Last month Bob Roddis caused a stir when he made available the audio recording of Hayek’s 1975 “Meet the Press” appearance.
Well Roddis has done it again. He has provided me with this recording (mp3) of Hayek on Bill Buckley’s Firing Line. Buckley asks Hayek about the popularity of Keynesianism, if (as Hayek claimed) it was so “manifestly ill-adviiiiised” (picture Buckley’s scary eye rolling).
Let me map what Hayek says, because it gets a little tricky in the middle but the ending is amazing. Hayek explains that in Great Britain during World War I, the pound was cut loose from gold, leading to large increases in prices and wages. Then after the war, the British government wanted to return to pre-war parity. Prices generally came down, but nominal wage rates remained high. Thus, workers saw a huge increase in their real wages because of the efforts at deflation (needed to go back on the gold standard at the old parity).
So, in order to prevent widespread unemployment (i.e. allow British workers to be competitive with the rest of the world), they either had to lower nominal wages or raise prices again. Hayek explains that the first option was politically unpopular, and also was–according to a complicated argument from Keynes’ General Theory–not even effective. (I.e. Keynes argued in his book that even if all nominal wages fell, that might end up reducing overall prices and hence not lead to a fall in real wages.)
But now the awesome part. Hayek says that Keynes’ theory was, at best, appropriate for the specific deflationary environment of the 1930s. After the war had passed, the great danger was inflation. And–according to Hayek–Keynes himself agreed with this, and even promised to rein in his foolish disciples if they ever got the crazy notion to advocate pump-priming in an inflationary environment. But alas, Keynes died six months after pledging this to Hayek.
As I said, Hayek sounds like he’s rambling for a bit, but try to stay focused because the end of the clip is really incredible.