“The Road to Serfdom (1944) – F.A. Hayek, Chapter 13 – The Totalitarians in Our Midst

  • The magnitude of the terrible things done by totalitarian governments makes it more assured it can’t happen here. When we look at Nazi Germany, it seems very different & that makes us think that we could not become like them. Don’t forget that 30 years before the Nazis, it seemed just as unlikely to the Germans themselves.
    • Conditions of Germany from 30 years before seem to resemble England today (1940s) & many signs seem to point us in the same direction. Mostly the economic views of the left & right both being opposed to liberalism.
    • Many socialists have more in common with conservatives than with liberals.
    • There’s also an increasing veneration for the state, admiration for power, bigness for its own sake, enthusiasm for organizing everything & the inability to leave anything to organic growth.
    • 20 years ago, the English had a better appreciation for these differences than they do now. While proud of the English tradition, very few people, especially politicians, have characteristically English political views. Men of the English world of older days seem to be forgotten now & seem obsolete.
      • Even Keynes bemoaned the fact that the German economy seemed to be under permanent military mobilization. He feared they wanted to end individualism & the goal of regulations was not people’s happiness but strengthening the state.
      • These ideas had been foreign & unthinkable previously. Now the idea of individual freedom & happiness are openly disparaged.
    • The ideas for the groundwork of totalitarianism are also being accepted. Very few of Hitler’s ideas have not been recommended in England & America.
      • The very people driven into exile from Germany seem to be pushing for them in their new homes.
      • Most current English political literature appears similar to that in Germany, destroying belief in Western Civilization, laying fertile ground for something like Nazism.
      • The readiness to break ties with the past & bet the fate of civilization on an unproven experiment is an example. The totalitarianism of Germany was laid out by socialist idealists & intellectuals. No one person deserves to be singled out for blame but there is no other way to demonstrate how far this development has gone.
  • E.H. Carr saw himself of the historical school of realists originating in Germany coming from Hegel & Marx. To him, a realist makes morality a function of politics & can’t accept any other standard. This is to be contrasted with “Utopian” thought of old morals & abstract general principles which must disappear because empiricism looks at the concrete for individual merit & not the abstract – i.e. only expediency matters.
    • Without abstract general principles, merit becomes an arbitrary opinion.
    • To him, England seems to have fought on the wrong side of WW1. His views are identical to those of the German government then. He claims anything that benefits the German people is right, anything that harms them is wrong. He identifies national interest with universal right.
    • Carr is mostly devoted to international problems & his character shows through there. His idea of future society is totalitarianism. There can’t be any different meaning between society & state. There’s a prejudice to the word, “propaganda”.
      • This is just an apology for a regimentation of opinion like the Nazis practice.
    • He claims the victors of WW1 lost the peace & Russia & Germany won it because the victors continued to preach the “disruptive ideals” of rights of nations & laissez-faire capitalism, while the losers were striving to build the world under centralized planning & control.
      • The Germany of today is a revolution against 19th century political ideals – liberal democracy, national self-determination & laissez-faire economics.
      • He continued to expand fatalistic pseudo-historians, Hegel & Marx to say this development was inevitable.
    • This conviction that the trend will continue is based on old economic fallacies – presumed necessity of general growth of monopolies due to technological developments, “potential plenty”, etc. While not an economist, he believes that the importance of the economic factor in social life is quickly decreasing, preventing him from basin his predictions on economic arguments. He merely calls for a reinterpretation in economic terms of democratic ideals of equality & liberty.
      • He has a great contempt for liberal economists. He even takes up the collectivist cause in stating free trade was only to benefit England & that autarky was a necessary for an orderly social existence. He claimed laissez-faire principles unthinkable & the future belongs to deliberate reorganization of Europe just like Hitler intends.
      • He pities “well-meaning” people who see war as unproductive & without purpose. To him, it creates political & social solidarity.
  • One feature of the intellectual development in Germany identical to what’s happening in England is the scientists agitating for scientific organization of society. Germany allowed scientists to exercise control on the formation of social & political opinions, which were rarely on the side of liberty.
    • They have contempt for anything not consciously organization by superior minds according to a scientific blueprint.
    • They put themselves readily at the service of National Socialism as new leaders for a better world & submitted with embarrassing ease to the new form of tyranny.
    • Julien Benda had foreseen this: superstition of science was held to be competent in all domains, including morality. It’s not clear if those with this doctrine really believe it or just want the prestige of science to use to justify implementing their passions. The dogmas that history is obedient to scientific laws is usually preached by partisans of arbitrary authority.
    • This is natural because it eliminates the 2 realities they hate most: human liberty & historical action of the individual.
