Saturday, February 6, 2016

Serf's Up! Catching the Waves of Friedrich A. Hayek

I recently finished listening to an audio version of Friedrich A Hayek's great work The Road to Serfdom published in 1944.  In the book, Hayek describes the political, intellectual, and societal foundations and attributes of socialist governments.  Even more haunting is the preface updated in the 1970's where Hayek expresses his views on the 'slow socialism' of the Welfare State in which we find ourselves.  It is hard hitting. The book was so addictive and I found the information so illuminating that I couldn't take my headphones off.  The entire work can be heard in about 9 hours.  You can download it here:

As part of my personal study, I keep notebooks full of quotes and insights.  As I listened, I transcribed many passages that I found poignant.  For your benefit, here are some nuggets of wisdom to more than moisten your taste buds:

Why People Complain About Capitalism

"That people should wish to be relieved of the bitter choice which hard facts often impose upon them is not surprising.  But few want to be relieved through having the choice made for them by others.  People just wish that the choice should not be necessary at all; and, they are only too ready to believe that the choice is not really necessary, that it is imposed upon them merely by the particular economic system under which we live.  What they resent, in truth, is that there is an economic problem."

Capitalism is for Grown Ups

"The economic freedom, which is the prerequisite of any other freedom, cannot be the freedom from economic care which the socialists promise us and can only obtained only by relieving the individual at the same time of the necessity and of the power of choice.  It must be the freedom of our economic activity; which, with the right of choice, inevitably carries the risk and the responsibility of that right." 

"The choice and the risk reside with the individual. Or, he is relieved of both."

"The younger generation of today has grown up in a world, which in the school and press, the spirit of commercial enterprise has been represented as immoral.  Where to employ a 100 people is represented as exploitation, but to command the same number as honorable."  

All in all, you're just another brick in the wall...

"While people will submit to the suffering which may hit anyone, they will not so easily submit to the suffering which is the result of the decision of authority.  It may be bad to be just a cog in an impersonal machine.  But, it is infinitely worse if we can no longer leave it."

If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor

"Once government has embarked upon planning for the sake of justice, it cannot refuse responsibility for anybody's fate or position.  In a planned society, we shall all know we are better or worse off than others, not because of circumstances which nobody controls, but because some authority wills it."

 "Wherever liberty, that we understand it, has been destroyed, this has almost always been done in the name of some new freedom promised to the people."  

"The collective freedom he offers us is not the freedom of the members of society, but the unlimited freedom of the planner to do with society what he pleases."

You Are Free To Think The Way We Tell You To

"It is because successful planning requires the creation of a common view on the essential values, that the restriction of our freedom with regards to material things touches so directly on our spiritual freedom.  Socialists, the cultivated rulers of the barbarous offspring they have produced, traditionally hope to solve this problem by education."

Comply or Die

"In a country where the sole employer is the state, opposition means death by slow starvation."

"Who does not obey, shall not eat." - Leon Trotsky 

Self Defeating Tinkering

"The more we try to provide full security by interfering with the market system, the greater the insecurity becomes."

No More Mr. Nice Guy

"Just as the democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian dictator will soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure."

"Thus, it is the demand for quick and determined government action that is the dominating element in the situation.  Dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic procedure which makes action for action's sake the goal.  It is then the man or the party who seems strong and resolute enough to get things done who exercises the greatest appeal." 

"And as there will be needs for actions which are bad in and of themselves, and which all those still influenced by traditional morals will be reluctant to perform, the readiness to do bad things becomes a path to promotion and power."   

Minority Rule

"In a planned society, the question can no longer be on what do a majority of the people agree, but what the largest single group is whose members agree sufficiently to make unified direction of all affairs possible."

Us and Them

"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, on the envy of those better off, than on any positive task.  The contrast between the 'we' and the 'they', the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action.  It is consequently always employed by those who seek not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses."   

Principles? Say, What?

"It does not leave the individual conscience free to apply its own rules, and does not even know any general rules which the individual is required or allowed to observe in all circumstances.  This makes collectivist morals so different from what we have known as morals, that we find it difficult to find any principle in them."

"The principle that the end justifies the means is, in individualist ethics, regarded as the denial of all morals.  In collectivist ethics, it becomes necessarily the supreme rule.  There is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves the good of the whole.  Because, the good of the whole is, to him, the only criteria of what ought to be done."

"He will be able to obtain the support of the docile and gullible who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.  it will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party."

Stupor of Thought

"To plan or organize the growth of mind or for that matter, progress in general, is a contradiction in terms."  

"The tragedy of collectivist though is that, while it starts out to make reason supreme, it ends by destroying reason because it misconceives the process on which the growth of reason depends."

Monopoly Mischief

"A state monopoly is always a state-protected monoopoly.  Protected from both potential competition and effective criticism."

"Where the power that ought to check and control monopoly becomes interested in sheltering and defending its appointees, where, for the government to remedy an abuse is to admit responsibility for it, and where criticism of the actions of monopoly means criticism of the government, there is little hope of monopoly becoming the servant of the community."

I hope you enjoyed these tasty quotes.  Grab yourself a copy of this book and feast on its insights.  It is both timely and timeless information.  

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