Pan Drakopoulos

Hayek - Wittgenstein

Who has taken the fly out of the bottle of hoax?

THE LAST DAY of August 1918 was already at its close. In the Railway station at Bad Ischl the pale light of the scattered lamps, the smell of engine-oil and sweat, the nervy orders coming through loudspeakers, the station master's whistles as well as the babble of soldiers and their relatives seeing them off, were all mixed with the `hissing' of steam from the engine on the last train to Vienna.

On the platform. a young officer, barely 19 years old, with an assortment of hesitation, curiosity and hope, approached a brother officer in the artillery some ten years his senior with a gloomy, distant stare, and asked him: "Are you Ludwig Wittgenstein? I am your cousin Friedrich von Hayek". No flash of joy or surprise showed on the other's face. He simply accepted the proposal of his younger colleague to share the same compartment with him and have a chat before they go to sleep.

Thus, the first encounter of these two men, whose thought was to stamp the 20th century, took place there, at Bad Ischl --once a popular resort of Francis Joseph I and the favorite town of Brahms, Bruckner, Straus and Lehar-- and at a time that the First World War was about to end, a few months before the fall of Hapsburgs. And both of them had marching orders for the Tyrol in full military uniform. The relationship between the two cousins had begun, and I intend to give some dimensions to it --I must say, in an arbitrary and provocative way-- but more substantial, I hope, than the most titillating family gossip might ever offer.

The Austrian Hayek family believed in their own merit: They were titled since the end of 18th century, although very late, it's true, by the yardstick of the Holy Roman Empire. Friedrich, however, dropped his `von', when he settled in England and received British citizenship in 1938, lest the reminder of his origin should trigger the Londoners' anti-nazi reflex.

The Hayeks were a family of scientists, not of landowners; this for Prussian Germany, where the Hayeks originated from, was a feature of a third class family, but to the refined Austrian Hapsburgs the Hayeks as people of culture meant much more --although in those days, good manners did not allow them to ask how much more or what it really meant. At any event, they were a well pasteurized family of professors: one grandfather of Friedrich was a professor of Constitutional Law and the other of Zoology; his father was a professor of Botany (although he had studied medicine); one of his brothers was a professor of Anatomy and the other of Chemistry. Friedrich himself was scheduled to study biology and he was apparently destined for the Chair of Biology (in which case we would never have spoken of him --even if he had discovered the incredible effects of tricolinasis on lepidoptera). But the young man committed a deadly sin that barred his way to the Chair -- a sin about which his adherents and, his obituaries, have remained silent in all decency. Anyway, our Friedrich became a socialist ; and it was that topic he wanted to talk about with his cousin Ludwig.

For the Hayeks, Ludwig Wittgenstein was considered the most unbalanced person in a family whose members all walked rather clumsily on a tightrope. Ludwig's grandfather was one of the biggest textile manufacturers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and since the Hayeks rated profit among the punishable sins, this in itself was a grave error; besides, he was a Jew who had converted to Christianity (as if a Jew could have ever meant such a thing) for the sake of a successful career, and with a peculiar tone in their voice they stressed that: "he sold his daughter to a Jewish banker", although they usually avoided referring to the matter at all. It is worth noting here that `sold' simply meant: gave his daughter in marriage ; and their repugnance for profit was expressed by their saying --or rather spitting-- the word `banker'. The addition of `to a Jew' reveals other interesting fields of the flora and fauna of the Hayeks.

Ludwig's father, who hated the idea of classical learning and of being the successor to his father's business (a dream of any Jewish father for his first-born son and an Esterhazy at that), almost escaped and went to America at the age of 17. But he returned to Vienna after two years when he knew for certain that he was not going to be forced to memorize Aristotle and Seneca. He found a job as an industrial designer and very soon he was able to plan a factory for steel-making. He supervised its construction and undertook its management. Within ten years, Karl Wittgenstein was at the head of a great steel company and in the first steel cartel in the empire. He, too, married the daughter of a Viennese banker ( so, keep cool Aryans, not of Jewish origin). They brought up their five sons and three daughters with the most rigid teutonic Roman-Catholic discipline --a prescription that, as it proved, is not to be recommended.

