Friedrich Hayek’s Enduring Legacy

In 1929, Benito Mussolini boasted, “We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.” align=”left” This is the first in a series of essays on the life and thought of Friedrich A. Hayek. 

Of course, Mussolini was wrong about his historical priority, just as he was wrong about most other things. The palm for first promulgating that principle in all its modern awfulness must go to V. I. Lenin, who back in 1917 boasted that when he finished building his workers’ paradise “the whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of work and equality of pay.”

What Lenin didn’t know about “restricting the freedom of the individual” wasn’t worth knowing.

Granted, things didn’t work out quite as Lenin hoped—or said that he hoped—since as the Soviet Union lumbered on there was less and less work and mostly worthless pay. (“They pretend to pay us,” one wag said, “and we pretend to work.”) Really, the only equality Lenin and his heirs achieved was an equality of misery and impoverishment for all but a shifting fraction of the nomenklatura. Trotsky got right to the practical nub of the matter, observing that when the state is the sole employer the old adage “he who does not work does not eat” is replaced by “he who does not obey does not eat.”

Nevertheless, a long line of Western intellectuals came, saw, and were conquered: how many bien-pensants writers, journalists, artists, and commentators swooned as did Lincoln Steffens: “I have been over into the future,” he said of his visit to the Soviet Union in 1921, “and it works.” Jeremy Corbyn updated the sentiment when, in 2013, he said that Hugo Chavez “showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something Venezuela has made a big step towards.”

Yes, Jeremy, it has. And how do you like it? Of course, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. But it is remarkable what a large accumulation of egg-shells we have piled up over the last century. (And then there is always Orwell’s embarrassing question: “Where’s the omelet?”)

I forget what sage described hope as the last evil in Pandora’s box. Unfair to hope, perhaps, but not inapplicable to that adamantine “faith in a better world” that has always been at the heart of the socialist enterprise. Talk about a hardy perennial! The socialist experiment has never worked out as advertised. But it continually blooms afresh in the human heart—those portions of it, anyway, colonized by intellectuals, that palpitating tribe Julien Benda memorably denominated “clercs,” as in “trahison de.”

But why? What is it about intellectuals that makes them so profligately susceptible to the catnip of socialism?

In his last book, “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism” (1988), Friedrich Hayek drily underscored the oddity:

The intellectuals’ vain search for a truly socialist community, which results in the idealisation of, and then disillusionment with, a seemingly endless string of “utopias”—the Soviet Union, then Cuba, China, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Tanzania, Nicaragua—should suggest that there might be something about socialism that does not conform to certain facts.

It should, but it hasn’t. And the reason, Hayek suggests, lies in the peculiar rationalism to which a certain species of intellectual is addicted. The “fatal conceit” lay in believing that, by exercising reason, mankind could recast society in a way that was at once equitable and prosperous, orderly and conducive to political liberty.

Everything Up For Grabs
I say “mankind,” but of course the fatal conceit is always pursued by a tiny elite who believe that the imposition of their reason can effect the desired revolution in society. The rest of us “deplorables” are the raw material for the exercise of their fantasy.

Hayek traced this ambition back through Rousseau to Descartes. If man is born free but is everywhere in chains, Rousseau argued, why does he not simply cast off his fetters, beginning with the inconvenient baggage of traditional social restraint? Whether Descartes deserves this paternity suit is perhaps disputable. But I see what Hayek means. It was a small step from Descartes’s dream of making man the “master and possessor of nature” (as he said at the end of the “Discourse on Method”) through science and technology to making him the master and possessor of man’s second nature, society.

How much that was recalcitrant about human experience and the world had suddenly to be rendered negotiable even to embark upon that path! All that was summed up in words like “manners,” “morals,” “custom,” “tradition,” “taboo,” and “sacred” is suddenly up for grabs. But it was part of the intoxicating nature of the fatal conceit—for those, again, who were susceptible to its charms—that no barrier seemed strong enough to withstand the blandishments of mankind’s ingenious tinkerings. “Everything solid,” as Marx famously said, “melts into air.”

