Obama, Socialism and Hayek’s Road
by Bruce Webb
It is a very common trope among the Right to claim that Obama is a Socialist. For Progressives with any awareness of modern history and politics this seems ludicrous, it is hard to see that Obama is even committed to the principles of the New Deal, still less the second coming of Henry Wallace or even Hubert Humphrey. But from a wordview common to the Right it is not odd at all, what Progressives if anything think of as an end state: a future Social Democracy is for Conservatives a process, one they intend to resist. You can see this worldview on display in this review of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom
What F.A. Hayek saw, and what most all his contemporaries missed, was that every step away from the free market and toward government planning represented a compromise of human freedom generally and a step toward a form of dictatorship–and this is true in all times and places. He demonstrated this against every claim that government control was really only a means of increasing social well-being. Hayek said that government planning would make society less liveable, more brutal, more despotic. Socialism in all its forms is contrary to freedom.
Nazism, he wrote, is not different in kind from Communism. Further, he showed that the very forms of government that England and America were supposedly fighting abroad were being enacted at home, if under a different guise. Further steps down this road, he said, can only end in the abolition of effective liberty for everyone.
Capitalism, he wrote, is the only system of economics compatible with human dignity, prosperity, and liberty. To the extent we move away from that system, we empower the worst people in society to manage what they do not understand.
Once you understand that many Conservatives have internalized this and like Buckley define the goal of Conservatism as “”to stand athwart history, yelling, ‘Stop!” much that seems baffling and incoherent about the Conservative mindset becomes clear.
When Palin came out the other day and asked the crowd “How’s that hopey, changey thing working out for you?” she was just tapping into this existing mindset. For Conservatives aspirations for “Hope and Change” simply evoke the ever present risk of taking that first step down the Road to Serfdom. From this perspective being the “Party of No” to a President running on a platform of “Change” is a principled stand in resisting tyranny. For Conservatives Socialism is a process, a dangerous process that once it starts may not be easily checked.
To probably most people the battle against Social Security seemd quixotic, a battle that was fought and lost several times in the past and likely to be lost again. For Conservatives it is just lost ground on the Road to Serfdom, maybe it is too late to push it back, but that being no reason to just let Progressives use its success to drag you further down the Road.
I find it instructive to examine the authorized, literally cartoon version of The Road to Serfdom. This was not meant as any kind of joke at the time, it comes from the same mindset that would present Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” as a serious work of political and historical analysis. In the first seven panels of the cartoon you see a process started by well intentioned planners, but which is coopted a the future orator with “fierce oratory” (“the fierce urgency of now”) in panel eight. Panel nine shows a state of gridlock whereupon power it passed to the new dictator in panel ten. By panel thirteen one party power is established. And by final panel 18 “If you are fired from your job, it is likely to be by firing squad”.
You can call this raging paranoia, and certainly it taps into fear and pre-existing ideas of apocalism, but it is not on its own terms irrational. These people really do believe that Fascism had its origins in Do-Good Liberalism and that they hear echoes of Hitler in Obama. That which Progressives find inspiring, Obama’s eloquence and at least rhetorical commitment to change, are to Conservatives dire threats. Giving way even a little is just to be shoved one more step, then another down the Road to Serfdom.
My favorite cartoon panel is no. 17, where golf is implicitly defined as the sport of free men. The guy breaking the clubs in the background is priceless.
I forgot how good Hayek was.
BTW this RTS mindset explains much of Cantab’s and to some extent Sammy and CoRev’s argumentative style and resistance to evidence. Their world view doesn’t allow them to give an inch to those who would should them down the Road.
What they are engaged in is not a clash of ideals, they know where they stand on that, nor is it even a clash of ideas, Cantab is clearly not interested in engaging at that level. It is simply a battle of will.
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
Words for Cantab to live by. And he does.
Before I comment on your post I’ve got to take just a second to ponder the image of the long haired, blonde woman appearing on the right side of the page. A link to Ann Coulter’s blog appearing on AB. God help us, if there is one. Certainly it is evidence of either AB’s committment to free speech or otherwise its lust for the almighty dollar. Dan, I hope that you charged them a premium price. There is a foul odor of hyperbolic deceit eminating from the page.
Back to Bruce’s post. All that you describe about the Conservative’s point of view and how it is summarized by Hayek is barely enlightening to any one with an observant eye covering the past fifty years (probably longer) of the march toward creeping facism in this country which has little to do with liberal or progressive agendas being carried out by our government during that time. Roosevelt may have been the last President to represent a semblance of social progress. True that Johnson rammed civil rights legislation down the throats of a reluctant Congress, but more likely to stave off impending wide spread civil unrest being inflamed by a die hard segregationist inclination through out the entire country.
Hayek’s view is little more than a distorted conceptualization of a relationship between capitalism and freedom. No such relationship exists, any more so than freedom being tied to any other form of economic system. Freedon is a social concept that will work in any society that has a balanced form of government, meaning that representation in government is truly equal for all citizens. No economic system has a guaranty of such a balance and capitalism being inherently ruthless is least likely of all economic systems to represent a surety of freedom.
The Coulter ad has been up before. Most websites that accept advertising have little control over content. There are some services that limit their ads to liberal leaning operations, but I suspect their rates are lower.
This site is just not big enough to have some sort of advertising manager, the current hope is to generate enough revenue to fund some improvements and maybe compensate Dan a little for his role as site administrator. Adding a role of ad manager on top of everything else would be kind of piling on. I think most AB readers are smart enough to understand that the editorial and advertising sections of just about any print or online media source are separately run on separate principles.
I would argue that the Great Society in both practice and vision was for more than just jamming some Civil Rights bills through. Medicare and Medicaid both being big advances for economic and social justice. And who knows where we would be today without the modernized Food Stamp program. I have seen reports that as many as 1 in 8 Americans are relying on them, and that for many it is the only source of outside income support. Some working families might be literally starving without them.
