It’s Time To Revisit The Road To Serfdom
Recently the books 1984 and Animal Farm have had a rebirth of relevance. They were written by George Orwell in 1949 and 1945.
Orwell’s books coined words and phrases that have become descriptive of what is happening now—doublethink, Ministry of Truth, Big Brother, thought criminal, Newspeak, and, of course, Orwellian.
Another book with a similar theme was written in 1944 by the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek— The Road to Serfdom. Hayek was born in Austria in 1898 and spent most of his life in England and America. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.
Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm are fictional but the dystopias they describe have become disturbingly real.
Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, on the other hand, is a complete explanation of why attempts to achieve utopias always result into nightmarish dystopias.
A few of the book’s chapter titles reveal its theme:
The Great Utopia Security and Freedom Why the Worst Get on Top The End of Truth The Socialist Roots of Nazism The Totalitarians in Our Midst
In The Road to Serfdom Hayek warns us that once on that “road,” society is forced further and further along it. Each step requires an additional step. Eventually we end up as serfs.
He warns us “that democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something quite different.”
He warns us about politicians of the Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez type: “There are many people who call themselves socialists. . . who fervently believe in the ultimate aims of socialism but neither care nor understand how they can be achieved, and who are merely certain that they must be achieved, whatever the costs.”
Specifically, Hayek explains why socialism inevitably evolves into totalitarianism. First, well-intended socialist attempts to perfect a free-market economy lead to unforeseen problems. Then, centralized “solutions” don’t solve those problems, but create larger ones. Partial control is never enough. The end result is tyranny.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union some of its former member countries used The Road to Serfdom as a guidebook for what to avoid as they threw off the shackles of socialism.
The following excerpts from The Road to Serfdom show us Hayek in his own words:
It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, of those better off—than on any positive task.
Many a university teacher during the 1930’s has seen English and American students return from the Continent uncertain whether they were communists or Nazis and certain only that they hated Western liberal civilization.
The machinery of monopoly becomes identical with the machinery of the state, and the state itself becomes more and more identified with those who run things than with the interests of the people in general.
Several contributory factors strengthen the tendency of collectivism to become particularist and exclusive. Of these, one of the most important is that the desire of the individual to identify himself with a group is very frequently the result of a feeling of inferiority and that therefore his want will be satisfied only if membership of the group confers some superiority over outsiders.
Everyone who has watched the growth of these movements in Italy or in Germany has been struck by the number of leading men, form Mussolini downward. . . who began as socialists and ended up as Fascists or Nazis.
It is hard to believe that those words were written almost 80 years ago. If you want to understand how the worlds of 1984 and Animal Farm can happen, read The Road to Serfdom.
This article originally ran at American Thinker.
Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.