John Maynard Keynes—himself a conspicuous victim of the fatal conceit—summed up its psychological metabolism in his description of Bertrand Russell and his Bloomsbury friends: “Bertie in particular sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously incompatible. He held that in fact human affairs were carried on after a most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since all we had to do was to carry them on rationally.”

What prodigies of existential legerdemain lay compacted in that phrase “all we had to do.” F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the test of “a first-rate intelligence” was “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time” and still be able to function. In fact, that ability is as common as dirt. Look around.

The Triumph of  “Serfdom”
Friedrich Hayek (he dropped the aristocratic “von” to which he was born) was a supreme anatomist of this species of intellectual or intellectualist folly. Born to a prosperous family in Vienna in 1899, Hayek had already made a modest name for himself as an economist when he departed for England and the London School of Economics in 1931. Over the next decade, he published half a dozen technical books in economics (sample title:
“Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle”). Life changed in 1944 when “The Road to Serfdom”—published first in England, then a few months later in the United States—catapulted him to fame.

The story of this short but extraordinary book—which is less a treatise in economics that an existential cri de coeur— is well known. Three publishers turned it down in the United States— one reader declared it “unfit for publication by a reputable house”—before the University of Chicago, not without misgivings, took it on. One of Chicago’s readers, while recommending publication, cautioned that the book was unlikely to “have a very wide market in this country” or “change the position of many readers.” In the event, Chicago could hardly keep up with demand. Within months, some 50,000 copies were in print. Then Reader’s Digest published a condensed version, which brought the book to some 600,000 additional readers. A few years later, a Look picture-book version—the “graphic novel” of the day—further extended its reach.

“The Road to Serfdom” transformed Hayek from a retiring academic into an international celebrity. By the time he died, six weeks shy of his 93rd birthday, in 1992, Hayek had become a darling of the academic establishment. He’d been a professor at the London School of Economics, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg, and was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. In 1974, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics—the first free-market economist to be so honored—and his theories helped lay the intellectual groundwork for the economic revitalizations that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan undertook in the 1980s.

In a deeper sense, however, Hayek remained a maverick, outside the intellectual or at least the academic mainstream. The message of “The Road to Serfdom” shows why. The book had two purposes. On the one hand, it was a paean to individual liberty. On the other, it was an impassioned attack on central economic planning and the diminution of individual liberty such planning requires.

It might seem odd, in the wake of the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions, to describe an attack on central planning or a defense of individual liberty as “maverick.” But in fact, although Hayek’s theories won some major skirmishes “on the ground,” in the world of elite intellectual opinion his views are as contentious now as they were in the 1940s. Even today, there is widespread resistance to Hayek’s guiding insight that socialism is a nursery for the growth of totalitarian policies.

With the example of Nazi Germany before him, Hayek saw how naturally national socialism, leaching more and more initiative away from the individual in order to invest it in the state, shaded into totalitarianism. A major theme of the book is that the rise of fascism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the 1920s, as is often contended, but on the contrary was a natural outcome of those trends.

What began as a conviction that, if planning were to be “efficient,” it must be “taken out of politics” and placed in the hands of experts, ended with the failure of politics and the embrace of tyranny. “Hitler did not have to destroy democracy,” Hayek noted; “he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done.”

Britain, Hayek warned, had already traveled far down the road of socialist abdication. “The unforeseen but inevitable consequences of socialist planning,” he wrote, “create a state of affairs in which . . . totalitarian forces will get the upper hand.” Hayek quotes numerous influential commentators who cheerfully advocate not only wholesale economic planning but the outright rejection of freedom.

Democratic Despotism and the Deep State
Today, some of us warn about the growth and insidiousness of “the administrative state” or “the deep state”—that permanent bureaucracy of busybodies who are not elected but nevertheless wield enormous power over every aspect of our lives. The growth of that unaccountable apparatus of control has deep roots. In 1932, for example, the influential political theorist Harold Laski argued that “defeat at the polls” must not be allowed to derail the glorious progress of socialism. Voting is all well and good—so long as people vote for the right, i.e., the left, things. In 1942, the historian E. H. Carr blithely argued that “The result which we desire can be won only by a deliberate reorganization of European life such as Hitler has undertaken.”