In Seattle there were reports that a teen agency was experiencing a surge of teens who came for the help not because of the training or social aspects but because their families couldn’t feed them.
My Grandfather supported himself from the time his uncle ran him off the farm at 12 years old, I don’t want to return to that America.
The Great Society had big aspirations and did a lot of good, only to be dragged down when the Right used Vietnam and then the Cold War as their path to power and so put the brakes to Progressivism. But the potential is there still, there were some advances even under Nixon, and I would argue even under Clinton, while some aspects of Welfare Reform were unnecessarily punitive, the extention of Medicaid to working families was a huge step forward.
Hayekians would not equate freedom and equality. For Conservatives demands for equality are instead extraordinarily dangerous to freedom, they would argue that equality of opportunity always morphs into equality of outcome and so into socialism.
My definition of freedom is probably close to yours but that does not mean it is inherently privileged compared to others,
There is a lot of real world data on “Socialist” states. It differs not at all from Hayek’s predictions, and it would be a gross understatement to describe that data as “horrible.”
I guess my question is: what part of that data do you not understand?
Towards the end of his life even Hayek himself backed away from some of his earlier views. He was surprised to find that he even agreed with much of what John Rawls had to say. And he may have been influenced by his cousin Wittgenstein’s logical positivism and the Vienna Circle. A lot of Hayek’s earlier thoughts were incubated in world in which Stalin’s body was still lukewarm, so perhaps he could be forgiven for some of his slippery slope thinking at the time.
Interesting that a lot of Hayek admirers are only familiar with his political philosophy and surprisingly few are aware of his economic thinking (he was most wrong in his debates with Kaldor) and even fewer are aware of his writings on epistemology (which are quite good).
the data is not complete: China or the U.S.: Which Will Be the Last Nation Standing?
My bet is on the US. Where would you rather live, China or the US?
BTW, US GDP/captita = $46,400 (10th in the world), China GDP/capita = $6,500 (127th in the world, right behind Turmenistan, and just ahead of Namibia).
Sammy even Hayek conceded before he died that the simplistic theory outlined in either version of The Road to Serfdom was counterdicted by the relative success of the European Social Democracies after WWII. Neither his native Austria nor Sweden ended up as Totalitarian States in the way his model predicted.
And though Industrial Policy is by and large more state centered and controlled in modern Social Democracies most of the actual Manufacturing, Retail and Service sectors remained out of direct state control. Social Planning did not result in the kind of State Socialism that he saw either.
What the hell real world data are you referring to? I don’t know of any Majoritarian Democratic State that actually went down the Road to Serfdom, the countries that did had that Statist system imposed from the outside, or in a couple of cases from direct revolutionary action largely outside the political process.
That familiarity with his political philosophy may have something to do with the fact that he authorized it to be reduced to 18 cartoon panels. 😀
It is fairly typical for Marxists and Freudians to claim that certain minimalist formulations are grossly distorted ‘Vulgar’ versions of actual Marxism or Freudianism, that the Masters did not actually make those mistakes, not if you read all three volumes of Capital or whatever. The interesting thing about the Road to Serfdom is that the cartoon version exists and seems to still be canonical, if you follow the link it is hosted on Mises.org, the Mother Ship of Austrianism. Maybe this is just archival but it is not hard to find, they are still leaving the cartoon version up as the face of Hayekism.
A little anecdote told by Jamie Galbraith about his dad J.K. Galbraith. Apparently the elder G was addressing a Viennese audience and remarked how well off post War Austria had been left by the legacy of Hayek, von Mises, and I think Shumpeter. Which led to a mixed response since their legacy was to have left Austria to its own devices and taken themselves and their theories to other countries. Ouch, that had to sting.
Sammy nominal national GDP is pretty much meaningless as a comparative device. For one thing it totally ignores the urban/rural divide and income inequality. In order to make it meaningful you would have to express it split out between top 1%, top 10%, and top and bottom 50% and then adjust it for price variations for consumption goods within and between the two countries.
I could live like a king in large parts of the rural U.S. for $46,400 dollars or be struggling to meet shared rent in Manhatten. Reducing all that to per capita GDP doesn’t tell you anything about comparative living standards.
Your question as stated is simply rhetorical.
This is the first time I have seen Coulter. It is lust for the almighty coinage I believe, less likely dollars. I can ask. I doubt sammy likes coulter either.
Interesting post, Bruce.
I see our current circumstances as a type of democratic tyranny and a result of what Hayek’s cartoon described. Although, I don’t think the Conservative influence has been so much about resisting ‘big’ government, as it has been an effort to develop a government that protects their interests. The Dems and the Repubs are so similar in terms of motives (self-interest) that with all of the shifting that occurs over time, I fail to see much of a difference except on some peripheral issues and if any issue stands in the way of winning, well, those issues come and go as needed.
If the Dems were for example committed to an ideology based on our nations best interest, they would have remained faithful to the Worker’s Movement. It is fairly obvious that without a party to represent the working-class that the Elitist forces would cause a democratic imbalance, although, here we are. The Dems would have also framed the health-care debate much differently had they held to a sincere ideological foundation. The monopolistic nature of medical care is clearly not conducive to free-market dynamics yet the Dems lack the necessary constituent base to even so much as consider any such argument. So here we are, in a quagmire of self-interest.
What is also telling, is that we should be breaking away from the trite bondage of over-simplified ideologies. Some sectors lend themselves to private enterprise, and some are best managed publicly. But it seems that our educational process is so dysfunctional, that our politics must come in tidy packages. And then fear-based hyperbole replaces honest debate and a foolish contest between stereotypes ensues, here we are.
