I’ve read Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom several times, and it seems every time I go through it seems a little more prescient. The American Institute for Economic Research’s Barry Brownstein agrees. Read part 1 of this work here. Excerpt:
Astonishing progress has been made in the past few centuries. A rich extended order has evolved, allowing human cooperation to lift billions out of dire poverty and bring a standard of living to the West that couldn’t have been imagined mere generations ago. Jonah Goldberg calls it “the Miracle of modernity,” yet few understand that the bounty we enjoy does not flow from politicians’ plans. Today, totalitarians are actively working to destroy the engine of human cooperation.
Let’s be clear: What Hayek saw as dangerous, what you see as dangerous, millions are now cheering for in the name of societal advancement.
Since 1947, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has kept a Doomsday Clock as a metaphor for “how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies.” At the risk of mixing metaphors, surely the Road to Serfdom clock may be approaching midnight.
The Road to Serfdom was published in 1944, and naturally, Germany was on Hayek’s mind. Hayek clarifies that Nazism is not a function of “a peculiar wickedness” in the character of Germans, and false beliefs the Germans had taken on were not limited to Germany. At that time, Hayek observed in England, “There are few single features [of totalitarianism] which have not yet been advised by somebody.”
By “societal advancement,” of course, Mr. Bernstein means “progress,” as defined by the political Left – “progress on the road to socialism.”
As a staunch minarchist libertarian – and mind you, “libertarian” is generally assumed to be synonymous with the “classical liberals” defined by Hayek – I’m accustomed to understanding that I’ll never see implemented what my idea form of government would be, namely, next to none. Especially at the Imperial level. But Hayek didn’t just see a drift away from classical liberalism; as Bernstein notes:
The liberalism that Hayek championed is being destroyed and, as Paul Kingsnorth wrote, in its place is being built a “technocratic state-corporate hybrid; a China-style social credit society, centralised, monitored, powered by algorithms, emphatically unnatural and unfree.”
Call it fascism, call it communism, the shackles of different flavors of totalitarianism differ slightly, but their essential characteristics are the same.
Hayek is clear, believing the idea that these two types of “freedom”—freedom from coercion and freedom from necessity—can be combined is delusional.
When we think of socialism, we may think of a salutary quest for greater equality. When we think of the excesses of totalitarianism, we think of the starving millions in Stalin’s Ukraine or today’s North Korea. We think of Nazi concentration camps or the killing fields of Cambodia. All genocides are fueled by accepting the idea that individuals don’t have the inherent right to be free from coercion. Principles, not good intentions, are the only safeguard of liberty.
Amen, and amen – or, ‘we may already be fucked.’ One of the rays of hope we have now is the ever-accelerating collapse of the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration, and the collapse in public-opinion polls of statist lefties at almost every level of government. But statism is a ratchet; it only moves one way. Hayek knew that. I wonder why more voters don’t?
Look for my thoughts on Part 2 in due course.