect it to the very last moment.  That was a job in a newly created government office, which was comparatively well paid because it required a combination of law, economics, and languages, which was rather rare.  This gave me, for the first five years, a comparatively well-paid position in Vienna. 
CRAVER: Could there be roadblocks even in getting accepted as a Privatdozent
HAYEK: Oh, yes, of course.  You were very much dependent on the sympathy, or otherwise, of the professor in charge.  You had to find what was called a  Habilitations-Vater, a man who would sponsor you.  And if you didn't happen to agree with the professor in charge, and there were usually only two or three--in fact, even in a big subject like economics, there were only two or three professors--unless one of them liked you, well there was just no possibility. 
CRAVER: I thought it might be useful if you gave the names of some rather famous men who were at the university and who never were anything more than  Privatdozents, not only in economics but in other fields. 
HAYEK: Well, in law it wouldn't mean anything because they weren't very eminent.  But Heinrich Gomperz, a philosopher, for instance, is a clear instance.  
Well, even [Ludwig von] Mises, my teacher, had such a good position that I doubt whether he would have wished to start at a lower level, even for an extraordinary professor, it was a great chagrin to him that [a chair] was never offered to him.  But again, the medical faculty was full of such men who had academic ambitions, who did little teaching at the university, but who made their incomes as practicing doctors.  There were even one or two distinguished mathematicians, whose names I do not know, who partly because of a shortage of positions, partly because of anti Jewish prejudice, were part and then not part of the university.  
I mean that really created, to a large extent, a peculiar intellectual atmosphere in Vienna that was not confined to the people who were actually inside the university.  So many people had just a foot in the university, which meant there was a large intellectual audience to whom you could speak who were not solely or mainly professors but who gave you an audience of general interest, which I don't think was of the same character found anywhere else.  I emphasized the antisemitism as one of the causes, but it wasn't only that.  The tradition that you might do scholarly work on the side with a practical occupation became quite general, perhaps because of the example of the people who were kept out.  
But there were any number of people who were-- in other countries might have been private scholars with a private income, but there were very few wealthy people of that kind who could [manage it in Austria]--or were allowed to.  But, there were mostly people who had decided to earn their living outside of the university, and yet to pursue their scholarly interests. 
CRAVER: So this gave Vienna a very lively intellectual life, and much of that was going on outside the university? 
HAYEK: Outside and in little circles.  You probably wouldn't be aware that there was such a large community, because it never met as a whole.  And there were also scientific societies and discussion clubs, but even they were in a cruel way split up, and that again was connected with what you might call the race problem, the antisemitism.  There was a purely non-Jewish group; there was an almost purely Jewish group; and a small intermediate group where the two groups mixed.  And that split up the society.  
On the other hand, as I have only recently become aware, the leading people were really a very small group of people who somehow were connected with each other.  It was only a short while ago, when somebody like you do now inquired about whom I knew among the famous people of Vienna, that I began to go through the list, and I found I knew almost everyone of them personally.  
And with most of them I was somehow connected by friendship or family relations and so on.  I think the discussion then began, "Did you know [Erwin] Schrödinger?"  "Oh, yes, of course; Schrödinger was the son of a colleague of my father's and came as a young man in our house."  Or, ["Did you know Karl von] Frisch, the bee Frisch?"  "Oh, yes, he was the youngest of a group of friends of my father's; so we knew his family quite well."  
And, ["Did you know Konrad] Lorenz?"  "Oh, yes, I know the whole family.  I've seen Lorenz watching ducks when he was three years old."  And so it went on.  Everyone of the people who are now famous, except, again, the purely Jewish ones--Freud and his circle I never had any contact with.  They were a different world. 
CRAVER: But you had this intermediate group who were Jewish or who were part Jewish?
HAYEK: One did always hear what happened to them, but we didn't know the people personally. 
CRAVER: Yes.  I certainly got this impression from reading Karl Popper, also, on how small the group was, and how--I don't know if he was the one who mentioned it--how [Anton] Bruckner, for example, might be playing the piano for someone else who was a philosopher. 
