If you can only ever read one thing by Hayek, may I suggest: “Why the Worst Get on Top“, chapter 10 from “The Road To Serfdom“? I can’t say it better than he did, so I’ll just give you some highlights to whet your appetite.
“…We must here return for a moment to the position which precedes the suppression of democratic processes and the creation of a totalitarian regime. In this stage it is the general demand for quick and determined central government action that is the dominating element in the situation, dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic processes which make action for action’s sake the goal….
… If the ‘community’ or the state are prior to the individual, if they have ends of their own independent of and superior to those of the individuals, only those individuals who work for the same ends can be regarded as members of the community. …
…To split or decentralize power is necessarily to reduce the absolute amount of power, and the competitive system is the only system designed to minimize by decentralization the power exercised by man over man. We have seen before how the separation of economic and political aims is an essential guaranty of individual freedom and how it is consequently attacked by all collectivists. …
… Once you admit that the individual is merely a means to serve the ends of the higher entity called society or the nation, most of those features of totalitarian regimes which horrify us follow of necessity. …”
As I was rereading this section,
The contrast between the “we” and the “they,” the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses.
From their point of view it has the great advantage of leaving them greater freedom of action than almost any positive program. The enemy, whether he be internal, like the “Jew” or the “kulak,” or external, seems to be an indispensable requisite in the armory of a totalitarian leader.
I couldn’t help thinking of words and phrases like “the 99 percent”, “global warming denier”, “tea bagger”, “war on drugs” and “war on terrror”.
Whether you read it here or elsewhere, please read the whole thing.
1. “liberal” to Hayek meant almost the opposite of what it means in today’s common usage, something like definition 3 – here.
2. I don’t know anything about the web site hosting the article. I found it through google. A link is not an endorsement.
Steve Palmer is the State Chapter Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Tenth Amendment Center.
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