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Philanthropy, Markets, and Commercial Society: Beyond the Hayekian Impasse

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Abstract

In his influential theory of commercial society, F. A. Hayek deems philanthropy an atavism, a vestige of the Aristotelian imperative to do “visible good to [one’s] known fellows,” in contrast to the market ethos of “withholding from the known needy neighbors what they might require in order to serve the unknown needs of thousands of others” (Hayek 1978, 268 and 1979, 165). Markets, in Hayek’s view, are superior to philanthropy—economically, ethically, and epistemologically—because they “confer benefits beyond the range of our concrete knowledge” (Hayek 1988, 81) and thus provide “a greater benefit to the community than most direct ‘altruistic’ action” (ibid., 19). This article proposes a constructive revision of Hayek’s Great Society. Without abandoning Hayek’s theory of markets, the author draws upon the emerging literatures of positive psychology and Austrian socialcapital theory to outline a post-Hayekian view of commercial society in which markets and philanthropy work together to enhance human freedom, flourishing, and voluntary social cooperation.

Robert F. Garnett, "Philanthropy, Markets, and Commercial Society: Beyond the Hayekian Impasse," Journal of Markets & Morality 11, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 205-219


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