The two great presiding influences on “The Road to Serfdom” were Alexis de Tocqueville and Adam Smith. From Tocqueville, Hayek took both his title and his sensitivity to what Tocqueville, in a famous section of “Democracy in America,” called “democratic despotism.” Hayek, like Tocqueville, saw that in modern bureaucratic societies threats to liberty often come disguised as humanitarian benefits.

If old-fashioned despotism tyrannizes, democratic despotism infantilizes. Echoing and extending Tocqueville, Hayek argued that one of the most important effects of extensive government control was psychological, “an alteration of the character of the people.” We are the creatures as well as the creators of the institutions we inhabit. “The important point,” he concluded, “is that the political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives.”

A major part of “The Road to Serfdom” is negative or critical. Its task is to expose, describe, and analyze the socialist threat to freedom. But there is also a positive side to Hayek’s argument. The road away from serfdom was to be found by embracing what Hayek called “the extended order of cooperation,” a.k.a. capitalism. (Although Hayek uses the term “capitalism,” I prefer the term “free market,” which is innocent of Marxist overtones.) In “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith noted the paradox, or seeming paradox, of the free market: that the more individuals were left free to follow their own ends, the more their activities were “led by an invisible hand to promote” ends that aided the common good. In other words, private pursuits advance public goods: that is the beneficent alchemy of the free market, of capitalism. Hayek’s fundamental insight, enlarging Smith’s thought, is that the spontaneous order created and maintained by competitive market forces leads to greater prosperity than a planned economy.

The sentimentalist cannot wrap his mind, or his heart, around that datum. He cannot understand why we shouldn’t favor “cooperation” (a pleasing-sounding arrangement) over “competition” (much harsher), since in any competition there are losers, which is bad, and winners, which may be even worse. It is at this juncture that advocates of a planned economy introduce the word “fairness” into the discussion: wouldn’t it be fairer if we took money from person “A,” who has a stack, and gave it to person “B,” whose stack is smaller? (“That is,” as W. S. Gilbert put it in “The Mikado,” “assuming I am ‘B’.” )

Socialism is a version of sentimentality. The socialist, the sentimentalist, cannot understand why, if people have been able to “generate some system of rules coordinating their efforts,” they cannot also consciously “design an even better and more gratifying system.” Central to Hayek’s teaching is the unyielding fact that human ingenuity is limited, that the elasticity of freedom requires the agency of forces beyond our supervision, that, finally, the ambitions of socialism are an expression of rationalistic hubris. As David Hume, another of Hayek’s intellectual heroes, put it, “a rule, which, in speculation, may seem the most advantageous to society, may yet be found, in practice, totally pernicious and destructive.”

Market Order vs. Socialism
A spontaneous order generated by market forces may be as beneficial to humanity as you like; it may have greatly extended life and produced wealth so staggering that, only a few generations ago, it was unimaginable. Still, it is not perfect. The poor are still with us. Not every social problem has been solved. In the end, though, the really galling thing about the spontaneous order that free markets produce is not its imperfection but its spontaneity: the fact that it is a creation not our own. It transcends the conscious direction of human will and is therefore an affront to human pride.

The urgency with which Hayek condemns socialism is a function of the importance of the stakes involved. As he puts it in “The Fatal Conceit,” the “dispute between the market order and socialism is no less than a matter of survival” because “to follow socialist morality would destroy much of present humankind and impoverish much of the rest.” We get a foretaste of what Hayek means whenever the forces of socialism triumph. There follows, as the night the day, an increase in poverty and a diminution of individual freedom.

The curious thing is that this fact has had so little effect on the attitudes of intellectuals. No merely empirical development, it seems—let it be repeated innumerable times—can spoil the pleasures of socialist sentimentality. This unworldliness is tied to another common trait of intellectuals: their contempt for money and the world of commerce. The socialist intellectual eschews the “profit motive” and recommends increased government control of the economy. He feels, Hayek notes, that “to employ a hundred people is . . . exploitation but to command the same number [is] honorable.”