HAYEK: Oh, yes.  Bruckner, you see, again-- there were bridges.  The Wittgensteins had a great musical salon.  Now, see, the Wittgensteins themselves were three-quarters Jewish, but Ludwig Wittgenstein's grandmother was the sister of my great grandfather; so we were again related.  I personally was too young.  You see, the Wittgenstein salon ended with the outbreak of war.  Both the old men had died, and after the breakdown it never reassembled.  But that was one of the centers where art and science met in a very wealthy background and, again, was one of the bridges between the two societies. 
CRAVER: When you were a young man at this time, let's say about when you were finishing your degree in economics in the faculty of law, which is how it was organized, what were your dreams? your fantasies of what you might do with your career? 
HAYEK: Well, at that time I really wanted a job in which I could do scientific work on society.  That was the main problem.  
It was a little later that I formed an idea.  I made a joke to my first wife, I think just before we married, that if I could plan my life I would like to begin as a professor of economics in London, which was the center of economics.  I would do this for ten or fifteen years, and then return to Austria as president of the national bank, and ultimately go back to London as the Austrian ambassador.  A most unlikely thing happened that I got the professorship in London, which I thought was absolutely a wish-dream of an unlikely nature.  Even the second step also--Not at the time but forty years later, I was once negotiating a possible presidency of the Austrian National Bank. 
CRAVER: Oh, you were?
HAYEK: It did not come off.
CRAVER: This means you were an Anglophile early.  What made you an Anglophile, do you think? 
HAYEK: Why it was as early as that, I really can't say.  Once I got to England, which was very soon--No, I think it must have been after this--I had been in my first research to England before that happened--it was just a temperamental similarity.  I felt at home among the English because of a similar temperament.  
This, of course, is not a general feeling, but I think most Austrians I know who have lived in England are acclimatized extraordinarily easily.  There must be some similarity of traditions, but I don't easily adapt to other countries.  I had been in America before I ever came to England.  I was here as a graduate student in '23 and '24, and although I found it extremely stimulating and even knew I could have started on in an assistantship or something for an economic career, I didn't want to.  I still was too much a European and didn't the least feel that I belonged to this society.  But at the moment I arrived in England, I belonged to it. 
CRAVER: Well, was the intellectual life-- let's see, we talked a little bit about Vienna and the circles and the intellectual life outside the university.  Did England, when you went there, have more of that than what you saw when you were in the United States? 
HAYEK: Yes, yes, it had more.  It wasn't quite the same.  I might have had more if I had gone to one of the old universities or even one of the specialized colleges of the University of London.  The London School of Economics, which first was an attraction to me, was extremely good in the social sciences, but it was completely specialized to social sciences.  While, at first, moving among very good people in my field was very attractive, I admit that at the end of twenty years I longed to get back to a general university atmosphere, which the London School of Economics is not.  It is very much a specialized school, where you spend all your time among other social scientists and see nobody else. 
CRAVER: I have a question here: Many young men of your generation had been socialists when they were young, or at least social democrats.  Had you been influenced at one time by this atmosphere? 
HAYEK: Oh, yes, very much so.  I never was a social democrat formally, but I would have been what in England would have been described as a Fabian socialist.  I was especially influenced--in fact the influence very much contributed to my interest in economics--by the writings of a man called Walter Rathenau, who was an industrialist and later a statesman and finally a politician in Germany, who wrote extremely well.  He was  Rohstoffdiktator in Germany during the war, and he had become an enthusiastic planner.  And I think his ideas about how to reorganize the economy were probably the beginning of my interest in economics.  And they were very definitely mildly socialist.  
And I just found that-- Perhaps I should say I found a neutral judge.  That's what made me interested in economics.  I mean how realistic were these socialist plans which were found very attractive?  So there was a great deal of socialist inclination which led me to-- I never was captured by Marxist socialism.  On the contrary, when I encountered socialism in its Marxist, frightfully doctrinaire form, and the Vienna socialists, Marxists, were more doctrinaire than most other places, it rather repelled me.  But of the mild kind, either of the German Sozialpolitik type state socialism or the Rathenau type, was one of the inducements which led me to the study of economics. 
