glyph 129: book . power, constraints, barriers, limits . classical liberalism . mt. pelerin society . hayek


Power: The Natural History of its Growth, by Bertrand de Jouvenel

'a great book' -F. A. Hayek, 1948

There is no better introduction to the work of Bertrand de Jouvenel than F. A. Hayek's review of his book, Power: The Natural History of its Growth (London and New York: Hutchinson, 1948), published as "The Tragedy of Organized Humanity" in Time and Tide, November 6, 1948, p. 119.

'Though few people seem yet to be aware of it, we are beginning to pay the price for one of the most fateful delusions which have ever guided political evolution. About a hundred years ago political wisdom had learned to comprehend, as a result of centuries of bitter experience, the essential importance of manifold checks and barriers to the expansion of power. But after power seemed to have fallen into the hands of the great mass of the people, it was suddenly thought that no more restrictions on power were necessary. The delusion arose, described by Lord Acton in a phrase less hackneyed but not less profound than that which is now constantly quoted, "that absolute power may, by the hypothesis of its popular origin, be as legitimate as constitutional freedom". But power has an inherent tendency to expand and where there are no effective limitations it will grow without bounds, whether it is exercised in the name of the people or in the name of the few. Indeed, there is reason to fear that unlimited power in the hands of the people will grow farther and be even more pernicious in its effects than power exercised by the few.

'This is the tragic theme on which M. de Jouvenel has written a great book.'

The above quotation is taken from The Fortunes of Liberalism, volume 4 of the Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, published by the University of Chicago.

Bertrand de Jouvenel participated in the first meeting of the Mt. Pelerin Society, 1-11 April 1947, Mt. Pelerin, Switzerland.
entered before July 9, 2006

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