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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8405/the-intellectuals-and-socialism/

The Intellectuals and Socialism

August 15, 2008 by

F.A. Hayek

F.A. Hayek (1899-1992)

There are very few original thinkers. Their ideas are propagated through society by the intellectuals — the “second-hand dealers in ideas” as Hayek calls them. While they might not be great scholars or brilliant thinkers, the intellectuals are adept at taking the original ideas of others and then representing or promoting them to the general public.

For Hayek, the battle for freedom must be won not by original thinkers, and not but practical reformers, but by a new generation of ideological — even utopian — classical-liberal intellectuals: journalists, teachers, and public figures who can “make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds.”



Chad August 16, 2008 at 4:48 am

“Orthodoxy of any kind, any pretense that a system of ideas is final and must be unquestioningly accepted as a whole, is the one view which of necessity antagonizes all intellectuals, whatever their views on particular issues.”

I have encountered this aversion to “orthodoxy” on the part of intellectual types numerous times in my lifetime.

It seems that many are only interested in endlessly pondering philosophical, political, historical, or economical questions and have no real interest in actually reaching (or being provided) definitive answers to those questions. In fact, some individuals get angry if you propose that definitive answers to their questions even exist and that those answers are knowable with a high degree of certainty.

It makes me think of children at an Easter egg hunt pretending not to see any eggs they happen to stumble upon (or have pointed out to them) so that the game will never end. They enjoy the uncertainty and exploration associated with the search process so much that they have no real interest in actually acquiring the eggs for which they are supposedly searching.

Paul Marks August 16, 2008 at 6:37 am

It has taken longer than Hayek expected for socialism to come to power in the United States.

In the 1930′s it looked as if socialism (of the “Brains Trust” and so on) was about to take over – but although government greatly expanded in both size and scope, the United States did not become socialist and indeed there was some reaction against collectivism after World War II.

In the 1960′s Welfare Stateism (under the name the “Great Society”) came very much to the fore – but again these ever growing entitlement programs, whilst they undermine civil society, are not full socialism.

Indeed it is only this year that someone of a fully socialist background has been nominated by a major political party to be President of the United States – where (if Senator Obama is elected) he will join Speaker Pelosi and other socialists in positions of power.

So the confused contradictory mess that make up the ideas of such politicians as President Bush will be replaced by a fully socialist agenda – but, it should be noted, one that still shuns the word “socialism” let alone the word “Marxism”.

So Hayek was correct that the power of the collectivist academics would have terrible consequences – but, again, it has been a slower process than he guessed.

Curt Howland August 16, 2008 at 8:33 am

Mr. Marks, it certainly has been a slower process, but it has also had the time to get rooted in worse than a tick.

Suggest abolishing (not reforming) Social Security, the Federal Reserve, income tax, Department of Indian Affairs, and there is an instant and very wide spread reaction like matter-anti-matter.

It may very well be easier to pull back from total socialism than to roll back a slow, inexorable growth of the state no matter how “socialistic” that state is in reality, simply because it still gets to be clothed in the trappings of “liberty”.

fundamentalist August 16, 2008 at 9:40 am

II have read a lot of Hayek and thought I was over being astonished at his brilliance (second only to Mises), but this article knocked me over. His insight into the way society works is truly brilliant.

I read a similar analysis of how ideas filter through society from Dr. Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s. His books may be hard to find now, but they’re worth the effort. Schaeffer placed more emphasis on the philosopher as the originator of new ideas. As Hayek wrote, intellectuals tend to have an inordinate amount of respect for philosophers. They seem to get their world view from philosophers and then filter the work of experts, such as economists, through that world view.

Schaeffer made artists a separate stage of development of ideas, though I think Hayek includes them in the intellectual class. Schaeffer said that artists take the ideas of intellectuals and transmit them to the public. The main art form for the past century has been motion pictures, although novels, television and painting have had influence as well.

Hayek writes at the end that “The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals…” I think the role of the artist is to create the utopia that excites the public imagination, especially that of the young people. What liberty lacks is good artists. That’s where people like Rand was important, in spite of her faults. But novels aren’t enough. We need people who will finance movies of those novels.

The problem with developing artists who love liberty is that they study humanities, not economics, and Marxism dominates the humanities. The Marxist utopia is still taught in all college humanities classes.

Gary Sanderson August 16, 2008 at 10:28 am

Socialism may have been slow in coming to US; but to counter the current infection a, “give me your youth…” concept would apply. An author adept at writing for youth could produce a series of books for various grade [school] levels presenting exemplified economics. For example, we are all familiar with Hazlitt’s “Economics in one Lesson” which could be translated to the child and youth’s reading and pictorial levels.
Yes, a bit off your discussion; but directed to
“Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement.” to
The character of the process by which the views of the intellectuals influence the politics of tomorrow is therefore of much more than academic interest. ”
Whether we merely wish to foresee or attempt to influence the course of events, it is a factor of much greater importance than is generally understood. and to
“The typical intellectual need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas.”

