Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Road to Serfdom - F. A. Hayek

"A foreign background is sometimes helpful in seeing more clearly to what circumstances the peculiar excellencies of the moral atmosphere of a nation are due."
- F. A. Hayek

The Road to Serfdom has been dissected ad-nauseam since its publication in 1944. The number of praises and rebuttals of this book should not be taken as a sign that a lot of people have actually read it; quite the contrary. Just like the Bible, or Marx's Das Kapital, The Road to Serfdom is referred to mostly because of what politicians and pundits say about it. For those who have not read the book, the usual disclaimers apply: "detractors and supporters of Hayek alike will be surprised by The Road of Serfdom", and all that...

There are many ways to get a grasp of Hayek's political philosophy. A one hour interview is posted below (an hour might look like a long time in the Internet age, but reading the entire book takes longer).  The interesting question, for which I really don't have an answer is how Hayek's ideas passed from being defended by the aristocracy to being the core of the Tea Party, America's  populist movement -here's Glenn Beck explaining Hayek's political theory. Hayek was always an aristocrat. I wonder what he would think about the adoption of his ideas by the American lumpenproletariat...

Part of the explanation is, I guess, America's democratic institutions, which allow any ideology to permeate society regardless of social status. The fact that politics has become a slogan contest rather than a competition of ideas might also help -I mean, nobody can intuitively resist the "idea" of not paying taxes for the government.

The United States rests upon the idea that anyone can become president, regardless of social origin. And the problem with that system is, well, that anyone can become president... Likewise, anyone can be (or pretend to be) a philosopher. Additionally, since Ronald Reagan, the American right has portrayed stupidity as a virtue. With that in mind, it is fair to wonder what a Nobel Prize would think about his own legacy...

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