The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

51st Anniversary of The Road to Serfdom and the New New Deal

51st anniversary of The Road to Serfdom and the New New Deal

by Dunciad
Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 12:51:40 PDT

I'd like to note a historical irony: this month marks the 51st anniversary of the publication of F.W. Hayek's book The Road to Serfdom.

This book is easily the most important book of post-war conservativism. As Maynard Keynes was the presiding genius over Roosevelt's New Deal, Hayek's ideology provided the impetus for its dismantling during the Reagan years.

We should take this opportunity to return to Hayek's book. We should absorb its argument, if only because it represents a world-view which the world, frankly, can no longer afford to credit. Following Hayek away from the road to serfdom increasingly appears to lead directly onto the road to complete destruction.

Hayek's argument was simple. Economic planning is impossible. When it is attempted the inevitable result is totalitarianism. Therefore, the only economic model possible in a democracy is an unrestrained laissez-faire free market.

Hayek's idea is simple, elegant and brilliant, which explains its appeal. It is also categorically and utterly false.

It is false for two primary reasons. First, Hayek believed that price was a "spontaneous order" essentially free from the conscious operation of people. In refuting this idea we must always be careful to avoid a romantic attachment to the idea of humanity's free will and supreme agency, but we must also be careful not to assign some kind of abstract model of agency to "unconscious" forces like the "market". Hayek, like all liberal economists, bases his models on an ideally competitive scene of economic activity. In the real world economic activity is not ideally competitive; it is beset by monopolies, cabals, and corruption, all of which insert a disruptive element of human agency into this supposedly pure system. This is what makes government intervention essential - not as a means of fixing prices but as a means of off-setting the price fixing which occurs naturally in the market.

Secondly, Hayek falls into a trap which swallowed many European conservative intellectuals; even in refuting Marx's theses he accept one of his central assumptions. Hayek believes in historical inevitability, as does Marx. Economic control will inevitably lead to totalitarianism. This is, of course, utter nonsense, and flies in the face of both logic and historical reality. Just because economic controls have been endemic to 20th century totalitarian regimes does not imply there is a causal connection. Whether Sweden or Holland have a perfect social system is debatable, but no one in their right mind could suggest that either country is on the path to totalitarianism.

Hayek does not committ the error of suggest that any form of economic aid is somehow oppressive. This perversely stupid concept, trumpeted by that intellectual midget Ayn Rand, has somehow made its way into mainstream conservativism. It may well be responsible for the complete destruction of the infrastructure in America. This was not what Hayek wanted, but it is what his ideas have lead to.

I don't like the idea of "dangerous books", and Hayek deserves our utmost respect as a thinker. I think it is time we revist his ideas so we can fully reject them. It is also time, I think, for the Democratic to consider the time ripe for the introduction of a New New Deal. Armando likes to talk about a Lincoln 1860 approach; I would like to suggest a Roosevelt 1933 plan. It must be clear to all that the social infrastructure of the United States is near collapse. Only a concerted effort, and a purging of those Hayek-inspired ideologues who cling to a faulty vision of the world, can accomplish this.


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