The Hayek Society sees itself as a machine room for classic-liberal thinking in German-speaking countries.
It unites personalities from science, entrepreneurship and journalism who feel connected to the ideas of Friedrich A. von Hayek, one of the most important liberal social philosophers and economists of the 20th century.
The society, set up as a non-profit association, is dedicated to the dissemination of Hayekian knowledge and promotes relevant research in the field of economics, law and social sciences.
The corporate structure of the Hayek Society as a non-profit association and its goals require strict party-political neutrality.
The principle of non-partisanship is intended to keep open and party political maneuvers out of debate.
It demands a high degree of tolerance from all those involved, which in turn is not a party-political statement and is not unlimited.
Because in the spirit of Hayek, free discourse with all sides serves to gain knowledge in a world of distributed knowledge.
Stefan Kooths, Chairman of the Hayek Society
Source: picture alliance / dpa
Whoever questions this culture of open discussion - be it from the left or the right on the political spectrum - cannot expect to be heard by the Hayek Society.
On the contrary, he will meet bitter resistance there.
Because anti-totalitarianism has always been part of their DNA, it seems deeply disconcerting to Hayek society when asked to distance itself from extremists.
Rather, she must reject such a request as an affront if she does not want to cast doubt on her self-image and the work of Friedrich A. von Hayek.
On the face of it, this question recently got into a mess between the Hayek Society and its foundation, through which the society has so far received a large part of the funds for its work.
The occasion was dealing with members and group employees of the AfD.
In view of a possible classification of the party as a suspected case by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Board of Trustees urged the board of directors of the foundation and society to submit a far-reaching personal declaration of non-agreement.
According to the will of the foundation board, the foundation board should even hand this over unanimously.
Although a decision on a suspected case had not yet been made, the company should distance itself across the board, otherwise it was threatened with the discontinuation of the financing of joint projects.
The board of directors rejected this request for good reasons.
On the one hand, there can never be any doubt that the forces in the AfD that justify a possible suspected case are in conflict with the goals of the Hayek Society.
To expressly explain this would mean to put the possibility in the room, it could ever have been otherwise.
In case of suspicion
There is not the slightest reason for the Hayek Society to bring about a resolution that it is a matter of course that it is based on the free-democratic basic order.
She has been committed to this out of genuinely liberal conviction since its foundation, and on this she is dependent for her work.
On the other hand, the board of trustees disregards the rules set out in the company's articles of association.
Decisions about the admission and exclusion of members - as well as general rules - fall within the sole competence of the general assembly, the highest decision-making body of the Hayek Society.
There - and only there - appropriate decisions can be made, which should be preceded by an in-depth debate - as is good custom in a scientific society.
Here the company's board of directors is very close to Hayek when it rejects the board of trustees' suggestion: Rules must withstand crisis stress, even if the situational opportunity makes their disregard seem so seductive.
Regardless of such a socio-philosophical view, a resolution that excludes membership according to the party book would be a violation of the statutes and therefore illegal.
“AfD proximity” as a fighting word
It goes without saying that membership in the Hayek Society is incompatible with membership in an anti-constitutional organization.
Should a court find this for the AfD, the members and employees concerned have to decide - to leave the Hayek Society or to leave the party.
Whether the suspicion of an authority is sufficient is much less clear to answer, after all, the presumption of innocence applies until a court decision.
The rule of law demands a lot of tolerance from its citizens here, but it does it for good reasons.
In addition, the AfD proximity is sometimes used as a political battle word to avoid unpleasant discussions, similar to the Nazi club or the accusation of right-wing populism.
These labels also serve collectivist-constructivist forces to deny the liberal social ideas of Hayekian character.
And always when AfD representatives express positions that coincide with classic liberal ideas (for example with a view to criticizing tendencies towards centralization in the EU or the abuse of monetary policy).
Liberals must therefore be careful not to get involved in the game of the anti-liberal camp by generally distancing themselves from everything that AfD representatives say.
Independence always also means not defining oneself through the mechanical negation of the positions of another group.
It is no coincidence that the Board of Trustees' approach was so abrupt.
Far-reaching decisions should be made hastily and without any real debate within three days - and by a committee that would far exceed its competencies.
Unfortunately, this fits into the image of the majority on the Board of Trustees' dominance-seeking attitude towards the Hayek Society.
These efforts range from the foundation's guidelines for the company's program work, the selection of speakers, to influencing personnel decisions.
For months it has been possible to experience how the earlier trusting dialogue between the two institutions has been replaced by the attempt by significant forces in the Foundation Council to subordinate the democratic Hayek Society to the influence of the Foundation, whose Foundation Council officiates for life, is self-recruited and not controlled the vote of the members of the company is subject to.
The request of the Board of Trustees to have a final decision on the direction of the Hayek Society is neither compatible with its independence, nor does it correspond to Dr.
Edmund Radmacher, whose generous legacy the Hayek Foundation also owes its working basis to stand by the Hayek Society.
The defense against such an appropriation was painful for everyone involved.
But it would only have been avoided at the cost of giving up.
And that price was too high.
As the most important donor, the Radmacher Foundation remained at the side of society, so that in addition to content independence, the financial basis for its work is preserved.
She will emerge from this conflict stronger overall and continue to devote herself to her core task, namely to measure the great ideas of Friedrich A. von Hayek over and over again in a changing world.
Anyone who feels obliged to do this is invited to participate.