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Friedrich Hayek should be added to the Liberty Walk for his con­tri­bu­tions to free market eco­nomics. I Wiki­media Commons

Every morning, more than five million people wake up in the modern city-state of Sin­gapore — men and women of various means, needs, and places to go. Its cit­izens produce untold amounts of goods, from gasoline to clothing to sand­wiches. There won’t be too much, nor too little, but just the right amount. 

This miracle doesn’t happen because a com­merce tsar issues fiats from a gov­ernment building. It happens because of the free market and the ideas espoused by the man who should be the next statue on the Hillsdale College Liberty Walk: Friedrich August von Hayek.

Despite a lack of natural resources and physical space, Sin­gapore is pros­perous and free. By embracing ideas put forth by Hayek, the once poor colonial outpost trans­formed itself into one of the richest nations in the world in under 50 years. The free oper­ation of the price system com­bined with the laws of supply and demand ensures that everyone walks away happy from each exchange — even in the case of a com­pli­cated, dense, and inter­woven megacity like Sin­gapore. Singapore’s success is a daily vin­di­cation of Hayek’s teachings. It’s human liberty in action.

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1899, Hayek served in World War I, which led him into eco­nomics, seeking to find answers to prevent another global con­flict. His most famous work, “The Road to Serfdom,” was pub­lished in 1944. It went on to educate the world on the impor­tance of liberty and the dangers of med­dlesome gov­ernment planners.

Expanding his phi­losophy further with “The Con­sti­tution of Liberty,” and “Law, Leg­is­lation and Liberty,” Hayek argued that when men tinker with the free market, even the best inten­tions of gov­ernment do-gooders will have neg­ative con­se­quences. He rea­soned that eco­nomic freedom does not guar­antee political freedom, but that political freedom is nearly impos­sible without it. He said that a state cannot control the market without first con­trolling people. “The more the state ‘plans’,” wrote Hayek, “the more dif­ficult planning becomes for the indi­vidual.” His con­clusion: as gov­ernment power grows, human liberty shrinks.

The free-market renais­sance of the 1980s, led by econ­o­mists Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, was pred­i­cated on Hayek’s ideas. Their success, however, depended on Hayek legit­imizing the entire free-market movement in the first place. 

After winning the Nobel Prize in Eco­nomics in 1974, Hayek helped define the gov­erning prin­ciples for Mar­garet Thatcher’s Con­ser­v­a­tives, and later, Ronald Reagan’s Repub­licans.

Politi­cians are well-rep­re­sented on Hillsdale College’s Liberty Walk. They should be. But the Liberty Walk should feature an econ­omist — espe­cially in light of the role the college’s eco­nomics department plays in advo­cating for freedom as well as the role econ­o­mists have played in the con­ser­v­ative movement.

Today, the nation faces a resur­gence of socialism. Hayek cau­tioned, “‘Emer­gencies have always been the pretext on which the safe­guards of indi­vidual liberty have been eroded.” Sen. Bernie Sanders’s, I‑Vermont, single-payer healthcare plan and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D‑NY, “Green New Deal,” are the exact types of pro­posals on Hayek’s mind when he issued his warnings.

Putting Hayek on the Liberty Walk would also remind con­ser­v­a­tives that even if their hearts are pure, toying with central planning will burn them. Hayek warned against thinking that the market is merely a “tool.” Attempts to manip­ulate the market, even by those who purport to “know better,” will ulti­mately lead down a path to tyranny. Tellingly, Hayek ded­i­cated “Serfdom” to “the socialists of all parties.”

The last century fea­tured dem­a­gogues from the left and right pledging to orient society towards what they believed is best for everyone. Promises were typ­i­cally accom­panied by some claim that, this time, their enlightened plan would work. What we wit­nessed were upheaval and ruin, cul­mi­nating in two world wars and gen­er­a­tions of Soviet despotism.

Hayek knew better. He knew liberty is a messy business. Life is chal­lenging — but it’s harder under the jackboot of irre­sistible gov­ernment force. A free market means there will be winners and losers. But when we forget the impor­tance of liberty, everyone loses.

Joshua Lawson is a can­didate for a Master’s degree in pol­itics from the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship at Hillsdale College. His work has appeared in the Wash­ington Examiner and The Fed­er­alist.