William Harold Hutt (1899-1988) spent most of his career
out of the mainstream of economics in two ways. He lived
in relative isolation in South Africa from the 1920s to the
1960s and he adhered to "classical" free trade principles
through the period from 1936 to the 1970s when the
profession was in the grip of the Keynesian revolution. He
did not attend the initial meeting of the Mont Pelerin
Society but he joined immediately and remained an
enthusiastic contributor to the proceedings of the Society,
even in the last years of his life when he was confined to
Three of the chief pillars of socialist thinking are (1) the
mythology of exploitation of the workers in the Industrial
Revolution, (2) the view that the workers needed to
engage in a bitter struggle with capital to improve their pay
and conditions, and (3) the idea that the Great Depression
of the 1930s was caused by the failure of free markets.
Hutt provided a telling rejoinder to (1) in his essay on the
factory system. In his book on the strike-threat system he
wrote a critical appraisal of (2). Refutations of (3) can be
found at these addresses.
A survey of his life and his major works by Rafe Champion.
The Australian Labor Party and the trade unions want to undo the recent law reforms in industrial relations to give more power and influence to the trade unions. It is important to realise how much their aims and ideas are inspired by a number of myths and misunderstandings that have the status of religious beliefs in the labour movement. The late Bill Hutt wrote a series of books that punctured those myths and it will immensely lift the standard of political debate when his work is more widely known.…more
LIST OF BOOKS
The Theory of Collective Bargaining 1930
Economists and the Public 1936
The Theory of Idle Resources 1939
Plan for Reconstruction 1944
Keynesianism - Retrospect and Prospect 1963
The Economics of the Colour Bar 1964
Politically Impossible...? 1971
The Strike-Threat System 1973
A Rehabilitation of Say's Law 1975
The Keynesian Episode 1979
"Most economists have their works forgotten after they're dead. I've the unique distinction in having had all my works forgotten while I'm still alive."
While the power to strike can redistribute income in favour of the members of particular unions, it cannot redistribute income in favour of labour in general at the expense of capital in general. Despite so clear a thesis, it has yet to be successfully refuted...
A paper by Peter Lewin describing Hutt's views on the role of economic irrationalism and white trade unionists in the development of apartheid in South Africa.
Extracts and commentary by Rafe Champion
"In this book I am concerned with influences that are hindering the dissolution of prejudice and anachronistic custom, that is, with factors that maybe held to be responsible for the injustice presently endured by some - if not all - of the non-white peoples of the world."
" I shall illustrate by thesis almost entirely by reference to experience in the Republic of South Africa where I have been living whilst my ideas were forming...I shall try to identify (a) the forces that have tended to dissolve the economic and social inferiority of the non-white classes, and (b) the opposing forces that have tended, deliberately or otherwise, to perpetuate this inferiority".
from Capitalism and the Historians, edited by Hayek.
"The two main conclusions suggested by this discussion are,first, that there has been a general tendency to exaggerate the "evils" which characterized the factory system before the abandonment of laissez faire and, second, that factory legislation was not essential to the ultimate disappearanceof those "evils." Conditions which modern standards would condemn were then common to the community as a whole,and legislation not only brought with it other disadvantages,not readily apparent in the complex changes of the time,but also served to obscure and hamper more natural and desirable remedies."
An appendix to the paper on Bill Hutt on trade unions is based on an article by Arthur Koestler which described how England became the economic basket case of Western Europe after World War Two. This decline was caused by some deeply entrenched sets of ideas and practices among both the “toffs” and the workers which rendered the managing classes incompetent at managing and the workers unwilling and unproductive on the job.