The Hayeks disliked or envied (let's not psychoanalyze them now) the Wittgensteins because, apart from anything else, they were `provocatively rich'. The first time Friedrich got into a car --at six years old-- was when Ludwig's grandmother took him for a drive in her cabriolet along Ringstrasse (I hope you are courageous enough to imagine what that meant in society at the time). That drive pleased the boy enormously but displeased his parents more. So, the boy had to learn by receiving a few back-hand blows that he should never again ask to visit that grandmother! Anyhow, the Wittgensteins were a constant subject of unfavorable comment by the Hayeks. At their palace --because they certainly did not live in a simple house-- famous musical soirees, which Brahms often joined in, would take place, but these events failed to impress the Hayeks, since they regarded them as showing off rather than culture.

An ironic advocate of the Hayeks' views was the Wittgensteins' depression which led the three older brothers of Ludwig to commit suicide. Moreover, Ludwig never managed to convince himself that he had, in fact, the right to live on and enjoy the possessions that God, or rather his father, gave him. Therefore, although he was not interested in politics, he believed that socialism was a fair system since it equally portioned out the same food; and according to the Hayeks, that was the reason why Ludwig abandoned everything and became a hermit in Norway. Of course, at the outbreak of war he certainly came back and joined the national army as a volunteer --but this was something that most socialists did at the time.

So, here was the topic for the two cousins to discuss on the night train from Bad Ischl to Vienna. Friedrich Hayek, a rebel against his family's petit bourgeois philistinism, was ready to fight for socialism, justice and freedom. Didn't the other rebel want the same? And since both were fighting for the same cause, couldn't they shake hands?

But Friedrich in fact did not know much about the person he was talking with. The picture he had of his cousin had been created by gossip although he himself applauded whatever his family disapproved of.

He didn't for instance know that his interlocutor, Ludwig Wittgenstein, had gone to study mechanics in Manchester and he had given up his aeronautical studies (as well as his designs for the construction of a new propeller) because he felt a compulsion to study mathematical logic; that he had gone to Cambridge to meet the Patriarch of logico-mathematical philosophy, Lord Bertrand Russell; that he had thrown himself into the study of logic, in this way avoiding (as he himself said) suicide, but without getting rid of the feeling that had not the right to live, since his very presence caused great inconvenience to his fellow men --a feeling that would seemingly be reversed in time: that is, he would find no reason to live in such an evil and stupid world. Friedrich did not know that Ludwig had spent hours on end at the house of his mentor-Lord where in the interludes between anger and despair over his existence he would expound his own theories and, unceasingly, would drink the cocoa that Lady Ottolein offered him whatever its powers, believing that all his psychological problems would be solved if he was fed better and became stronger (on the contrary, Lord Russell believed that the roots of Ludwig's problems went much deeper than any level that cocoa might reach!) Friedrich neither knew that Ludwig had agreed to be hypnotized hoping that would solve the problems of logic nor that he had anonymously distributed a great part of his possessions to poor people and intellectuals (Rilke among them); or that he had left Cambridge to go and live on a farm in Norway, not only to write his first philosophical book but, mainly, to ponder about himself: (" My life without exaggeration", he wrote to Russell, "has been full of hateful and worthless acts, and how can I be a logical philosopher without having before been a pure man? Above all then I should become a pure man");nor did he know that the philosophical book he had started writing was to later become the famous `Tractatus', the notes for which he had with him --in his tunic-- that very evening that the unsuspecting adolescent Friedrich meant to spend with him talking.

The conversation in the officers' carriage did not last long and, the worst of it was that it didn't bring them any closer. They both, naturally, condemned the horrible and inhuman effects of capitalism and agreed that socialism was a necessity. . But what exactly did both terms mean? And in what way should an intellectual act in order to help the populace?