So, what you, Bruce, have ascribed to the Road To Serfdom “mindset”, The “argumentative style and resistance to evidence”, is precisely how I feel about Dems and Repubs alike. It is probably easy for you to understand how ludicrous it must seem to an ex-Communist like me when Conservatives accuse the Dems of being ‘Socialists’, but, it is no less ludicrous when the Dems claim compassion for the undocumented workers on the one hand, but then they ignore the role of ag subsidies in displacing not only the migrant workers, but also they ignore the effects on our rural communities, and, the affects on global labor values. Not to suggest that the Dems should not be allowed an opinion on these matters, but instead to say that I have had these arguments going back years, and if Dems have been any more open-minded — I have not noticed any difference.
Hayek’s theories are the road to serfdom,internationalism and plutocratic dictatorship.
The Nazi’s were anti-egalitarian though, but still on the left. Reaction on the left is not new, but we have not seen it for awhile. The Nazi’s created a NHS, made major government commitments to research,public works and education. They nationalized energy and basic infrastructure they believed the state should control to serve the German people. Heavily regulated business, even liquidating some firms that were deemed threats against Germany. But yet, they had a roaring business community of merchants who served the German nation. Even Churchhill was envious of them.
The problem was Hitler’s imperial bloodlust and hatred for “cultural Jews”. It led Germany astray and onto a militaristic crusade to destroy the “Jewish homelands” of the USSR and finally the USA(Hitler didn’t realize the extent of Jewish money and power that helped create the American republic to the late 30’s) and create a pan-German rule in Europe as “protecters” from the Jews. The problem is(and current Nazi groups still can’t admit too) that Jews are everywhere and into every scent of political and ideological thinking. There just wasn’t Jews all over the Reds in Russia, but they were all over the White’s and Blues as well. Of course the Jews would be all over the revolutionary arena in Russia considering their treatment under the Czar. This type of stupidity ruined the potential of the Nazi regime.
The Nazi’s had alot of info destroyed by the Allies because it threatened to destroy the notion of reality. The Soviet hoax is one of those illusions. The other was the creation of “imperial” America that emerged during the WWII period and how the Wall Street capitalists secretly swerved the country into imperialism for themselves why burying the republic.
If the “left” wants to rise again, it must take the nationalist position. It must expose the “right” for what they are. Frauds of internationalism. The tea-partiers are the classic dupes. When they figure out the scam, it will be to late. They will cry to the left to save them, but America will have been dissolved by the capitalists. It will be a brutal and bitter revolutionary struggle afterwords that may not be successfull.
The people must be educated of the fraud of the war on terror AND the cold war. They must be told how the capitalists are trying to dissolve America into a plutocratic dictatorship with no republican laws. They will be serfs and slaves. The “left” must then rally the country to demand rule of law, regulated buiness and heavy state investment into infrastructure. The capitalists will serve America first.
For alot of “leftists” it will be hard, because they have this multi-cultural, egalitarian nonsense strapped in their head. It is actually the otherway around, nature always has a pecking order and we know who needs to be on top. If they aren’t, the weak and inferior will dissolve this country.
Yes, I’m familiar with the Galbraith story. As I recall the real punchline was that those in the audience didn’t get Galbraith’s double meaning.
What makes Austrian economics unique is the way Austrians understand the interest rate. It can be seductive because the Austrian theory of interest rates has a kind of intuitive, common sense appeal to it. But it also predicts certain things about production cycles of capital and consumption goods and that’s where it goes off track. This is the source of Hayek’s “concertina” effect. Hayek and Kaldor had a longstanding argument and each made certain predictions. History has since vindicated Kaldor. There are a lot of economists who call themsevles “Austrian” economists, but they almost always mean it in the sense of being strongly free market. There are very few academic economists who preach the Austrian theory of the interest rate and what it predicts about business cycles.
Thanks RL and Traditional
I don’t fully agree with RL and have some deep objections to TCs formulations but this is the kind of deep engagement with the issues all too often lacking in comments. Please bring more.
Yep. Even in Serfdom Hayek wrote that in a country as wealthy as the US (and we are substantially wealthier today), there was no reason anyone should lack for basic food, clothing, shelter and health care, and that the State undoubtedly had a role to play in provision of same. My own interpretation has always been that Hayek was strongly opposed to having the government try to tell people what to make, or when, or how much. But he was certainly okay with a some amount of redistribution. Although I expect he would have been more comfortable with Friedman’s “If the problem is that the poor have too little money, then give them money” approach.
Not to say that we should revert back to the time of your Grandfather, but rather to point out that welfare programs do have some unintended consequences.
A couple of years ago, corn grown many hundreds of miles away (US), sold for 25% less than corn grown locally in Mexico. Subsidies are complicated but it might be enough here to point out that the financial services industry benefits because subsidies provide collateral as a type of insurance. Maybe too, I can skip ahead and just say that I have spent a fair amount of time in Central America and with the peasants there, and, many of these people were content with the way things WERE. But, by World Bank standards these people live below the poverty line. But of course barter is difficult to value and so the only valid criteria remaining is just ‘common sense’. And all one need do is compare the urban poor to the rural
poor and it only takes a little exploring to see that poverty is in the eye of the beholder, and it is not a coincidence that content, and healthy people, are forced into the type of poverty that benefits all of those who gain from low labor costs. Nor is it a coincidence that Central Americans flood their labor markets and that this overflow spreads to the North to where the money is, naturally.
In the North though the number of manufacturing jobs has been dwindling for decades. And the people who had moved to our industrial centers were left in a vacuum. Welfare programs from the start were the wrong solution because they trapped people in places where these people had few if any ‘choices’. Subsidized housing created dependencies in the wrong places, and subsidized staples (food stamps are a double subsidy) eliminated rural opportunities and caused a migration from rural to urban at a time when it should have been the reverse. Then as the social costs became unpopular in the 1990s, due in part to these concentrating affects, the subsidizing was partially withdrawn. So, with tens of millions of people left with far too few opportunities, this was one of the underlying reasons for our crime epidemic, especially that which developed as an illegal drug industry, which came as the result of unintended consequences that are the result of welfare programs and the aforementioned concentrating effects caused by ag subsidies and illegal immigration.
