Originally published in 1944, Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom is a grave and persuasive warning against the practice of interventionism and – of a more onerous nature – command economies. Hayek felt urged to express his doubts and criticisms of governments who take these routes, claiming particularly, that they would unwittingly foster totalitarianism. In covering everything from command economies under socialism to free markets under liberal democracy, the reader is given the opportunity to explore the frequently unnoticed relationship between economic and political freedom. Without a doubt, this unrivaled critique is still relevant today.
The Great Utopia
In chapter two [pp. 24], Hayek argues that a considerable number of progressives have become proponents of a concept which they have unfortunately misapprehended, namely democratic socialism. Democratic socialism, in principle, presumes that both a command economy and a liberal democracy can coexist. Under democratic socialism, citizens transfer a degree of their economic freedoms to the government. This equips the government with the power requisite to chase particular economic outcomes. But here, we meet with the truism that particular outcomes will only be sought at the expense of the most efficient use of resources. Thus, Hayek insists that, on account of this, recurring dissatisfaction will inevitably arise among the voting public, and consequently a widespread call for more interventions. In the words of Von Mises :
All varieties of (government) interference with the market phenomena not only fail to achieve the ends aimed at by their authors and supporters, but bring about a state of affairs which — from the point of view of the authors’ and advocates’ valuations — is less desirable than the previous state of affairs which they were designed to alter. If one wants to correct their manifest unsuitableness and preposterousness by supplementing the first acts of intervention with more and more of such acts, one must go farther and farther until the market economy has been entirely destroyed and socialism has been substituted for it. (Ludwig von Mises,Human Action, p. 854)
Put differently, with every intervention, individual freedom becomes increasingly less, and an inequality of power arises. Hayek stresses that many progressives would not dare support such practices if they didn’t misapprehend their implications – one being a severe reduction or even annihilation of our most cherished freedoms.
- The Road to Serfdom
- Human Action