Monday 13 February 2006

Quote, unquote

I noticed this item over on Guido's blog a few days ago:
"to be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be controlled in everything."
Guido gives a hat tip for the Hayek "quote" to this site. And why do I put "quote" in quotation marks, you may ask. Because the "quote" isn't quite correct, and therein lies a story.

Around twenty-five years ago I decided to get a backup camera for my trusty Pentax KM SLR. I chose the Olympus XA, and what an excellent camera it was. Actually, I should say "is" - for it's still working fine, albeit without such modern innovations as autofocus or autowind, never mind digital.

At the time I was an accountant with an advertising agency in Knightsbridge. A few days after buying the XA one of the directors rushed into my office and asked if I had my camera with me. "Yes," I replied. "But I've only got black and white film." That was no problem and I was sent off by taxi to the headquarters of EMI who were one of our clients. The job was to take photographs of some visiting American executives while they were standing in front of the famous His Master's Voice painting. I was paid the sum of £60 and was well pleased with this outcome, as the camera had only cost around £100 the previous weekend. I made the decision to always have a camera with me.

About the same time, the Alternative Bookshop opened in Covent Garden under the management of my friend Chris Tame, founder of the Libertarian Alliance. Armed at all times with the XA, I became the official photographer at the shop's signing sessions including the one attended by Professor Hayek.

This was the outcome:

We decided to make the photo into a poster. A work colleague did some retouching that removed a bottle of wine from the dark area and chopped off the entire left hand side of the photo which was taken in landscape format, not portrait. Being in the advertising business I was able to get a supplier to make an A2 sized metallic block and print off the first batch of posters - it helped that I was the person who wrote the cheques - and all of this work was performed in exchange for a bottle of Scotch. This was well before the age of PCs. But of course we needed a Hayek quote to go on the poster.

Back then the Libertarian Alliance was a democracy instead of the benevolent monarchy into which it later evolved. (The full story of The Events of 1982 is complex, but clues can be found here.) The "Committee" searched through the great man's works and eventually came across the words: "To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be", and then several lines later: "controlled in everything". We decided to go with that "quote" using the ellipsis to indicate the missing lines.

Like this:

"To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be... controlled in everything." - Friedrich Hayek
Hayek was pleased with the choice and didn't mind the missing words in the least.

In the early 1990's my wife and I were pleasantly surprised to see the poster on the wall of Laissez Faire Books in their shop, which was then in San Francisco. Hopefully it's still on display at the IEA.

So, the lessons to be learned are:

(1) Don't believe everything you read on Google, and
(2) Always carry your camera.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Trackback message 
Title: The History of a “Quote” 
Excerpt: Over at Freedom and Whisky, David Farrer traces the history of a quote commonly attributed to F.A. Hayek: “To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be controlled in everything.” Come to find out, that quote ain’t necessaril... 
Blog name: No Treason

6 March 2006, 11:29:00 GMT
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Guido Fawkes
And a student Guido had the poster placed on his wall where traditionally the Che Geuvara poster was placed.

13 February 2006, 19:47:45 GMT