The Limits of Conservatism
It is not surprising that Hayek is often described as “conservative.” In fact, though, he was right to object that his position is better described as “liberal,” understanding that term not in its contemporary deformation (i.e., leftist, statist) but in the 19th-century English sense in which Burke, for example, was a liberal. There is an important sense in which genuine liberals are (in Russell Kirk’s phrase) conservative precisely because they are liberals: they understand that the best chance for preserving freedom is through preserving the institutions and traditional practices that have, so to speak, housed freedom.

Although cautious when it came to political innovation, Hayek thought traditional Tory conservatism too wedded to the status quo. “The decisive objection” to conservatism, Hayek wrote in “Why I Am Not a Conservative,” a postscript to “The Constitution of Liberty,” is that it is by nature reactive and hence unable to offer alternatives to the “progressive” program. It can retard our progress down the socialist path; it cannot, Hayek thought, forge a different path.

At the end of the day, Hayek’s inestimable value is to have dramatized the subtle and seductive insidiousness of the socialist enterprise. “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once”: that sentence from Hume stands as an epigraph to “The Road to Serfdom.” It is as pertinent today as when Hayek set it down in 1944.

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82 responses to “Friedrich Hayek’s Enduring Legacy”

  1. The fatal flaw of Socialism (and all its bastard children we’ve been force-fed in the last 100 years) is that in disregarding tradition, it disregards centuries of societal evolution. Evolution is as much a function of the “organism” that evolves–in this case, a society–as it is of the environment in which it takes place–in this case, human nature. Socialism deracinates a society as it has evolved to that point according to the rather universal laws of human nature, and reinvents it not only as a completely new “organism,” but also in an idealized version of human nature that has only existed in their minds.

    It’s as if a mad biologist took an existing specie in its natural environment, genetically reengineered it to suit his fevered vision, and released back it in its environment as if the environment functioned not as it does, but did so according to the biologist’s utopian fantasies. Then, once the mutant specie fails, the mad biologist double downs by exaggerating the features that made this Frankenstein animal a Frankenstein animal–and so the next generation of mad scientists. It’s always the last guy’s fault that didn’t try hard enough–it’s never the fact that to cut off something from its natural arc and redesigning it for an environment that doesn’t exist in real life is the stuff of MADMEN.

    • Good point. ‘Socialists’ adhere to a theory of social evolution, but do not recognize that existing institutions are the product of evolutionary ‘forces’. One can believe in the value — even necessity — of change without succumbing to the impulse to upheaval.

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      • Scabrous vandalism – what makes you think humans welcome your spam?

    • Agree with what you say about tradition. I’d even go further and say a big problem with modern politics – both left socialism and right neoliberalism – is the obsession with technocratic rationalism.

      “And the reason [for the failure of socialism], Hayek suggests, lies in the peculiar rationalism to which a certain species of intellectual is addicted. The “fatal conceit” lay in believing that, by exercising reason, mankind could recast society in a way that was at once equitable and prosperous, orderly and conducive to political liberty.”

      Although many modern people – both left and right – are loathe to admit it, not everything about human society can be understood rationally, much less ‘managed’ according to rationalistic principles. Aesthetics, for want of a better word, play a big role in the way people arrange their lives – people simply find certain ways of living more attractive than others, certain habits more pleasing than others, and are motivated accordingly.

      Tradition is like that – other things being equal, people prefer what’s familiar to them and the people they grew up among. I’d even go so far as to say love of freedom is rooted in aesthetics as much as rationality – even when the benefits are less, people will appreciate what they see as rooted in their own choices more than something nominally ‘better’ that they see as imposed upon them.

  2. Dear Roger Kimball,
    Splendid!! And important!
    Thank you…

  3. Freedom and democracy are only possible where the resolute will of a nation not to allow itself to be ruled like sheep is permanently alive. — Max Weber

    • Do you not understand that quoting is illogical? That someone says something does not bestow general veracity upon it. It’s an opinion, not evidence of anything.

  4. I see the world not as it is but as it should be.

    This popular Progressive expression is an exclamation of magical and therefore dangerous thinking.

    Science teaches us that if we don’t understand the world as it is we are doomed to suffer the consequences.

