I’ve been reading Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road To Serfdom,” lately, and it’s a difficult read, for sure. It’s best to pace yourself and read each sentence at a time slowly while mouthing out each word in your head.
I started rereading it for a couple of reasons. Recently, in the media, and in the general culture, I’ve noticed that socialism, communism, and the idea of “equity” is making its way back into the mouths of academics and students.
And more importantly, it’s making its way into the Canadian government.
For example, I heard lawyers have to commit to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” to be a practicing attorney. It’s like taking an oath. Otherwise, you get shipped off to Gulag 13.
The issue isn’t “equity, diversity, and inclusion,” the problem is having the government force you to use those words. It’s compelled speech.
I think it’s interesting because it seems like people who are “educated,” are attracted to this political philosophy (equity), despite its horrible track record throughout the world.
Somewhere around 100 million people died in the 20th century due to governments’ attempts to impose left-wing utopia’s on the economy and the state.
However, I’m aware of the other argument posited by people like Noam Chomsky, who have pointed out the atrocities committed by capitalist-liberal democracies.
In Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, for example, he argues that the American ‘military-industrial complex’ uses the threat of communism as a means of mobilizing the masses against foreign governments, to invade and force disobeying states to get in line with American economic policies.
Additionally, the idea that a country is purely capitalist, or socialist, is a dichotomy which isn’t representative of the truth.
In a society, it’s possible for there to be a mixture of both. In Canada, for example, we have universal health care (which is incredibly inefficient, but at least it’s “free”) and we have all kinds of regulations which stop irresponsible public policies.
One of the reasons why the worldwide recession in 2008 didn’t destroy our economy was due to the regulations against irresponsible mortgages and bankers like in the United States.
Anyway, this issue is incredibly sophisticated, so I’ve been reading Hayek’s book to understand why a “planned economy,” as they call it, doesn’t work.
Freidrich, in his book, states that socialism and liberty are opposed to one another. It isn’t possible to live in a socialist country while at the same time offering freedoms for its people.
He “warns of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning.”
Hayek writes no matter the track record of socialism and collectivism; it appears as though people always become attracted to the political philosophy of “equity.”
It makes sense. Because on paper, who doesn’t want everyone in society to be equal? Can you imagine living in a world where everybody had the same amount of money, and no one was jealous, envious, resentful, bitter, sad, or unfortunate?
That would be great. But, it’s just not going to happen because the universe is cruel. I believe people sometimes forget how much work and how much human history has passed since the beginning of our species, and throughout most of our time on this earth, only a fraction of a percent has been spent as a “modern” society.
The fact that we even HAVE a society that works is a miracle. Nature is continually pounding us, and the animal kingdom is the most ruthless shit out there.
The fact that human beings have carved out a society where we can be relatively peaceful with each other is like something out of a dream.
We have a lot of people, mainly left-wing weirdo’s and anarchists, who want to “smash the state.” These are people who think that the only reason we have a “modern” society is that we exploited, colonized, and oppressed other countries and stole all of their land and resources.
So, naturally, their response is to tear everything our ancestors built down to the ground. They’re so willing to do so merely because they have no idea what it’s like to live in a society where no one has running water, healthcare, heating, grocery stores that have whatever food you want, iPhones, and entertainment of literally every type.
Ironically, if these people were to tear down the entire system – which they claim only benefits white men, despite the fact that MANY people who aren’t white live comfortable, happy lives in North America – they would be without all of the amenities that they have taken for granted throughout the years. When electricity, police, telephones, paved roads, hospitals, heating, and all the things we no longer have gratitude for, they would say “Shit, maybe things weren’t that bad?”
So, once again, people are thinking about how we can make society more equal, and therefore, the idea of collectivism is coming back. When reading The Road To Serfdom, it sounds like he’s writing it in 2017.
He wrote the book back in 1944 when Germany began to show signs of losing the war to the Allies. I find it interesting that he talks about how American and British academics were still interested in collectivism and socialism, despite what the Soviets and Nazi’s were doing.
At the time, academics believed the rise of fascism was a “capitalist reaction” to the idea of socialism. The origin of The Road To Serfdom was a rebuttal to this idea.
In the book, Hayek states fascism, socialism, and communism have the same roots. They are what happens when the government takes control of economics.
It sounds like the book could be written today because once again, this kind of shit is everywhere in Universities and the culture. In the UK right now, Jeremy Corbyn – for the first time – is getting votes for his communist party.
Naturally, in response, there have been several populist movements in countries like Austria, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and even in Sweden and Norway.