Obama is a Chicago pol. maybe he’ll smarten up and start following the Chicago economic school. Or else he can be a socialist.
A mass urbanization is occurring accross the planet, and in part, this migration is due to the ag subsidies by the developed nations. The most immediate issue is that, even the most advanced urban areas do not have the facilities to adequately deal with waste-water runoff. Dead-zones are forming in Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, San Pedro and Santa Monica, and these are in areas that DO HAVE sewage treatment facilities. And these are not places subjected to high concentrations of ag fertilizers like those found in the Gulf of Mexico. So, in far less advanced urban areas around the world, a migratory trend that guarantees that impervious surface areas must continue to increase, is so clearly a threat to our oceans that it is hard to imagine how ‘progessives’ are not sounding every and all alarms. But there is a clear and consistent pattern where the so-called progressives stand on all of these issues, and that is that their compasionate when they benefit, but not when they don’t benefit. They, for example, play the compassion card when it comes to undocumented workers, which of course holds down their costs, but ignore the widely undisputed opinion that our policies are displacing the very folks who receive this miguided compassion. So, it is a little broad perhaps to use the term progressive, but the Dems is a little less broad and I have much experience in these arguments — and the pattern is not difficult to establish. So I hope this better explains why I see little difference between Dems and Repubs.
Well the deeper pool just dried up.
Cantab the original head of the Obama campaign Economic team was Austan Goolsbee of yes the Chicago School of Business. Now you could explore why Goosbee turned out to be number two to Volcker on a board that was sidelined compared to the one led by Summers and didn’t end up as Treasury Secretary, something the early betting thought was a sure shot, or you can just insert some snarkish bullshit. Gosh which course did you choose?
The US has no conservative movement.
The US has a fascist elite running the place with fear and innuendo.
That socialism does not work is a blither not unlike the rants of Cheney that without a gestapo, waterboarding enemy combatants the administraion is negligent in pursuing the war on Islamo terror.
The US is filled with wannabe serfs not to a government run social order but one run through Rupert Mrdoch’s propaganda machine enslaving the God and cave dwelling Islamo terrorist fearing serfs living in the corporate cottages disguised as their inflated, mortgaged huddles.
Beside Hayek lived in Austria!
Nobody likes government regulation or taxes… Except when they can see them directly benefitting themselves or people they identify with.
And any government is dangerous, whether on the “right” or the “left.” The genius of the American Constitution was supposed to be that it balanced factions in such a way that no one could gain enough power to do too much evil to the rest of us.
Hayek was not as dumb as his “followers” who are indeed the sort of people who can take three or four cartoons and imagine they are a picture of the world as it is.
“Socialism” might have looked especially dangerous in a time of Hitler and Stalin. Capitalism looked especially dangerous in the time of Big Railroads, and Armor Meat Packing and Standard Oil….
and, I believe, the present.
But we are also in the times when we are ruled by ignoramuses. The brilliant ignoramuses from Harvard and the .. not so brilliant .. ignoramuses from … other places. There was a time, I think, when “interests” cleverly manipulated the crowd to support measures that helped the interests but rarely the crowd. Nowadays, I think, the interests believe their own propaganda. Because it is really hard to see how their policies benefit anyone, even themselves.
not very clear above. but we do need government regulation and taxes. the problem is that when any government, or people, get too powerful or too stupid (the one seems to follow the other) the country goes to hell.
with any luck there will be someone left to pick up the pieces.
at expected growth rate of 11.3% (as per goldman sachs) chinese GDP quadruples in 12 years…
Had you described the ideologies of the presidents from Hoover to GW, and described what each of those presidents would do with regard to regulation and tax cuts during his term, and asked him to predict the growth rates that would result during each term, he’d have ranked them completely opposite to the graphs I keep putting up.
And the graphs I put up on taxes and growth rates – he would have predicted the results completely opposite of what came to pass as well.
A guy whose predictions are almost 100% contradicted by the facts seventy some years later is not saying anything useful.
problem here is that i agree with you almost entirely. but your desire to censor the Coulter ad points at exactly what the conservatives are afraid of about the liberals… though they don’t recognize it when they do it themselves.
i think this is nonsense. from your standpoint, and Hayek”s, America IS a Socialist country. And so is germany and japan.
If life is worse in China, it is because first, China is a poor country… not caused by socialism but by history, and second China has no tradition of human rights… something your “conservative” friends are only too glad to get rid of when the humans are “workers” but very protective of when the humans are “owners.”
Yeah, this stuff never happens around the world. /~sarcasm~
Many aspects of the cartoon describe exactly what happened during the Bush II years, where terrorism was a rallying cry for all manners of bad policy. How soon we forget.
As I posted above, this cartoon can accurately describe the war on terror during the Bush II years, and it is a scenario that has played out many times throughout history around the world – it is relevant. The only one ignoring vast amounts of evidence is you.
Now, I will say that the chances of this playing out with Obama is slim, but that is nor reason to not be a vigilant watchdog of government actions. And, Obama like Bush has his war on terror – the war on recession,
Your lack of understanding causes your “not very clear above”. The US Government was framed so as to protect against Populism. This framing was designed to allow a small ruling elite the control of power and that is “the genius”. You need to learn more about Monroe and his reaction to Shay’s Rebellion. The “balance” you speak of was intended to heavily favor a small minority and now those protections against populism are favoring corporations and their shareholders. This corporate “faction” has grown to include far too many influential citizens/voters in relation to how the framing was intended and that is why we have democratic tyranny.
So it is not “the brilliant ignoramuses from Harvard” who lack understanding –it is you. They created the current ‘balance’ because they understood that power could be bought and consolidated with equity shares. They believe that we are living at a time when the control of global market shares will determine our nation’s prosperity into the future, and, like the Founding Fathers, they have a staunch belief that they are doing what is in our best interest. And they do at least have a viable argument. So for you to insult others with words such as “dumb”, and “ignoramus”, well, that is dumb and ignorant.
