For this week’s discussion, I read the first two chapters of The Road to Serfdom. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, run out and get it. The book is pretty easy to read, and the chapters aren’t very long.
Hayek argues that in promoting a socialist type agenda, many of his contemporaries had abandoned freedom. He argues that in pursuing a socialist agenda, “we are rapidly abandoning … one of the salient characteristics of Western civilization as it has grown from the foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and Romans.” In today’s political terms, this is the statist agenda. In pursuing a policy that gives the government more power over our lives, we are giving up liberty. If the government can dictate the terms of our health care, we can’t decide them ourselves. Hayek quoted Tocqueville to illustrate the difference between freedom and socialism:
“Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom,” he said in 1848,” socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialsim makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialsim 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.”
Hayek then continues and makes what I believe is a very important point. Critics where suspicious of the claims socialist were making. Socialists began to promise “a new freedom”. This new freedom would be more important than the political freedom men already enjoyed, and without the new freedom, our old freedoms were meaningless. Socialism would bring “economic” freedom. Think of FDR’s “freedom from want”. FDR would argue that men who were hungry and out of work were not free men. Therefore, the government would need to provide for these men so they can truly be free. However, the government does not create. It can only provide for some by taking from others. In a free society, all are free, not just the government’s chosen class.
Hayek also points that the socialist or communist (or today’s statist) is on a slippery slope. Once you accept state planning, where does it stop? FDR and LBJ were able to institute a number of social programs that we still have today. This has lead to the mindset that the government will take care of me. Now we have government healthcare. What’s next? As the government plans more and more of our life, it takes more and more of our freedom. The government plans my retirement, my healthcare, the cost of my car (due to safety and MPG standards). Where does it stop?
In full blown tyranny.