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F. A. Hayek’s Last Interview (1985): Skousen and North

Written by Gary North on January 14, 2017

I received an email on January 12:

thank you for recording and sharing the wonderful interview with Hayek from 1985. It’s recorded on mises.org website / part one here: https://mises.org/library/interview-friedrich-hayek-part-i and part two here: https://mises.org/library/interview-friedrich-hayek-part-ii .

Actually, the interview is very important for my research. Hayek touches there notorious stuff, but from different angles than before. It sheds some new light. Actually, some pride to have “the last interview of Hayek” / http://www.leconomiste.eu/decryptage-economie/348-le-dernier-entretien-de-friedrich-von-hayek.html They say they interviewed Hayek in 1985 in Freiburg. Well, I don’t know the exact date of their interview. Do you know more exactly date of your interview than just the August 1985?

I have one question. My question is whether you remember anything else that is not recorded in those interviews. Any Hayek’s notes, how he appeared.

Actually, it must have been within weeks after your visit that Hayek fell very ill. It’s clear from the Biography by Hayek’s last secretary, Charlotte Cubitt, as well as of Hayek’s correspondence. You were with Hayek in Obergurgl in the Alps in August 1985 and in Sept. 1985 Hayek was very ill. Actually, this illness prevented him from working substantially from that time on. He had his splendid moments later, too and it is clear he worked a bit on the final and published version of The Fatal Conceit. I was in the archives and am interested in this part of his life, therefore I know. Any of the notes you can provide might be useful for my research.

The email refers to the joint interview that Mark Skousen and I conducted. I posted the story here.

I do not know which items the researcher has in mind: “Hayek touches there notorious stuff, but from different angles than before. It sheds some new light.”

I did not know that he got sick the next month.

Skousen had set up the interview. I was glad that he did. Learning that he became ill soon thereafter reminded me of the importance of not procrastinating.

I sent him this information.

I was on an organized vacation.

My vacation ended at Bosworth Field on the 500th anniversary of the battle. That was August 22. The meeting with Hayek was therefore about two weeks earlier — maximum.

I remember that he did not want the interviews published until after Margit von Mises died. He had referred to her in the interview. As he said, “Someone who knows her background could figure out how old she is. She would not like that.” I waited to publish these until after she had died. She died in 1993, the year after Hayek died. I then released these on tape to my subscribers.

I did immediately send a set of tapes to his biographer, William Bartley. He died in 1990, two years before Hayek did.

Hayek’s wife was angry. She did not speak with me, but she told Skousen how upset she was. She said he would be tired for a week because of the interview. I recall this, because Margit was equally upset with my brief time with Mises in September 1971, and for the same reason: post-discussion exhaustion. She told Bettina Greaves how upset she was. I thought both times: “I hope my wife does not interfere with young men who come to interview me.” I don’t think she would.

Here is how Skousen recalled it in an email on January 12, 2017:

Second, after the 3 hour interview, Hayek’s second wife, Helene, who was known for her brusk manner (her maiden last name was Bitterlich!), came running in as we were ending the interview and started yelling at us, “Get out! Get out! Your interview will cause my husband to collapse. He won’t be able to do any work for weeks!” Her attitude was in sharp contrast with Hayek, who was the consummate gentleman.

I recall that Hayek was in the final stages of completing his great book, The Fatal Conceit. I hope I am equally mentally alert when I am 86. He let me photocopy a carbon copy of one chapter. He offered to let me borrow the carbon copy, but I did not want that responsibility of returning it. Things can get lost in the mail.

We never know if our efforts will have much effect. Our goal should be to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. There are ripple effects in life.

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