And as for this: “ Nobody likes government regulation or taxes… Except when they can see them directly benefitting themselves or people they identify with.”
It is one thing to admit that one supports what is in one’s best interest — it is another thing to play the compassion card. What you evidently fail to understand, is what so many Americans must fail to understand if our Empire is to prevail. That is the simple fact that our middle-class produces far less than its global responsibility calls for, although, this class is never satisfied. Global poverty, if the success of the Chinese is removed from the equation, is worsening. But of course most middle-class Americans are convinced that they and their compassion are doing far more than what the Chinese do in regards to global poverty. When in truth it is this parasitic and insatiable hegemony that appeases the middle-class that perpetuates the very poverty that exists in the undeveloped nations. So the ‘compassion card’ that has become a feature of US politics, when that compassion so conveniently coincides with the interests of those who have benefited the most, and with a middle-class that is increasingly becoming part of a leisure-class, well, that is hypocrisy of a magnitude that is delusional.
“A guy whose predictions are almost 100% contradicted by the facts seventy some years later is not saying anything useful.”
Had you described the ideaologies of the presidents from Hoover to GW (no data mining going on with these end points mind you), and described what each of those presidents would do with regard to regulation and tax cuts during his term, and asked him to predict the DIFFERENCE in growth rates that would result during each term RELATIVE TO THE OPPOSING IDEOLOGY BEING EMPLOYED, you would have something substantive to talk about. Come back when you have this data.
Here is a little about Madison. Noam Chomsky ~
“It should be recalled that the American republic was founded on the principle that there should be a democratic deficit. James Madison, the main framer of the Constitutional order, held that power should be in the hands of “the wealth of the nation,” the “more capable set of men,” who have sympathy for property owners and their rights. Possibly with Shay’s Rebellion in mind, he was concerned that “the equal laws of suffrage” might shift power into the hands of those who might seek agrarian reform, an intolerable attack on property rights. He feared that “symptoms of a levelling spirit” had appeared sufficiently “in certain quarters to give warning of the future danger.” Madison sought to construct a system of government that would “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” That is why his constitutional framework did not have coequal branches: the legislature prevailed, and within the legislature, power was to be vested in the Senate, where the wealth of the nation would be dominant and protected from the general population, which was to be fragmented and marginalized in various ways. As historian Gordon Wood summarizes the thoughts of the founders: “The Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period,” delivering power to a “better sort” of people and excluding “those who were not rich, well born, or prominent from exercising political power.’ “
Liberty does not mean the same thing for our conservatives that it does to a Progressive or, for that matter, to anybody who remains loyal to the tradition of the American Revolution. Since Burke’s time, if not before, the right thought of a liberty as the hereditary privilege of a a given class of people. Thus the Southerners in the Civil War fought for their liberty, which was their traditional right to enslave black people. The liberties beloved of Teabaggers are the prorogatives of “real” Americans and have nothing to do with the rights of man as defined by the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg address. At root, what we’re going through now isn’t an argument about Austrian economics: it’s a fight about the meaning of freedom. The Ideals of Paliln’s White Trash nation are simply those of the Confederacy. Why blame this nonsense on Hayek or even Leo Strauss?
By the way, the only major political group in Weimar Germany committed to the maintenance of lawful, democratic government was the Socialists (SPD). They were the only ones around who gave a damn about civil liberties. The Nazis, Communists, and Monarchists didn’t. The traditional conservatives certainly didn’t. Like our Republicans, they held their noses and threw in with what they knew was a bunch of hysterical thugs in the belief that they could control them. I guess it isn’t enough to rewrite the history of the American Revolution, thoughGlen Beck’s appropriation of the genuinely radical Thomas Paine is beyond absurd: the history of the 20th Century also has to be rewritten by semi-literate hacks.
The only problem is that the Republicans have been corrupted by their fear of terrorism to be even more of a threat to our civil liberties than the Democrats are.
Personally I think that too much is made of Madison as “Father of the American Constitution” as read through the mirror of the Federalist Papers. That is you don’t see much Tom Paine in the main body of the Constitution but you see a lot of him in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution as shaped by Madison and the Federalists was by then current British and European standards wildly revolutionary. For example it is notable that the Constitution itself has no property qualifications for voting or representation, there was no attempt to nationalize the varying such standards of the new states. Moreover the the House was explicitly based on proportional representation, whether those citizens were qualified to vote, at least their interests were not explicitly locked out as they were in contemporary Britain where some of the larger population centers had no representation at all, even for the wealthy and propertied.
Even people well informed of history in general seem to examine the Constitution through the lens of the French Revolution and the tumultuous history of the years from 1789 to 1848 when Europe was swept with waves of revolution, in that light the Constitution does take on a reactionary tinge. But realistically Americans already has decades of rights established that the Chartrists of Britain and the revolutionaries of Europe were demanding largely in vain by the mid-nineteenth century.
Would the Constitution have looked different in form if Jefferson hadn’t been in France? Almost certainly, it would look a lot less Federalist. But in the event not only did Madison write most of the text he also wrote much of the texts before and after ratification that are now used to interpret original intent to a degree that obscures the principles that underlied the Revolution itself. A surface reading may give one the idea that this is a property rights document, but ideas about popular democracy are working under the surface and popped up in the form of Jacksonian Democracy.
Too much of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democracy is discounted by the facile “Well Jefferson owned slaves, and Jackson killed and displace indian” argument. Well yes but by the standards at the time even near universal white male suffrage by 1828, however restrictive it seems to us, was a wildly revolutionary idea, one that for England was not achieved until 1918.
I agree with the definition of freedom being central to who we are. But your evalution of why we fought the Civil War is wrong. There is an underlying struggle between Industry and Agriculture that continues to this day. It became about $$$ beginning with our first Tariffs (The Tariff Act of 1816). If one is able to understand how much wealth from agriculture has benefited those in urban environs, and how slavery was on a trend that made owning slaves increasingly less cost effective, and that emancipation did little to improve the lives of ex-slaves, our current circumstances become much easier to understand.
