Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, was kind enough to send me a copy of a booklet Heritage has published. It is a pocket-sized abridged version of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.
It has been quite a few years since I read the book so it was interesting to have this reminder, especially in today’s context. Though this condemnation of central planning was published almost seventy years ago (in 1944), it is like he was describing ObamaCare today. See if any of this seems familiar to you.
Most planners who have seriously considered the practical aspects of their task have little doubt that a directed economy must be run on dictatorial lines, that the complex system of interrelated activities must be directed by staffs of experts, with ultimate power in the hands of a commander-in-chief whose actions must no be fettered by democratic procedure.
Let’s see — today we have a president who governs by Executive Order, bypassing the Congress, and advised by dozens of “policy czars” who skip over the confirmation process.
… the legislative body will be reduced to choosing the persons who are to have practically absolute power.
Sound a bit like the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) of 15 unelected bureaucrats who will arbitrarily determine Medicare payment rates?
He goes on:
The planning authority cannot tie itself down in advance to general rules, which prevent arbitrariness. (Rather, it) becomes an institution, which deliberately discriminates between particular needs of different people, and allows one man to do what another must be prevented from doing.
Does this put you in mind of Kathleen Sebelius’ issuing of compliance waivers, based on no standards whatsoever, just her own personal whim?
Hayek quotes Sidney and Beatrice Webb on Soviet enterprises:
Whilst the work is in progress, and public expression of doubt that the plan will be successful is an act of disloyalty and even treachery because of its possible effect on the will and efforts of the rest of the staff.
How many quotes from Nancy Pelosi spring to mind? Certainly, “We have to pass the bill so you will know what’s in it,” and in answer to a question of its constitutionality, “Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?”
And, in order to steamroll central planning through the process, it is necessary to demonize any opposition:
The enemy may be internal, like the “Jew” in Germany or the “kulak” in Russia, or he may be external
Or it may be the “Tea Party” in the United States.
And on it goes. Hayek even predicts the politicization of sports in order for the new rulers to prevail. Kind of like how dodge ball is being banned from elementary schools because it is too competitive and children are given trophies, not for winning but merely participating. The “New America” cannot have children thinking competition is a good thing, only “cooperation.”
There is one area where Hayek is off the mark. He expected totalitarians would need a mass movement to support their power grab, and he expected that movement would come from the bottom. He wrote:
… the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their tastes and views are differentiated. If we wish to find a high degree of uniformity in outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive instincts prevail.
Alas, that may have been the case in 1944, but it no longer is. The real conformity and immorality today will be found among college graduates. “Higher education” today has become “higher indoctrination,” where people are trained to parrot the words of leftist professors rather than think for themselves, and religion and morality has been all but abolished.
Resistance to totalitarianism today will come not from the elites, but from the working people who faithfully raise their children, go to church, and believe in the American dream. Not incidentally, these folks are also likely to be well-armed hunters and outdoorsmen — the “bitter clingers” that so exasperated Mr. Obama.