Saturday, April 22, 2006

To: The Socialists of All Parties

Thus begins The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek. Hayek wrote the warning for a British audience during the early 1940's while Europe was in the throws of war. It is a warning because Hayek knew that there is little difference between fascism and socialism, and the inevitable outcome of either form of governance is tyranny, despite the intentions of those who would call themselves socialists.

Hayek believed that socialists were people of good will, but they had no idea that the necessary means to their ends would be morally repugnant. As Britain started down the road to socialism, Hayek, being a man of compassion, wrote the Road to Serfdom as his way of building a blockade. He warned Britain that "socialism means slavery". Britain chose slavery.

I first read The Road to Serfdom as an impressional young college student. Thank God, huh? With the university jammed full of leftists, one of my first professors was an Austrian economist (this is a field of study, not the professor's nationality). Austrian economics are characterized by free markets and free men. The effect of Hayek's thesis was quite profound. I'd seen the injustice of the welfare state already but Hayek explained why socialism is unjust, why injustice is inevitable under socialism, and why it's natural.

Incidentally, my desire to be left alone was furthered by an opportunity to meet Ron Paul, who in 1988 was running as the Libertarian candidate for the POTUS. I knew then and there that I was a libertarian.

Before I get into a review of The Road to Serfdom, I must take care of some laundry. First of all, the printing I have is the one with the 1976 Preface by Hayek. The link I provided is the 60th Anniversary edition.

Secondly, Hayek was very impressed by the abbreviated version(pdf) put out by Readers Digest; of it he says "that it is done without distortion and better than I could have done...".

Third, Hayek says that the best critique of his book comes from Barbara Wootton's study, Freedom Under Planning . Though Hayek cautions that more than one reviewer expressed that the study substantially confirms Hayek's thesis.

Fourth, from here on out, the word liberal means 19th century liberal, or 20th century libertarian. Socialists in the United States (there is no such thing as a classical liberal in Britain, liberal still means what it always has) used the word to allay the fears of liberals that socialism could lead to tyranny. As a result, liberalism became synonymous with socialism in the U.S.. Many liberals, knowing that socialism means slavery, were thus forced to ally themselves with conservatives as a coalition of reason.

And lastly, because of the nature of the book, and my time constraints, I'll be summarizing a chapter at a time.

Got it? Good. Tomorrow: Chapter I

Chapter I: The Abandoned Road

This chapter could very well have been called The Death of Liberalism. By 1931, in Britain and the United States, Hayek writes "that only those whose memory goes back to the years before the last war [WWI] know what a liberal world has been like".

Boy, no wonder I feel so out of place. I guess I'm a man after my time.

Yes, we not only turned our backs on liberalism, we also discarded centuries of liberal philosophy. In my opinion, 19th century liberalism is the pinnacle of Western thought. It is the ultimate ideal that evolved from the debates, discussions and writings of the greatest minds ever to have called themselves human.

Excuse me for being biased here, but I don't buy into that multicultural pap that all cultures and civilizations are equal. They are not. Western Civilization is clearly superior to every civilization currently and previously.

But it isn't just the 19th century philosophers that have been minimized, "but the basic individualism inherited by us from Erasmus and Montaigne, from Cicero and Tacitus, Pericles and Thucydides...". It is this individualism which made people of all classes "conscious of freedom". Hayek used the word freedom, though he admits that the word tolerant more closely defines 19th century liberalism.

21st century liberals are tolerant of everyone and everything except Western Civilization. God help you if you're a white, Christian, right-leaning male...or a 19th century liberal.

Because of the tenets of individualism, Western society flourished, especially after the Enlightenment. As progress due to the success of liberalism came to be expected, it started being taken for granted. Liberalism came to be "regarded as a negative creed" because particular individuals were "offered" little more than a share of the common progress - "a longer recognized as the result of the policy of freedom". Slowly but surely attitudes towards society and our approach to societal problems reversed, this led to the “entire abandonment of the individualist tradition which has created Western civilization”.

As the Western ideals of liberalism fell into disfavor from those who benefited most from it, “Germany became the center from which ideas destined to govern the world in the twentieth century spread…”.

Remember, Hayek recognizes that fascism and communism are two sides of the same tyrannical coin.

Hayek finishes Chapter I blazing,

But in spite of the ill-concealed contempt of an ever increasing number of Germans for those “shallow” Western ideals, or perhaps because of it, the people of the West continued to import German ideas and were even induced to believe that their own former convictions had merely been rationalizations of selfish interests, that free trade was a doctrine invented to further British interests, and that the political ideals of England and America were hopelessly outmoded and a thing to be ashamed of.

Hmmm, sounds more like the description of a modern leftist than a Nazi. Are you leftists starting to get it? Don't worry if you are not, there are fifteen more chapters.


Blogger Mike's America said...

Thanks for the link to the Readers Digest version.

Isn't it funny, though no laughing matter, that socialist always claim to represent "social justice."

And yet, every time their vision for "social justice" has been implemented, it has resulted in either economic ruin as it did in Britain, or tyranny.

12:47:00 AM  
Blogger The Plumber said...

The RD version is quite good. It makes my attempt rather futile. Fortunately I really like the book and have no problem reading for a fourth time.

I suppose the difference is that I'll be making snide comments as I relate the book to current events.

8:16:00 AM  

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