    Reality cannot and will not be ignored.

    • Indeed, Liberals believe reality is whatever the folks say it is.

    • “Reality cannot and will not be ignored.”
      Unfortunately, a large majority of college graduates do. I wish it wasn’t so.

    • And the Gods of the Copybook Headings will get their due…

  5. No mention of von Mises? It did state this was a start so I look forward to more?
    If “Road to Serfdom” were required reading in every high school…one can dream???

      • Clear precience. Written before the world knew Stalin killed and before Mao killed millions. Your preferred approach which equates that with Joe losing his job because his employer who mismanaged the business went under. You’re truly a mental midget.

      • Darwin described natural selection before genes were discovered. That doesn’t make HIM “the smartest man to ever live,” does it?

        One of us is definitely a “mental midget.” Want to compare intellectual accomplishments?

      • Two of them. I consider him very perceptive and smart, but I have no basis to worship him as “the smartest man to ever live” and neither do you.

      • I do not worship him, I have the opinion based on my understanding of his many works that I have read that he is perhaps the smartest man who ever lived. I don’t understand why you changed that into worship. Admire probably, but not worship.

  6. The Constitution of Liberty is really Hayek’s greatest work, and is intellectually far more important than The Road to Serfdom, which is a simpler, more popular book with a more limited (though important) argument. While Road to Serfdom is pretty strictly liberal, Constitution of Liberty is a much more conservative work, and one which demonstrates the close linkages between liberalism and conservatism. Hayek said “I am not a conservative” only because he was unfamiliar with the intellectual conservatism that was just developing in the U.S. at that time; as a practical matter, what was emerging was highly compatible with his own thought, and he was in fact embraced by American conservatives.

    • “The Road to Serfdom” was mainly about socialism at that time. WW2, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, etc. Socialism has a different “face” today. It’s not quite so hard-core. In fact, it’s more like “fascism” (rightly understood; not the caricature many make of it), though it may be heading back in that direction. The Constitution of Liberty is more relevant now.

  7. No one should graduate from college without an understanding of Hayek’s concepts of the market and the failures of government regulation (I am here to help you. I am from the government. You must do it my way.) The end result has been that only the insiders in Washington D.C. have any real input either to law or its interpretation by government agencies. For those who work for a living, the real experts, they have no time to go to the meeting. Indeed they are not even invited.

    And those who are insulated from reality, accrue the authority to decide matters beyond their competence. Then, ultimately, at some point, some one is elected who runs a plow through the Washington D. C. power elites. This is better than armed rebellion in which the final decision is made by a bullet.

    We are undergoing such a transformation today. It will not be the last one.

    • Higher learning is working overtime in extolling it’s virtues and given the Obama 8 year horror show many college kids think that Democrats are on to something. This is one of America’s main problems.

    • Nor should anyone graduate from college without an understand of Adam Smith’s concept of the free market and the failures of mercantalism. If you did you would not support Trump.

      • Yet, you cannot clarify or support your declarations. Why is that?

      • IMHO, the deciding voting block did not support Trump, they voted against Hillary. I see no ground swell for Trump; he leads a most divided party. However, I do not see any Messiah arising from the Democrats, a party which expected to dominate but is now in shambles.

        I agree with your reading assignments.

  8. Very well written sir! I think I too shall start referring to “free markets” instead of the c word. And I’m starting to refer to myself as a classic liberal. I certainly don’t call lefties liberals anymore.

    • Marxian economics is actually quite useful for capitalists…you are doing yourself a disservice by not understanding Marxian concepts.

      • The only value Marxian economics provides is proof of the evil of man.

      • That is Marxist ideology not Marxian economics.

    • That is a mistake. We won the war against socialism (and we did win) when we stopped being afraid to admit that we were capitalists.

  9. Womyn no what they say, why do they by dildo”s?………………

  10. An excellent introduction to Hayek’s ideas. I do not believe that anyone who is a socialist today and describes himself as a “socialist”, thinks that he is making the world a better place for all. It is just envy, jealousy, hate, indolence and theft writ large.

    • You left out the most potent motivating emotion of them all — FEAR!

