Sunday, January 29, 2012

Yet Another Reason I'm Not A Socialist

I'm currently reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, so I find it interesting that Hayek also discussed fascism as it relates to socialism in his The Road To Serfdom. Here's a snip from the chapter called The Great Utopia, and its wisdom speaks as loudly today as when it was written 70 years ago:
Nobody saw more clearly than the great political thinker de Tocqueville that democracy stands in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism: "Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom," he said. "Democracy attaches all possible value to each man," he said in 1848, "while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."

To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives—the craving for freedom — socialists began increasingly to make use of the promise of a "new freedom." Socialism was to bring "economic freedom," without which political freedom was "not worth having."

To make this argument sound plausible, the word "freedom" was subjected to a subtle change in meaning. The word had formerly meant freedom from coercion, from the arbitrary power of other men. Now it was made to mean freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of the circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us. Freedom in this sense is, of course, merely another name for power or wealth. The demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for a redistribution of wealth...

What is promised to us as the Road to Freedom is in fact the Highroad to Servitude. For it is not difficult to see what must be the consequences when democracy embarks upon a course of planning. The goal of the planning will be described by some such vague term as "the general welfare." There will be no real agreement as to the ends to be attained, and the effect of the people's agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go: with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all.

Democratic assemblies cannot function as planning agencies...

Planning leads to dictatorship because dictatorship is the most effective instrument of coercion and, as such, essential if central planning on a large scale is to be possible. There is no justification for the widespread belief that, so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; it is not the source of power which prevents it from being arbitrary; to be free from dictatorial qualities, the power must also be limited. A true "dictatorship of the proletariat," even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy has ever done.

Individual freedom cannot be reconciled with the supremacy of one single purpose to which the whole of society is permanently subordinated.
I choose freedom over the kind of order envisioned by the utopians, whose good intentions are paving the way to Hell.


Jean said...

Yep. I just started "The New Road to Serfdom," by that conservative British fellow who shows up on TV every so often, and it's pretty good. A lot of it is trying to show Americans that we do not realize how good we have it, and we need to hold on to our freedoms rather than give them up in an effort to be more European. I did not know that Brits do not elect their own school boards or sheriffs or all sorts of people.

DADvocate said...

"Better starve free than be a fat slave."
- Aesop's Fables

allen (in Michigan) said...

Good luck with Liberal Fascism. It is one dense read as I recall.

I ground to a hatl in the mid-100s after plowing through a recounting of the rise of fascism and how Mussolini was quite well regarded, better then Hitler, during the early 1920s rather then as the cartoonish figure he came to be seen as later.

Darren said...

It *is* a dense read--I'm learning more about Mussolini than I thought I'd ever know--but I haven't given up the ship just yet.