Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Freedom Is Fragile

While I'm at it (squawking as loud as I can -- and as often), here are some highlights I collected while reading The Road to Serfdom by. F Hayek -- a book that was banned for many years in the USSR and, at the rate we are presently heading into in America, may end up being banned here as well. In it this book were many explorations of why people tend to dismiss the notion freedom is so fragile, so easily forfeited and then, even, eventually, gone.  Here are some paraphrases:

Socialist ideas were only a strand of thought in a small minority in Germany before 1914 and were held in great contempt by the majority of Germans. Socialism came in anyway. We have a mistaken assurance that the same thing cannot happen here.

The tragedy of collectivist thought is that, while it starts out to elevate reason and make it supreme, it ends by destroying reason. Why?  Because it misconceives the process on which the growth of reason depends. It is super-individual forces that guide the growth of reason. Individualism is thus an attitude of humility and of tolerance of other opinions and is the exact opposite of that intellectual hubris which is at the root of comprehensive direction of the social process.

The life of freedom includes the interaction of individuals possessing vibrantly different views.  Because socialism inevitably attempts to control thought, its general climate includes the disappearance of the spirit of independent inquiry.

There is a condition that generally precedes suppressing democratic institutions and creating a totalitarian regime. That condition is a general demand for quick and determined government action. It comes from dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic procedure. Totalitarianism sneaks in when “action for action’s sake” is the goal and permission to take such action is willingly handed over to the government. That socialism can be put into practice only by methods of which most socialists disapprove is, of course, a lesson learned by many social reformers in the past. 
There is at present, a great deal of muddleheaded talk about planning to equalize the standards of life.  Wealthy countries could be regarded as having the duty to bring about distributive justice between different people. Twenty-five years ago, there was, perhaps, still some excuse for holding the naive belief that “a planned society can be a far more free society than the competitive order it has come to replace." But history has shown that individualism cannot be reconciled with the supremacy of one single purpose to which the whole society must be subordinated. Thus, to find collectivism on the rise even in America is tragic beyond words. 

An individualist society rests on the existence of:  independence, self reliance, the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s own convictions against a majority, non-interference with one’s neighbors, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place. It leaves a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and compulsion of the individual to do what is collectively decided to be good.

As always with me, take what you liked and leave the rest. I offer these highlights as food for thought -- and comments. Comments most welcome!

This photograph is from a Facebook page called Life Life in Color.

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