The Road to Serfdom
a book by F. A. Hayek
(our site's book review)
The book was written in 1944, and it rightfully criticized totalitarianism, socialism (even the democratic kind), unfree markets and centralized social and economic planning.
He considers conservatism to be the defender of established privilege and liberalism to be the denyers of all privilege—in other words, equal rights to all. Of course, since the favorite phrase of many conservatives—such as Newt Gingrich, for example—is "liberal elites," it can be seen that there have been at least conceptual changes since the 40s. Or one could call it mystification, double-speak, or, more precisely, media manipulation by well-orchestrated, politically-motivated public relations campaigns.
The term "liberal elites" is commonly used with the pejorative implication that the people who claim to support the rights of the working class are themselves members of the upper class, or upper middle class, and are therefore out of touch with the real needs of the people they claim to support and protect. The implication is also that said liberals are hypocrites. Given that Hayek thinks of liberalism as "denyers of all privilege," it quickly becomes clear just how intensely hypocritical liberal elites are in the minds of political conservatives.
Hayek says “. . . the unforeseen but inevitable consequences of socialist planning create a state of affairs in which, if the policy is to be pursued, totalitarian forces will get the upper hand.” This has shown itself to be prescient in the 20th century. But his view isn't likely to clarify any modern (2014) perspective on any of the modern socialism realities in Europe, which seem to be working better than our nation's current 21st century oligarchy but do not remotely approach anyone's concept of totalitarianism. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.) He quotes F. Holderlin:
F. Holderlin: 'What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven'
“What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.” (The first recorded utopian proposal is Plato's Republic, which was part conversation, part fictional depiction, and part policy proposal. It proposes a categorization of citizens into a rigid class structure, each class specialized for certain tasks. No provision was presented for class mobility. And so the unfortunate concept of social engineering was born, in a modest little book which Plato titled The Republic. Oh well—the fact that his tome specifically forbade any lawyers from participating in his republic makes one wonder if perhaps he was on to something!) In other words, when Holderlin and Hayek co-assert that forcing a society into a heavenly mold created a hell of a mess, he was displaying his uncommon wisdom and prescience.
Plato forbade any lawyers from participating in his republic, and he wrote 2300 years ago!
As we all know, the social engineering experiments of the 20th century were often disastrous, and should have taught all of us that they are to be strenuously avoided. A good life doesn’t come from people with ideas getting elected and then shoving them down the national throat. A good life isn’t gotten from politicians, programs, agencies, bureaucracies or governments.
Social engineering experiments of the 20th century were often disastrous—and to be avoided
The desires of the constituents that politicians represent are often irrelevant and usually secondary to special interests—so politics will not be fixing our lives any time soon
Do these social engineers really have OUR best interests at heart or merely THEIR OWN? And they're all-too-willing to pose, prevaricate, and pretend to have our backs at the same time they act to get their own interests served instead of the people's interests. We all know the unpleasant answer to this question of whose interests are being served.
A good life is gotten from individuals of character achieving the wisdom to choose a life that empowers, nurtures, inspires and creates happiness, regardless of how badly his peers may be mucking up their lives simply because everyone else seems to be doing it (mindless conformity). Mindless conformity to what works well is at least somewhat excusable. But mindless conformity to what isn’t working well is . . . well . . . . . . . mindless!
Mindless conformity to what isn’t working well is . . . well . . . . . . . mindless!
It is wise to to choose a life that empowers, nurtures, inspires and creates happiness, regardless of how badly ones peers may be mucking up their lives due to mindless conformity
Hayek favors the Alexis de Toqueville type of collective social entity—the town and community, and strongly dislikes collectivism, communes, communism, fascism, state socialism and socialism in general. Amen. Specifically he hates these entities’ “. . . refusing to recognize autonomous spheres in which the ends of the individuals are supreme.” If you cannot choose, in the words of the existentialists, then you cannot be. The Bard said it best: “To be or not to be—that is the question.”
Bleeting citizen-sheep that are soon to be serf-sheep
Given the current (2014) state of our country and the world, it is instructive to comment on his use of the word Serfdom. He saw the powers-that-be eventually leading the bleeting citizen-sheep right back to the serf life of centuries past, while this new aristocracy consolidated power and persecuted resisters. Logically speaking, how could anything else (except perhaps Armageddon) be our fate, given our current national trajectory? We've unintentionally left Democracy behind in the U.S. and adopted Oligarchy, which everyone can see but no one will admit.
Our rights and our privacy are vanishing, the government spies on us and our emails and cell phone calls, and adopts the 'Patriot Act,' with its roving wiretaps, fewer restrictions on law enforcement agencies, broadened governmental authority
Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!
Instead of admitting we live in an oligarchy, we just respond to polls and tell Congress and the President that we know they're working in their own and the corporations' interests and we are very displeased with the job they are doing. We want "someone" to get up and do something about all this. But we ourselves are just too busy. Besides, it all feels helpless.) Hence, the various countries of the world are afraid of us and hate us, as they watch those in charge (mostly corporations and the military-industrial-complex, not presidents or other politicians) dump our rights and our privacy, spy on us and our emails and cell phone calls, and adopt the "Patriot Act," with its roving wiretaps, significantly weakened restrictions on law enforcement agencies, broadened governmental authority to regulate financial transactions, weakened rights of detainees, etc.
They're taking everything from the poor and middle class and giving it to the corporate bigwigs and a few well-connected leaders and lackeys—goodbye freedom and hello Feudalism
If the rich and the government continue their collusion in taking everything from the poor and middle class and sticking it in the pockets of the corporate bigwigs and a few well-connected leaders and lackeys, it will administer the final death blow to freedom, democracy, and the American Dream and usher in the nightmare (to us, not to them) of a society of serfs serving the aristocracy in whatever way these power-mongers decree.
Feudalism—serfs carry royalty
Is the corrupt Russian Kleptocracy any different from this? At first the sheep in that country were led into the illusion that they would experience freedom, rights, and even democracy. But then the powers-that-be that pretended to have turned over a new leaf decided to be emperors and the poor sheep got sheared. And other countries are watching with great trepidation as this same sheep shearing occurs in the U.S., and the only difference is that those in charge in the U.S. are doing it more slowly and covertly so as not to scare anyone or show their true colors too quickly so that a rebellion starts up.
Sheep getting sheared like what is happening in the U.S. to the middle class and below