Reminiscences of Hayek

I never have trouble remembering Friedrich Hayek’s birthday (May 8) because it’s the same day as my late sister’s birthday and the same day as VE Day.

Here’s a link to some reminiscences of the first time I met Hayek. A highlight from that link:

In June 1975, when I attended the second Austrian conference in Hartford, Connecticut, I went up to Hayek, who was attending, and said to him, “Professor Hayek, your analysis in Prices and Production makes sense to me only if we reject rational expectations. Do you agree?” He winced and went on to disagree but I still don’t understand what he said. (By the way, when Hayek’s cab pulled up on the Sunday afternoon before the conference started and the driver pulled Hayek’s large suitcase out of the cab, I looked at a group of fellow graduate students who were more into Austrian economics than I was, figuring one of them would offer to carry his suitcase up the narrow stairs. None of them did, and so I went up and offered to do so. Hayek accepted gracefully. That suitcase was heavy. On the way up the stairs, I said, maybe a little too impudently, “This is heavy; what have you got in here.” Hayek chuckled and answered, “Books.”)

One additional story I didn’t tell in the interview from which this is taken is that we got talking about Hayek’s appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press that was televised that morning. I think I said something like “I thought you did a good job.” (I did.) That got us talking about reporters as interviewers. Hayek said, with a twinkle in his eye, that he found it surprising that no U.S. reporter who had ever interviewed him took notes in shorthand whereas it was common for European reporters to do so. He couldn’t understand why a skill that would seem to be so crucial for someone who wanted to do his job well would be so rare.

I also remember that the way I saw the interview was that Dr. William Hutt, his wife, and I were going through an airport (I think Cleveland) on the way from a Liberty Fund colloquium, my first, in Athens, Ohio to Hartford. This is vague recall, but I think we saw it on an overhead TV while waiting for our flight. Better than CNN.

When researching this post, I found in my home library the transcript of the June 22, 1975 interview on NBC. I had sent my check for 25 cents to NBC and got it in the mail.

Here’s an audio recording of the interview, but it misses about the first 3 minutes.

Which means it misses one of the best parts:

Mr. [Irving R.] Levine: How do you cure inflation?

Dr. Von Hayek: You stop printing money.

He later goes on to explain it more accurately:

In a sense, stopping the printing presses is a figurative expression, because it is being done now by creating credit by the Federal Reserve System.