Friday, July 5, 2013

Silver Linings

One of the benefits of the recent revelations of nefarious doings at the White House, IRS, NSA, EPA, and State Department for which we can actually be thankful is that they've sent many Americans back to classic books like 1984, Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged, and to movies like Lives of Others for their summer reading and viewing.

These are all good choices and any government iniquities that motivate Americans to familiarize themselves with such works are not without their compensations.

For my part I decided to pick up Friedrich A. Hayek's classic work The Road to Serfdom, a title I thought particularly apposite given the worldview of those who are currently directing our national path and given the trajectory they appear to have placed us upon.

Almost every page of this book, written in England in 1944 at the height of the terrible struggle with the totalitarian socialists of Germany and Italy and only a decade after the deliberate starvations of millions of Ukrainians by the totalitarian socialists in the Soviet Union, contains numerous lapidary phrases warning us of the freedom-stifling nature of socialist central planning and the control-freak mindset of its proponents.

Reading Hayek one must keep in mind his immediate context of the war against Hitler, but that aside, one could almost think he's writing about twenty-first century America. The book is written as a warning to the West that the road embarked upon by socialists leads to tyranny and totalitarianism. He uses the term socialism to describe those who seek to eliminate competition and to plan the economy of societies, but in our context he might have as well used the term leftists or progressives. For example, he writes:
It [socialism/progressivism] may mean, and is often used to describe, merely the ideals of social justice, greater equality, and security which are the ultimate aims of socialism. But it means also the particular means by which most socialists hope to attain these ends and which many competent people regard as the only means by which by which they can be fully and quickly attained. In this sense socialism means the abolition of private enterprise, of private ownership of the means of production, and the creation of a system of "planned economy" in which the entrepreneur working for profit is replaced by a central planning body.
This is a pretty good description of the thinking of the ideological left in modern America and of many in the Democratic Party. Obamacare is one fruit of that thinking and, should they gain control of the House of Representatives in 2014, there's little doubt in many minds that the energy industry and public education will also be directed to an even greater extent than they are today by Washington bureaucracies.

People who seek the power to micromanage the course of our nation and to organize our corporate life down to the merest detail are an enormous threat to individual liberty. The fact that they wish to diminish our freedom in the name of doing what's best for us or increasing our security makes their ambitions more seductive but no less insidious.

As Benjamin Franklin observed, "A people who would sacrifice freedom in order to gain security deserve neither freedom nor security," and will ultimately wind up with neither. That timeless piece of wisdom could serve as a summary of Hayek's Road to Serfdom.