The Constitution of Liberty and Law, Legislation, and Liberty

Yesterday, I posted on people’s preferences for Capitalism and Freedom versus Free to Choose.  I also noted that one’s preference may turn on which book one read first.

The same issues of preference and timing arises with Hayek’s two great works — The Constitution of Liberty and Law, Legislation, and Liberty (LL&L).  For me, the better work is The Constitution of Liberty, and not surprisingly I read it first.  (In fact, I read it in that critical period of 1977-1978 when I was becoming persuaded of libertarian ideas. )  So my preference for it may reflect what I called in my prior post the freshness bias.

But these are also different works.  The Constitution of Liberty is more of a restatement of classical liberalism whereas LL&L is an attempt to improve upon the tradition.  Moreover, the Constitution of Liberty is less enamored of the common law method than LL&L.  I prefer the Constitution of Liberty because I think more of it is correct — the speculations in LL&L, especially about the common law method, seem to be mistaken at times and overstated.  That said, I have to agree that LL&L is probably the more interesting book — it is quite innovative, even if the Constitution of Liberty was no slouch in that area.

I suppose that one could continue this exercise with other libertarian classics.  Ayn Rand’s two books, Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead come to my mind.  I read Atlas Shrugged first and liked it better, while people I know who read the Fountainhead first tend to prefer it.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.  His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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