CRAVER: I see.  I've talked to a number of people who went through the University of Vienna in this period, and a number of them have spoken--in fact, some from the German universities also--have spoken of the influential role, once they were studying economics, of Mises's-- I think it's a 1919 article on the problems of economic calculation. 
HAYEK: I think it was 1920. 
CRAVER: I'm sorry.  You would know better than I. 
HAYEK: He wrote that article and then particularly a book,  Die Gemeinwirtschaft, Untersuchungen über den Sozialismus, which had the decisive influence of curing us, although it was a very long struggle.  
At first we all felt he was frightfully exaggerating and even offensive in tone.  You  see, he hurt all our deepest feelings, but  gradually he won us around, although for a long time I had to-- I just learned he was usually right in his conclusions, but I was not completely satisfied with his argument.  That, I think, followed me right through my life.  I was always influenced by Mises's answers, but not fully satisfied by his arguments.  It became very largely an attempt to improve the argument, which I realized led to correct conclusions.  But the question of why it hadn't persuaded most other people became important to me; so I became anxious to put it in a more effective form. 
CRAVER: I'd like to move into maybe a slightly different area, but it still pertains to this.  In the economics faculty, prior to the First World War, it had had a grand reputation that started with [Karl] Menger, and then there was [Friedrich von] Wieser and [Eugen von] Böhm-Bawerk.  Now when you came into economics after the First World War, what was the situation at that time? 
HAYEK: At first it was dreadful, but only for a year.  There was nobody there.  Wieser had left the university to become a minister in the last Austrian government; Böhm-Bawerk had died shortly before; [Eugen von] Philippovich, another great figure, had died shortly before; and when I arrived there was nobody but a socialist economic historian.  
Then Wieser came back, and he became my teacher.  He was a most impressive teacher, a very distinguished man whom I came to admire very much.  I think it's the only instance where, as very young men do, I fell for a particular teacher.  He was the great admired figure, sort of a grandfather figure of the two generations between us.  He was a very kindly man who usually, I could say, floated high above the students as a sort of god, but when he took an interest in a student, he became extremely helpful and kind.  He took me into his family; I was asked to take meals with him and so on.  So he was for a long time my ideal in the field, from whom I got my main general introduction to economics. 
CRAVER: How did he take notice of you?  How did that happen?
HAYEK: I first flattered myself that [it was because] I had gone up to him once or twice after the lecture to ask intelligent questions, but later I began to wonder whether it was more the fact that he knew I was against some of his closest friends. 
CRAVER: I know that there were three chairs at the university, and Wieser retired at what time? 
HAYEK: Well, I'm afraid Wieser was responsible for rather poor appointments.  The first one was Othmar Spann, a very curious mind, an original mind, himself originally still a pupil of Menger's.  
But he was a very emotional person who moved from an extreme socialist position to an extreme nationalist position and ended up as a devout Roman Catholic, always with rather fantastic philosophical ideas.  
He soon ceased to be interested in technical economics and was developing what he called a universalist social philosophy.  But he, being a young and enthusiastic man, for a very short time had a constant influence on all these young people.  Well, he was resorting to taking us to a midsummer celebration up in the woods, where we jumped over fires and-- It's so funny, but it didn't last long, because we soon discovered that he really didn't have anything to tell us about economics.  
Well, as long as I was there, there were really only these two professorships, and of course when Wieser retired, which happened in the year when I finished my first degree, he was succeeded by Hans Mayer, his favorite disciple.  
An extremely thoughtful man, but a bad neurotic.  [He was] a man who could never do anything on time, who was always late for any appointment, for every lecture, who never completed things he was working on, and in a way a tragic figure, a man who had been very promising.  Perhaps it's unjust to blame Wieser for appointing him because everybody thought a great deal would come from him.  And probably there is still more in his very fragmentary work than is appreciated, but one of his defects was that he worked so intensely on the most fundamental, basic problems--utility and value--there was never time for anything else in economics.  So he was, in a sense, a narrow figure.  