Sylvain August 17, 2008 at 7:36 am

This article was truly inspirational. Thanks mises.org for sharing such great works.

John Galt August 17, 2008 at 8:51 am

Ayn Rand wrote from a philosophical and historical perspective and her hypothesis was both correct, and previously proven at countless points in past history. The wolf, once allowed inside, feasts until it exhausts all loot and booty while guarding the very door it should be mercilessly shown. Human nature is to avoid conflict, pain, and struggle until the noose is firmly around the neck, at which point there remains little one can do, save to go out like William Wallace.

Technologically, the 2008 Presidential Campaign was a pivotal moment in the world’s history, before the internet was sufficiently subverted, where billions of Individual Sovereign Human Beings could become Students and Advocates of the Philosophically Mature Non-Aggression Principle.

Currently, with over fifty percent of the American Sheeple receiving some sort of loot and booty stolen at gunpoint by the government, the media black-out of the Ron Paul Presidential Campaign, the Ron Paul Revolution, and the Campaign for Liberty succeeded in shouting down the last stand of the Freedom and Liberty Movement.

With Obama and Clinton as our next dynamic duo, the sheeple will continue to receive the swirlie they ask for, deserve, and enjoy.

Brainpolice August 17, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Questioning orthodoxy is bad? News to me.

Todd Farwell August 17, 2008 at 8:35 pm

I find it interesting that the Austrian economics viewpoint is starting to be the counter-culture that was Socialism. We have found a champion in Ron Paul, but how do we defeat the media induced candidates? As Hayek stated, we need to have a strong view of our future that will be easily communicated to the masses.

nicholas gray August 17, 2008 at 9:03 pm

One of the appeals of socialism is that it involves plans. Intellectual types think they will be employed in planning things for others.
As for art favouring libertarianism, the unfortunate trend of history is towards socialism. War involves battles, and the victor is usually the side which can use more resources, which usually means a center directing more and more of society to a common goal. Britain before WW2 was freer than after it, even with a conservative like Churchill in control! Any depiction of battles will end up extolling centralism, because of this effect. Haven’t America’s wars strengthened the center? When has Congress ever given back any powers that it won during a war? (Here in Australia, we have the same story of Canberra continually gaining more power over the states!)
Perhaps artists should start depicting heroic resistance fighters, and guerillas? Perhaps heroic resisters of the IRS should be the subject of movies from now on?

IMHO August 18, 2008 at 12:28 am

I find that most people who support socialist ideas generally don’t understand what socialism is.

For example, most people want national health care. Yet, when you tell them that they are supporting the creation of a socialist program, their response is that Canada and Europe have national health programs and that they’re not socialist.

In other words, most people wouldn’t recognize socialism if they fell over it.

The next time someone tries to tell me that national health care isn’t socialist, I’m not going to argue with them. I’m just going to show them this:


Let them wiggle out of that one!

Chad August 18, 2008 at 3:32 am

IMHO: “In other words, most people wouldn’t recognize socialism if they fell over it.”

Agreed. I think it is because people living in the USA today (except for the exceptionally elderly) have never even lived in a time in which the U.S. government was not practicing “socialism lite.” I know I haven’t.

Having lived under a semi-socialist state their whole lives, most Americans have no real problems with the federal, state, and local governments handing out checks to individuals or businesses (or even other countries!) in a general sense, what would rightfully be considered forced wealth redistribution. It is just a matter of who should be receiving those checks and for how much they should be written.

Medicare is already in place for seniors and is widely accepted, so many see no problems with it being expanded to include everyone. They mistakenly believe they are being offered something for nothing, never considering where the government actually gets its funding. And if you point out problems with national health care programs in the other countries you mentioned, they just say, “Oh, that would never happen here.”

nicholas gray August 18, 2008 at 7:48 pm

There’s another reason for the success of Socialism- it is a very flexible term!
On one side, you have Anarchy, including Anarcho-Capitalism. On the other side you have Communism, everybody owns everything.
Inbetween, any position can be a mixed-economy package, and labelled as Socialist! Zimbabwe is descending into pure anarchy, and Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos still call themselves communist, whilst China is escaping from its’ communist past. China should be called Fascist- communist government and Capitalist economy.
Every other country can be labelled ‘Socialist’, to some degree. I suppose we should speak about degrees of socialism. Australia would be more socialist than America, 2 or 3 degrees redder.

Nad August 19, 2008 at 2:47 am

Thanks to Mises Institute for posting this great article. Its Indonesian version can be downloaded from here: http://akaldankehendak.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/voli_ed2_intelektual-dan-sosialisme.pdf.

socialism - new product placement August 19, 2008 at 7:50 am

The worst atrocities were committed at name of “socialism”. It transitioned into other forms in the future.

nick gray August 20, 2008 at 1:35 am

This is as good a place as any to mention a new word I recently coined. Someone else was talking about Nanny-staters, and how like Nazies they were, and I realised you could combine parts of these words to create a new word- NANZI! A nanzi could also mean a nano-nazi, a dwarf Nazi!
So there is a new swearword in the world. Use it carefully.

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