I don’t think that Wingnut ideas about limited government specifically derive from the concept of hereditary liberty you describe. Instead I would say that two streams merged, one a nativist one coming largely from below and the other coming from above. In an English context it is one thing to be born a “free born Englishman” quite another to be born the son of the Duke of Oxford. Both are in a sense hereditary but they play out differently. It has been the genius of Movement Conservatism to get the ideals of the Confederacy aligned with those of the House of Lords even as those played out quite differently in Britain and the Continent where the opposition between the Nationalists and the Aristocracy dominated. For example I don’t think the German aristocracy ever was comfortable answering to a former Austrian corporal, it was an uneasy marriage at best.
Hayek was indeed more nuanced in his book than in the cartoon that he authorized. He supported national health insurance for one thing, which is not known by many who invoke his name in opposing same. He objected to those whom he thought had claimed that he was pushing the “slippery slope” argument that any sort of increase in government intervention would lead to “serfdom.” Indeed, even in the cartoon version, the main entry to the road to serfdom is central planning, not social welfare.
I might also note that the people posting this cartoon are the clowne at the Mises Institute. They are not fans of Hayek, actually, being the hardliners of the Austrians. They know about Hayek’s views, and many there criticize him for his “socialist” tendencies. Thus, it is sort of an implied insult that they post this cartoon version.
I didn’t say to censor the ad. I only pointed out the contradiction with AB’s point of view and a direct link to an individual who has made a great deal of money propagating lies and hatefulness.
“Hayekians would not equate freedom and equality.” Bruce
With the lack of equality of representation in government comes the eventual loss of freedom of some sector of tcitizen group. There is endless historical evidence that given the slightest power advantage men will seek to take advantage of other men. I use the word men in the generic sense. Freedom only flows from a balance oif power.
Wow! Mises was Jewish. Hayek wasn’t, but his family had been ( As with Jean Amery ). You can’t understand that they wouldn’t have wanted to live in Austria in the 30s & 40s?
There’s a very good discussion of “Socialism” in “Hayek on Hayek” ( Pages 110-123 ). Based on the comments, it seems that most people haven’t read Hayek.
Bruce – You think this comment from traditional is deep engagement?
“It is actually the otherway around, nature always has a pecking order and we know who needs to be on top.”
This sounds like liberal elitism at its finest. Basically states that the elite should rule over us and tell us what we should do (for the good of the children (TM)) . Its about as anti-freedom as you get. Fits right in with the mindset that calls people “sheeple” and calls people bitter holding onto their guns and bibles.
Or this: “The capitalists will serve America first. “
Islam will change
i’d hate to think my local newspaper is endorsing every product advertised therein.
1. “no data mining going on with these end points mind you”
Real GDP per capita data begins in 1929. We don’t have a full term for Obama yet. Now, given your comment it seems clear you’d be making up data to have a longer data series, but I don’t roll that way.
And btw… don’t forget, so far Obama has been doing nothing but cutting taxes.
2. “RELATIVE TO THE OPPOSING IDEOLOGY BEING EMPLOYED”
OK. But by that standard, there is no proof of anything. Your standard wouldn’t even allow anyone to argue that Pol Pot was bad for Cambodia because, after all, we have no idea what would have happened had they given Mother Teresa citizenship and put her in charge instead. For all we know, if Mother Teresa had been in charge, the Fish People of Mulgar would have invaded the Earth and then eaten every single man, woman and child in Cambodia and the rest of the world.
If you want to subscribe to the “Hayek’s policies are great, but God tends to get pissed off at America and inflict slow growth on us most of the times that the candidate most closely aligned with Hayek’s visions wins the Presidential election” be my guest. Frankly, its not the approach I would recommend, but then we clearly have a very different approach to data.
“The capitalists will serve America first. ”
Reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode where the aliens brought earthlings prosperity and began bring the now well fed humans to their plant.
“How to serve humanity…” was a cookbook!
Serve America to whose taste?
I do enjoy your sign off: “Islam will change”
How many need to be killed and how much plundering by the militarists is enough to get Islam to change?
ilsm will not change.
you are right. i am much too ignorant to know anything about Shays rebellion.
And of course the Constitutional Conventioin was a cabal of rich guys interested only in preserving their hegemony.
You, alas, are the sort of liberal who gives the insane right credibility.
Another wow. Now your saying the right wants to re-establish slavery? You have really, really missed the idea about limited government if that’s how you feel.
To change your context to a US one. My middle-class born and raised son is just as free as Bill Gates son. The fact that Bill is one of the richest men in the world is not a factor in the status of my son’s freedom.
You are once again complaining, as most I see on the left, on the in-equality in OUTCOME. Sorry I expect their to be in-equlity. People are different. I can’t play basketball worth crap. Shack made tens of millions with his ability to throw a ball through a round hoop. But I had the opportunity, if my talents were in that direction, to make those same millions as Shack. From reading you guys, you believe that’s not fair. Sorry life isn’t fair and I don’t want it to be!! Having the government smash everyone down to equality is evil. Period.
Sorry I want a country that has enough economic & political freedom so a no-name HS grad can become one of the richest men in the world and build a company that provides a product used by billions.
I want a government I can drown in the bathtub. Government should be as in-obtrusive as possible in individual lives. (And that does not mean kill SS, nor eliminate welfare – we are a rich nation and can afford to give people a helping hand back up, but otherwise stay out of the way!). The idea that a normal person breaks multiple laws daly should scare you and clearly points that government has gotten out-of-control.
The comments on this subject sound like they are right out of 1984. But we “know who needs to be at the top.”
I bet Bruce you are right their beleiveing your one of the “smart, elite” who should be running the place. Right?
