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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13075/hayeks-road-to-serfdom-despotism-then-and-now/

Hayek’s Road to Serfdom: Despotism Then and Now

June 25, 2010 by

Hayek’s motivation for writing The Road to Serfdom was the shocking speed at which so many Europeans had simply forgotten all that they had learned over the centuries about the virtues of a free society, the need for limitations on government power, and the workings of capitalism. FULL ARTICLE by Thomas DiLorenzo


fakename June 25, 2010 at 11:26 am

In the article it is said that planning is anti-democracy, but I would rather have said that democracy is essentially anti-democratic, that is, there is no true freedom under democracy and indeed totalitarian planning is implied by the rule of the many over the one.

The road to serfdom is just as well prepared by democracy as it is by dictatorship.

Jonathan Finegold Catalán June 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Indeed, I would say that democracy requires planning. In democracy, the government purports to direct society through a system in which one man gets one vote. This is planning. It creates a dichotomy in the possible routes for society to progress, designed by the ballot, and so one can only vote for X amount of options (as opposed to the options in a free society, bounded by only individual creativity), and it marginalizes the minority who vote against a certain option.

Gabriel Syme June 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Hayek usually doesn’t get the respect he deserves on this site. I’m glad that he’s finally getting some more coverage, though it’s unfortunate that it seems to have only been triggered by the Glenn Beck show.

DD5 June 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Why don’t you do a search and see how often Hayek is mentioned here.

David June 25, 2010 at 2:08 pm

We definitely live in THE ERA OF CRISIS STRUCTURES, which are used to plan our lives through more central powers; in which the meaning of the word “is” changes with fascist whims.

It really is all about creating the conditions and restrictions that define who makes money and who pays, most often by force!

I’m not sure whether to fight the system with intelligent arguments, or to help usher the collapse of our economic system by supporting all the stupid whims of the ambitious and greedy.

Gerard Leary June 25, 2010 at 4:22 pm

A highly under-rated virtue in our society is apathy. I don’t care what color my niefhbor’s house is. Heck, I don’t care what color my house is: I’ll leave that to my wife.

A friend once bemoaned the state of gun control in America. He had been watching the evening news and there was a report of a shooting with a child caught in the crossfire. I told him to stop pretending he cared. He was very upset at the implication.

I reminded him that when the program ended, he probably went to bed, thought “what a shame” and slept soundly. It was the same emotional response he would have if he found out he was out of chocolate ice cream. I told him that if it whre his child, he would be destroyed, that the pain would overwhelm him, that his grief woudl prevent sleep, and even eating. That child’s mother cared. That child’s father cared. But he didn’t, and to pretend he dId may leave those people defenceless.

I know that I don’t care about a man I have never met, or have an opinion on a life completely unkown to me, indeed outside of my conscious awareness. I have to expect that the president, to whom I don’t even exist, does not care whether I live or die. If I were to die tomorrow, he would not weep, and he would sleep just fine, unlike my family.

I am intensely proud of my awareness of my own level of apathy. I wish more felt the same toward me.

Russ June 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Hear, hear!

In addition to agreeing that apathy is under-rated, I also think the Golden Rule is highly over-rated. After all, it says to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Well, I would have others give me all their money, so if I were to follow the Golden Rule, I would be flat broke. That way lies the madness of socialism. I much prefer what I call the Silver Rule, which says to not do unto others that which I would not have them do unto me. In other words, mind your own business, and leave other people alone. This dovetails nicely with the whole apathy thing. ;-)

david retardo June 25, 2010 at 11:48 pm

The state is the only force which can stand up to concentrated wealth. That’s why it’s being ‘privatized.’

david retardo June 26, 2010 at 12:26 am

“You can shout yourself red-faced at Congress critters you don’t like and demand a government so small it’d fit in the back room of Billy Bob’s Bait Shop & Sushi Stand–but you won’t be touching the corporate and financial powers behind the throne. In fact, weak government is the political wet dream of corporate chieftains, which is why they’re so ecstatic to have the Tea Party out front for them. But the real issue isn’t small government; it’s good government. (Can I get an amen from Gulf Coast fishing families on that!?)”

Richard Moss June 26, 2010 at 7:09 am

Who has more influence over government policies, financial and corporate chieftains or ‘the people’? I believe it is the former. So why is the government so large and intrusive? Not because it threatens them.

