It's time to revisit The Road to Serfdom

Recently, the books 1984 and Animal Farm have had a rebirth of relevance.  Orwell's books coined words and phrases that have become descriptive of what is happening now — doublethink, Ministry of Truth, Big Brother, thought criminal, Newspeak, and of course Orwellian.

Another book with a similar theme was written in 1944 by the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek — The Road to Serfdom.  Hayek was born in Austria in 1898 and spent most of his life in England and America.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.

Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm are fictional but the dystopias they describe have become disturbingly real.  Hayek's Road to Serfdom, on the other hand, is a complete explanation of why attempts to achieve utopias always result in nightmarish dystopias.

In The Road to Serfdom, Hayek warns us that once on that "road," society is forced farther and farther along it.  Each step requires an additional step.  Eventually, we end up as serfs.

He warns us "that democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something quite different."

He warns us about politicians of the Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez type: "There are many people who call themselves socialists ... who fervently believe in the ultimate aims of socialism but neither care nor understand how they can be achieved, and who are merely certain that they must be achieved, whatever the costs."

Specifically, Hayek explains why socialism inevitably evolves into totalitarianism.  First, well intended socialist attempts to perfect a free-market economy lead to unforeseen problems.  Then centralized "solutions" don't solve those problems, but create larger ones.  Partial control is never enough.  The end result is tyranny.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of its former member countries used The Road to Serfdom as a guidebook for what to avoid as they threw off the shackles of socialism.

Consider only one quote, which applies as much to 21st-century wokism as it did to anything active in the 1940s:

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, of those better off — than on any positive task.

It's hard to believe that those words were written almost 80 years ago.  If you want to understand how the worlds of 1984 and Animal Farm can happen, read The Road to Serfdom.

Image: University of Chicago.

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