Wittgenstein made a comment of deep significance, something that he would later on repeat in Cambridge: "A philosopher must help Man to break his bounds, to enlighten him; he must help a fly to come out of a bottle". But what a contradiction! On one hand, throughout his life, he wondered why mankind regarded Socrates as a great philosopher ( who, he believed, was not, since instead of confining himself to the use of words Socrates was looking for their definition), and on the other, he considered as the duty of philosophy and of an intellectual's life the same duty that Socrates promoted in Plato's "Republic"!...

Hayek promptly agreed --although I don't know whether he knew how unvarnishedly Platonic that choice was. But that agreement in itself was not enough, for Wittgenstein insisted that it was necessary for an intellectual to go into retreat and lead an ascetic life, whilst Hayek vibrated with a missionary zeal.

However, in order not to be left hovering over an unbridged void, they did agree on their common appreciation of Ernst Mach's theory of knowledge (a philosopher who then enchanted the intelligentsia of Vienna and against whom Lenin had written his book Materialism and Empioriocriticism, a book that its author intended to be pre-eminently philosophical although it only proved to be the work of a political conspirator --participating in the machination of concepts).

The end of the war was not the same for the two cousins. Ludwig, having been taken prisoner by the Italians, wrote to Russell from a camp near Monte Cassino where he was held, that he had with him the manuscript of "Tractatus". Lord Russell acted at once, sending his friend John Maynard Keynes (the famous economist, then an adviser to the British Prime Minister Lloyd George) to fetch him the manuscript. In August 1919, Ludwig was freed and returned to Vienna; he took his manuscript from Russell and became acquainted with the second phase of an author's ordeal: the awful experience of having finished a book, to be anxious for it to be immediately published, but instead, to face either being rejected with scorn or forced to queue up waiting your turn with scores of others hungry for the pleasures of publication.

Being discouraged and sure that he had nothing to say as a philosopher, Wittgenstein asked to be appointed as a teacher in a primary school. So, he retreated to a small village school in Austria where he taught little children --according to some rumors, he tortured them with his fits of anger.

Hayek, on the contrary, as soon as the war ended, launched himself like a tornado on the School of Law at the University of Vienna. In 1921 he finished his studies and gained his Ph.D. as well. But why the School of Law? Simply because then the prevalent impression was that the School of Law was the School of political action par excellence --scrive of socialist action. And it was not just an idle impression: it is a fact that in the Middle Ages the great disputes about Papal absolutism emerged in the Schools of Law, and since then the great propagandist issues continued to find support there. There, at the School of Law, Hayek had an encounter which was decisive for his life. For it was there that he first met his mentor, Ludwig von Mises. With the guidance of Mises, Hayek prepared his second thesis which was on the Political Sciences and it was accepted cum laude in 1923.

Moreover, Mises made a clean sweep of Hayek's socialism. He was the one who taught him that the contrast between capitalism and socialism was a fake; the real contrast was between government intervention and the free market ; besides, it was central planning, both in socialist and capitalist regimes, which in general creates social backwardness. Mises also taught him that wherever there was a free market there were free people and truly democratic institutions.

Hayek's apostolic zeal did not stem from passing of his socialism; Mises, however, was the first who noticed it. Relying on this young Doctor's evangelist gift, Mises founded an Austrian Institute for Economic Research. At first, his protégé was his main collaborator and later on, in 1927, he promoted him to the rank of director.

The Institute was the institutional expression of the so-called `Austrian School of Economics'. This School was founded in 1871, when Carl von Menger published his book Principles on Economics putting forward new theories on value and prices and founding a new economic theory which advocated the deductive laws of social science. Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk was the second great figure of that School; he developed a pioneer model of relations between the rate of interest and the period of turnover of capital --a contributing factor in the well being of the people. He also produced exemplary criticism on Marx's theories on capital and exploitation. And Bohm -Bawerk's best student was Ludwig von Mises who established his reputation as a libertarian economist immediately after he published his first work in 1912.