According to the National Review, Austria just elected an Anti-EU prime minister who wants to cut taxes and all of the usual policies associated with conservativism (or classical liberalism).
When I was in University getting my bachelor’s degree in Political Science, I noticed that nearly every one of my courses taught Karl Marx.
I learned about Marx in almost every class. I learned about him in \my political science courses, in sociology, in Women and Gender Studies, and probably even in Anthropology (however, I did specialize in political science).
There’s truth to what Jordan B Peterson says about the liberal art’s love for Marxism. During my first-year Sociology course, my professor said that Marx became cool again after the recession in 2008.
The popularity of collectivism today is very similar to academia’s interest in socialism in the 1930’s and 1940’s because they thought it would be a better alternative to capitalism, at a time when the world was still dealing with the aftermath of the Depression in 1929.
It’s believed that the Depression was a result of unbridled capitalism, fascism was a capitalist response to socialism, and that a free-market economy was doomed to fail.
Collectivists have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Every society has good plans.
Advocates present Socialism as a means of “assuring equality,” but it unintentionally does so through “restraint and servitude,” while democracy and free markets achieve equality through “liberty.”
According to Hayek, centralized planning inevitably leads to tyranny and the lack of freedom because, at the end of the day, if the government directs economic activity, there would always be a group – a minority of people – who make the decisions and impose on the masses.
He writes that a planned economy, “the complex system of interrelated activities if it is to be consciously directed at all, must be directed by a single staff of experts. And that ultimate responsibility and power must not be fettered by democratic procedure, is too obvious a consequence of underlying ideas of central planning not to command fairly general assent.”
Socialists assure the people who are scared of tyranny that it will only be regarding “economics,” and not social matters. However, as the quote on page 124 from Hilarie Belloc says, “the control of the production of wealth, is the control of life itself.”
If a small group of people determines how society makes money, where it goes, who gets what, what is the most important, and who performs what role, then how free is the culture?
In a free-market, liberal democracy, people can choose how they make money. A person who lives in a free, modern, industrialized nation, can CHOOSE what profession to pursue.
Of course, some people are born into lower-income families, and their options, on the surface, appear to be limited.
However, in these cases, there are usually “social” reasons for why they can’t do something, rather than obstructions created by the system.
For example, a kid who grows up in dire poverty in a violent ghetto doesn’t have to stay there. He could save up money over time and take a train the fuck out of there. It only costs around 20$ to get on a bus and leave to a place where are economic opportunities.
However, it wouldn’t be THAT easy, because they would then have to leave their family, their friends, and their community.
Their restrictions are social, and not economic. They are economical in the sense that a lower-income individual does not – at the moment – have the money needed to do what he wants.
Their economic restriction is not a symptom of the capitalist liberal democratic system. Our profit-seeking system is the very structure which allows people to save up money and CHOOSE what they want to do.
An individual’s working life makes up around 60-70% of their time on this planet. Think about it. If a person lives to be 80-years-old, they will have lived 700,800 hours on this earth.
Let’s say you’ve had a job 50 years out of that time. You work 260 days out of the year, eight hours a day, which means you spend 2,080 hours at work every year, for fifty years, which is 104,000 hours in total.
The average person living in North American society has worked 14% of their lifetime, and you have to remember I took thirty years of work off of this person’s life. Some people probably start working when they’re in their teenage years. Only the most privileged people start working when they’re in their twenties.
So if the average person spends ~15%-25% of his/her entire lifetime at work, that means you want to enjoy your job. Additionally, a person’s work life determines what type of people they’ll hang around, what they’ll do after work, and where they live.
The central fault of a planned economy is that it would choose people’s occupations for them. That means that the government would have the ability to determine how you spend 15%-25% of your life, as well as the people you’ll hang around, where you live, and how you spend your leisure time.
Hayek writes on page 126 that, “The question raised by economic planning is, therefore, not merely whether we shall be able to satisfy what we regard as our more or less important needs in the way we prefer. It is whether it shall be we who decide what is more, and what is less, important for us, or whether this is to be decided by the planner.”
“Economic planning would not affect merely those of our marginal needs that we have in mind when we speak contemptuously about there merely economic. It would, in effect, mean that we as individuals should no longer be allowed to decide what we regard as marginal.”
And this point is the crux of his argument. A planned economy is the same thing as a totalitarian system because a central authority determines what is the most important, who gets what, which person works what job, and so on and so forth.
I’m only halfway through the book at the moment, so I’ll be sure to write anything else that I’ve learned.