Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — or, at least, a mythical version of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — has long been a common bugaboo of the Right-wing brain: All government regulation is collectivism is socialism is communism is totalitarianism. You know the lyrics to that one, no doubt.
In Road, he [Hayek] thoroughly, eloquently, and convincingly demolishes an idea that virtually no one holds nowadays.
The core of Road is an exploration of why a planned, state-managed economy must tend toward totalitarianism. If this is one’s concept of socialism, it could hardly survive a fair-minded encounter with Hayek.
As I wrote in the old post, I have never in my life met a fellow American who seriously proposed establishing a planned economy, in which government controls all production and distribution of income. The Right continues to rail against us Lefties as if that’s exactly what we propose.
BECAUSE THEY understand so little about the thoughtful left (and former association doesn’t translate into knowledge; Horowitz and his cohort, like the earlier generation of converts led by Irving Kristol, still think of the modern left as a crypto-Castroite conspiracy), it is hard for many on the right to acknowledge that as a critique of socialism, Hayek’s ideas are limited rather than devastating.
Larner writes that Hayek saw “collectivism” only as something government imposes, and didn’t understand that collectivism can be “a spontaneous, nongovernmental, egalitarian phenomenon.” This parallels my gripe with libertarians who cannot perceive that oppression can come from powers other than the federal government. This is a rigidly linear view of human society.
In fact, power manifests in many ways and in many hands, and whoever has power is capable of oppressing others. So the Right, in the name of “liberty,” opposes government authority to impose limitations on the power of corporations to exploit ordinary people. They run away from an imaginary “serfdom” imposed by government and toward a very real “serfdom” imposed by corporatism.
Also in the name of “liberty,” the Right wants to place limitations on what We, the People can do with our own government to solve problems. Again, this doesn’t make us freer or less oppressed, because it takes power away from the people and gives it to monied interests even less answerable to us than government.
Anyway — the Larner article is worth reading.