I have noticed something that might have a certain meaning: all the members of that School, which was based on the principles of The Free Market and unhindered creative individualism, were all people of the nobility. It is also worth adding that in 1946 when Mises and Hayek decided to found an international organization which would promote their libertarian ideas, they collected many scientists from different countries in a castle near Montreux in Switzerland. They suggested that the organization be called the `Tocqueville-Acton Society' honoring the two great libertarians: Alexis de Tocqueville and John Emerich Edward Acton, 1st Baron. But an American Professor rose to his full republican stature and threatened: "If the name of this Society is going to remind us of two aristocrats I am leaving in protest!

The two Viennese missionaries gave way with a flexibility that even a most enlightened Jesuit would envy and they promptly accepted the grotesque title `Mont Pelerin Society' that someone present had proposed ( the name of the mountain where the castle in which they had been gathered stood).

`They shoot horses, don't they?' Hayek was the director of the Institute at the time of the great economic crash of 1929. The world economy experienced an unprecedented collapse: yesterday's substantial properties scattered to the winds, shares crashed breathtakingly, stock holders jumped out of windows, bank bills incinerated in a volcanic inflation, long queues of unemployed and starving people desperately asking politicians to do something . Government interventionism seemed to be the only hope of salvation for people who were not only losing their money, but their dignity as well.

Mises and Hayek saw clearly that now it was not going to be at all easy to speak of the free market; besides, they could not both be spending their energies and talents in Austria (which in any case had become marginalized after the fall of the Hapsburgs), fighting against a cataclysmic stream. They had not for a moment wavered in their convictions, but they realized that the days of the Institute were numbered.

Hayek turned the prestige he had acquired to advantage --despite his young age-- with the publication in 1925 in Britain of his work Money, Capital and Fluctuations; a prestige which was further boosted with his work Monetary Theory and Commercial Cycles in 1933. He had already acquired some adherents in the professional establishment, and he turned them to account by accepting a proposal for becoming a professor at the London School of Economics. So, he went there and gave four lectures, published them as a book under the title Prices and Production, and after that was appointed a professor in Economics and Statistics.

Hayek was not only an ardent missionary, he was also a brave man: in the terrifying atmosphere of that economic catastrophe and while everybody clutched at the theories of the Professor of Economics in Cambridge, John Maynard Keynes, who advocated immediate government intervention so that the western economies might survive, the newcomer Hayek attacked Keynes' theories, against the flow of the tide.

This was sacrilegious on two levels. First, he was a foreigner, a German with the most barbarous English (which his colleague Arnold Plant tried to amend by having long walks with him in Hamstead daily); and second, he challenged Keynes --one of the most favored young men of his day: Keynes --a doyen of high society, with perfect English, handsome, sensitive, a member of the Bloomsbury group whose Ophelia was Virginia Woolf, a Liberal, an aesthetic creature who, on the point of death in 1946, could only say: " What a pity! I won't drink champagne again!". In short, he was the cream of British culture and society. But in the event that the British might overcome Hayek's sacrilege, what did they hear from him? A hymn for the free market, the moment that the black was flourishing!

However, Hayek was a solitary crusader who paid no attention to the Saracens' loud cries: he wrote two long articles where he systematically refuted Keynes' Treatise on Money which was published in 1930. But when these two opponents met, Keynes, of course, enchanted the impulsive Austrian and, anyway, assured him that he was going to change a great part of his theory. So, in 1936, when his famous work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money came out it indeed differed from his Treatise of 1930 on many points but it was still very far from the theories of the Austrian Economic School. Hayek wrote nothing against it, hoping for a new revision after more marathon discussions. But that new revision never materialized.

I believe it was not only that Hayek expected a new revision, for Keynes showed particular regard towards the younger Hayek and when, because of the war, the London School of Economics moved temporarily to Cambridge, it was Keynes himself who ran to secure an appropriate flat for this same antagonist! Besides, how would it sound during the Anglo-German war if a prominent British economist were to be crushed by an Austrian-German? Moreover, Keynes knew the art of being a friend very well; and when in 1944 Hayek published his famous work The Road to Serfdom (which the author dedicated to him, not without a taunt: `to the socialists of all parties'), Keynes hastened to praise the book and recommend reading it although, as a point of honor, adding that the British tradition had followed a different course...

