Somehow I think that I’ve read this review before in many other forms and venues and by many different authors. It is a “thoughtful” leftist reviewing Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, generally agreeing that, first, yes, full-blown socialism of the statist sort is crushing of liberty, but, hey, no one believes that stuff anymore. The left is thoughtful and wonderful now and believes not in despotism but democracy. Second, gratitude is expressed for the way in which Hayek seems to concede that the state can and should do some things the left wants it to do. Third, Hayek is right that society is spontaneous but failed to recognize that democratic action that results in messy regulations and laws and government programs is similarly spontaneous and we should get used to it. Finally, isn’t it about time we recognize that Hayek was essentially wrong, that the New Deal and the interventionist state did not really lead us to serfdom but to justice, charity, and happiness all around?
Reading this review (which Karen De Coster sends) makes any libertarian feel a sense of regret that Hayek gave an inch at all, and also feel frustration that the left continues to be as naive as ever about the state as an institution separate from society and not organically linked with it as they imagine.
A friend of mine called to say that he is reading Road for the first time. I issued my usual caution. Remember when Hayek was writing–the height of wartime planning–and remember who his colleagues were: almost universally democratic socialists. HIs was a brave statement at the time that put the label of despotism on the whole of established liberalism of the time. He hit his target hard. No, the book doesn’t hold up as well as something like Mises’s Liberalism, and yes the book could have benefited from a more robust theory of the state, but there is also great insight here. In any case, it seems that the left has yet to come to terms with the implications that its economic doctrine has for human liberty generally.