A case in point; the big banks would never have survived their own stupidity in 2008 if the government had not acted on their behalf over the wishes of a majority of Americans. The big boys use government to their advantage. It is the only institution that has a monopoly over violence. Why wouldn’t they take control of it.

Hoping for a good government is like hoping for a good mafia.

Randy June 27, 2010 at 9:36 am

No. You can’t get an amen from the gulf coast fishing families for that. In fact you won’t get an amen for that (except in the modern definition of ‘Amen’: “Thank God that’s over.”) The ‘corporate chieftains’ are slightly worried that a popular movement such as the Tea Party might be able to usurp THEIR control over the government that provides (through force) their own safety net (and golden parachutes). They have certainly succeeded in convincing you to support them.

Raimondas June 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm

“Lie, terrorism, robbery, parasitism”-so put it communism Francoise Thom professor of Sorbonne University.

michael June 28, 2010 at 7:10 am

Allow me to tentatively put forth a rationale for the kind of heavy-handed statism we saw back in WW Two, which diLorenzo describes thusly:

“The court historians in academe were not concerned about Hayek’s age-old warnings about the dangers that centralized political power posed to liberty and prosperity, for they intended to be beneficiaries of that power as well-paid advisers to the state. Millions of average citizens were not as enthusiastic, especially Americans who, during the war, had experienced oppressive and confiscatory taxation, the slavery of military conscription, government-imposed product rationing, pervasive shortages of basic staples, and endless bureaucratic bungling.”

There was a war on. And for once, it was not one of our choosing. So we had the choice of sitting this one out and watching western Europe fall to Hitler while Eastern Europe went to Stalin, or getting engaged to the degree that all our efforts were diverted from consumerism to the waging of war. With all the concomitant limitations on our liberties.

We could, of course, have just applied moral suasion. Or even just not cared, and continued to conduct our business as usual with whoever became the victors. In this instance East Asia would have become a factory farm for Japan, and the oil region of the Middle East would have made Hitler’s Germany the world’s pre-eminent industrial nation of the fifties, sixties and beyond… not America.

I write this because I’m sincerely interested in the question. What do you think our response to the world events of 1938-41 should have been? Just keep our noses clean and make nice to the victors? America, IMO, would then have ended up a client state, left out of the division of the world’s resource pie.

Guard June 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

The Nazi said they would win even if they lost, because The US would have to adopt Nazi methods in order to defeat them. It is basic psychology: any emotional focus on an enemy will cause you to emulate them.
Great scholars have put considerable thought into the WWII scenario and come to the conclusion that the world is the worse off because the US got involved. Things just aren’t as simple as you might think.

michael June 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I’d be very interested in reading some of these ‘great scholars’. I haven’t heard that. It would seem like an Axis victory would have left the world divided up between several of the most heavily oppressive statist governments the world has seen since the Assyrian Empire: Germany, Japan and for comic relief, Italy. And if you think the USA is totalitarian, you haven’t seen anything.

Death camps and wholesale liquidation of populations, for example. It wouldn’t have just been the Jews and Gypsies.

mr taco June 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm

you just describe the soviet union

michael June 28, 2010 at 4:00 pm

In fact I did. The Soviet Union had the same attitude toward inconvenient or rambunctious nationalities.

However I haven’t yet become convinced of Guard’s theory, that “the US would have to adopt Nazi methods in order to defeat them”. In fact we did defeat them. And we haven’t killed off an entire nation since we did away with the last of the California Indian tribes, around 1910.

Guard June 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Just consider the scholars on this site. The US physically forced US citizens, under the threat of violence, to go to other countries and kill people. This resulted in the deaths of over 400,000 US soldiers, not to mention the deaths of people they were forced to kill.
The concept that the US is “better than the Nazis” is a destructive non-argument. This idea implies that our only option is to choose the lesser of two evils, which in the end means we will always do evil.

michael June 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

Here’s an interpretation mises.org might do well to publish:


It’s written by a follower of the Hayek school, but I both find it enlightening and agree with it. It will remind you of the strong similarities in the command-driven economic policies of both the Soviet state and the Nazi state.

And indirectly reminds us of the world we’d be living in now had we stayed neutral during WW Two, in our ‘small state’ that allowed maximum freedom to all.