  11. The fundamental lack in our education system is a short course on basic economics – Namely, how free markets work “automagically” to make our lives better, and nearly all attempts to “fix” markets make matters worse.

    This widespread lack of understanding, and the deliberate attempt to distort understanding (by people like Paul Krugman) is the primary reason for such widespread misery.

    If the average person had the most basic understanding of basic economics, calls for “social justice” would be seen for what they are – milestones on the road to serfdom.

    • You’re full of baloney. It is obvious that free markets are COMPETITIONS that do not benefit all people. In fact, genuinely free markets leave corpses strewn everywhere. The folks that see themselves as vulnerable in a free market system are going to be reluctant to play in that game. They gravitate to the alternative game of socialism.

      • Hominid, I have a question: Have you ever actually spent time in a “socialist paradise”?

        The free market truly benefits all people in a society. The poorest in the United States have homes with windows and doors, televisions, refrigerators – things unfathomable to a couple of billion poor in other parts of the world.

        The only people who are worse off in a free market system are the “nomenklatura”, who hold no position of power over others.

      • You’re clueless. America is a welfare (socialist) state run by socialist bureaucrats – that’s why our wealth “benefits all people.”

        Take a look back at the conditions in the US pre-WWII if you want to see what “free market capitalism” is in reality.

        I’m not saying I’m against free market capitalism – I’m for it. But, not to recognize what that means in real terms is just bullshiite.

      • Funny. You know neither what a free market is nor what “socialist” means. A welfare state is not necessarily socialist. The two are not synonyms. It can still be capitalist and it is in Europe and the U.S, though the degree to which each country leans socialist or not may differ. You are also displaying your ignorance by equating a “free market” with what is known as “laissez faire” market, which is merely a subset of free markets. It’s pretty obvious that you are the one that is clueless here.

      • Genuinely free markets are COOPERATION, with traders finding each other to trade for mutual benefit. Workers trade time and labor for pay from an employer. Workers receive pay they find more valuable to them than the time and labor they provide, otherwise, by definition, they wouldn’t make the trade. Employers receive time and labor more valuable to them than the pay they provide. When you pay $3 for coffee from you local coffee shop, you value the coffee at at least $3, but probably more, which is why you’re willing to give up the $3 to get the coffee. The coffee seller values the $3 more than the coffee he sells, which is why he gives up the coffee for $3.

        Workers and employers COOPERATE for mutual benefit, buyers and sellers COOPERATE for mutual benefit. This is why the places with the frees markets provide the most beneficial outcomes; all are working together for mutual benefit.

      • If you state ipencil’s comment represents cluelessness, then your earlier statement in response to David Bryan is not in error, it is in fact malicious. You should try reasoning rather than parroting.

      • Your inability to grasp complex concepts is not my problem – it’s YOURS!

      • You normally present cogent arguments, you’re completely clueless here. It’s not the free markets that create corpses but people either mis educated or for other reasons lack skills to survive in it. Besides your choice of the term “corpse” implies it kills people, let me know an example of a true free market that has approached the death toll resulting from 20th century socialism. Free markets kill businesses all the time, the natural process of weeding out inefficient or ineffective market players. You lost your mind Mr racist.

      • You went off the rails – nothing I said is incompatible with the points you’re making and I would generally agree with them. The term corpses does NOT “imply” killing – it implies failure to compete effectively – just as YOU yourself point out. Then, as you Libs inevitably must do, you play the “racist” card.

        Instead of reacting emotionally and inferring things that are not said, why not try to be objective?

      • Your evaluation is based on assumptions of specific conditions existing that are not part of the free market. It is a common error when thinking about free markets and is often maliciously made in order to simply destroy an argument you cannot through reason refute.

      • What are those “assumptions of specific conditions” — you do not point them out? You blather.

      • Inequity. Invalid in the philosophical argument, used by you to support your ‘socialism’ argument therefore rendering your attempted refutation non responsive. Your argument is invalid on its face and is in fact a malicious attempt to destroy rather than to reason. That is a contemptible attribute of the American left over many, many years.

