The growing popularity of freedom

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal called to my attention the fact that a really odd book hit #1 on the Amazon.com bestsellers list, beating both the The Twilight Saga and Stieg Larsson for a few days. The Road to Serfdom remains among Amazon’s top 25 most popular books, despite the fact it was published almost 70 years ago and its cover features a black-and-white photo of an elegant middle-aged gentleman. Its author, Friedrich Hayek, was the most influential of the undeservedly lesser-known Austrian school of economics.

The only time Hayek cared about being fashionable was when he went clothes shopping. His work contradicted nearly all the trendy thought of his time. Intellectual honesty meant much more to him than professional consensus or public approval – an attitude that helped Hayek win the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974. The recent jump in his book sales is courtesy of the U.S. Fox TV host Glenn Beck, who dedicated part of a recent show to our distinguished late colleague and The Road to Serfdom, his best-known book.

An economist writing a bestseller is rare, but not unheard of. The reason I find the story compelling is because Mr. Hayek preached against exactly what world leaders are now doing: stepping up regulations, controlling markets and strengthening state redistribution. Hayek’s analysis shows where central planning leads us: diminished wealth and, in the long run, the destruction of individual freedom.  State planners justify their work citing the need for rationality, greater social justice and macroeconomic stability. Hayek, on the other hand, argued that the economy is a very complex phenomenon that planners cannot hope to control. Efforts to create so-called “social justice” and “rational planning” will eventually lead to the horrors of communism and Nazism (the book was written in the early 1940s when no one in the West knew just how far these horrors would spread). Hayek’s contemporary followers say we may have just started down that road.

 

Source: Ludwig von Mises Institute. http://mises.org/books/TRTS/

To many, Hayek’s views may sound much too radical. However, politicians must remember that not everyone supports their efforts at greater central planning. What’s more, the opponents of central planning have quite a remarkable intellectual backing. At least the millions of people who have read this book will agree that there is always an alternative to more government spending and stronger regulations. This is even more obvious to those who have actually lived in a planned economy and want to leave the memory far behind – like we do.

Governments around the world are starting to realize that people won’t fund their current spending habits for long. Pockets are getting empty, or worse, full of unpaid bills. Montenegrins are also starting to realize that people don’t feel any safer when the government starts to spend their money for them. They know it only postpones the solution to a country’s economic problems; at most, it will force our children to foot the bill. That is why we are dedicated to cutting deficits and public debt and implementing structural reforms aimed at making the government smaller and more effective. We are building a market economy where leaders are elected because they know they cannot do business any better than their constituents. Milton Friedman once said, “The business of business is business.” And one of the government’s main tasks is to let businesses (small and large) do their business – just as Hayek admonished us at the height of economic planning.

 

If you are content with one-minute book reviews, read the cartoon version of The Road to Serfdom. If you prefer music videos to reading, click here. Otherwise, I recommend taking the time to read the entire book.

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One Response to The growing popularity of freedom

  1. Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.

    The official ideology abounds with contradictions even when there is no practical reason for them. Thus, the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism. It preaches a contempt for the working class unexampled for centuries past, and it dresses its members in a uniform which was at one time peculiar to manual workers and was adopted for that reason. It systematically undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty. Even the names of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy ; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted – if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently – then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.”

    George Orwell, 1984

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