Matthew Swaringen June 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

History is not a science experiment’s “control group” and there is no way to produce a meaningful emulation to predict what would be absent our involvement. So we can have fun with this, but there is no way to prove anything.

Had we truly been an anarcho-capitalist or minarchist society at the time prior to the war I doubt Germany or Japan would have attacked us. We would probably have continued peaceful trade in line with the desires of people (some might find sufficient reason to boycott or refuse to sell to Axis nations). We would have been much like Switzerland or Sweden.

The reason I don’t think we were going to be attacked in this pretend scenario is that we would be of little threat except in terms of our defense. And our defense would be extraordinary, there is no doubt in my mind about that. Many people (especially in times like this) would keep guns for personal defense, and other things like planes/tanks/etc. would not be illegal for businesses to keep in times they believed such things necessary.

Provided this, it would have been foolish to invade our country. One reason Nazi Germany was able to do what it did is that it required registration of guns, and subsequently stole the weapons from the populace.

As for the rest of the world, I’m very much convinced that like the Soviet Union Nazi Germany would have collapsed under it’s own weight. Particularly with 2 powers of that type they would have likely spent and fought themselves out of existence. I imagine over time (considering they already existed) more significant resistance movements would have developed to combat both totalitarian regimes.

michael June 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

“History is not a science experiment’s “control group” and there is no way to produce a meaningful emulation to predict what would be absent our involvement. So we can have fun with this, but there is no way to prove anything.”

I’ll go further than that. There is no such thing as proof in any of the social sciences. They’re what’s known as ‘soft’ sciences because all you can do is describe and make tentative predictions. “proof” is a concept relevant only to mathematics. And like it or not, economics has more to do with the psychology of humans than it does with strict mathematics. Our decisions are not always rational.

“Had we truly been an anarcho-capitalist or minarchist society at the time prior to the war I doubt Germany or Japan would have attacked us. We would probably have continued peaceful trade in line with the desires of people…”

No. Modern history is the fight to the death for the control of markets. Had Germany ended up with all the oil we’d still be living in the steam era. And would have had satellite nations like Honduras and Panama, instead of Saudi Arabia and Japan. Germany would not have attacked us because of (a) cost and (b) it would have served no purpose. They’d have checkmated us in the industrial arena. And the world’s reserve currency would have been the mark.

It’s all about the money… that and lebensraum. But Germany would have won so much living space in Eurasia that they wouldn’t have cleared North America of its indigenous tribes for a long, long time. So we’d have enjoyed third rate status as one of the lesser nations far from the center.

Look at us and the Soviets. Did we ever go to war? Not a shooting war. Nations on the rise never pick a fight they can’t win. They’ll invade a Belgium or even a France… but never another superpower.

“One reason Nazi Germany was able to do what it did is that it required registration of guns, and subsequently stole the weapons from the populace.”

Again, no. They took over Germany the same way the Bolsheviks took over Russia. They had the angry rabble behind them. All they had to do was arm the rabble, who were unemployed and had nothing better to do. No one else was about to stop them. Europeans, unlike Americans, are not a gun-loving population… gun restrictions came naturally to the public as being reasonable and proper.

mushindo June 29, 2010 at 6:15 am

That 1989 quote from Samuelson re the success of the soviets is exquisite. If memory serves, thats the year the whole thing imploded!

mingulay September 17, 2010 at 6:41 am

The government of the United Staes has acted because it had to act. Banks and businesses that previously hated “big government” came cap in hand to beg for bail-outs. The so-called free-market imploded in a bubble of greed and recklessness and the price to be paid will lead the vast majority of people on “the road to serfdom.” It is not the government that got us into this crisis, it is rather the lack of it, the obscene deregulation that allowed finance houses to bully the nation’s poor into buying properties they had no hope of ever paying for. As once-great manufacturing companies like GE indulged in an orgy of dismissal of workers, outsourcing everything and converting itself into a “financial services company”, as Boeing failed to design new planes so that it could pay massive dividends to shareholders – and was overtaken by Airbus – so the US witnessed the wrecking of its economy by its elite. It is a new totalitarianism, not as dangerous as communism for sure, but still undemocratic. Get this: Germany exports more than the US (person for person) by a factor of 4 to 1. German workers sit on the boards of their companies, monitor managerial greed and push for the long-term interests of their companies. This is the sort of democracy we need.

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