      • And of course, having no legitimate argument, most likely because you haven’t spent any time thinking or learning, you move to the next lower level of malicious non response. You are a good stereotype of the leftist.

    • If the average person had even the most basic understanding of economics they would not fall for Trump’s mercantalist nonsense.

      • Please elaborate – make your case in meaningful economic terms. What is “Trumps’ mercantilist nonsense” and how is it nonsensical?

      • My comment was intended for people who have a basic understanding of economics. If you don’t know what mercantilism is then you need to do your own research.

        And I didn’t run away.

  12. “What is it about intellectuals that makes them so profligately susceptible to the catnip of socialism?”

    French political philosopher Raymond Aron recognized that phenomenon in his 1955 book “The Opium of the Intellectuals”, i.e. Marxism. The leftist ideologues are so enamored of their “Platonic Form Perfect Ideas” to the point of self-destructive narcissism, falling into the pool of deceit that is the reflection of their pale, untested ideas.

    Neitzsche attempted to slay that metaphysical dragon, pronouncing its death at the end of the 19th century. But, alas, the Platonic dragon ere breathes, hopefully, its last. The Post-Modernists are trying to finish the job, with Richard Rorty’s recent announcement of the End of Philosophy and “Truth” with a capital “T”, “truth” being merely a compliment we pay to statements upon which we happen to agree.

    The socialist intellectual class, the cultural bourgeoisie, have yet to grasp that evolution in thought, while they jealously fight for their prerogative to lord it over the rest of society as the Philosopher Kings of their leftist deep state Kafkaesque bureaucratic dystopia.

    • Socialism is a version of HUMANIST IDEOLOGY, just like christianity is. Humanists “care” about their “fellow man” because they see themselves as vulnerable and are AFRAID – hence, the catch phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” They see cooperation as virtuous and competition as evil.

  13. While Capitalism is indeed the most efficient course to the most prosperity for the most people, its competitive essence has left many corpses in its wake. That scares people who see themselves as vulnerable and disturbs the collective conscience of people dedicated to humanist ideology. That is why Socialism as the alternative has such a seductive appeal.

    • The irony is that socialism has left lots and lots of corpses in its wake, far more than market-based economics. (And not just of people, though that’s most important; of various sorts of economic entities as well, which either deteriorated until they ground to a halt (if owned by the government) or were strangled by regulations and costs (if privately owned.)) Those who would sacrifice freedom for security get neither.

      • Re-read my post – I’m neither promoting socialism nor opposing free-market capitalism – I’m explaining why there are so many people who DO embrace socialism. Your perception is clouded by your emotions. Did you not read the phrase “scares people WHO SEE THEMSELVES AS VULNERABLE”??? Did you not read the phrase “disturbs the collective conscience of PEOPLE DEDICATED TO HUMANIST IDEOLOGY??? Did you fail reading comprehension?

      • Re-read my post. I made no statement about you promoting socialism.

  14. Superb article…and now I need to order “The Road to Serfdom.”

  15. The British historian AJP Taylor, writing about the growth of bureaucracy in the 20th century as a result of the world wars, said that in 1914, the only contact the average Englishman had with government was the postman and the local bobby. That was an exaggeration even then but it made Taylor’s point effectively. But Burke himself had noted at the start of the 19th century that the growth of government was inevitable and unstoppable. The Deep State has become an issue since Trump’s election. But it always astonished me that Americans failed to be concerned much earlier that the Democratic party’s domination of the federal bureaucracy was not the threat to democracy that is now recognised. It means that Democrats are never entirely out of power even when they lose control the presidency or congress. It took Obama and the runaway behaviour of the EPA, the IRS and other federal agencies – including perhaps the intelligence services – for the Right to wake up to the threat posed by unaccountable bureaucratic resistance. In Europe, where even conservative politicians are often liberal by American standards, it has long been taken for granted that government bureaucracies skew anti-conservative, pro-regulation and anti-freedom of the individual. The freedom of the individual is seen as the greatest threat to the smooth functioning of the state as conceived by liberals. Britain has a huge number of supposedly independent public agencies called quangos which like NGOs and charities are funded by government and are run Labour party supporters including former politicians, some of whom have even been appointed by Conservative government. Naturally the favour is not returned when Labour is in power.