Get a grip guys…
Islam will change
They mostly are. An increase in the sales of advertised products leads to an increase in the use of the advertising medium. Does the movie producer advocate the use of a product which is blatantly apparent in scenes in a movie. Product placement is a big revenue source for many movies. When a popular radio host tells you how much he/she loves to use the advertiser’s product is that not avdvocating its use. You can’t escape product advocasy tied to product advertising. Even the Marlboro man died from lung cancer. That’s one hell of and advocation.
And you, alas, are a sell-out and dishonest. I read what you said on Sammy’s post the other day, regarding ruralites, and so I believe that you are also a frustrated Elitist, with a similar big-fish-small-pond affliction to that of Bruce’s, so your opinion of me makes perfect sense, and, if it were otherwise, I would be worried.
As you may have noticed I am well Left in my positions but by no means in agreement with some of the things you are loosely assigning to me. I agree almost entirely with the Right in regards to importance of incentives. And I agree with the Stiglitz view that taxes should be applied to bad behaviors and not good ones. We might disagree on the distribution of wealth in its current state, but that has more to do with my views on corruption and fairness that it does the “smart, elite” view that you aptly described in regards to Bruce. I think if you read the exchanges between the mainstream liberals and me you will see that the real Left is a worker’s alliance and we have no illusions about running things, we just want a little more respect.
Solid as usual. But at what point of government intervention, considering of course contractual outlays, does a government become centrally planned. Is there any reason that a capitalist economy is any less prone to restrictive governing than a socialist economy, or, when does regulation become socialism? I have no bias here.
If ever Chomsky challanges you to a pontificating dual, I will bet on you. As for the history lesson, I shall bet on Chomsky.
That bit of lumping you did, with my initial comment, was clever though.
I bet Bruce you are right their believeing you’re one of the “smart, elite” who should be running the place. Right?
Good observation, and the same thing occured to me. Socialism is very good for the ruling elites, not so good for their underlings who have to adopt the behavior of baby birds. So we have a pretty good idea of where those who advocate Socialism envision themselves.
I bet Bruce you are right there believeing you’re one of the “smart, elite” who should be running the place. Right?
Good observation, and the same thing occured to me. Socialism is very good for the ruling elites, not so good for their underlings, who have to adopt the behavior of baby birds. So we have a pretty good idea of where those who advocate Socialism envision themselves.
When we give our power and freedom to someone, we have to trust that they will use it in our best interests, not their own. History is not exactly replete with benevolent dictators, so I would prefer to keep the maximum amount of my freedom, rather than turn it over to the politicians and trust in their altruism.
chinese GDP quadruples in 12 years…
So after 12 years, Chinese GDP per capita will be $26,000 (if their population growth is 0). That is roughly half of US GDP now.
Yeah I’ll take the US over China.
Just for the record, I am an ex-Communist who has decided that Capitalism is a better system. I went to Nicaragua in 1985 with every intention of aiding in the Sandinista Revolution and in a very small way I was a participant. After a few months though, the food and the water were too poluted for my North American body so I was forced to return to San Francisco where I was ill for a month or so.
For roughly the following 20 years I still thought of myself as a Socialist although with the advantage of hindsight I now have a much different view of things. In truth, the Nicaraguan effort was failing not bec
Buffpilot and Sammy are stuck in a paranoid delusion system in which the country is menaced by Marxist-Leninists from the 30s. If they didn’t have so much company, we could simply dismiss them as nuts. You guys are fighting wars that were over long ago and are becoming the ones you endlessly warn against.
European socialism just isn’t totaltiarian. Swedes are not living in fear of the gulag. For that matter, the dominant strain in German socialism has not been revolutionary since the 19th Century. One can certainly argue that this or that poicy is better or worse, but all that denouncing social democrats as the vanguard of 1984 proves is that you are screamingly ignorant of history, a common affliction among Americans, many of whom apparently don’t even know that we have a disgraceful health care system.
You rightists are the apologists for torture and aggressive war, the ones for whom constitutional guarantees can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. The ironic thing is that nobody on the current scene is so much like the old doctrinaire Marxists as American conservatives with their cardborad economic theories and crude ideologies. Learn some real history, damn it.
Thanks, that is the first compliment I’ve ever received here and I really do appreciate it.
Hayek could be excused for writing what he did in 1944, when the only world experience with socialism was Stalin’s totalitarian socialism. But nobody can be excused for believing what Hayek wrote today, 66 years later, when we have over 60 years experience with social democracy in Europe and Europe has *not* turned into the totalitarian hellhole that Hayek claimed would happen. When ideology conflicts with observed reality, observed reality wins. The sky is *not* a fine shade of puce, thank you very much, no matter how much your ideology claims it *must* be.
Reality. Some people need to get in touch with it. Any claim that Europe is, today, a totalitarian hellhole, can only be made by delusional people. Sad to say, there’s no shortage of such.
It is a fine line, but Hayek was clearly talking about command central planning, while quite a few countries such as France and Japan had the non-command indicative planning for several decades. Hayek actually admitted that he was wrong about his forecast when he wrote his Constitution of Liberty in 1960. While he still worried that the road to serfdom might happen, he recognized that Western Europe and the US avoided going to central planning, indeed went the other way.
I’d like everybody who reads The Road to Serfdom to also read The Road to Wigan Pier. Yin – meet Yang.
from foreign policy:
In 2040, the Chinese economy will reach $123 trillion, or nearly three times the economic output of the entire globe in 2000. China’s per capita income will hit $85,000, more than double the forecast for the European Union, and also much higher than that of India and Japan. In other words, the average Chinese megacity dweller will be living twice as well as the average Frenchman when China goes from a poor country in 2000 to a superrich country in 2040. Although it will not have overtaken the United States in per capita wealth, according to my forecasts, China’s share of global GDP — 40 percent — will dwarf that of the United States (14 percent) and the European Union (5 percent) 30 years from now. This is what economic hegemony will look like…
Where’s the short version? The one with cartoons?