HAYEK HAD ALREADY made a name for himself among economists and the Austrian intelligentsia before the war and before having settled in England. His cousin Ludwig had apparently heard of his U-turn and his subsequent combative opposition to socialism. What was the philosopher's stance now?

We know that he was positive towards Lenin --which means that he, too, had denied the current reformist social democracy, but he had moved in the completely opposite direction to Hayek.

In the spring of 1928, the economist, Prof. Denis Robertson invited the director of the Mises Institute , young Hayek, to Cambridge. They were strolling along the banks of the Cam, when they saw Wittgenstein lying down on the grass. Robertson sheered off trying to avoid him (it was obvious that there was nothing but a nuisance in his path), but Hayek rushed towards him and spoke to him with a warm and most amicable voice. They discussed family news for a short while and then ... the void! Hayek understood that his cousin did not know or did not want to say more. So, he retreated to rejoin Robertson. Was Wittgenstein's attitude scornful? Anyhow, it is apparent that this is how Hayek interpreted his behavior, and he was hurt at that. Therefore he gave up any interest in communicating with him. But for us, the question remains open.

One way or another, beyond political differences, Hayek could not help sensing the increased distance between him and his cousin. In 1921, when Tractatus came out in German, Hayek was one of its first readers: he bought it the very first day of its publication and he "pitched into" studying it. He was deeply impressed by his cousin's work, but it was alien to his own nature and mind. What could the latter, who advocated a completely open society, have in common with one who was so hermetically sealed?

Ludwig Wittgenstein often used to put the following question: "What's the use of philosophy if not to ameliorate the way we think about the most significant issues of our daily life?" Hayek could not of course dispute this kind of question, but by this yardstick, how did his philosophy help Wittgenstein himself? His pro-Leninism induced him to travel to communist Russia in 1936 --even wishing to settle there; nothing wrong, nothing indeed that needed amendment. By going to that communist country, he proved to himself that whatever the western newspapers wrote about the hell of terror and oppression was not only propaganda, but also nonsense perpetrated by people unversed in philosophy. Besides, that country saw a unique economic development under the wise leadership of Stalin; a development which decisively and entirely contradicted the theories (of Mises and Hayek) that socialism was unable to provide an increase of wealth and freedom for the people.

Also on the 12 March 1938 he assured his colleagues in Cambridge that the rumors about the embodiment of Austria into Hitler's Germany were lies and nonsense. With the authority that derived from his nationality and his philosophical stature he explained that Hitler was not what journalists said: he was not about to conquer any country, and certainly not Austria because he had no reason for that; after all, "what's the use of Austria for him?", he asked. But, on the same day the new pro-Nazi government of Austria having `invited' the German army into the country "to establish peace and order in Austria", the `Anschluss' became a fait accompli; it was the embodiment which the gifted philosopher considered impossible and pointless.

Moreover, when under a Nuremberg decree the Wittgensteins were characterized as Jews, Ludwig wrote to his sister: "There is no cause for alarm; a lot of people respect you, who would ever dare to harm you?"

Of course, he was not the only intellectual in the West to burn incense at the altar of the Red Baal, nor the only one to believe that, "you are not to be chased unless you have done something wrong". In short, he was not the only one who could not understand the nature of totalitarianism. Most of them, even today, continue to believe that totalitarianism is simply a less casual regime than others. But the question arises: Which of the two cousins developed the theory which would "help a fly to come out of the bottle?"..

