Revisiting Hayek

American Thinker | Andrew Foy & Brenton Stransky | May 25, 2009

To many who have watched the transition from socialism to fascism at close quarters the connection between the two systems has become increasingly obvious, but in the (Western) democracies the majority of people still believe that socialism and freedom can be combined. They do not realize that democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something utterly different – the very destruction of freedom itself. As has been aptly said: ‘What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.’ – F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

Friedrich Hayek was an Austrian economist, philosopher and intellectual considered to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century. He shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in Economics for his pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations.2 Hayek’s work has influenced world leaders for decades. However, at this present time in our history, it is more important than ever to remind the public about the lessons and logic he had to offer. Revisiting Hayek’s work informs us of how the dramatic actions being taken by the current administration will lead us down a road that ultimately ends in the destruction of this democracy along with the freedoms and liberties we take for granted.

Hayek’s central thesis in his sentinel work, The Road to Serfdom, is that through the inevitable mismanagement of resources and goods at the disposal of the state, all forms of collectivism lead eventually to tyranny. Hayek used the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany as examples of countries that had progressed through the phases of collectivist governments and reached the point of tyranny. Hayek argued that disagreement regarding the practical implementation of any economic plan combined with the inadequacy of the planners’ resource management would necessitate coercion in order for anything to be achieved. According to Hayek, the failure of central planning would be perceived by some in the public as an absence of sufficient power by the state to implement an otherwise good idea. This would lead the public to vote more power to the state, assisting in the rise of a “strong man” perceived to be capable of getting the job done. Following these developments, a country will be driven into outright totalitarianism. For Hayek, this journey, inadvertently set upon by central planning, ends in the destruction of all individual economic and personal freedoms.3

President Obama laid out his historic budget proposal in a manuscript entitled A New Era of Responsibility — Renewing America’s Promise. Unfortunately, his budget proposal is anything but responsible and broadly expands on plans by his predecessors which have already set us down “the road to serfdom.” The growth rate of government spending for entitlement programs has increased 110% faster than that of the economy over the last two decades (figure 1).4,5 Entitlement programs or transfer payments to individuals currently account for 70% of total government spending.6

. . . more