I haven’t seen you in awhile badtux. Welcome.
Buff if you don’t understand that Conservatism is all about preserving hierarchy then you don’t know anything. Conservatives believe in the principal of heredity and of “good families” vs “the undeserving poor”. The whole “liberal elite” vs “common man” deal is just a bullshit talking point, Conservatives have always embraced a social and political structure that has the wealthy and well born at the top.
Chomsky is by nature a blinkered thinker. His linguistic theory is at heart nonsense in light of evolutionary theory, the universal unchangeable brain mechanism that he sees as underlying all languages at all times doesn’t make any sense biologically. Of course his followers have a defense, they simply wave off the whole problem by appealing to Saussure:
Synchronicity trumps diachronicity and so elevating an analytical tool into a universal truth. Transformational generative grammar, which is what made Chomsky’s original reputation is an elaborate superstructure built over a foundation of shifting sand. But since its followers can just appeal to synchronicity and ignore diachronicity/history and not confront this core problem they just go on and on.
I haven’t read much if anything of Chomsky’s historical and political work but from afar it seems like he uses the same paradigm he does in his linguistic work: theoretical framing first, then procrustean stretching and lopping data and evidence to fit.
“Now your saying the right wants to re-establish slavery? “
Buff go piss up a rope. I am saying nothing of the sort and no one of good faith could read that into what I wrote. Don’t go Cantab and me and start doing this “What you really meant” bullshit.
To repeat what I said to Barkley at Economists View.
The quote in the main post is not from Hayek. It is instead from a modern review of TRTS and so reflects a modern reading. Hayek’s intent in 1940, whatever nuance his position had then, and to what degree he shifted it in later life is irrelevant in context. What is important to me here is how his book is being received, and based on this review some readers are still seeing it in absolutist terms: “perceived” “every step” “true in all times and places”. Clearly the reviewer both agrees with and approves of this conclusion, and clearly so do many prominent voices on the right, you can’t get from reality to works like “Liberal Fascism” without adopting some form of what could be called “Vulgar Hayekism”
As to the Mises Institute somehow having it in for Hayek and complicit in some effort to tear his reputation down I would note that this review is itself from the Mises.org bookstore:
and that the two paragraphs immediately preceding the ones cited are as follows:
“Finally, here is an edition of Road to Serfdom that does justice to its monumental status in the history of liberty. It contains a foreword by the editor of the Hayek Collected Works, Bruce Caldwell. Caldwell has added helpful explanatory notes and citation corrections, among other improvements. For this reason, the publisher decided to call this “the definitive edition.” It truly is.
This spell-binding book is a classic in the history of liberal ideas. It was singularly responsible for launching an important debate on the relationship between political and economic freedom. It made the author a world-famous intellectual. It set a new standard for what it means to be a dissident intellectual. It warned of a new form of despotism enacted in the name of liberation. And though it appeared in 1944, it continues to have a remarkable impact. No one can consider himself well-schooled in modern political ideas without having absorbed its lessons.”
Sorry Barkley that is not exactly a hit piece. At least I assume Mises.org retains some sort of editorial control over the reviews it puts up in its own store.
“Socialism is very good for the ruling elites, not so good for their underlings”
Odd that the same people who defend income inequality as simply being the by-product of some sort of ‘skill premium’, and ‘explain’ that “no poor man ever gave me a job” and are constant apologists for the actual economic elites seem to believe that poor old West Coast bloggers are simple shills for our real Masters who apparently rule the world from their secret Headquarters in the Berkeley Hills.
You could write whole books about the belief system that would have the real Elites being urban intellectuals, in fact people have. Unfortunately it gets you too close to topics that many in the Vienna Circle would have understood all too well from their own life experience.
Jeez Buff and Sammy why not just appeal to “Rothschilds” and get your real feelings off your chest. Because the Right has never had a bit of problem cow-towing to the Landed Aristocracy, reference the Bushes, but they have an odd reluctance to bow down to the Urban Elites. Somehow I don’t think this is a class thing, it is not like they were pelting William F Buckley’s carriage with stones.
As long as we are throwing stones.
Though just about every semi-informed rightest out there will recognize the name George Soros and associate it with every deep liberal/socialist plot from MoveOn on, I’ll bet you not one in a hundred could tell you a single thing about Soros except that he is a Jewish Billionaire Banker. And that hundredth would simply add Currency Speculator. Because ‘Liberal Elite’ almost always gets you back to that same dark starting point.
So, they have a review about the latest edition of RTS up. But they have the cartoon version actually up. I leave it to you and others to figure out which is more important. Yes, they like to cite RTS, but they also do not like what Hayek actually says in it in detail.
I think you label it right to call the problem one of “Vulgar Hayekism” (or Haykenianism). I will note some of those there, or hang out there from time to time, who have criticized Hayek for his “socialist” tendencies includes Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Walter Block, among others.
I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to this earlier:
The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus
Taken together, these two books give grounds for dismay. The first of them is an eloquent defence of laissez-faire capitalism, the other is an even more vehement denunciation of it. They cover to some extent the same ground, they frequently quote the same authorities, and they even start out with the same premise, since each of them assumes that Western civilization depends on the sanctity of the individual. Yet each writer is convinced that the other’s policy leads directly to slavery, and the alarming thing is that they may both be right….
Between them these two books sum up our present predicament. Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.
Both of these writers are aware of this, more or less; but since they can show no practicable way of bringing it about the combined effect of their books is a depressing one.
Observer, 9 April 1944″
Thanks Don, I happened to notice this in the moderation queue. But I don’t think anyone else will be visiting.
Conservatives believe in letting everyone find his spot. Freedom. Its the Dems who have been proposing or enacting policies to freeze in the current cultural and social elite.
“How many need to be killed and how much plundering by the militarists is enough to get Islam to change?”
As many as needed to get the religion of slavery to become compatible with western liberal democracy. YMMV
Islam will change