The third encounter of the two cousins was unexpected and more unpleasant. In 1939, the war had broken out and the London School of Economics was accommodated, in some way, in Cambridge. Keynes had managed to secure rooms for Hayek in the Gibbs Wing at King's College. Keynes asked the professor of philosophy, Richard Braithwaite, to invite the newcomer to take part in the meetings of their philosophical club. The meetings took place in Braithwaite's rooms --a floor under Hayek's. Wittgenstein was also a member of the club. He had returned to Cambridge in 1929. In 1930 he became a lecturer and in 1937 a professor of philosophy, succeeding George E. Moore, the man who had already, since 1910, fashioned the philosophical climate of the University which has remained relatively unchanged until today. Hayek entered the room, exchanged a conventional `good evening' with everybody, including his cousin and said nothing in particular. One of the members started reading his own paper --a subject that the Austrian newcomer was apparently indifferent to. Hayek `followed' the ensuing discussion while doing his own thinking. Nobody can say whether the distance between him and the others was noticeable. However, all of a sudden, Wittgenstein started up from his seat, grasped the brass poker near the fireplace and, absolutely beside himself, began to move it to and fro, screaming that all these things were trivialities and oversimplifications unworthy of being discussed. "Looking at that frantic man", in Hayek's own account, "screaming and moving the brass poker in a dangerous way; and looking at the members of the club squashing into the corners of the room to protect themselves, I frankly was under the impression that my poor cousin was mad".

Was he? Hayek's impression was rather based on the dogma that he himself followed and also taught to his students, according to which you should be `suaviter in modo, fortifer in re' (approximately: mild in manners, forceful in arguments). But we cannot give an opinion based on that dogma, since Wittgenstein --and arguably, other strong minds as well-- would have considered it a sham petit bourgeois formulation. It is also worth noticing that this same performance, `Wittgenstein with a poker', happened once again.

At the end of 1946, Professor Karl Popper, also an Austrian who lived in London, --another proof that the `Blue Danube' did not suffice to keep intellectuals in Vienna between the two World Wars-- was invited by the same club to give a speech on `the Philosophical Puzzles'. Popper understood that the wording belonged to Wittgenstein, whose theory was that out of the domain of logic there were no philosophical problems but only philosophical puzzles with words and their meanings. Popper didn't recall that that theory did not belong exclusively to Wittgenstein, but also to the so-called 'School of Vienna' (Karnap and others). So, he gave a speech on the subject: `Are there philosophical problems'? He started reasoning that: Yes, there were such problems, and if there had not been there would have been no reason for philosophers to exist, to have Chairs at Universities, clubs, periodicals etc. All of a sudden --again!-- Wittgenstein sprang out of his chair, interrupted Popper and started explaining in anger that the problems of philosophy on the whole were linguistic complexities, logical inconsistencies etc. Popper, in his turn, interrupted him, raising his voice even higher, and insisted that they certainly existed and he had made a whole list of them. Wittgenstein asked him in a commanding voice to read his list. Popper started reading:

a) Do we know things through our senses or through other ways?

b) Do we form our knowledge through reaction?

Wittgenstein interrupted him saying that those were problems of Logic not of Philosophy (the reader will realize that what is here called philosophy --as well as at the School of Vienna-- is an attempt to bury metaphysics). Popper answered him that there are ethical problems as well as problems of validity of ethical rules. At this point Wittgenstein, who was sitting near the fireplace, grabbed the brass poker and waving it like a conductor's baton, ordered him in a state of agitation: "Give us an example of ethical law!" Popper answered him promptly: "Don't use a poker to threaten your guest-speakers!" Instantly, Wittgenstein tossed away the poker with rage and rushed out of the room shutting the door with a bang.

Popper caused a sensation (perhaps for my reader, too) thanks to a rhetorical transposition of the subject; in fact --we must admit-- he lowered the level of the discussion by referring not to the subject but to the manners of his interlocutor. He didn't give a philosophical answer (which he could), but he took refuge in an argumentum ad hominem, that is, in a typical sophistry which would not normally have been accepted. The only excuse for the members of the philosophical club was their surprise at the unexpectedly rude and intensely-voiced rivalry between the two Austrian thinkers.

In any case Hayek, being convinced that his cousin was not well, ceased to behave in a wounded way, and started developing solicitous feelings at that. He began to visit him in his attic in a Trinity College building across the road, to sit and talk with him for a while by his stove, mindfully avoiding political and philosophical topics. Hayek would even run some errands for his cousin realizing his weakness in managing practical issues --in particular those that had something to do with the authorities-- and his irrational obstinacy in ludicrous small details.

