The Road To Serfdom: Creating a Crisis

For this weeks reading, I want to focus in on one point Hayek makes in Chapter 14.  I think this is crucial, because this is a theme we have already seen from the present administration and are likely to see over the next two years.  Rahm Emanuel will alwaysbe remembered for explaining that, “you never want a crisis to go to waste.”  He was simply putting into words one of the main goals of the statist.   If there is one thing that statist admire about war, it is the way the entire nation is devoted to accomplishing one goal.  The statist simply wishes they could decide what that goal is to be.  Hayek discusses it this way:


“We must now return briefly to the crucial point — that individual freedom cannot be reconciled with the supremacy of one single purpose to which the whole society must be entirely and permanently subordinated.  The only exception to the rule that a free society must not be subjected to a single purpose is war and other temporary disasters when subordination of almost everything to the immediate and pressing need is the price at which we preserve our freedom in the long run.  This explains also why so many of the fashionable phrases about doing for the purposes of peace what we have learned to do for the purposes of war are so very misleading:  it is sensible temporarily to sacrifice freedom in order to make it more secure in the future;  but the same cannot be said for a system proposed as a permanent arragnement.”


Hayek illustrates this point with a discussion on unemployment.  He warns that in this discussion, it is very dangerous to use phrases such as “at any price”.  We can not solve unemployment at the expensive of our own freedom.  Likewise, there are other “prices” we should not be willing to pay in order to lower unemployment.  I would argue many of those prices have already been paid.  For example, we were told that the stimulus package must be passed in order to prevent unemployment from reaching 8 or 9%.  We can look at any newspaper and see how that turned out.  


As the 2012 Presidential election gets closer, I expect we will see more extreme measures proposed to fix unemployment.  Some of them may very well be Republican ideas.  However, we must fight to protect our freedom even if it means taking longer to solve a problem.  In 2008 and 2009 many elected officials believed the failure of car companies or certain (but not all) lending institutions represented a danger to our nation that must be fixed at any cost.  Republicans and Democrats together passed legislation to bail out the favored companies.  Almost before the ink was dried on these bills, the administration changed the point of the bills.  What have we accomplished?  We have spent billions of dollars, have higher unemployment, and more federal control of business than before.  We gave up some of our freedom, and still didn’t solve the problem.


Over the next two years, I expect to see more legislation like this.  As the President’s poll numbers drop, and as congressional approval stays in subarctic ranges, statist politicians will look for more and more ways to “solve” unemployment and the economy.  We must fight hard to prevent them from trying to solve these problems by taking our freedoms and liberties away.

For next week:  Finish the book!  We will cover chapter 15 and 16.  Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Witness by Whittaker Chambers for the following week.