“The Road to Serfdom (1944) – F.A. Hayek, Chapter 11 – The End of Truth

  • The most effective way to make everyone serve the single system is to make everyone believe in the same ends.
    • To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, you can’t just make everyone work for the same goal. You have to make them see them as their own goals. The beliefs must be chosen for them people & imposed on them but also, they must become their beliefs. If the feeling of totalitarianism is less acute than most people in liberal countries imagine is because totalitarian governments succeed in making people think like the leadership want them to.
    • This is made possible by propaganda. Propaganda isn’t peculiar to totalitarianism nor its techniques. All propaganda tries to influence the individuals in the same direction. The effect of propaganda in totalitarian countries is different not just in size but in kind.
      • If all sources of current information are under on single control, it’s no longer a question of persuasion. The propagandist has the power to mold minds in any direction. Even the smartest are affected.
      • Peculiar moral effects come not from technique but object & scope of totalitarian propaganda. If confined to indoctrinating the people with the whole system of values the social effort is directed toward, propaganda would just result in a manifestation of collectivist morals.
        • If just to teach a moral code, the problem would be just deciding if the moral code is good or bad.
    • The moral code of totalitarianism isn’t likely to appeal to us & we see that most humanitarian elements of our morals will disappear.
      • It might mean a change in moral standards, but not necessarily anti-moral but it may appeal to stern conservative moralists.
    • The moral consequences of totalitarian propaganda are destructive of all morals because they undermine a foundation of all morals: sense of respect for the truth.
    • Propaganda can’t be confined to values, opinions & moral convictions. It must extend to matters of human intelligence.
      • 1 – Because to induce people to accept official values, they must be justified or be shown to be connected with the values, usually being assertions about causal connections between means & ends.
      • 2 – Because distinction between ends & means is never so clear cut & because people must be brought to agree with the ultimate aims. But also with views about the facts measures are based on.
  • The agreement on the complete ethical code doesn’t exist in a free society but would have to be created. We can’t assume the planner will be aware of that need or if it would be possible to create such a code.
    • He only finds out about the conflicts between different needs & makes his decisions as the need arises. The code doesn’t exist in abstracto before the decisions. It has to be created with the particular decisions. This inability to separate the problem of values from particular decisions makes it impossible that a democratic body should yet determine the values guiding it.
    • While the planner has to decide issues on merits without moral rules, he has to justify his decisions or at least make people believe they’re the right decisions. They may be guided by prejudice, some guiding principle will have to be stated publicly.
      • The need to rationalize must guide the planner & the necessity of stating his reasons in a form that would appeal to as many people as possible will force him to construct theories integral to the governing doctrine.
    • The creation of a myth to justify the leader’s actions doesn’t need to be conscious. The leader may be guided by an instinctive dislike of the state of things & may decide to create a new hierarchy based on that. He may have a hatred for certain classes successful in the previous order while he was a failure. He may have a like for a certain class & look in people. He’ll embrace theories to justify his prejudices. So, pseudo-scientific theory becomes part of official creed that must not be questioned.
      • The need for official doctrines as instruments has been foreseen by totalitarian theoreticians for centuries. Plato has “noble lies”. Sorel had “myths”. These served the same purpose – based on particular views about facts & elaborated into theories.
  • The most effective way of making people believe these values is to make them think that they’ve always thought them but didn’t understand or recognize them before. People move allegiance from old gods to new ones, thinking the new ones are the same as the old through collectivists changing words’ meanings, perverting language.
    • The worst victim is the word “Liberty” which totalitarian states use a lot. When freedom is destroyed, it is replaced by a new one. Planned freedom is unlimited power for the planner to do as he pleases.
      • Justice, law, right & equality are also destroyed.
      • The magnitude of the change makes meaningful discussion difficult. Confusion is worse when a change isn’t a single change but a continual process of change. Gradually, the whole language is despoiled & word become empty shells without meaning. They could mean the opposite of their original meaning or changed for emotional associations.
  • It’s not hard to deprive the majority of though. The minority with criticism must also be silenced. Since many parts of the totalitarian ethical code can never be explicitly stated, the plan is the only scale of values & must be sacrosanct & exempt from criticism. If people are to support the ends, they must be convinced that the means are right.
    • Official creed must be enforced & will comprise all views about facts the plan is based on. Public criticism or doubt must be silenced because it weakens public support. Doubt on the whole social plan is to be treated as sabotage.
    • Facts & theories are also the object of official doctrine. The whole apparatus for spreading knowledge (schools, press, radio, movies) will be used to spread views to strengthen belief. All information that might cause doubt will be withheld. The effect on people’s loyal is the only concern, just as in wartime in other systems. Anything that might cause doubt in government wisdom or create discontent will be stopped.
    • This goes beyond politics. In disciplines dealing directly with human affairs (history, law, economics) disinterested search for truth can’t be allowed. Vindication of official views becomes the sole object. These disciplines are the most fertile factories of official myths rulers use to guide minds. Truth is abandoned & authorities decide what doctrines are to be taught.
    • This even goes to subjects without any real political significance. Math theorems are supported or attacked based on whether they support or detract from official views.
    • Totalitarianism condemns any human activity done for its owns sake (science & arts) without ulterior purpose. Science & art for their own sake are abhorrent. every activity must be justified from a conscious social purpose. This extends even to playing chess!
    • We shouldn’t see this as purely a by-product without anything to do with the essential nature of a planned or totalitarian system. They are a direct result of needing direction based on a unitary concept of the whole & need to uphold views people are asked to make sacrifices for & of the general idea that knowledge & beliefs are to serve a single purpose. Science has to serve a class interest, spread the beliefs & to vindicate planning.
    • Truth ceases to have its old meaning. It’s not something to be found but to be laid down by authority & to be believed in.
    • It produces a spirit of cynicism, loss of meaning of truth, disappearance of independent inquiry. Every branch of knowledge becomes a political issue to be decided by an authority.
      • Intellectuals who have embraced collectivism almost immediately gain a contempt for intellectual freedom long before totalitarianism is established. Intolerance is openly extolled.
  • The desire to force a creed on people isn’t new. What’s new is the argument intellectuals use to justify it. There’s no real freedom of thought because propaganda shapes opinions & tastes. It’s concluded that if ideals & tastes are created by controllable circumstances, we ought to use the power for “good” thoughts & tastes.
    • The majority usually accepts views if born or coaxed into them. In most societies, freedom of thought is usually only a major issue for a small minority. But it doesn’t mean anyone is competent enough or ought to have power to select who should have this freedom or to claim the right to determine what people ought to think or believe.
    • What’s important is to make intellectual freedom serve its function as a prime mover of intellectual progress – not that anyone can do it but that anyone may do it & any cause or idea may be argued for or against.
      • So long as dissent isn’t suppressed, there’ll always be someone who will query ideas ruling contemporaries.
      • Interaction between individuals is what constitutes life of thought. Growth of reason is a social process based on differences. Results can’t be predicted & we don’t know which views will help the growth.
      • To plan or organize the growth of mind is a contradiction. If confuses individual reason to have a mind control its own development. Attempting to control it sets bounds to develop & will produce a stagnation of thought.
    • Collectivist thought starts out to make reason supreme & then destroys it because it misconceives the process growth of thought depends on. Its demand for “conscious control leads to the demand that the mind of an individual should rule supreme.
      • Individualism is an attitude of humility before this process & the exact opposite of the intellectual hubris found in collectivism.

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