Well, my hopes weren’t high. I made it to the 16th minute of the BBC’s documentary on Friedrich Hayek, before having to switch it off. I challenge anyone to do better than that.
What we are dealing with is a documentary formula, into which Hayek’s life and work has been stuffed. The particular formula is the one they use for pioneering scientists who discover bacteria or something like that, and the need is to stress just how isolated and way-out the fellow was considered by everybody else. That might be fine for doing the mathematician who cracked Fermat’s Last Theorem, and may lend itself to atmospheric long-shots of the presenter walking through empty courtyards and down echoing corridors, but Friedrich Hayek was not a man working alone, and his ideas built on the ideas of other earlier and contemporary economists. I kept waiting for the name Ludwig von Mises to crop up, and it never did. It’s kind of hard to discuss Hayek’s early years in Vienna without once mentioning Mises. The final straw came when the presenter described his work at the Institute of Business Cycle Research which was founded with Mises at the Chamber of Commerce where Mises worked, and where he held his legendary seminars, which Hayek attended, and even then she could not bear to utter Mises’ name. The following is far from a perfect analogy, but it’s like watching a documentary about Mark Antony with no mention of Caesar.
The documentary is from a three-part series called ‘Masters of Money’. The other two parts feature Keynes and Marx. Somehow I figure the Beeb may be in far more familiar territory with these two, especially the last one, although how he can be considered as a master of money, is a mystery, unless it is referring to his incredible talent to leech off his friends, followers and family to fund his decadent, bourgeois life of leisure.
All I can say, is thank goodness we don’t have to rely on the BBC to (mis-) inform us anymore.