June, 2004

Knowledge, Economics, and Coordination: Understanding Hayek's Legal Theory

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Scott Beaulier

    Academic Dean, College of Business at North Dakota State University
Key materials
Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.

Legal scholars and economists alike have heavily criticized F.A. Hayek's legal theory. According to Richard Posner, Hayek's legal theory is "formalist" and serves as a useless guide for legal scholars and judges. Ebenstein argues that Hayek's arguments in technical economics fail and therefore his research program in economic science should be abandoned, but that his broader social philosophy and theory are worthy of attention by serious scholars. In this working paper, Beaulier, Boettke and Coyne argue that these criticisms are misplaced. They contend that Hayek's legal theory cannot be separated from his economic theory. To establish this point, the authors trace the evolution of Hayek's thought from his earlier writings in technical economics to his later writings on legal theory. Both Posner and Ebenstein fail to appreciate the subtlety of Hayek's legal theory because they understand Hayek's work in law in isolation from his work in economics.