Friedrich Hayek was a British philosopher who wrote from his experiences of World War one in which he served. It is known that based on Hayek’s experience in the war and his desire to help avoid the mistakes that had orchestrated to the war; he was led to this career in which he developed the theory of freedom. Hayek argues that there are many definitions for the term freedom; however he refers to this as “freedom without coercion. Hayek also speaks to individual and personal freedom in which he argues that a man is either free or not free. Being free he says is acting on one’s own will and not the will of another and emphasises the idea that there are two types of freedom; freedom to and freedom from. When Hayek speaks to freedom, he makes mention of Political, Personal/Inner as well as Economic freedom. John Rawls on the other hand was an American philosopher who wrote from his experiences of World War two.
Rawls developed the theory of Justice. Justice is a concept of moral relevance based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness. Rawls refers to “justice as fairness” and from the theory of justice, the liberty and difference principle was derived. Rawls argues that "Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as information is of preparations of thought. " From the theory of justice the original position and the veil of ignorance were also developed.
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These concepts will be explained further. The aim of this essay is to outline and formulate major distinctions between the two theories listed above by stating the similarities as well as the differences that tells them apart and evaluate both theories, subsequently justifying which of the two provides a better explanation. As was mentioned before, Hayek’s theory of freedom refers to freedom from coercion. The term coercion refers to the act of compelling by force or authority.
In Hayek’s words “coercion can be explained as control of a person's environment or circumstances such that "he is forced to act not according to a coherent plan of his own but to serve the ends of another," and so "unable to use either his own intelligence or knowledge or to follow his own aims. " Hayek went on to say that coercion means having control for the environment so that he/she acts in the interest of the person rather than the interest of their own.
Coercion he argues is will, because it removes or eliminates the individual as a thinking person that should be valued and asserts that the only way to prevent coercion is through the threat of coercion. The coerced lacks the ability of using his knowledge for his own purposes, since the effective use of aptitude requires that one be able to predict to an extent the conditions that exist in one’s environment and adhere to an arrangement of action. "But if the facts which determine our plans are under the sole control of another, our actions will be similarly controlled. " p. 34 For Hayek coercion means doing the will of another and not his own and he gives an example of this, “Even if the threat of starvation to me and perhaps to my family impels me to accept a distasteful job at a very low wage, I am not coerced by him or anybody else. So long as the act that has placed me in my predicament is not aimed at making me do or not do specific things, so long as the intent of the act that harms me is not to make me serve another person's ends, its effect on my freedom is not different from that of any natural calamity a fire or a Rood that destroys my house or an accident that harms my health. p. 137
However, what may seem to be coercion to some may not be coercion to others, hence, Hayek outlines that the following conditions must be satisfied in order to say that a person has been coerced; The coerced person's environment must be controlled by another so that, while he does choose, he is made to choose what will serve the ends of another rather than his own ends, The coercer must threaten to inflict harm with the intention, thereby, to bring about certain ends, That which the coercer denies to me must be crucial to my existence or to what I most value, That the act of the coercer must be directed at me.
Upon careful examination, it will become apparent that Hayek's definition of coercion is radically defective, primarily because it provides no objective and clear cut standard of what is a coercive act but rather leaves it to individual judgment (with reference to what the individual most values) the determination of when a coercive action has been committed.
Hayek speaks also about personal freedom and this he explains as “inner freedom” which he explains as metaphysical or subject freedom which is the extent to which a person guides his actions by his/her own will, reasons and lasting conviction as opposed to momentarily impulses or circumstances. Economic freedom, which refers to freedom from enterprise or state control and Political freedom which refers to freedom from arbitrary rule or arrest and the opportunities people have to determine who should govern and by what principles.
To Hayek, the existence of government is not only permissible but also desirable and he considers, as most classical liberals did, that defence, police, and the administration of justice are indispensable functions of government. He asserts that these governmental activities are not hindrances to a free society, but its guarantees and he argues that the only interference in freedom government should have is preventing one from coercing another.
For Hayek freedom means the rejection of direct control over individuals’ efforts and he argues that knowledge must be available, free, unrestricted or controlled and that our faith in freedom should rest on the belief that it will create forces of good rather than evil and that the benefits we derive from freedom depends heavily on how others use it, however, he argues also that we cannot achieve certainty in human affairs so we best make use of the knowledge we have. Thus we should stick to the rules of experience which best serves our way of thinking, although we don’t know the consequences of using this knowledge.