The Second World War had caused Ludwig Wittgenstein great distress. His dismay over his beloved sister's fate, his guilt that he proved unable to understand Nazism, his conviction that in crucial moments a philosopher should only become a silent servant, and many other things I would not like to comment on, made him withdraw from the University and hide himself away as a male nurse in the corridors of pain and death in a hospital.

Hayek, on the other hand, went on teaching undauntedly, and he taught in an idiosyncratic way: "I used to teach my students what I had been taught by great masters; what had influenced me and not what they primarily said or what made them known", he explained in one of his essays. Instead of withdrawing himself, as his cousin did, he directly increased his public activities by speaking within and outside the University, and by writing about and explaining and buttressing his ideas.

After the end of the war, Buckingham Palace invested him with an order. The master of ceremonies asked him the exact pronunciation of his name in order to announce him. He answered: "Hi-yek, as in High-Explosive". And this is exactly what he was. Just look at his bibliography (you can find it in John Gray's book Hayek on Liberty ) which contains (up to 1984) more than 135 articles, 16 thick books, 12 monographs and many other texts (introductions, publications edited by him etc.). Just look at the think-tanks he established in 34 countries with more than 450 executives. `High Explosive' he was. One can see it also in the breadth of his interests, the fact that he has written on so many subjects --economy, sociology, social anthropology, psychology and also philosophy.

PROFESSOR FRIEDRICH HAYEK was waiting at the railway station in Basel, Switzerland. This outstanding libertarian had just given an impressive speech on his book The Road to Serfdom", which had immediately become not only a best seller but also an object of praise and controversy. A small group of professors had escorted him to the station. They had booked a place for him in a compartment for two in a wagon-lit in the train from Vienna to France. The professor would continue his journey to England by boat.

The train arrived at midnight sharp. Hayek got into his wagon lit and in the half-light saw that his unknown fellow-passenger was asleep. He carefully took his clothes off and crept up on the upper berth to go to sleep. As soon as he lay down he heard his fellow passenger say in a loud voice as though he was giving an order: Are you the Professor Hayek! At once he recognized the voice of his cousin, he bent his head to look at him and have a chat with him. But the other had already turned his face to the wall; he apparently wanted nothing more than that recognition. Hayek, somehow uneasily, went back to sleep.

In the morning, when he woke up, Wittgenstein was absent. He was not in the restaurant car, where Hayek went to breakfast. But when, somehow bewildered, he returned to the compartment, Wittgenstein was there reading a detective novel with deep concentration and it was obvious that he would accept no interruption. Hayek remained silent as though before him was an indifferent stranger. Wittgenstein, as soon as he had finished his detective story, started a conversation with Hayek which soon became revealing.

Ludwig Wittgenstein had gone to Vienna to see his beloved sister Ermine for last time (he concealed from Hayek the fact that he, too, now suffered from cancer). In those days Vienna was partly under the Soviet occupation and the gifted logician/philosopher, before having visited Vienna, had been happy in that knowledge, believing that the communist army would bring back order and would respect Man and the cultural inheritance. But, he confessed to Hayek, he had found out that that army had actually imposed a regime of terror, corruption, and unbelievable brutality. The hunger of the people was nightmarish, while frequently mass-execut-ions --often for no reason at all-- and the rape of women, adolescents and even small children by soldiers and officers formed a setting that he would hardly dare to describe. With his family dead, his health on a fatal course and --primarily-- his social ideals reduced to tatters by the violent, skeletal hand of reality, Wittgenstein would ask Friedrich Hayek: which then was his mistake and why couldn't he take any fly out of the bottle of hoax?

It was the first time since that train journey that would take them to the battle-field of the First World War that the two cousins started to talk (this time for hours on end) on ethics, freedom and spiritual battles.

It was destiny's will to stage the first and the last meeting of those two eminent intellectuals of our times in a train. It wanted them to speak about freedom with the rhythmical accompaniment of the train to remind them --if they would take notice of it-- of the iron tracks of necessity on which both of them, as well as the rest of us, move along.

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