    • Here is the growth of the Socialist-Statist influence in DC, as exemplified by the DC Presidential voting record:

      Year : Dem : Rep
      1976 – 82% – 17%
      1980 – 75% – 13%
      1984 – 85% – 14%
      1988 – 82% – 14%
      1992 – 85% – 9%
      1996 – 85% – 9%
      2000 – 85% – 9%
      2004 – 89% – 9%
      2008 – 92% – 7%
      2012 – 91% – 7%
      2016 – 90% – 4%

      These are the people who staff the agencies, who occupy the HR and legal counsel slots, who write the regulations, who set the policies, who decide the priorities, who launch regulatory investigations, who staff the prosecutor’s offices, etc.

  16. In other words, try to run a society by socialism or communism and you wind up with a s–thole.

  17. “In the end, though, the really galling
    thing about the spontaneous order that free markets produce is not its
    imperfection but its spontaneity: the fact that it is a creation not our
    own.” I have to disagree (quibble, really) with this. The free markets are ‘our’ creation insofar as they are a natural product of human nature. Capitalism is just an epithet that Marxists hurl at the natural human desire for trade. Markets seem to just appear wherever enough people get together. It is only galling to ‘experts’ who can’t take credit for creating them.

    • I read that passage as not referring to creation (as you pointed out, they are created by us), but as “not under our (or anyone else’s) control”, and thus, not possessively ‘ours’.

    • Free markets are in fact our creation and it takes intellect and discipline to truly practice, a affirmative choice to lay off the candy of socialist approaches and incentives not unlike choosing Healthy vs nutritional food. Very few people have this intellect or discipline today, they’re seduced by what makes them feel good

  18. All that was summed up in words like “manners,” “morals,” “custom,” “tradition,” “taboo,” and “sacred” is suddenly up for grabs.

    That these are ‘negotiable’ under a directed / centralized theory of government is precisely why socialism continues to appeal to the intellectual. These building blocks to society are not definable, and are therefore not defensible, by logic or argument. They are well outside of that realm in the human intellect. An intellectual, by definition, is enamored of the superiority of intellect, and therefore approaches these concepts through rationality. By logical argument, they are easily defeated – if by no more strenuous arguments than ‘fairness’ or ‘bias’ or ‘preference.’ That makes the intellectual attack upon them difficult to counter, because they are not product of logic or of reason or of argument. So the intellectual wins the argument – and destroys society.

    These elements cannot be argued: they can only be demonstrated. And that demonstration most often is as a negative: showing the physical, social, and moral destructive results of their absence.

    This, if for no other reason, is why social history needs to be studied. I took my degrees in mathematics, and resented the time I was compelled to spend in the study of history. Only later did I come to realize its importance.

  19. Why is it so shocking the people who live in a world divided by Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, graduate, post graduate, department, sub-specialties etc…etc… are so drawn to a philosophy of top down command and centrally assigned social roles?. It’s a world they fit and want to extend so they can have the levers of power they understand. An intellectual is not someone who loves ideas. An intellectual is someone who identifies with and is accepted by a group and it’s ideas. They only call themselves free thinkers when they have a circle of fellow travelers who nod in agreement. Real free thinking flunks out.

    • Academia is cleaner, too. Everything is all written down (or entered into a Word document). There are no fuzzy external factors to care about. Complex problems are simplified (deliberately or unconsciously doesn’t matter). Solutions become correspondingly simplistic. Now filter this through politics.

    • Jean Francois Revel in his book “The Last Exit to Utopia” wondered why the mind-set of Western Intellectuals who, living in democracies, found much to admire in gulag countries (or sh*tholes to be topically current) like the old Soviet Union and Cuba and much to detest in free ones-like the USA. “Why was that,” he asked?

      “The Totalitarian phenomenon,” he observed, “is not to be understood without making an allowance for the thesis that some important part of every society consists of people who actively want tyranny: either to
      exercise it themselves or-much more mysteriously-to submit to it.”

      Here we have, but one example and one of that many of us recognize that inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.