He believes civilization is progress and progress is civilization. Hayek also speaks about liberty and stresses that the true meaning of liberty is liberty under the rule of law, rather than unlimited liberty. It follows that freedom of economic activity means ‘freedom under the law, not the absence of all government action’ (Hayek, 1960, p. 220). Rawls on the other hand speaks about the theory of justice, from this the liberty and difference theory was derived and the “original/initial position” as well as the “veil of ignorance”.
Rawls argued that two principles serve to organize society; the “liberty principle” which is the first principle of justice that speaks to the fact that person is to have an equal right to the most freedom compatible with everyone else having that same amount of freedom and the "difference principle” which is the second principle which is an egalitarian conception that unless there is a distribution that makes both parties better off an equal distribution is to be preferred and speaks to the fact that social economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage and attached to the position and offices open to all. Primary Goods is a term used by Rawls to cover all the things that the Two Principles of Justice are going to divide up. They are things like rights, opportunities, incomes, power etcetera. Rawls He rooted the original position in and extended the concept of “social contract” previously advocated by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke which made the principles of justice the object of the contract binding members of society together.
The original position as that which representatives with limited information about the interests that they represent attempt to agree as to how society should be ordered and the veil of ignorance is the state of not knowing or having all knowledge or information for the alternatives but arriving at a position. This deal with the initial/original position which sets up a fair procedure that any principle agreed will be just. Rawls also speak of social justice which he states ‘is to be regarded as providing in the first instance a standard whereby the distributive aspects of the basic structure of society are to be assessed’; therefore, ‘they may not elucidate the justice…of voluntary cooperative arrangements or procedures for making contractual agreements’ (Rawls, 1999, pp. 7-8).
For both theories, it can so far be seen that although both theories are different they also have similarities. The first similarity is that Rawls and Hayek both worked from the same tradition-liberalism in which they argued that individuals should to be free to pursue their own idea of the good life and that the state's role is as an enabler. Secondly, they both agree on "the essential point," which is that principles of justice apply to the rules of institutions and social practices, but not to distributions of particular things across specific persons. Thirdly, the government is important and that the government exists to serve the people; the people do not exist to serve the government.
Finally, they both argue agreed on the idea that the handicaps should be provided for. The differences as it relates to both theories are that; firstly, Hayek is from an economic standpoint while Rawls is more rationale and social. The main difference between both is their attitude to equality as Rawls believed in egalitarian and social justice which are two concepts that Hayek rejected as Rawls believe that each individual has different skill, talents and understanding hence they cannot be equal. Hayek argues that ”Whether he is free or not does not depend on the range of choice but on whether he can expect to shape his course of action in accordance with his present intentions, or whether somebody else has power o to manipulate the conditions as to make him act according to that person’s will rather than his own. (Hayek, 1960, p. 13) His view is that one should work in order to achieve what they want and with this point of view, Hayek argues that ‘we may be free and yet miserable’ (Hayek, 1960, p. 18). In relation to Rawls’ definition of liberty, Hayek stresses that the true meaning of liberty is liberty under the rule of law, rather than unlimited liberty. It follows that freedom of economic activity means ‘freedom under the law, not the absence of all government action’ (Hayek, 1960, p. 220). Also, Hayek equates social justice with distributive justice and dismisses both of them.
He claims that ‘liberalism aims at commutative justice and socialism at distributive justice’ and that ‘distributive justice is irreconcilable with freedom in the choice of one’s activities’ (Hayek, 1960, p. 440). In conclusion, I believe that Rawls theory of justice gives a better explanation as it is more accurate, I see this theory as the more applicable of the two to our society rather than that of Hayek’s as his notion of freedom and liberty is too wide and far-fetched for our developing societies. His notion on inequality and giving credit to the countries which are ahead is quite debatable, Rawls however believes in equal distribution of wealth. Rawls believes that if each individual is given the same opportunity then society will be just.
Hayek on the other hand believes that each individual’s ability, skills and talent is different thus equality is impossible; this is to some extent true but distribution of state goods should be just and fair. Each individual should have equal opportunity regardless of social class or position. For Hayek an individual should be free to do as he so desires. How applicable would this be to our society? He argues that the government’s role should only to be implement sanctions for an individual’s action if they so believe that this individual has infringed on another’s right. Hayek further makes vague arguments that that the government should recognize and protect private domain and in doing so and that private persons will be given rules as to what the government will do in different types of situation. Again- inequality protruding.
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