Monday, January 3, 2011

And now a word from our sponsors

One in a series that takes a look at what has been said by some prominent historical figures, especially with respect to the joint causes of freedom and liberty.

Does the "new kind of servitude" happen when...

"... after having successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then exceeds its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting.

Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupifies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrial animals, of which government is the shepard. I have always thought that servitude of the regular quiet and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovreignty of the people.

That from Alexis de Toqueville in his seminal Democracy in America
which appears in the 1956 preface to F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and which de Toqueville's frequent references to the "new servitude" in which de Toqueville foresaw the sclerotic effects of the modern welfare state, suggested the title of the book.

Never mind this being carried out in malicious fashion, Hayek reminds us that what de Toqueville was talking about in the paragraphs above is what happens when it is the "good guys" who are in power implementing what they feel is for the "good of society" or the individual.

Here's Hayek a couple page later:

"It is a despotism exercised by a thoroughly conscientious and honest bureaucracy for what they sincerely believe is the good of the country. But it is nevertheless an arbitrary government, in practice free from effective parliamentary control;..."
Of course, this should all sound familiar as what has been the governing philosophy of late in this country but to legislate in a random and haphazard fashion and then implement those regulations in an arbitrary manner because no one bothered to hammer out the details of the legislation in the first place due to political expediency while simultaneously handing out waivers based upon god-knows-what criteria to exempt companies and unions from that very legislation?

It was no way to govern when de Tocqueville was writing about it and it's no way to govern now in the 21st century.


steve said...

Did you read Hayek? It was mostly aimed at what was happening in Britain. His predictions did not come true. Road to Serfdom is not his best book.


steve said...

I also liked this from Don Taylor.

"Now is their chance to prove me wrong: they control the House of Representatives, and all the committees. They need to move beyond slogans and sound bites and write a bill. If it is so simple to address costs and 50 Million uninsured persons, the bill will be short and everyone can read it and get to know it well. Then have hearings on their bill. Mark it in a committee(s). Have the CBO score the bill. Let the country talk about it, and how it compares to the ACA. Debate the best way forward. And then put it to a vote in the full House of Representatives. The Republicans not only owe specificity to the country, they owe it to themselves if they want to be taken seriously on matters of health policy."


Dean said...

I sure have read Hayek, Steve. And I know he wrote it about Britain. Oddly enough, do you know who else did and didn't really care?

Here's Hayek himself in the Preface to the 1956 Paperback Edition:

"Although this book might in some respects have been different if I had written it in the first instance with American readers primarily in mind, it has now made for itself too definite if unexpected a place in this country to make any rewriting advisable."

Obviously, what Hayek was implying was that the dangers of statism/collectivism aren't strictly confined to one set of circumstances as was so eloquently laid-out in the body of the post.

Re: Don Taylor. So, what Taylor is suggesting is that Republicans do exactly the opposite of what the Democrats did? I'm down.

steve said...

If he had written necessary rather than advisable, your interpretation works better.

I hope that the Republicans offer an alternative, but will be surprised if they do.


Dean said...

If you had written "pleasantly surprised" rather than "surprised", your reaction works better.

steve said...

I stopped short of shocked. Couldnt type pleasantly in good conscience.