The third professorship was only filled a year or two after I had left.  The man, Count [Ferdinand) Degenfeld-[Schonburg], played a certain role when I finally got my Privatdozenteur, but I never had any contact with him otherwise.  There were a few Privatdozents, or men with the title of professor like Mises, but my contact with him was entirely outside the university.  No, the faculty, except for Wieser, as a person, as an individual, was not very distinguished in economics, really.  It was a great tradition, which Wieser kept up, but except for him the economics part of the university was not very distinguished. 
CRAVER: When I look at this period, a lot of people--this is true also before the war and for those who were young men after the war--often describe themselves as positivists or antipositivists, and I have difficulty in knowing what positivism actually meant at that time. 
HAYEK: Well, it was almost entirely the influence of Ernst Mach, the physicist, and his disciples.  He was the most influential figure philosophically.  At that time, apart from what I had been reading before I joined the army, I think my introduction to what I now almost hesitate to call philosophy--scientific method, I think, is a better description--was to Machian philosophy.  
It was very good on the history of science generally, and it dominated discussion in Vienna.  For instance, Joseph Schumpeter had fully fallen for Mach, and when-- While I was still at the university, this very interesting figure, Moritz Schlick, became one of the professors of philosophy.  It was the beginning of the Vienna Circle, of which I was, of course, never a member but whose members were in close contact wi th us.  [There was] one man who was supposedly a member of our particular circle, the Geistkreis, and also the Schlick circle, the Vienna Circle proper, and so we were currently informed of what was happening there.  
Well, what converted me is that the social scientists, the science specialists in the tradition of Otto Neurath, just were so extreme and so naive on economics that it was through [Neurath] that I became aware that positivism was just as misleading as the social sciences.  I owe it to his extreme position that I soon recognized it wouldn't do.  And it took me a long time, really, to emancipate myself from it.  It was only after I had left Vienna, in London, that I began to think systematically on problems of methodology in the social sciences, and I began to recognize that positivism in that field was definitely misleading.  
In a discussion I had on a visit to Vienna from London with my friend [Gottfried) Haberler, I explained to him that I had come to the conclusion that all this Machian positivism was no good for our purposes.  Then he countered, "Oh, there's a very good new book that came out in the circle of Vienna positivists by a man called Karl Popper on the logic of scientific research."  
So I became one of the early readers.  It had just come out a few weeks before.  I found that Haberler had been rather mistaken by the setting in which the book had appeared.  While it came formally out of that circle, it was really an attack on that system.  And to me it was so satisfactory because it confirmed this certain view I had already formed due to an experience very similar to Karl Popper's.  Karl Popper is four or five years my junior; so we did not belong to the same academic generation.  
But our environment in which we formed our ideas was very much the same.  It was very largely dominated by discussion, on the one hand, with Marxists and, on the other hand, with Freudians.  Both these groups had one very irritating attribute: they insisted that their theories were, in principle, irrefutable.  Their system was so built up that there was no possibility-- 
I remember particularly one occasion when I suddenly began to see how ridiculous it all was when I was arguing with Freudians, and they explained, "Oh, well, this is due to the death instinct."  And I said, "But this can't be due to the [death instinct)."  "Oh, then this is due to the life instinct."  Well, if you have these two alternatives, of course there's no way of checking whether the theory is true or not.  And that led me, already, to the understanding of what became Popper's main systematic point: that the test of empirical science was that it could be refuted, and that any system which claimed that it was irrefutable was by definition not scientific.  
I was not a trained philosopher; I didn't elaborate this.  It was sufficient for me to have recognized this, but when I found this thing explicitly argued and justified in Popper, I just accepted the Popperian philosophy for spelling out what I had always felt.  Ever since, I have been moving with Popper.  We became ultimately very close friends, although we had not known each other in Vienna.  And to a very large extent I have agreed with him, although not always immediately.  Popper has had his own interesting developments, but on the  whole I agree with him more than with anybody else on philosophical  matters. 