    • C.H. Waddington combined claims for greater political power for scientists with advocacy of whole scale planning. He wasn’t complete in his contempt for freedom but this combination is a recipe for totalitarianism but see it as better than the “monkey-house” of civilization.
      • He claimed the scientist is qualified to run a totalitarian state based on his thesis that science can pass ethical judgment on human behavior – one familiar to German scientist-politicians.
        • Freedom is worrying to a scientist to discuss because he’s not convinced that it really exists. Freedom to be strange & different is not of scientific value.
        • He tries to use his “scientific attitude” for economic & social questions, but he’s anything but scientific. He rattles off clichés of potential plenty & the inevitability of monopoly.
        • His convictions are determined by belief in inevitable historical tendencies that “science has discovered” & he derives from Marxism. He actually sees England today as worse than it was in 1913 & looks forward to a centralized & totalitarian economic system.
        • Yet somehow he believes freedom of thought will be preserved & his “scientific attitude” has nothing better to say than there’s evidence on questions you don’t have to be an expert to understand – such as it’s good to combine totalitarianism with freedom of thought.
    • A full survey of tendencies toward totalitarianism in England shows there’s been attempts to build middle class socialism resembling pre-Hitler Germany under organizations like “Forward-March” & “Common-Wealth”.
    • The impetus of movement toward totalitarianism come from 2 vested interests: organized capital & organized capital. They worth through common & concerted support of monopolistic organization of industry. There’s no reason to believe the movement is inevitable but it’s plain to see it moves toward totalitarianism.
      • Capitalist organizers of monopolies are one source. They don’t aim for totalitarianism but a corporative society where organized industries appear as semi-independent & self-governing “estates”:
        • Managers make decisions that society would not leave to private individuals for very long. A state with enormous aggregation of power can’t let this power be in private control. It’s also safe to assume entrepreneurs would be allowed to remain. Those who want high income of competitive society gives to the successful also want the security of a civil servant. As long as a large private sector industry exists side-by-side with a government-run industry, talent will run to the secure & well-paid positions in government-run industry.
      • Don’t mistake this for love of capitalists. But they’re not 100% to blame for the movement to become a big power. The main problem is that they enlist support from other groups to make it happen.
        • Monopolists get this support either by letting other groups participate in gains or by persuading them it’s in the public interest. This requires change in public opinion.
        • Often measures aimed against monopolies actually help them! Every raid on gains creates vested interests to bolster the monopoly. It gives groups privileges which turn into political efforts to maintain the new status quo or work to the expense of the public as a whole.
    • There’s major doubt even when monopoly is inevitable that the best way of controlling it is state control. Maybe with a single industry, but with many monopolistic industries, it’s probably better for them to be in private hands. Even if railways, roads & air transport or gas & electric were inevitable monopolies, the consumer is better off with them as private monopolies than state ones.
      • State monopolies are always state protected monopolies – protected against competition & criticism. Even temporary monopolies find a way to become permanent. Criticism of state-run monopolies is criticism of the government itself. A state entangled in running a monopoly, while having power over the individual, would be weak in formulating policy. The machinery of the monopoly becomes identical with the machinery of the state. The state becomes identified with those running things rather than the people.
    • Americans used to prefer strong state-controlled but privately owned monopolies in industries that were inevitably due to be monopolistic. These are preferable to state management. This is where the state enforces price controls so there’s no extraordinary profits to induce others will enter the market. Even so, monopolistic industries would offer less satisfactory services, it would be an effective check on monopolies. Giving monopolies over to the state would eliminate substitutes & good management. The managers would not longer be entrepreneurs but civil servants. If they had to be subjected to the tyranny of economic policy, they might change their tune about having to compete.
  • Monopoly also has problems with those who share in its gains. Once it came under the influence of anti-competition doctrines, it became entangled in strife for privilege. Monopoly growth is largely due to the collaboration between organized capital & organized labor, where privileged groups of labor share in monopoly profits at society’s expense.
    • It’s sad to see a democratic movement like organized labor play such a role in the destruction of democracy itself while only a minority can benefit. Support from the left of movement toward monopoly makes it irresistible. As long as labor continues to assist in the only order that gives it independence & freedom, there’s little hope. Labor leaders now proclaim they’re now the done with competitive system are now dooming individual freedom.
      • Maybe some workers will be better fed but their freedom is at risk.
      • The UK Labour Party is committed to creating a “planned society” & any attempt to restore traditional Britain is to be opposed. Those details & actual wording are identical to those of the Socialists’ dreams in Germany 25 years ago.
        • Demands for peacetime “war mobilization of resources” & “community consumption” whose production is to be centrally planned. This is all German ideology.
      • 25 years ago, there was some excuse for thinking a planned society – naïveté. But to find major support for it in spite of the evidence of its consequences is absolutely tragic.

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