Monday, September 13, 2010

On The Road, Still

In this morning's WSJ, Arthur Brooks, president of The American Enterprise Institute, and Congressman Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) pose the underlying question the Obama administration and its Tea Party tormentors have pressed to the fore: Do we still want our traditional American free enterprise system, or do we prefer a European-style social democracy? ("The Size of Government and the Choice This Fall")

In combination with Michael Barone's "Gangster Government Stifles Criticism of Obamacare", the tyrannical nature of the Obami and their new wave of progressivism is inescapable, confirming in spades (can I say that?) the darkest premonitions and warnings appearing here at Principalities and Powers and innumerable other outlets of enlightened opinion and correct reasoning. A few minutes perusing the archives will show our insights were neither overwrought, as some suggested, nor misplaced. And if such a review does not persuade, or is too much work, it should be sufficient to note that both David and I are extraordinarily good looking. For a couple of academic geeks, that is.

But back to Brooks and Ryan.

Deeply embedded in both Brook's and Ryan's education, and appearing briefly in the article, is Friederich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Like many another young skull full of mush, the Road to Serfdom was the book that launched, some thirty years ago, my early attempts at serious political and economic thinking. After reading the WSJ piece, I went to my office bookshelves and found my battered, underlined, highlighted, marginalia-laced copy and glanced through it this morning. Like that other ur-text of conservatism, Burke's Some Reflections on the Revolution in France, nearly every sentence makes an epigram or forms the topic for extended reflections. I recall being taken with the epigrams Hayek attached to his chapters, from authors and sources I had mostly never heard of at the time, but that had the effect on me as a reader he intended--it solidified his place in a tradition of thought, and authenticated the accuracy of the critique he brought to socialism and all its works.

Accordingly, for the enlightenment of our readership, and in lieu of quoting the too-many apropos statements from the book, here are Hayek's chapter titles and the epigrams he attached--every one remaining pertinent to this era of "transformational change".

Dedication Page: To The Socialists Of All Parties
It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once--David Hume

Introduction: Few discoveries are more irritating than those which expose the pedigree of ideas--Lord Acton

Chapter I The Abandoned Road
A program whose basic thesis is, not that the system of free enterprise for profit has failed in this generation, but that it has not been tried.--F.D. Roosevelt

Chapter II The Great Utopia
What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven--F. Hoelderlin

Chapter III Individualism and Collectivism
The socialists believe two things which are absolutely different and perhaps even contradictory: freedom and organization.--Elie Halvevy

Chapter IV The "Inevitability" of Planning
We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by "civilization", the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.--Benito Mussolini

Chapter V Planning and Democracy
The statesmen who should attempt to direct private people in what they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit for the exercise--Adam Smith

Chapter VI Planning and the Rule of Law
Recent studies in the sociology of law once more confirm that the fundamental principle of formal law by which every case must be judged according to general rational principles, which have as few exceptions as possible, and are based on logical subsumptions, obtains only for the liberal competitive phase of capitalism.--Karl Mannheim

Chapter VII Economic Control and Totalitarianism
The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself.--Hillaire Belloc

Chapter VIII Who, Whom?
The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion for equality made vain the hope for freedom.--Lord Acton

Chapter IX Security and Freedom
The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with the equality of work and equality of pay--Nikolai Lenin

In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.--Leon Trotsky

Chapter X Why the Worst Get on Top
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.--Lord Acton

Chapter XI The End of Truth
It is significant that the nationalization of thought has preceded everywhere the nationalization of industry.--E.H. Carr

Chapter XII The Socialist Roots of Nazism
All antiliberal forces are combining against all that is liberal.--A. Moeller Van Der Bruck

Chapter XIII The Totalitarians in Our Midst
When authority presents itself in hte guise of organization, it develops charms fascinating enough to convert communities of free people into totalitarian states.--"The Times" (London)

Chapter XIV Material Conditions and Ideal Ends
Is it just or reasonable, that voices against the main end of government should enslave the less number that would be free? More just is it, doubtless, if it come to force, that a less number compel a greater to retain, which can be no wrong to them, their liberty, than that a greater number, for the pleasure of their baseness, compel a less most injuriously to be their fellow slaves. They who seek nothing but their own just liberty, have always the right to win it, whenever they have the power, be the voices never so numerous that oppose it.--John Milton

Chapter XV The Prospects of International Order
Of all checks on democracy, federation has been the most efficacious and the most congenial...The federal system limits and restrains the sovereign power by dividing it and assigning to Government only certain defined rights. It is the only method of curbing not only the majority but the power of the whole people.--Lord Acton

If you do not own this book, buy it. If you have not read it, read it. If you have read it, read it again. The answer to the question asked by Hayek and Messrs. Brooks and Ryan, whether we shall have freedom or servitude, hangs on enough people being cognizant of both the question and the possible answers.

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