CRAVER: Do you think you reacted to this kind of dogmatism also because of your rejection of this form of dogmatism in the church, in the Roman Catholic church? 
HAYEK: Possibly, although I had so completely overcome [church dogma] by that time that it really never-- 
You see, that goes back so far in my family.  If you have a grandfather who's an enthusiastic Darwinian; a father who is also a biologist; a maternal grandfather who evidently only believed in statistics, though he never spoke about it; and one grandmother who was very devoted to the ceremonial [aspects] of the Catholic church but was evidently not really interested in the purely literal aspect of it-- And then I was very young--I must have been thirteen or fourteen--when I began pestering all the priests I knew to explain to me what they meant by the word "God".  None of them could.  That was the end of it for me. 
CRAVER: Was this true of most of the intellectuals in these circles we were talking about--that they weren't people who had rebelled, let's say, against Roman Catholicism, but they came from families who had a sort of enlightened background? 
HAYEK: Yes, it was predominantly true.  It was very rare in this circle to find anybody who had any definite religious beliefs.  In fact, there was, I think, in university circles a very small minority who by having these beliefs almost isolated themselves from the rest.  
Let me just go back to my earlier development-- I talked to Mr. Leijonhufvud yesterday.  He asked me when my interest in social sciences, when it began.  And I thought I had to say anything with World War I, and it is quite correct.  
I remember the very specific occasion, which must have been a few weeks before I joined the army, when we had a class in the elements of philosophy--logic and logical propaedeutic, it was called--and he gave us a sort of survey of the history of philosophy.  
[The teacher] was speaking about Aristotle and explained to us that Aristotle defined ethics as consisting of three parts: I believe it was morals, politics, and economics.  When I heard this [my response was), "Well these are the things I want to study."  It had a comic aftereffect when I went home and told my father, "I know what I'm going to study.  I'm going to study ethics."  He was absolutely shocked.  And it had a curious aftereffect.  A few days later he brought me three volumes of the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, which he had seen in the shop window of a secondhand bookseller.  Feuerbach was, of course, at that time a hard-line positivist of a rather crude kind.  
This was in order to cure me of my interest in ethics.  Well, I think the real effect was that an attempt to read this book gave me a very definite distaste for philosophy for some time.  
But, of course, what I had meant by ethics wasn't at all what my father understood when I mentioned the term.  But it does mean that as early as probably late 1916, when I was seventeen, I was clear that my main interests were in the social sciences, and the transition must have come fairly quickly.  I do remember roughly that until fifteen or so I was purely interested in biology, originally what my father did systematically.  He was mainly a plant geographer, which is now ecology, but the taxonomic part soon did not satisfy me.  At one stage, when my father discovered this, he put a little too early in my hand what was then a major treatise on the theory of evolution, something called Deszendenz-theorie.  
I believe it was by [August] Weismann.  I think it was just a bit too early.  At fourteen or fifteen I was not yet ready to follow a sustained theoretical argument.  If he had given me this a year later, I probably would have stuck with biology.  The things did interest me intensely.  But, in fact, my interests very rapidly moved, then, to some extent already toward evolution, and for a while I played with paleontology.  
We had in our circle of friends a very distinguished paleontologist; in fact, two: an ordinary one (D. Abel) and an insect paleontologist (Handlirsch).  Then somehow I got interested in psychiatry, and it seems that it was through psychiatry that I somehow got to the problems of political order.  One of my great desires had been to get a very expensive volume which described, as it were, the organizations of public life.  I wanted to learn how society was organized.  I remember--I have never read it--it contained chapters on government and one on the press and about information.  
So then I turned to certain practical aspects of social life.  If I may add, in general, up to my student days at the university, my tendencies were very definitely practical.  
