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-- either as free people or as slaves.

If they remain self-reliant, they stay free.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Road to Serfdom – Finally!

What entices people to make poor bargains with their government? No serious adult expects another person to give his life purpose and meaning --- ordinary, well-meaning humans buckle under that amount of pressure.

But the American Left lays that requirement on government: The Left imagines the government can allocate resources and require production in a fair and efficient manner. That is too much to expect of a government of saints. What if you have to elect politicians and bureaucrats from the human race?

Dictatorship can be defined as what happens when one person's preferences rule over others. Safety cannot be found in democracy, but only in abiding respect for the rights of others. But government is designed to rule; an abiding mistrust of governmental power is required to avoid dictatorship.

The Road to Serfdom imagines the process as if it were inevitable. It is not. But the case for potential abuse is clear when politicians are expected to structure everyone's lives. Until tyranny reaches the end-stage there is always the possibility to reverse course.

Never sell your soul to a politician. Reverse course now.


In 1946, LOOK Magazine published kind of a illustrated summary of theme of the classic political primer, Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich von Hayek. Many of the images were drawn from the then recent world experience with three very real dictatorships. (It has happened.)

War forces “national planning” to permit total mobilization of your country's economy, you gladly surrender many freedoms. You know regimentation was forced on you by your country's enemies.

Many want “planning” to stay. Arguments for a “peace production board” are heard before the war ends. Wartime “planners” who want to stay in power encourage the idea.

The “planners” promise Utopias. A rosy plan for the farmers goes well in rural areas, a plan for industrial workers is popular in the cities --- and so on. Many new “planners” are elected to office.

But they can't agree on one Utopia. With peace, a new legislature meets, but the win-the-war unity is gone. The “planners” nearly come to blows. Each has his own plan, each won't budge.

And citizens can't agree either. When the “planners” finally patch up a temporary plan months later, citizens in turn disagree. What the farmer likes, the factory worker doesn't like. Imagine that! Politicians using government power to buy favor with the constituency.

“Planners” hate to force agreement. Most “national planners” are well-meaning idealists, and balk at any use of force. The hope some miracle of public agreement for their patchwork plan.

They try to “sell” the plan to all. In an unsuccessful effort to “educate” people to uniform view, “planners” establish a giant propaganda machine – which the coming dictator will find handy.

The gullible do find agreement. Meanwhile, growing national confusion leads to protest meetings. The least educated – thrilled and convinced by fiery oratory, form a party or movement within a party.

Confidence in “planners” fades. The more the planners improvise, the greater the disturbance to normal business. Everybody suffers. People now feel – rightly – that “planners” can't get things done.

The “strong man” is given power. In desperation, “planners” authorize the new party leader to hammer out a plan and force its obedience. Later, they'll dispense with him, or so they think.

The Party takes over the country. By now the confusion is so great that obedience to the new leader must be obtained at all costs. Maybe you would join the Party yourself to aid national unity.

A negative aim welds Party unity. An early step of all dictators is to inflame the majority in common cause against some scapegoat minority. In Germany, the negative aim was Antisemitism.

No one opposes the leader's plan. It would be suicide; the new secret police are ruthless. Ability to force obedience always becomes the number one virtue in the “planned state.” Now all freedom is gone. Notice the new, sweeping power given to the Treasury Department (IRS), or the TSA. And of course the Healthcare plan forces  participation -- choice and freedom are being eliminated.

Your profession is planned. The wider job choice promised by the now defunct “planners” turns out to be a tragic farce. “Planners” never have delivered, and never will be able to.

Your wages are “planned.” Divisions of the wage scale must be arbitrary and rigid. Running a “planned state” from central headquarters is clumsy, unfair and inefficient.

Your thinking is “planned.” In the dictatorship, unintentionally created by the planners, there is no room for difference of opinion. Posters, radio, press – all tell you the same lies.

Your recreation is “planned.” It is no coincidence that sports and amusements have all been carefully “planned” in all regimented nations. Once started, the “planners” can't stop. You are only one in the masses.

Your disciplining is “planned.” If you are fired from your job, its might be by a firing squad. What used to be an error is now a crime against the state. Thus ends the road to serfdom.

From Look Magazine, 1946

1 comment:

Always On Watch said...

Never sell your soul to a politician.

I think that too many Americans sold their souls under FDR.