I wanted to be efficient.  My ideal, for a long time, was that of a fireman's horse.  I once did see how, before the time of the automobile, the fire equipment was--The horse was standing in its stable ready to be put on the carriage with everything hanging over it; so it required only two or three pressings of buttons and the horse was finished to go out.  So I felt, "I must be like that, ready for every possibility in life, and be very efficient."  Just as in the area of sports--mountaineering, climbing, skiing, cycling, photography--I was for a time extremely interested in technical efficiency of this kind, something which I completely lost in my later life.  
CRAVER: Did you read [Frederick) Taylor?  Was the American Taylor being read in your circles at all? 
HAYEK: Well, yes, there was a stage in which I was reading all the Taylor stuff, but that was a little later.  I think it was at the beginning of my economics reading, but that was the time of the great fashion of Taylorism.  But I had this passion for understanding all sorts of functioning in the organization of complicated phenomena, and I mention this because nowadays all my friends think I'm completely indifferent to technical things.  I am no longer really interested, but I had a great passion for that at one time. 
CRAVER: I think when you were still at the university you could go over to lectures sometimes.  Was it in psychiatry, or in the biology department? 
HAYEK: In anatomy.  It was largely in connection with my then-growing interest in physiological psychology.  I had easy access.  My brother was studying in the anatomy department; so I just gate-crashed into lectures occasionally and even in the dissecting room. 
CRAVER: Was it common for students at that time to gate-crash on lectures in another discipline outside of their own specialization? 
HAYEK: Oh, very common, yes.  That part of the students who were really very intellectually interested was substantial.  But, of course, if you take a faculty like law--I suppose the law faculty in Vienna in my time was something like 2,000 or 3,000 students--perhaps 300 had really intellectual interests, and the others just wanted to get through their exams.  You can't generalize about the students, but a small group certainly did not specialize solely in one discipline but sampled all the way around.  I would go to lectures on biology, to lectures on art history, to lectures on philosophy, certainly, and certain biological lectures.  I sampled around.  
I sometimes marvel how much I could do in the three years when you think, as I mentioned before, my official study was law.  I did all my exams with distinction in law, and yet I divided my time about equally between economics and psychology.  I had been to all these other lectures and to the theater every evening almost. 
CRAVER: You didn't see this when you came to the United States for that year? 
HAYEK: Oh, no.  This sort of life was completely absent.  But it was also, of course, that in the United States I was so desperately poor that I couldn't do anything.  I didn't see anything of what the cultural life of New York was because I couldn't afford to go anywhere.  And I had no real contacts, you see.  I wasn't a regular student.  I was sitting in the New York Public Library, and there were four or five people at the same desk who I came to  know, but that was the total of my acquaintance with  Americans.  
I met a few Austrian families, but I really had very little contact with American life during that year, mainly because of financial limitation.  And I was so poor that my dear old mother used to remind me to the end of her life that when I came back from America I wore two pair of socks, one over the other, because each had so many holes it was the only way. 
CRAVER: In your case, you were also poor, as you say, when you were a student in America.  But do you think the fact that you and many other economists I know from Vienna were so reluctant to come to take a position in America, even though it was an academic position, was partly related to what they had observed here? 
HAYEK: No, it doesn't apply to the others.  You see, I was the only one who did not come away in the comfort of the Rockefeller Foundation. 
All the later visitors visited America very comfortably and could travel and see everything.  My case was unique.  I was the only one who came on his own, at his own risk, and with practically no money to spare, and who lived for the whole of a fifteen-month period on sixty dollars a month.  It would have been miserable if I hadn't known that if I was in a real difficulty I would just cable my parents, "Please send me the money for the return."  But apart from this confidence that nothing could really happen to me, I lived as poorly and miserably as you can possibly live. 
Dock windowTable of Contents
Opportunities in Vienna post World War I
The Austrian University System
Difficulties in getting an academic post
Social circles in Vienna
Hayek's dreams and aspirations
Intellectual life in London
Ludwig von Mises
Economic faculty in Vienna
Othmar Spann
Hans Meyer
Positivism in scientific research
Roman Catholicism and religious persuasion
Intellectual influences in adolescence
Frederick Taylor
Intellectual curiosity in Vienna
Intellectual environment in the United States
Final credits
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